As appearances go, Reno is a bit like the Wild West. We have ranchers, mustangs, casinos and laid-back vice laws, for starters, as well as desertscapes that feel both lush and Martian at once. We were born of the divorce industry, if you can imagine, and we’ll still give you a quickie wedding. The Biggest Little City in the World is also a four-season mountain town by the California state line — one with well-loved gambling and nightlife, sure, but also a haven for skiers, hikers and a growing surge of artists and tech nerds.
We’re known for showing visitors a good time year-round, and for attracting accidental residents: those who come for vacation or contract work, or who stop in after Burning Man and refuse to leave. It’s just one of those cities, and the hip restaurants and quirky shopping in our Midtown district seal the deal.
Likening Reno to Las Vegas won’t get you far, by the way; many folks are surprised to learn the two locales are nearly an eight-hour drive from one another, and really only comparable because they both have casinos and are Nevada’s best-known towns. Where Vegas has crowds and legendary glitz, though, Reno has a sweet sort of folksiness, and sits in stunning proximity to natural wonders. It’s the perfect launch-point for day trips, in fact, and central to mountains, trails, ghost towns, national parks and world-renowned Lake Tahoe. (Want more ideas? Our guide to The Reno Area’s Best Excursions is your primer for great trips no more than an hour away).
Festivals have quite a home here as well, and the Biggest Little City hosts everything from hot-air balloon races to a huge classic-car fest. The entire month of August is wholeheartedly devoted to the visual and performing arts — a fact you’ll hear more about in our guide to Reno’s Best Festivals and Events — and most shows are free.
Just want to come for a weekend? For a quick sampling of outdoorsy and city-life adventures (including a trip to our area’s famous brothel, if you’re crazy enough), check out Reno in 48 Hours.
Do know that the overwhelming majority of local attractions are kid-friendly, however, and you’ll find much to do in our guide to Reno for Families. To learn about our area’s horse country — something that’s never lost on children — you won’t want to miss Reno for Horse Lovers, either. And check out Reno’s Best Day Trips.
Reno is truly a four-season destination, thanks in part to the town’s avid ski culture. Depending on your interests, of course, you’ll want to pick the time of year that’s right for you.
The city’s ongoing series of warm-weather festivals should factor into your decision, one way or another. They’re great but sometimes crowd-heavy for a town Reno’s size, so it’s best to skip certain weekends unless you’re purposely attending said events. The two big ones to either wholeheartedly enjoy or wholeheartedly avoid are probably Street Vibrations in early June and Hot August Nights in early August, as they involve significant road closures downtown. You’ll also see an increase in traffic and overall crowding for the few days before and after Burning Man, which spans a week in late August and early September.
Reno and nearby Lake Tahoe can be incredible in winter, but if you want to explore the great outdoors and aren’t into skiing/snowboarding s or cold-weather sightseeing, you’ll have more fun in spring, summer or fall. If you’re just here to gamble, party and join one of our beloved pub crawls, come any time — you can’t go wrong.
A week in the Reno area feels about right. If you just come for a few days, you’ll want to extend your trip — we’ve seen people do it — and if you stay much longer, you’re apt to repeat activities or become a permanent resident. We’ve seen that happen, too.
Reno’s overall prices seem to be consistent year-round. The difference lies in which time of week you visit, as weekdays are considerably cheaper at most major hotel-casinos in the city. Weekdays are also less crowded, so if the busy buzz of nightlife isn’t a priority for you, you might want to skip weekends altogether.
Reno is in a high-desert area beneath the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and has four distinct seasons. As of 2016, Northern Nevada is in the midst of its first wet/historically typical winter in several years.
Visitors remark that Reno is dry but comfortable — the sort of place where you can sleep with your windows open many months out of the year. Expect powdery snow in winter, mild springs with blooming fruit trees, hot summer days that become quite cool after sunset, and great fall color.
January 1: New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July 4: Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
November 11: Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December 25: Christmas
To check the local time in Reno, click here.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (on the second Sunday morning of March at 2 a.m.). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (on the first Sunday morning in November at 2
a.m.), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except Hawaii and most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’
Reno fashion is bad by global standards, and part of what makes the town so relaxed and endearing. Perhaps because of our casinos, one can technically wear jeans or even modest workout clothes to most high-end restaurants here. (Imagine yourself eating a perfect rib eye while wearing elastic pants. It’s magic.)
