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21  Best Things to Do in Reno, Nevada for First-Timers

Reno is one of the top tourist destinations in Nevada. Known as ‘The Biggest Little City in the World’, there are plenty of things to see and do in this city, regardless of whether you like spending time outdoors or you prefer to learn more about the history of an area while you are on vacation. There are also activities to suit people of all ages. You should plan your activities before embarking on your trip to get the most out of your Reno vacation. To help you decide which attractions and activities to include in your vacation itinerary, here are some of the best attractions in Reno, Nevada for first-timers.

1. Nevada Museum of Art

The best attraction to visit in Reno is the Nevada Museum of Art. It is the only accredited art museum anywhere in Nevada. Located in downtown Reno, this art museum covers four stories. It is a themed attraction that focuses on the interaction between humans and the environment. There are more than two thousand exhibits in the permanent collection, plus there are temporary collections throughout the year.

2. Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center

If you are passionate about science and astronomy, you will find the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center fascinating. This attraction is part of the University of Nevada. Visitors can enjoy a digital show in the planetarium’s dome theater. The purpose of the facility is to educate the public about space and other science topics.

3. Animal Ark

If you are visiting Reno with children, an excellent attraction to visit is the Animal Ark. This attraction is a wildlife sanctuary and education center. Its purpose is to provide a safe habitat for wild animals that cannot rehabilitate back into their natural environment. The enclosures provide the animals with plenty of space and an environment that reflects their natural habitat as closely as possible. The design of the habitats means that visiting this attraction is very different from visiting a regular zoo.

4. National Automobile Museum

Although there are several fascinating museums to visit in Reno, one of the best is the National Automobile Museum. There are more than 200 vehicles at this museum, which range from celebrity cars to horseless carriages. Many of the exhibits are from the personal collection of Bill Harrah, one of the pioneers of the city’s casino industry. Although this attraction will appeal most to car enthusiasts, the displays are impressive enough for all visitors to enjoy.

5. Mount Rose Ski Resort

Reno is known as an excellent destination for enjoying outdoor pursuits, especially outdoor pursuits such as skiing. One of the top places to enjoy such activities is at Mount Rose Ski Resort. There are both accessible and challenging slopes at this resort, so there is something suitable for experienced skiers and novices. Some of the resort’s most popular activities are only available seasonally. However, you can hike around the resort at any time of the year.

6. Pioneer Center for Performing Arts

If you want to watch live entertainment during your visit to Reno, the best place to head for is the Pioneer Center for Performing Arts. The center is a geodesic dome that has the nickname the ‘Golden Turtle.’ There are 1500 seats in the theater that are over two levels. Some of the city’s most renowned performing arts companies perform at this theater, so there is a very varied schedule throughout the year. It is advisable to check the performance schedule before your trip. You can then book tickets in advance if there is a performance that appeals to you.

7. Reno River Walk District

A pleasant way to see the city’s sights and get a feel for Reno is to walk through the Reno Riverwalk District. The walk takes you along the scenic banks of the Truckee River between Lake Street and Arlington Avenue. Besides admiring the landmarks you will see on the riverwalk, you will find other things to enjoy along the walk. Events, temporary attractions, and festivals take place at various spots along the trail. Walking along the Reno Riverwalk District is a free activity.

8. Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

Although many of the attractions in Reno are indoors in an urban setting, there are also some fantastic outdoor spots to explore. One that you should try to include in your itinerary is the Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. From this park, you can enjoy both desert and mountain views. Most of the park is a natural wetland habitat, so it is an excellent place for birdwatching. In the past, this park was a ranch, and two of the original ranch houses remain on the site. There are picnic tables to sit and grab a bite to eat, and playgrounds for children. This park is also home to the William D. May Museum and Arboretum. Therefore, there is plenty to keep you entertained. Park entry is free, but you may need to pay for some of the park’s attractions.

9. Bartley Ranch Regional Park

Those who enjoy spending their time outdoors and want to feel close to nature should spend some time at Bartley Ranch Regional Park. This 56-acre park has picnic pavilions, pastureland, an outdoor amphitheater, historic buildings, walking trails, and a horse arena. It is used as a venue throughout the year for various events and outdoor performances. Visiting the park is free, so it is a good option for those with a limited budget. However, there is a cost if you are watching a performance during your visit.

10. Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive

Rodeos have an atmosphere that is unlike any other kind of event. If you want to enjoy the fun of the rodeo during your stay, head to the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive on North Wells Avenue. The rodeo venue opened in 1919, and it hosts a variety of events throughout the year, such as steer wrestling, bull riding, cattle roping, and barrel racing. There are many family-themed activities throughout the year, such as parades and carnivals. If you plan to attend a rodeo event during your visit, then you should book in advance.

