20 Things You Need to Know Before You Move to Reno

Mikalee Byerman
July 10, 2018
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You’re about to read an entire article about Reno, NV — and gambling doesn’t even enter the picture.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. While Reno’s reputation is entwined with its gaming roots, the new story — its current iteration — is about something altogether different: A celebration of the soaring Sierras and the recreational opportunities they afford; dramatic high-desert vistas; the constant buzz of creativity underscoring our burgeoning foodie and arts scenes.

Sure, we have slots and table games. But what makes Reno tick goes well beyond the allure of gaming. Here are 20 things you should know about living — and playing — in Reno.

1. We really are the “Biggest Little City in the World.”

You’ve likely heard the snappy saying before, but trust us when we say it’s not just lip service paid to a meaningless motto. The region is big enough to attract world-class entertainment, events and amenities, yet small enough to maintain a homey charm. The juxtaposition inherent to the “Biggest Little City” label gives Reno an undeniable (and somewhat indefinable) quirkiness. Just trust us; you’ll understand it when you experience it.

2. We are proud to be a college town.

Pack Pride is a way of life around here, so you better stock up on silver and blue accessories — and burn every red thing you own (the bloody hue of our arch rival, UNLV). Of course, our college-town designation means we have our share of millennial haunts, but it also means we’re recruiting top businesses because of our super-smart population. You’ve heard of Tesla, right? Elon Musk chose to build his $5 billion gigafactory just outside of Reno — in part because of the top talent being groomed by the University of Nevada, Reno.

3. #CloudPorn is a thing here.

Standing lenticulars. Cumulonimbus. Noctilucent. No, this is not a series of nonsense words strung together, but rather varieties of clouds that grace the Reno sky. And to what do we owe our magnificent, Instagram-worthy clouds: our neighbor, the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Winds that hit the range force air and moisture to rise, creating clouds that sometimes appear like UFOs, other times like snapshots of a Monet painting.

4. Arts festivals don’t deserve a weekend; how about a month instead?

The entire month of July is when “Reno is Artown,” meaning you can find multiple events every day that celebrate art — from plein air to acrobatics, crafts to dancing with fire, photography to song and beyond. Artown is two decades strong; many events are free, and all celebrate the incredible contribution of arts to our community.

5. Start practicing your short “a” sounds before you arrive.

You’ll be living in Nev-AD-duh, not Nev-AH-duh. And if you don’t think that makes much difference, think again. We take issue with anyone who mispronounces our state’s name — from politicians to newscasters to Alex Trebek. And don’t even think about talking to us about the idea that the “wrong” pronunciation is actually “right” because it stays true to its Spanish roots. Nope. That’s why it’s called the “wrong” pronunciation, after all.

6. Midtown is the new black.

Yup, we’re known for the neon outline of our downtown skyline, but Midtown is our burgeoning buzzy neighborhood — a cool collection of foodie hotspots and eclectic shops. It’s a character-infused corridor south of Reno’s gaming core comprised of farm-to-fork restaurants, mom-and-pop shops and unique experiences.

7. Our backyard features the world’s most spectacular bathtub.

It’s called the “Jewel of the Sierra” for good reason: Lake Tahoe is just 30 minutes from parts of Reno, with waters reflecting every blue hue on a color wheel. Here you’ll swim, boat, parasail, watch Shakespearean plays, climb, paddleboard — and mostly, chill. Literally and figuratively, as the destination is at least 10 degrees cooler than Reno with frigid waters composed of melted snow.

8. Our weather could use a stiff dose of meds.

Get used to hearing this: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” And it’s not much of an exaggeration. To say Reno’s weather is “bipolar” is an understatement, as sometimes you’ll experience rain, snow, sun, hurricane-like winds, hail and even thunder and lightning within mere minutes.

9. A river runs through it.

The Truckee River is the literal and figurative epicenter of Reno, and we’re finding more and different ways to celebrate it every year. Fly fishing, kayaking, white-water rafting, tubing — residents are often seen dipping toes and toys into the Truckee.

10. You’ll see Sparks.

Reno has a sister, and she’s every bit as captivating. Sparks is Reno’s sister city, sitting directly adjacent to Reno. Sparks’ roots are in railroading, but now it’s full of homes and businesses and destinations for family fun. The Sparks Marina, to name one, is a playground for windsurfers, swimmers, boating enthusiasts, kite flyers and dog walkers.

11. Crawl, don’t run.

We dress up like Santa. We channel superheroes. We become Leprechauns, pirates and zombies. Beer crawls abound in Reno, as do wine walks — like the monthly Riverwalk Wine Walk along the Truckee. We also celebrate the growing craft beer/spirits scene (and even created a Craft Breweries of Reno Tahoe map).

12. “Take a hike” isn’t an insult.

Reno is notorious for epic vistas from trails and hiking spots throughout the city, the foothills and the Sierra Nevada range. But our transcendent high-desert topography can also be enjoyably explored on bike — or really, any mode of transportation.

13. It’s a dry heat.

You may not know that means before you get here, but you’ll soon understand the benefits. Our humidity is practically nonexistent, but that translates to a couple of crazy advantages: No giant scary bugs to speak of (though we do have snakes), and temperatures that tend to feel slightly cooler than they would with higher humidity.

14. Bunnies in your backyard.

Most of our homes abut or have close proximity to open space, so jackrabbits, cottontails, squirrels, even coyotes and wild horses are frequent visitors to residential spaces.

15. You should just go ahead and subscribe to the Reno Memo.

We have one daily newspaper in town — the Reno Gazette-Journal — but residents-in-the-know get the Triweekly (Mon, Wed, Fri) rundown of big news from the snarky, tongue-in-cheek Reno Memo — which is an electronic newsletter from the RGJ in which the writers tell it like it is. And lament why it isn’t.

16. Don’t make plans for June through October.

This is what we call “busy season” around these parts, because there’s pretty much something to do every single weekend. It all kicks off with the Reno Rodeo in June, followed shortly by food festivals, Artown, Hot August Nights, The Great Reno Balloon Races, Street Vibrations, the Reno Air Races and more. So much more…

17. We *heart* our airport.

If you’re used to a tortuous walk of shoeless shame through airport security, you’ll find your happy place at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. We’re not saying you shouldn’t arrive early — two hours before flight time is still the recommendation — but some of us may or may not have been able to get from parking garage to airplane seat in 30 minutes flat. Just sayin’.

18. Food = love.

Dining here is an event to be afforded ample time. For example: Sushi bars are abundant, most offering an all-you-can-eat option that is affordable and encourages experimentation. Many local restaurants offer al fresco seating, so you can relish our spectacular climate while awaiting the arrival of your culinary masterpiece.

19. Downtown is getting a facelift.

If you’re lucky enough to arrive in Reno at night, you’ll see the sparkling rainbow of lights comprising our downtown skyline. But that is only a tiny corner of Reno’s ever-evolving picture. Check out the historic downtown post office with its art deco styling, which is now a hip new multifunction marketplace/retail/office space. Or look northeast of downtown to the Freight House District, home of the Minor League Reno Aces and several destinations for after-hours fun.

20. You can get there in 15 minutes flat.

We do tend to have lots of California and big-city transplants, and not one of them has a single bad word to say about our traffic. And our “Spaghetti Bowl”? Less spaghetti-like, more like a few breadsticks intersecting. Translation: No biggie.

Mikalee Byerman

Mikalee is a writer based in Reno.
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