Big Happenings in Little Reno: A Visitor’s Guide to Our Host City

Story by Mike Flenniken

Reno, Nevada, also known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” is a popular alternative to Las Vegas in the northern part of the state. In fact, Reno held the unofficial title of the gambling capital of the United States up until the late 1950s. However, Nevada’s largest city outside of the Las Vegas Valley offers visitors much more than the opportunity to try their luck in a casino.

Located in a high desert at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Reno offers a wide variety of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed throughout the year, as well as a number of cultural attractions such as music venues, museums, conventions and sporting events.


In the late 1840s and ’50s, gold rush participants crossed the Truckee River on their way to California to seek their fortunes. However, the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, the nation’s richest deposit of silver, in nearby Virginia City led to a silver rush and a population explosion that ultimately resulted in Nevada becoming the 36th state in 1864.

Reno was founded in 1868, when the transcontinental railroad reached the area. It is named after Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Union officer killed in the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War.

Reno continued to grow over the years, becoming one of the main settlements along the transcontinental railroad route from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.

The Reno Arch, which bears the now famous nickname, was first installed in 1926 to promote the 1927 Nevada Highways Exposition, which celebrated the completion of the Lincoln in Victory Highways. The slogan was added to the sign, now in its third iteration, following a contest in 1929.

During the Great Depression, the state sought to bring in more money by legalizing open gambling and adopting the nation’s most liberal divorce laws. By reducing the residency requirement to six weeks before being eligible to file for divorce, the state drew thousands of people from of out of state looking for what became known as the “Reno Cure.” In the early 1970s, other states began to ease up on their requirements, dealing a serious blow to the state’s divorce business.

Entertainment and Sightseeing

If your luck at the tables runs out, or gambling isn’t your thing, don’t worry — there are plenty of other things to see and do in the Reno area.

The Riverwalk District, which runs along the Truckee River from Arlington Avenue to Lake Street, offers visitors an opportunity to stroll past parks, shops, bars and restaurants, museums, galleries, and specialty retailers. The district is an easy 10-minute walk from the conference hotel, the Silver Legacy Resort Casino. For those arriving Saturday, Sept. 21, the district’s monthly Wine Walk runs from 2 to 5 p.m. More information is available at

A unique feature of the Riverwalk District is the Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield Park, situated on an island in the Truckee River. Open year-round, it features Class 2 and 3 rapids, 11 drop pools and a competitive slalom course.

The National Automobile Museum is on the eastern end of the Riverwalk District and boasts a collection of 200 vehicles once owned by William F. Harrah, including Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado. Autoweek magazine selected it as one of the nation’s five greatest automobile museums, and it made USA Today’s list of top 10 transportation museums.

The Nevada Museum of Art is among only 5 percent of museums nationwide accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and features a permanent collection that is divided into four thematic focus areas: the Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Art of the Greater West Collection, the Carol Franc Buck Altered Landscape Photography Collection, the Contemporary Art Collection, and the E. L. Wiegand Work Ethic in American Art Collection.

Feeling adventurous? Put on a harness and try to scale the world’s largest artificial climbing wall, built into the side of the Whitney Peak Hotel and part of the BaseCamp park. The 164-foot wall is part of a new 7,000-square-foot indoor bouldering park. Day passes are available for those not staying at the hotel.


The 2019 Roscoe King Memorial Golf will be held The 2019 Roscoe King Memorial Golf will be held at the Washoe Golf Course, whose 18 championship holes, depending on the tee you select, span from 5,863 yards to 6,695 yards. Golfers are encouraged to wear a collared shirt, tailored pants, shorts or skirt, soft spikes or soft-sided shoes.


Temperatures in late September range from lows in the mid-40s to highs in the upper 70s. Pack for warm days and cooler evenings.