Complete Nevada Traveler Contents

Reno Travel Info
Book a Room in
Reno


No matter what your age or inclination, you'll find what you like in Reno.


The Nevada
Travel Network
Description and History of
Reno
by David W. Toll

Reno's grand hotel casinos are famous around the world.
From The Complete Nevada Traveler, the Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. Buy the Book Here

The Nevada Adventure Map
The Biggest Little City in the World isn't little any more. Reno is the regional capital of an enormous area of western Nevada and the eastern Sierra. 

On a fine spring day in 1928, Reno held a great municipal celebration at the railroad tracks in honor of paving the two-lane highway over Donner Summit to California. As the band burst into a brassy ragtime, and the bankers, bootleggers and other leading citizens beamed with pride, neon letters on the new iron arch spanning Virginia Street blazed with light for the first time. "RENO," they bragged against a downtown skyline of Edwardian brick, "The Biggest Little City in the World."
The iron arch is gone now, replaced by a brighter version much jazzier than the Jazz Age original, and Reno's golden age of society divorcees, bootleg whiskey and basement gambling rooms is gone with it.

Travel Nevada, Nevada Magazine

Modern Reno dates from another fine spring noontime, almost 50 years to the day after that gaudy little celebration, when an enormous tan tower rose 26 stories from its bright, light-bejewelled base on an enormous asphalt pad near the edge of the airport, far from the city center. The $131,000,000 MGM Grand Hotel greeted every incoming flight to Reno-Cannon International the same way the old arch greeted every train at the railroad depot downtown.
The MGM Grand -- it's the freshly painted Reno Hilton now -- was the flagship of Nevada's gamblinghouse fleet, the most magnificent pleasure liner ever launched on Nevada's desert sands, and its crew was the pick of the industry. There were glamorous big-name stars and the fabulous Hello, Hollywood review, a magnificent arcade of expensive shops and a gambling floor as big as two football fields. It was the class of the wagering world, and if the title has since been taken by the astonishing new resorts being built in Las Vegas, the huge hotel is still a potent reminder that Reno offers every pleasure a fun-seeking visitor could want, from world class cuisine to pee wee golf.
Twenty years later, the Silver Legacy has drawn the center of attention back downtown. This enormous gambling theme park is elaborately designed and connected organically to its neighbors. It contains, among other attractions, the Brews Brothers restaurant and microbrewery, the first brew pub in a major Nevada hotel casino.

Reno's heart is downtown. The city was was born at Lake's Crossing where Myron Lake's bridge brought the Virginia City road across the Truckee River, and from there the changes wrought since the opening of the MGM Grand are easily visible to the naked eye.
The Riverside, once the grandest hotel in the state, has been half-demolished and converted to artists' studios. The Mapes, built in 1948 as Nevada's tallest building, and the Harolds Club that Pappy Smith built into the biggest and best-known casino in the world, are gone.

A Truckee River Walk extends east and west. Eastward it follows the river all the way past the Hilton and through Sparks nearly to the enclosing hills. You'll pass trout fishermen if you walk this way. To the west it takes you past the little amphitheater where the pleasing noon concerts are performed in the summer months, and on across Arlington Street into the "City of Trembling Leaves" (as author Walter Van Tilburg Clark described it) where cottonwoods and elms shade rambling Victorians, left over from a time when divorcees waited out an endless six-week residence for their freedom.
Continue on another pleasant half-mile to Idlewild Park with its rose gardens, broad lawns and ducky ponds. The trail proceeds on, and on, and on, and on about as far as you're prepared to hike, with a small picnic and rest area at its end, many miles from Lake's Crossing.
To the north, Virginia Street between the river and the railroad track is brilliant with casino facades. Newcomers have added to the city's downtown dimensions and moved its center north: the Eldorado, the Sundowner, the Flamingo Hilton, Circus Circus and the mighty Silver Legacy. Two of the city's most popular casino hotels, the Peppermill and the Atlantis, are well south on Virginia Street near the Convention Center.
Almost any downtown dining choice will be enjoyable, but here are a few suggestions:
The Eldorado. Here you can choose from one of the state's finest gourmet dining rooms, La Strada, or the city's most highly praised buffet, or six other stylish and distinctive dining choices. The Carano family has adopted the strategy that brought John Asquaga his fame and success in Sparks: serve the best food. Harrah's offers first class gourmet dining also, the Cal-Neva always has an inexpensive special or two, and the Circus Circus buffet is a bargain.
You don't have to find a casino to have something to eat, of course. One of the city's finest restaurants is Adele¹s, the exquisitely New York French restaurant at Liberty and South Virginia. Luciano's at 719 S. Virginia is also excellent.
Deux Gros Nez, upstairs over the Hermitage Gallery at California and Humboldt streets, is the inspired setting for a cup of fancy coffee or a cool beer from England. The Santa Fe Hotel on Lake Street is one of Reno's best-known Basque restaurants, having served most of four generations of local folks their hearty working-man's family style suppers. Louis' Basque Corner, at Fourth and Evans is another local favorite.
A little farther afield: the best cheeseburger in town is either at the Keystone Cue & Cushion, at Fifth near Keystone, or Juicy's at 310 S. Wells (and other locations) -- you choose.