11. Galena Creek Park

This natural recreation area is next to the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest. It is an amazing place to spend some time enjoying activities such as horse riding, hiking, or cycling. There are miles of trails that cover both high desert and alpine ecosystems. There is also a visitor center that educates people about the plants, birds, insects, and animals living in the park.

12. McKinley Arts and Culture Center

Located on Riverside Drive, the McKinley Arts and Culture Center is home to both the Reno Chamber Orchestra and the Reno Philharmonic. It is also the base of the Reno Pops Orchestra and the Masterworks Chorale. There are various musical performances held at this venue throughout the year. Visitors can take guided tours of the center or view the artwork on display in the galleries. If you plan to watch a performance, it is best to buy your tickets online before arriving in Reno to ensure that seats are available.

13. The W.M. Keck Museum

An unusual museum to visit in Reno is The W. M. Keck Museum. It is the second-oldest museum in Nevada, and it showcases the geological and mineral variety of the state. The exhibition consists of minerals and geodes, including silver, copper, amethyst, gypsum, and quarts. Nevada’s mining history is another topic of the museum, with a display that exhibits maps and tools relating to mining. The 1250-piece collection of silver that belonged to John W. Mackay, one of the Bonanza Firm founders, is one of the most significant exhibits.

14. Peppermill Casino

One of the top casinos in Reno is the Peppermill Casino. It is a casino resort that is one of the most popular accommodation options in the city as it boasts luxury rooms. Some of the facilities for guests include multiple restaurants, a spa, and two nightclubs. However, it is the casino at this hotel that is a big attraction for many people. There is everything that you would expect to find in a casino, such as table games, slots, and poker.

15. Reno Philharmonic

The Reno Philharmonic is the most famous musical performing group from this city. Their repertoire includes both classical music and interpretations of modern music and music from the musicals. Throughout the year, Reno Philharmonic performs at various venues across the city, including outdoor performances in the summer months. If you want to hear them play when you visit Reno, you should check where they are performing and book your tickets to avoid disappointment.

16. Lake Tahoe

Just outside Reno is Lake Tahoe, which is considered one of the most beautiful spots anywhere in the United States. Although it is not directly in Reno, it is worth taking the time to make a day trip to this picturesque location. Set against the mountains’ backdrop, some of the most popular activities at the lake are hiking and skiing. Take along your camera because there are many excellent photographic opportunities as you walk around the lake.

17. Casino at the Eldorado

Another fantastic casino to visit is the Casino at the Eldorado, one of the most notable venues in the city as neon lights illuminate the building. It is not only a casino but also a luxurious resort that offers high-end accommodation with lots of facilities. It is home to award-winning restaurants, a Broadway-style theater, and multiple other guest facilities. However, you do not need to stay in the hotel to enjoy the fun at the casino. There are table games, slots, poker, card games, and sports betting in the casino. Various tournaments take place at the casino throughout the year.

18. Atlantis Casino

Reno is a city that is known for its vibrant nightlife, which includes its casinos. One of Reno’s best casinos is Atlantis Casino. The casino is within the Atlantis Resort & Spa, which has everything you could want to enjoy your stay in Reno. The spacious and comfortable rooms have modern amenities. This hotel also boasts live entertainment, a luxurious spa, and award-winning restaurants. Even if you and your fellow travelers are not guests at this hotel, you can still access everything in the casino, including poker rooms, table games, sports betting, poker, and card games.

19. The Discovery Museum

If you have traveled to Reno with children, then one of the attractions you should visit is The Discovery Museum. It is an attraction that provides an interactive experience for all the family as it encourages learning about the sciences through play and a variety of hands-on activities. Some of the topics this museum covers include astronomy, biology, chemistry, math, geography, art, and paleontology. It is a fantastic attraction to visit on a rainy day.

20. Basecamp at Whitney Peak Hotel

A fun activity to try during your stay in Reno is Basecamp at Whitney Hotel. An interesting fact is that this attraction holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest climbing wall. The wall is fixed to the side of the Whitney Hotel and rises 164 feet overlooking downtown Reno. If you have enough courage to climb to the top of the climbing wall, you can enjoy spectacular views. At night, the views are particularly impressive as the lights of the city are shining.

21. Meet Locals in Reno

Finally, if you’d like to go off-the-beaten-path and have a unique experience in Reno, consider hanging out with the locals. You can use an APP like Citysurfing.com to meet locals that will show you around; invite you to join fun activities; and even offer to teach you arts, crafts, language lessons and more!  You can use Citysurfing to find and book a local city pal or if you prefer, you can also book a traditional tour guide. Having a local guide is a great way to experience a new city without having to figure out how to do it all on your own.

Regardless of whether you enjoy outdoor activities or you are interested in history and culture,  you will find plenty of things to enjoy during your time in Reno, Nevada. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you plan your vacation itinerary and make the most of your time in this diverse city.

About Betsy Moore

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