If you’re coming through town for Burning Man, you’ll need to go into elaborate-survival-camping mode and take packing very seriously, but you probably already know that. Otherwise, just bring lots of layered clothing, good walking or hiking shoes, and whatever else you might feel like wearing while out eating, drinking or gambling. And don’t overthink it.
One crucial tip: Bring a quality moisturizer and lip balm. Some newcomers want these toiletries the minute they get off the plane — not later, when they have time to drop by a drug store. The desert’s dry weather is great long-term, but you may need a day or more to adjust. You’ll probably also notice your hair feels softer and smoother or thinner and more limp, depending, so pack accordingly if that matters to you.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
This will be filled out for you
Fares vary, of course, but direct, round-trip flights to Reno from West Coast cities such as Los Angeles often run less than $300 — sometimes far less if you go with Southwest Airlines or a travel-booking website such as Expedia. You may even be able to find a direct, round-trip JetBlue flight from New York in the $300 range, but especially low prices can mean less-than-ideal travel hours, so book carefully.
As for cities outside the U.S, Guadalajara is the only one with direct flights to Reno, and those start at around $320 round-trip. Any overseas flight for less than $1,000 round-trip is probably a steal, for that matter. Take it.
If you’re visiting Reno to ski, hike, take in a festival or otherwise explore — and/or you just want mobility — we suggest renting a car at the airport. Nine rental companies are available there, each with a desk directly across from the baggage-claim area.
Expect to pay $200 to $300 per week plus considerable fees and taxes for an economy car, $500 or more per week for a luxury model, and $700 or more for a higher-end SUV.
A 15- to 20-percent tip is customary at U.S. restaurants, and the same formula applies to cab rides, spa services and so on. You’ll never insult anyone here if you tip more, but doing so would be a surprise. Do note that some restaurants include a certain gratuity for larger parties, and this is noted in the menu or on your receipt.
Other tipping — for a cheap beer, say — is more subjective. I never like to tip less than $2 per drink, for example, though many people do. Meanwhile, if a cocktail waitress brings you a “free” drink at a casino, you should always tip $1 at minimum, and bellhops and valets should get at least a few bucks for their time.
If you don’t have the cash to tip, be kind enough to decline the product or service.
Transportation is straightforward in Reno: Plan to do a lot of walking with help from the occasional taxi or Uber if you’re staying downtown or in Midtown, and rent a car for outdoor adventures and day trips. (Nine rental companies are available at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, each with a desk directly across from the baggage-claim area.) You probably won’t need to figure out public transport, nor is it really worthwhile for most visitors.
If you’re based at a big casino-hotel and want to visit ski resorts, though, know that Mount Rose and other ski facilities can help you arrange a shuttle on certain days of the week. Meanwhile, if you’re getting around on foot downtown, avoid dawdling alone in the area around 4th Street and Evans — the vicinity of the bus station, the Reno Aces ballpark, Louis’ Basque Corner (a great restaurant) and the Lincoln Lounge — after dark. Locals prefer Midtown to downtown, for that matter; it is generally bike- and pedestrian friendly and full of quirky shops, daytime bustle and a burgeoning hipster bar scene.
Wherever you land, virtually any hotel or bed-and-breakfast in Reno proper is close to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, simply because everything is close to the airport. The airport is small, too, and one of the calmest metropolitan travel hubs you’ll ever encounter, provided you’re not arriving on a major holiday weekend.
In short, Reno is an easy town to navigate. Your bigger transport issue will be finding a direct flight from your respective U.S. city, if you’re stateside, but the list is growing and recently expanded to include Guadalajara.
Musicians have name-dropped Reno for ages. The best known example is probably in Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” when the narrator tells you he shot a man just to watch him die, but the Biggest Little City also makes a cameo in Beck’s “Loser” and — really beautifully— in R.E.M.’s “All the way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star).”
If you’re road-tripping to Reno from a more Eastern part of the United States, play Aaron Copland’s Rodeo in the car. The symphonic ballet nails the feeling of the American West, and it’ll make your hair stand on end to see and hear landscape and music so perfectly matched.