Art also abounds in downtown Reno, especially during the annual summer Arttown celebration. A unique collection of colorful, carefully sculpted shapes and gleaming surfaces with powerful emotional impact is displayed at The National Automobile Collection at Mill and Lake Streets.
You can combine food and refreshment with another collection of colorful artifacts at the Liberty Belle Saloon on south Virginia Street beside the Convention Center. Here you can have an informal lunch or dinner and see the magnificent collection of slot machines assembled by the grandsons of the man who invented the diabolical device.
For art without the calories, the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art occupies two near-downtown locations. At the E.L. Weigand Museum, 160 W. Liberty, the exhibits are an eclectic mix of traveling shows and local artists. The neo-Georgian Hawkins House at 549 Court Street, west of Arlington, exhibits 19th and 20th century American art. The Stremmel Gallery on south Virginia Street is a busy showplace of leading artists, and there is a row of galleries on Sierra Street between First and Second.
The University of Nevada Reno campus adjoining north Virginia Street is another locus for artists, exhibits and performances of every kind. Campus events are listed at the Jot Travis Student Union (775-784-6589). The Gutzon Borglum statue of Comstock mining tycoon John Mackay has been a landmark for almost a century, and you'll enjoy the minerals collection inside the Mackay School of Mines building behind him. If you're a late-night movie watcher, you may feel a shock or recognition as you cross the great lawn of this classical Jeffersonian quadrangle. It¹s not merely that it's modeled after the University of Virginia, it's -- can it be? Yes! This is where Andy Hardy went to College! (in the 1937 movie starring Mickey Rooney, that is.)
The more recent "Peavine Installation" by John Mason invites a visit: walk up North Virginia Street, and walk uphill until you see the black and white rectangles planted in the lawn outside the Lombardi Recreation Building.

When you've finished playing eye games with this beguiling piece, walk a little farther up the hill and calm down at the Nevada State Historical Society. You'll find handsomely mounted and informative exhibits depicting the physical and social environments established in the ebb and flow of Nevada history, as well as research collections and facilities.
The queerly shaped building across the way is the Fleischmann Planetarium. Inside is a specially constructed domed theater where a unique cinematic process provides visitors with the "experience" of space flights, an eagle's eye view of the growth and development of a fluffy wisp of cloud into a ferocious thunderstorm, the birth and death of a star, and other cosmic wonders of the universe.

Rancho San Rafael a few blocks west of the University, is an enormous county park, with open green space, playgrounds and a gallery devoted to the interests of Wilbur May, the May Co. Department Store heir whose charmed life ended peacefully a few years ago. The exhibits center on the animals whose lives he ended on hunting trips, and on the art which he collected as avidly as he collected heads. The autumn Great Reno Balloon Race ascensions are made from here in a scene of magical frenzy.
Speaking of green space, no law says you have to confine your graveyard strolling to old mining towns. You might enjoy a half hour at Mountain View Cemetery, accessible from Stoker Avenue via west Fourth Street. Only a few of the old-fashioned angels, lambs or obelisks survive the trend to gang-mowing, but this burying ground contains the earthly remains of some of Nevada's greatest figures from the past. Pay your respects to Senator Pat McCarran, Mayor Ed Roberts, the Pittman Brothers, Bill Stead, Alf Doten and thousands of others more or less prominent in their lifetimes. Their present serenity belies the passions that once stirred them, and the neat rows and simple plaques bear no relation to the complex and sometimes tangled lives they lived. Mausoleums of the rich and famous (now mostly forgotten) still stand in great gloomy rows, and a dirt-surfaced Potter's Field on the downslope behind the maintenance sheds provides additional food for thought
.


Buy the Book

A Service of NevadaWeb

Contact Us