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Often called the "Biggest Little City in the World", Reno, Nevada, has everything from casinos to theaters, museums, boutique shopping neighborhoods, golf courses, and fine dining opportunities. It certainly earns its nickname. Small enough to walk around but offering endless attractions, Reno is one of the best tourist destinations in the western USA.
Memorable experiences are easy to come by in Reno: bike out to dramatic rocky outcrops to see the city set against its desert backdrop; watch a flotilla of hot air balloons ascend into the pure blue Nevada skies; spend a day fishing on Lake Tahoe; or window-shop for souvenirs by the Truckee River. When evening comes, head to the casinos to try your luck.
Natural beauty, entertainment, and family attractions combine in Reno, which is why it's such an incredible place to spend a vacation.
Reno is famous for its casinos, home to 20 of them at the last count. They range from the unpretentious Harrah's to the exotic Atlantis Resort, Circus Circus with its acrobats and clowns, and the dazzlingly illuminated Eldorado.
Another great thing about Reno is its packed events schedule. From the Great Reno Balloon Race in September to the Reno Rodeo in June, and the mouth-watering Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off on Labor Day, there will almost certainly be something on during your stay.
Staying in Reno also puts you within a short drive of Lake Tahoe. Whether you visit to try your skills on the famous ski slopes, or you want to take a boat out onto the massive lake during the summer months, Lake Tahoe is one of the country's premier outdoor destinations.
Reno is also situated in the middle of some jaw-dropping desert scenery and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. Rent mountain bikes and take them to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, go kayaking in Wingfield Park, or time your visit to coincide with the unique Burning Man Festival, which creates a temporary city every year to host its creative visitors.
Reno is also simply a great place to spend some time. Even if you aren't keen on the casinos or the desert doesn't beckon, the stores in Midtown and wonderful restaurants like Old Granite Street Eatery are attractions in their own right.
When you visit Reno, it's always a good idea to dodge the crowds if possible. In April and May and the fall, the casinos are much less crowded and accommodation prices drop a little, making these the ideal times to visit.
The best way to get to Reno is flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), which is about four miles from the city and offers connections to most parts of the United States. From there, you can take the number 19 bus on the RTC Ride network, which costs $2, take a taxi, or hire a car to drive into town.
Reno's Amtrak station is a stop on the California Zephyr route between Emeryville and Chicago, so if you are in the Midwest, traveling to Reno by train is definitely possible. Even better, the station is centrally located and you can walk to the major hotels and casinos in a few minutes.
Driving to Reno is a great option, and it's one of the most popular ways to get there. US-395 takes you to Reno from Southern California, while I-80 runs from San Francisco and other northern Californian cities. If you are coming from Las Vegas, you'll need to take US-95, US-50 and then I-80 into Reno.
Reno is on the national Greyhound bus network, so it's possible to catch a bus there from most parts of the US (although you may need a few changes along the way). Megabus also offers direct bus connections to Sacramento and San Francisco.
For most visitors, accommodation in Reno is all about picking the right hotel resort. If that sounds like you, check out the Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and Grand Sierra Resort, which also features an on-site amusement park. High-quality motels include the Residence Inn and the Best Western Airport Plaza, but there are also small B&Bs to pick from, such as N2 Mules Ranch.
Downtown Reno - where most of the action is, Downtown Reno is defined by fun, casinos, and showbiz entertainment. Like a slightly more relaxed version of Las Vegas (but only slightly), Downtown Reno casinos like Harrah's, Silver Legacy, and Atlantis blend slots, table games, musical shows, and fine food to give guests an all-round vacation experience.
Midtown - just south of Downtown Reno, Midtown is the place to relax with a coffee or enjoy a few beers with friends. It's home to the Nevada Museum of Art and it's also the city's premier shopping district thanks to boutiques like Chocolate Walrus, second-hand stores like Recycled Records, and myriad craft shops to explore.
Sparks - like Reno's sister city, Sparks is more of a down-to-earth place. It's home to fine craft breweries like the Great Basin Brewing Company, has casinos of its own such as Nugget, and hosts community events like the Nugget Rib Cook-Off on Labor Day that draw participants from all over Nevada.
If you just want to get around Downtown Reno, the RTC RAPID bus service offers quick buses every 15 minutes throughout the day, so it's a good way to hop between casinos. Day passes are $4 - try to buy them from the bus station if you can, as they cost $1 more on the bus.
Taxis are a very popular way to get around Reno, and they aren't very expensive either. Expect to pay around $5.50 for a mile-long journey or around $17 for five miles with companies like Reno Sparks Cab Co. Uber can make getting around even cheaper. Their cheapest UberX vehicles charge a meter drop of $2 and then $1.10 per mile.
If you want to visit Lake Tahoe, take an excursion to Las Vegas, or explore the desert, having your own vehicle is a must. Reno has plenty of car rental options to choose from, with companies like Alamo, Avis, and Hertz all present in the center of town. Rentals will cost around $40 per day.
Reno's Midtown neighborhood is the place to shop, and it's been at the forefront of the city's recent renaissance. More specifically, art lovers and crafts fans should head to the Truckee River Arts District, where highlights include the gift store Bumblebee Blooms, the Kalifornia Jean Bar, and La Terre Verte, an eco-friendly boutique. California Avenue and Arlington Street probably have the highest concentration of independent stores, along with cafes, restaurants, and bars aplenty.
If you are self-catering in Reno, local supermarkets include Whole Foods, Shop N Go, Walmart, and Trader Joe's, although most of them are on the outskirts of town. In the very center of Reno, supermarkets are thin on the ground, but there are handy grocery stores like Jashan Market. The city is generally fairly cheap. Expect to pay $2.70 for a gallon of milk and around $2.20 for 12 eggs.
Reno has some great restaurants, with a truly global spread of cuisines. For a beautifully cooked eclectic selection, head to 4th Street Bistro. Campo is a first-class Italian trattoria while Great Full Gardens is all about salads and healthy vegan dishes. Harrah's Steak House is the ideal place to fill up in between games of poker, while the Old Granite Street Eatery is a superb traditional American diner. Prices are generally reasonable, at around $10-15 for a main and $30 per head at the best places.