Reno is the third most populated city in Nevada (right after Las Vegas and Henderson). It’s also located just 20 miles from Lake Tahoe. People call Reno “The Biggest Little City in the World,” which is as cool and as accurate a name as I could think of for the city, too.
Reno is probably best-known for casinos, hotels, and gambling. Harrah’s got its start in Reno, and it’s still one of the biggest casinos in the city.
Close to a quarter of a million people live in Reno, and most of them know that there’s more to do in Reno than just gamble.
After reading this post, you’ll have a list of 10 cool things to do in Reno besides gambling, too.
1 – Visit the National Automobile Museum
You’ll find the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, immediately to the south of the Truckee River. The museum features 200+ historic cars from the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century. Most of these vehicles belonged to William F. Harrah. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he owned a casino called Harrah’s, which is now a national well-known chain. The museum has been open for 20 years.
Some of the famous cars you’ll find here include:
- Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado
- Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L6.4
- John F. Kennedy assigned 1962 Lincoln Continental
- John Wayne’s 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
- The 1892 Philion Road Carriage featured in The Magnificent Ambersons
- The 1912 Rambler 73-400 Cross-Country featured in Titanic (1997)
- The 1949 Mercury Eight featured in Rebel Without a Cause
Tickets are just $12 each for adults, but seniors get a discount, and kids get in free.
2 – Visit the Nevada Museum of Art
If cars aren’t your thing, but you like art museums, check out the Nevada Museum of Art. It can be found at 160 West Liberty Street.
You’ll find over 2,000 works of art to look at there, categorized into four areas. Unlike many art museums, which organize their displays by year, the Nevada Museum of Art is organized by theme. The overall theme of the museum has to do with how people interact with the environment.
The Nevada Museum of Art is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but it opens at 10am every other day of the week. On Thursdays, it stays open until 8pm, but on the other nights, it closes at 6pm.
They offer a variety of guided tours for schools, for groups, and for individuals. You can also eat right there on site at Chez Louie, a French restaurant.
The museum was founded in 1931 and is the only museum in Nevada certified by the American Alliance of Museums.
3 – Go Skiing at Mount Rose
Mount Rose is an extinct volcano and one of the most prominent mountains in the state of Nevada, and it’s located inside the Mount Rose Wilderness. It’s usually covered in snow, and it’s a popular site for skiing.
You can find the official site for skiing at Mount Rose here. The elevation there is 8260 feet. If you visit their website, you can get an update on what the weather is like there currently, too.
The site also features webcams and route maps. You can buy passes for between $199 and $649, depending on what kind of flexibility you want in terms of when you use those passes. They also offer skiing lessons for all ages.
They even offer weddings at Winters Creek Lodge.
4 – Visit the Animal Ark
Animal Ark is a wildlife sanctuary and non-profit organization devoted to wildlife education. They’ve been there since 1981, offering safety to injured wild animals.
The mission of Animal Ark is to inspire environmental stewardship through wildlife education.
You’ll find Animal Ark just north of Reno. Most of the animals on their 38 acres are North American predators and the occasional exotic species. Thousands of visitors of all ages learn about ecology at Animal Ark.
They use native trees and plants to duplicate the animals’ natural habitats. The caretakers also exercise and tend to the animals, so they don’t get bored. Animal Ark also offers frequent special events to the public.
Unlike some wildlife preserves, Animal Ark is devoted to giving each animal a home for the rest of its life. Many of the animals there can’t survive in the wild, and they don’t believe in “putting animals down.” They also don’t breed or sell these animals.
A standard membership is only $50, and the platinum membership is $125. You get free admission to most of the events with either membership, although the regular membership only provides discounts to admission for some of the events there.
5 – Walk Along the Truckee River Walk
The Riverwalk in Reno is a wonderful place to go walking. Understanding the history of the town is an important part of understanding the history of the Riverwalk. In the late 1800s, the town of Reno was established adjacent to a bridge crossing the Truckee River. Within a few decades, Reno had become famous for the casinos and bars.
Then in the 1990s, Reno built the Raymond L. Smith Truckee River Walk. The district is full of all kinds of shopping establishments. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the area to go walking, and you don’t have to put a single coin in a single slot machine to enjoy it.
On the third Saturday of each month, the Riverwalk Merchants’ Association hosts a wine walk from 2pm to 5pm.
They also host a food tour and trick or treating on Halloween.
6 – Take Your Picture Under the Reno Arch
Most people know that when you visit Las Vegas, the traditional first thing to do is get your picture taken next to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. The equivalent of that in Reno is to get your picture taken underneath the Reno Arch.
It’s probably the most iconic landmark in the area. You’ll find the Reno Arch at the intersection of Commercial Row and Virginia Street. The original arch dates to 1926, but we’re now on the third iteration of the landmark. It reads “Reno, Nevada – The Biggest Little City in the World.”
When you see Reno in a movie, the Reno Arch is invariably displayed, so it’s become associated with the city.
7 – Check out the Fleischmann Planetarium
The Fleischmann Planetarium is part of the University of Reno, and it serves 50,000 visitors a year. You can see a variety of shows there with various themes, including:
- Black holes
Admission to each show runs $8 unless you’re eligible for a student discount or a senior’s discount. Of course, if you’re a member of the Planetarium, admission to the shows is free.
The Exhibit Hall opens every day, and admission to it is free. The displays change all the time, but they’re always interactive and immersive. Exhibits have themes like the following:
- Living in Space
- The Planet Earth
- The Moon
If you’re a fan of astronomy at all, you owe it to yourself to catch the Fleischman Planetarium while you’re in Reno.
8 – Eat at Toucan Charlies
The best buffet in Reno—which is a town full of good buffets, by the way—is Toucan Charlie’s at the Aliante Casino. My ex-wife likes to claim that you shouldn’t eat for entertainment purposes, but I think it’s one of the more enjoyable aspects of traveling to a casino destination.
And just because it’s all you can eat doesn’t mean you have to gorge yourself. You have the option, but it’s not a requirement.
On Fridays, they serve a seafood buffet, and on Saturdays, they serve a steak and seafood buffet. On Sundays, they serve brunch.
They also serve hand-carved prime rib at dinnertime every night. Their prices are reasonable, too—only $26 during the week for dinner, and $36 on Friday and Saturday nights. If you’re a member of the players club at the Atlantis, you get discounts on your meal based on your player level.
9 – Visit Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is an immense freshwater lake about 20 or 30 minutes from Reno. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America and—next to the Great Lakes—it’s the largest lake in the United States. It’s also the second-deepest lake in the USA.
There are several skiing resorts in the area. They’re all excellent. I mentioned one already (Mount Rose) because it’s the best, but you can find plenty of fun at the other skiing resorts, too.
As with most lakes, water sports are popular at Lake Tahoe. Boating and scuba diving are both popular with visitors.
You can also go hiking and bike riding on the trails near the lake.
10 – Catch a Baseball Game
The Reno Aces are the local baseball team. They’re a Minor League Baseball team in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). They’re also the AAA affiliate for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
You can watch the Aces play at Greater Nevada Field, which opened in 2009. They won the PCL championship in 2012. They also won the AAA National Championship Game that year.
If you’re moving to Reno, you might be interested in season passes.
But if you’re just visiting, the cheap seats are cheap enough.
If you’ve never been to a Minor League Baseball game, you should try catching a Reno Aces game. You’ll probably love it.
As you can see, there’s plenty to see and do in Reno and the surrounding areas besides gamble. No matter where your interests lie, you can find something to do.
Do you have any favorite activities that you like to participate in when you visit Reno or Lake Tahoe? If so, what are they?