Reno, Nevada —Las Vegas’ jealous little brother. A destination reserved for bargain hunters and northern Californians too lazy to make a road trip to Sin City.
Let’s dispel those notions right now.
True, Reno is not a big city like Las Vegas, nor is it a charming rural retreat, and it can’t afford to lean on its casinos to make it a travel destination. But that’s precisely why Nevada’s second largest city is an incredible destination unto itself — a place of world-class resorts, incredible discoveries, and bright city lights that sparkle in front of breathtaking snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks.
Once defined by its downtown area, dominated by towering resorts, flashy casinos and the occasional dive bar, Reno is actually full of neighborhoods worth exploring. The Midtown area is the height of the city’s revitalization, a walkable neighborhood crowded with unexpectedly hip places to shop, eat and drink. Set aside an hour or two to explore Junkee – a sprawling secondhand store deserving of a spot in the thrift shop hall-of-fame if such a thing existed.
Also worth checking out is the 4th Street section. Once a scuzzy area most tourists would steer clear of, the area is in the midst of transforming into a trendy hip brewery district. It’s the home of craft beer brewers Under the Rose and Pigeon Head, which both offer delectable beer and warm, friendly atmosphere. The area is also the future home of the work-in-progress Depot – an abandoned train depot to be revived as a restaurant welcoming both families and casual drinkers alike.
If your idea of a getaway involves more outdoors and small-town charm, Reno’s mountainous surroundings offer the sort of invigorating fresh air you can’t find in the sand-shrouded desert surrounding Vegas.
For small-town charm, nearby Carson City has a wonderful quaint feeling that you likely wouldn’t expect from a state capital. Be sure to stop by Adele’s for brunch, a welcoming restaurant with dishes both unusual and instantly familiar and comforting.
There’s the farm town of Fallon, which boasts a buy-local sense of community, and features Nevada’s only estate winery – Frey Ranch Distillery, where you can sample spirits and wines before taking a tour of the beautiful property.
The most obvious day-trip destination outside of Reno is Lake Tahoe, an enormous, bluer-than-blue alpine lake that was somehow left off the list of world wonders. Rent a kayak, go for a hike, or simply drive around the rim and snap photos of the water from the lookout points – there’s no wrong way to experience Tahoe.
While nature is nice, Reno does offer its share of big city amenities, including a budding culinary scene that attracts talent from around the world, including celebrity chef Charlie Palmer who operates a steakhouse out of the Grand Sierra Resort. The city also has its fair share of nightclubs, anchored by the otherworldly LEX Nightclub, also in the Grand Sierra Resort. With epic lighting, sound, entertainment — and the beautiful people who flock to it — this hotspot is a destination unto itself (but let’s save that for another article).
It’s hard to find time to get away, and it’s even harder to find a place worthy of getting away to, but Reno will genuinely surprise you in ways few major destinations can. Truly experiencing Reno is like being let in on one of America’s best-kept travel secrets. The area is on a definite upswing, epitomized by the Tesla Motor Company building their HQ just outside of town, and I’d suggest you visit Reno before this secret gets out.