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Reno Basics

Reno

Photo Courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com

If there’s one image of Reno that comes to mind for most people, it’s the bulb-bedecked arch across Virginia Street with its slogan, “Reno: The Biggest Little City In the World.” Erected in 1926 to commemorate a celebration of the Transcontinental Highways, the arch epitomizes Reno’s history as a crossroads and stopping point for travelers going east and west.

At an elevation of 4,400 feet and just 15 miles from the California state line, Reno served as a “last stop” for pioneers and miners headed westward over the Sierra Nevada. While the city, like many parts of Nevada, has experienced phenomenal population growth over the past few decades, Vegas’ baby brother still preserves some of its rough-and-ready Wild West vibe. Gold brought people to Reno, gold made Nevada rich and even today it is the largest gold-producing state is the country and comes in third in the world behind South Africa and Australia.

But it wasn’t gold that began drawing tourists to Reno in large numbers, it was gambling. The birthplace of Harrah’s casino chain, Reno was the country’s gambling mecca before Vegas was born, and today casinos still dominate much of Reno’s tourism. Then there were the wedding chapels and easy divorces; the expression “going to Reno” was once synonymous with getting a divorce, thanks to Nevada’s painless dissolution process. In recent years, though, outdoor sports and adventure have become big draws for Reno visitors, and the town’s proximity to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains make it a popular jumping-off point for road-trippers and explorers.

Start your visit with a driving tour around Reno, which like many areas that succumbed to sunbelt sprawl, is made up of many different neighborhoods, developments and outlying areas. To find the heart of the scene, skip the older downtown and head for the newly redeveloped area along the Truckee River, where a riverside bike trail, cafés and farmers markets have spurred a happening scene. The state’s oldest university, the University of Nevada, is here and its presence along with the influx of a highly educated tech-savvy workforce has spawned a lively arts and food scene and plenty of nightlife.

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