The casinos are Reno’s main attractions and complement their gambling options with luxurious (and affordable) buffets, restaurants, and performances. The major downtown casinos are the Silver Legacy, Eldorado, and Club Cal*Neva. If you’re a fan of circus acts, check out the Circus Circus casino’s nightly live shows.
You don’t have to go far outside Reno to find open desert terrain that makes for fantastic biking. There are well-kept technical and single-track trails on Peavine Mountain off to the northwest. There’s also a paved bike trail that runs along the Truckee River – if you’re feeling adventurous, the full route runs more than 185 km/116 miles from lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. Once you’re in Tahoe, there’s even more off-road trails to take.
Reno is neatly located less than two hours’ drive from some of the region’s best ski resorts with varieties of terrain and striking vistas. At Heavenly, you’ll be skiing down a mountain flanked by pristine lake on one side and scorching desert valleys on the other. Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and has more challenging runs.
Annual festival takes place each Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock Desert, a bit over 100 miles north of Reno. Begun on Baker Beach in San Francisco in 1986, the event soon outgrew the location and the patience of the park police, and moved to this desert in 1990. Much of the spirit of the counterculture of 1960's and 70's San Francisco is recalled, interpreted and carried on by new generations of participants. A number of gay camps, (see Gay Burners) are erected too, within this instant city of 50,000 that disappears with hardly a trace soon after the event.
Each year there's a different theme. In 2011, for Rites of Passage, the organizers write about "...moments of crisis and frisson in our lives which inform us that we've somehow crossed an inner threshold, and are changed.... Moving from one state of being into an unknown other obliges us to face our innermost insecurities and it requires faith, a willingness to leap off the ladder of ordered existence."
A little to the south of Reno, Virginia City figures large in the history of this region. The mining boom of the 19th century made this the most important settlement between Denver and San Francisco; and lucky prospectors could become instant millionaires. Mansions were built and filled with the finest imported furniture; it's people were clothed in fashions from Europe and the Far East; and much of the money made here went into making San Francisco a much finer city.
This boisterous town, center to a region with gold in every hill, drew men from everywhere and their legacies still abide in the shadow of Sun Mountain. Mark Twain spent time here as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise, learning much about people and his trade that would carry him through a long writing career.
Modern vistitors stroll board sidewalks, and visit the period churches, homes, public buildings, saloons and cemeteries. There are also shops, museums and restaurants; rides on a stagecoach, horse-drawn carriages, the trolley, or the Virginia and Truckee Railroad steam-engine; and the scenic high desert landscape, with it's now mostly abandoned old mines, to enjoy.
For a place to stay, the Cobb Mansion B&B (877-847-9006) is an elegantly restored 1876 Victorian Mansion with period furnishings, built by the owner of a cigar shop, just after the Great Fire of 1875 burned down most of the city. Located a half block from Piper's Opera House, near the center, for $99 to $199 per night.