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A Dozen Unique Things To Do In Reno, Nevada

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Created in Partnership with RenoTahoe & Quin Schrock

Both of my parents are from Reno, Nevada, and between visiting their parents, friends, and old haunts, I managed to spend a good chunk of my childhood there. So, while I never technically lived in Reno, it feels a bit like coming home every time I return. Except that home looks nothing like the Reno of my childhood. The city I once associated with grandparents and gaming has undergone a full-fledged renaissance over the last decade! Reno’s vibe is now distinctly outdoorsy, artsy, and chill.

Reno is one of my favorite adventure hubs, but you don’t need to leave the city to have an awesome time!

The Biggest Little City In The World has changed. But despite its undeniable evolution, it hasn’t lost its character. Reno’s renaissance hasn’t thrown out the old in favor of the new. It has simply revitalized it. Now is the perfect time to experience the transformation for yourself. Here are a dozen unique things to do in Reno, Nevada, to get you started!

The Truckee River Runs through the heart of Reno.

1. Take A Stroll Along The River Walk In Reno

Featuring a pedestrian walkway along the Truckee River, the picturesque Riverwalk District is lined with restaurants, cafes, and all sorts of art. From giant street murals to playa art from past Burning Man festivals, there’s no shortage of eye candy to enjoy. So grab a coffee from my favorite, the Hub Coffee Roasters, or a pint from the Sierra Taphouse, and just start walking!

The last time that I was in Reno I stayed at the Renaissance Reno Downtown. The hotel is located right on the Truckee River in the Riverwalk District, so it was super convenient for us to get to a lot of the places on this list! Plus, our room had a great view of the river. The Renaissance is also one of the few hotels in downtown Reno that doesn’t have any gaming. . . and all the things that tends to go along with that.

2. Peruse The Funky Shops Along Dickerson Road

At first glance, Dickerson Road doesn’t look that impressive. In fact, you might drive right by thinking it’s an industrial area with nothing but large nondescript warehouses. But it’s so much more than that! Dickerson is home to two of my favorite shops in Reno: Sierra Water Gardens and Strange Bikinis. Right down the street, Gloria’s Cafe is a favorite brunch spot that I try to hit up every time I’m in town! 

3. Take A Self Guided Art Walk Through Reno

One of my favorite things to do in Reno is to wander around and admire all of the street art, sculptures, and murals that adorn the city.

Reno’s developing Neon Line District runs along West 4th Street. The revitalized district is home to a wide range of world-class art installations, including retired Burning Man sculptures.

Speaking of Burning Man, you can visit two of my favorite installations in the City Plaza. BELIEVE and Space Whale hold special places in the hearts of locals and visitors. BELIEVE spans 70 feet wide and has become a favorite art piece for groups and families to incorporate into photo shoots. Space Whale is a stunning life-sized stained glass and steel sculpture of a humpback whale mother and calf. At night, the installation is illuminated, giving it an even more ethereal appearance.

If giant murals are more your thing, Reno won’t let you down! Downtown and the Midtown District are home to more than 100 larger-than-life murals painted by various artists. Follow this Art Spot Reno Midtown Reno Mural Tour map, take part in a monthly guided tour, or let your curiosity lead you around town to find your favorite masterpiece.

4. Go Surfing In Wingfield Park

You can always try surfing if you want to get your adrenaline pumping. That’s right, surfing! As the only outlet for Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River winds its way down through the Sierra Nevada Mountains into “The Biggest Little City In The World” until it finally terminates at Pyramid Lake. Along the way, a few standing waves are suitable for getting your surf on. One is located in Wingfield Park right smack dab in downtown Reno. Talk about a bucket list item!

Note: this is a seasonal activity that happens during high flow times. Generally Spring and early Summer is when it’s rideable.

5. Watch Sunset From Windy Hill Scenic Overlook

Growing up, I used to visit my grandparents in Reno every summer, and one of my favorite things to do was watch the lights downtown slowly illuminate the night sky from Windy Hill Scenic Overlook. We’d pack a picnic and watch the sunset behind the mountains as the bright neon lights took over the landscape below.

6. Climb “The Worlds Largest Climbing Wall” At The Whitney Peak Hotel

The Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno is home to the Guinness Book Of World Record’s “World’s Tallest Artificial Climbing Wall” and Outside Magazine’s “12 Best Hotel Gyms In The US.” Plus, because it’s outside, you can enjoy great views of downtown, including the iconic Reno Arch, while you climb.

You don’t have to stay at the hotel to enjoy the BaseCamp Climbing Gym. The giant wall can be lead climbed as a two-pitch sport climb, or you can purchase the “CLIMB TO THE TOP” package and top rope the wall in one shot. It’s an adventure you won’t find in ANY other city! 

