Reno is known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” and after visiting here you might understand why. While famous for its casinos, Reno actually has a lot more to offer than just gambling. This is also the gateway to Lake Tahoe. It’s a great spot for a summer weekend getaway. Here is how to make sure you have a great weekend in Reno.
“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”
― Johnny Cash
One of my friends from college decided to get married in Reno, so I was able to spend a weekend here. I’m really glad that she decided to get married here, because I’m not sure this is a place that I would have decided to come on vacation to. As someone who lived in Chicago and now lives in Florida, seeing mountains is always an exciting moment! Here is how I spent my weekend in Reno.
How to Get to Reno
From Florida, it’s not super easy to get to Reno. There are no direct flights. We ended up having to fly from Tampa to LAX to Reno, so it was a long day of flying. Luckily, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is really close to the downtown area so it was a quick cab ride over. Reno is about a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco and about two and a half hour drive from Sacramento. There is also an Amtrak station downtown.
Weekend in Reno
We packed a lot in our three days in Reno. Our first full day, Saturday, was spent walking around and exploring downtown. If you have been to Las Vegas, Reno reminded me of downtown Las Vegas. It’s older hotels, a little gritty, but you still have all the lights and sounds. There are definitely some sketchy characters walking around, but there is also a lot of security (both police and private security at the casinos). I never felt unsafe, but I wouldn’t walk around by myself at night.
Of course, we had to check out the casinos. In downtown there are several casinos to choose from. My boyfriend took a liking to Harrah’s because he won some money there. As someone who is a big fan of Las Vegas, I liked the “back in time” feeling you get walking around the casinos downtown. They are not as fancy, but still exciting to walk around.
Reno is also trying to revitalize the area, so there are some really hip and trendy areas to check out, which I was not expecting. Another thing I learned was Reno is the closest big city to Burning Man. There is a lot of street art around downtown Reno that was previously at Burning Man. This was really cool to see and made for some great photo ops!
Saturday evening was my friend’s wedding, up in the mountains at an absolutely stunning venue called Tannenbaum Event Center. The views were incredible and the wedding was beautiful. It was a little chillier than I’m used to down here in Florida, though!
The next day, Sunday, was spent switching hotels and exploring even more. We walked along the Riverwalk, which ended up being a really nice walk. First of all, the river itself is the Truckee River. This river is 121 miles long and popular for whitewater rafting and fly fishing. It runs right through Reno, and the Riverwalk District takes full advantage of this beautiful river. There are restaurants, shops, museums, art galleries, and more. It’s definitely worth taking the time to walk around.
We also discovered a coffee shop located in a place called the Basement. This is located underneath the historic U.S. Post Office building. There is a coffee shop, bar, shops, and more. Definitely worth checking out.
Monday we spent the day in Lake Tahoe! It’s about an hour drive from Reno to Tahoe City and worth every second. We ended up renting a car for the day and exploring Tahoe City. It is actually unbelievable how beautiful Lake Tahoe is with the blue water and snow-capped mountains surrounding. Read more about our day in Lake Tahoe.
Tuesday unfortunately we had to head home! We spent the morning exploring The Row, which is three connected casino hotels (Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, and El Dorado). It’s fun walking through and seeing the different shops and restaurants. Circus Circus has a Midway with all kinds of carnival games and a daily circus show. In Silver Legacy, there is an 120 foot mining rig as a nod to the city’s mining legacy.
Time to head home! I had such a great time spending a weekend in Reno. I’m not sure if I would visit here again, but if the opportunity presented itself I know I would have a great time.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Renaissance Downtown Reno, which was a beautiful hotel right on the Truckee River. It is a non-smoking, non-gambling hotel. The second half of the weekend we stayed at Circus Circus, which is part of The Row. It was very affordable and offered a shuttle to the airport.
Things to do in Reno
Enjoy a healthier meal at Great Full Garden (in Midtown)
Check out street art and murals
Lake Tahoe day trip
Try your hand at gambling (beginners luck is a real thing!)
Have a glass of wine at Liberty Food & Wine Exchange
Great Reno Balloon Race (every year in September)
Catch a concert
Nevada Museum of Art
Greater Nevada Field (minor league baseball)
Check out Taste of Chicago for authentic Chicago food
Indulge in something that was recently legalized (if you’re interested)
Visit The Basement where there are stores, a great coffee shop, a bar, and more located beneath the historic U.S. Post Office building
West Street Market
Reno Travel Tips
Remember that the weather is cooler here. I packed pretty inappropriately for this trip thinking it would be really hot. The weather was great, but you are at a higher altitude so it’s not hot and sticky like it is in Florida. Pack accordingly!
Speaking of altitude, make sure you are drinking a lot of water to prevent altitude sickness. If you are indulging in some adult beverages, you might find they hit you a little harder than usual. Just something to be aware of.
As I said earlier, there were definitely some sketchy people walking around downtown. There was a lot of security, but still be cautious of your surroundings and don’t go too far away from the downtown area.
There is a bus system for getting around downtown. Many of the hotels offer free shuttle service to and from the airport. In the winter, most of the ski resorts offer shuttles to Lake Tahoe. If you really are wanting to explore the area, renting a car will probably be your best bet.
Check out Reno’s official tourism website for more information and a calendar of events.
So there are some tips for making sure you have a great weekend in Reno. Have you been to The Biggest Little City in the World? Share your thoughts and experiences below!