7. Walk Around Sparks Marina Park Lake & Then Take A Load Off On The Waterfront Porch at Lighthouse Coffee

Kayakers paddle down the canal at the Sparks Marina Park just outside of Reno.

With walking paths, trees, and sandy beaches surrounding a 77-acre lake, the Sparks Marina Park is a great place to start your day. Grab a coffee at Lighthouse Coffee, a friend, your dog, or all three, and head out on the paved path that circumnavigates the lake. Or, if you’re itching to get out on the water, you can launch your paddle board or kayak from any of the beaches.

Calm morning views at Sparks Marina Park.

8. Enjoy A Relaxing Spa Day In Reno

For me, Reno has always served as the perfect base to stage adventures. With easy access to Lake Tahoe, The Sierra Mountains, Black Rock Desert, and so many other natural wonders it can be hard to remember to take time off to relax. But if it’s R&R you’re looking for, Reno offers some truly luxurious spa treatments that will leave you feeling rejuvenated for your next adventure!

Two of my personal favorites are Spa Atlantis, inside Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, and Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Reno.

9. Grab Dinner At One Of The Trending Restaurants in MidTown

Reno has undergone a renaissance over the past decade, and the increasingly trendy MidTown is often credited with igniting the spark that gradually lit up the entire city. The MidTown District is a true story of transformation & revitalization, and there’s perhaps nowhere that evolution is more evident than in its food scene. Stop by MidTown to experience farm-to-table restaurants, hip cafes, and local craft beers.

10. Snap A Photo Under Reno’s Iconic “Biggest Little City In The World” Sign

The best time to visit the iconic Reno Arch is right after sunset when all the lights come on.

Did you even go to Reno if you didn’t get a picture in front of the Reno Arch? All jokes aside, the Reno Arch is an iconic landmark in Reno not to be missed. The sign spans Virginia Street at the intersection with Commercial Row. It was first erected in 1926 as a tribute to the Nevada Transcontinental Highway Exposition. The icon was moved twice before it found its home in the heart of downtown Reno.

11. Tube Through Downtown Reno On The Truckee River

There’s a lot of different ways to explore Reno, but floating down the middle of it on the Truckee river might be the most fun!

There are many different ways to experience Reno, but one of the most fun has to be floating right down the middle of it on the Truckee River. Generally a slow-flowing river with occasional rapids, the Truckee is the perfect place for a leisurely float, punctuated by a few exciting moments. If you have your own tubes, a popular option is to start at Mayberry Park and float downriver to Wingfield Park. You can take any ride-share back to your car from there. Alternatively, you can rent tubes from Sierra Adventures. I haven’t ever taken one of the tours, though, so I can’t personally vouch for the experience.

12. Take A Day Trip Up To Lake Tahoe

Paddle Boarding is a great way to get out on Lake Tahoe and explore some of the more remote beaches.

Lake Tahoe truly is one of my favorite locations in the entire world. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been there, and I’m still overwhelmed with awe every time I round the first corner on the Mount Rose Highway and get my first glimpse of the azure blue water below. That sensation only intensifies as you get closer to the water. The color, clarity, granite holders, and the smell of pine all bring me back to my childhood. It’s my happy place.

I’ve written blog posts about how to spend a Perfect 72 Hours at Lake Tahoe, and I’ve shared My Favorite Photography Spots At Lake Tahoe. But if you’re just looking to take a day trip up to Lake Tahoe from Reno, I’d suggest heading straight for Sand Harbor. Once there, you can spend the day relaxing on the beach, taking a kayak tour, or renting paddle boards. The lake is your oyster!

For more ideas on fun adventures and things to do in and around Reno, Nevada make sure to visit the RenoTahoe website. It’s your one stop shop for all things Reno and beyond!

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  1. Kim says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how much the Reno I grew up in has changed. All it’s hidden treasures have been unleashed! They were there all this time up have been so improved. Thanks for highlighting Reno and everything it has to offer!

  2. TK says:

    You make the city look really enticing. Wouldn’t have guessed Reno has something like the Art Walk!

  3. Gary says:

    Great!! Love Reno,
    Spent two different 10 year runs in Reno. Glad you’re giving it some love. I still have plenty of friends there.
    Nice read
    Enjoy the summer

    • Jessica Dales says:

      Thanks Gary! I’m glad that I’v been able to spend more time there the past few years. It’s nice to relive some childhood memories and make some new ones as well.

  4. Frank says:

    Fantastic

  5. Molly says:

    Thanks for sharing Jess! Very grateful!

  6. Asher Sela says:

    I spent 2 years as an internanional student at U.N.R years 1986 – 1988.
    loved and miss this city. Reno have apecial place in my hurt.
    Asher Sela
    Tel-Aviv
    Israel.

    • Jessica Dales says:

      It has changed quite a bit since the 1980’s, but I think you would still love it. Maybe even more! Hopefully you get to visit again someday. 🙂

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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