Car Free Journey

Car Free Journey: Reno, Nevada

Hot Air Balloons rise over Reno. Image courtesy of
Written by Steve Atlas

Images courtesy of

Car Free Journey: June, 2015

In early 2014, we spotlighted Lake Tahoe. However, some of us may prefer a more city-like getaway nearby. This month, we will spotlight nearby Reno: Nevada’s third largest city. Reno offers cultural attractions, biking and hiking trails, including one along the Truckee River, casinos, history, shopping, professional sports, and several special events you won’t want to miss.. Best of all, downtown Reno is a convenient location to enjoy many of these attractions without needing to drive.

Welcome to Reno

Wikipedia has an article that offers an introduction to Reno. Here is some information from that article:

Reno is a city in the U.S. state of Nevada near Lake Tahoe. Known as “The Biggest Little City in the world,” Reno is famous for its casinos and as the birthplace of Caesars Entertainment Corporation. It is the county seat of Washoe County, located in the northwestern part of the state. The city sits in a high desert at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, and its downtown area (along with Sparks) occupies a valley informally knows as the Truckee Meadows.

Reno is the most populous Nevada city outside of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, with an estimated population of 233,294 in 2013, and is the third most populous city in the state after Las Vegas and Henderson. It is part of the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, which consists of all of Washoe and Storey counties, and has a 2013 estimated population of 437,673, making it the second largest metropolitan area in Nevada.

Annual rainfall averages 6.37 inches. Most rainfall occurs in winter and spring. The city has 300 days of sunshine per year. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 35.3 degrees Fahrenheit in December to 74.9 degrees in July. The region is windy throughout the year.

Reno’s Renaissance

Visit Nevada, Nevada’s online state travel guide provides this introduction to today’s Reno: (

With its beautiful Riverwalk District, downtown whitewater kayak park, popular events and easy access to unlimited outdoor adventure, the bustling city of Reno has come a long way from its mid-1800s beginning. Originally a small community known as Lakes Crossing that popped up to serve westward travelers, the town enjoyed growth from railroad extensions, legalized casino gambling, liberal divorce laws and, eventually, economic diversification beyond gaming. Today, Reno has a lot going on for locals and visitors alike.

Downtown Reno, formerly filled with casinos and tourist shops, enjoyed a renaissance of sorts over the past few years. The casinos are still there, but so are chic condominiums and apartments that come with stylish downtown living. Markets, coffeehouses, lounges, tasty restaurants, a movie theater, brewery and various shops line what’s known as the Truckee River Arts District, culminating with the heart of this urban renaissance – the Riverwalk District. There’s also the Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield Park, host of the annual Reno River Festival, the nation’s leading whitewater event. And anchoring the other end of the Arts District is CalAve, running a section of California Avenue and brimming with hip cocktail bars, restaurants, boutiques and more. Just a few blocks east is the new Freight House District, an entertainment complex at the Aces Ballpark with bars and restaurants. Also downtown, visit the, Nevada Museum of Art and the National Automobile Museum.

Just west of downtown Reno in Verdi, is Cabela’s, one of the world’s foremost outfitters and an ideal spot to gear up before hitting the great outdoors. Within an hour’s drive of town, there are 18 ski resorts, the picturesque state capital, thousands of mountain biking and hiking trails, numerous golf resorts, scenic Pyramid Lake, and the truly spectacular Lake Tahoe.

Did we mention Reno’s events? There are food, art and jazz festivals, outdoor expos, fun runs, marathons and bicycle races, Hot August Nights, Artown and Street Vibrations, just for starters. The events list is long and varied, and there really is something for everyone. The fact is, the Biggest Little City has really grown up, and there’s no better place to have a little fun.

Enjoy One of their Special Summer Events

Here are four summer events you won’t want to miss:

  •  Reno Rodeo: June 14-27 Located at 1350 North Wells Ave. this family-friendly Event is described by a reviewer on Yelp this way, “Every year the Reno Rodeo rolls into  town, and with it comes the cattle drive, cowboys, and western culture so reminiscent of Reno’s roots in the wild west. Seeing big pickups, boots, chaps, cowboy hats, trailers, and livestock is  is really a city with history and culture that isn’t shared, discussed and explored near enough!” For reviews about the Reno Rodeo, go to For more information about events, or to order tickets, go to:, or call (775) 329-3877.
  •  Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival: June 19 and 20, is equal parts barbecue block party, microbrew tasting event with more than 40 microbrews from around the world and music festival with two stages featuring nonstop rock and blues.If you love beer, consider an unlimited beer-tasting wristband ($30 for one day, $50 for both days in advance; $10 more if you purchase it on the day you are coming). More information: (or call (800/879-8879 (toll free), or (775) 786-5700 (local).
  • Artown: July 1-31. Every July, Reno turns into Artown with a month’s worth of music, art, dance and other cultural experiences – almost 500 individual events, exhibits and workshops. Artown is about the community – it is Reno’s festival.  It gives both visitors and local residents access to national and international performances. More than 70% of events and performances are free, On Sunday nights; check out the free “Sunday at Sticks concerts (July 5, 12, 19, and 26) at Sticks Restaurant in the 600 block of Virginia Ave. in Midtown… On Wednesday evenings during July (July 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29), visit Wingfield Park to enjoy Artown’s World Music Series. For more information about Artown, visit, or call (775) 322-1538 during weekday business hours.
  • Hot August Nights: August 4-8. This celebration of classic cars (including a classic car parade) is combined with musical performances spotlighting the nostalgic days of rock and roll during the 1950s and 1960s. Concerts (all start at 8:15 p.m.) are held at the Grand Sierra Resort (RTC route 12 from downtown Reno) and Victorian Square in downtown Sparks (RTC routes 2 or 11 to Centennial Square in downtown Sparks). (If you are here for Hot August Nights, plan a visit to the National Automobile Museum in downtown Reno.)

You can view a more complete list of special events in Reno at

Getting Here

Air: Reno Tahoe International Airport (, located at 2001 East Plumb Lane, Reno 89502, .is served by Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Volaris. Local public transportation is provided by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County For schedule and fare information, visit, or call (775) 348-RIDE.

From the airport, RTC Route 19 operates every half hour during the day to and from downtown. On weekends, Route 12 runs from downtown Reno to Terminal and Villanova. From that stop, you can walk to the passenger terminal. Check with your hotel to see if it provides shuttle service to and from the airport.

Rail: Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops here every day. The Zephyr provides daily service (westbound) from Chicago, Omaha and Lincoln (Nebraska), Denver and Grand Junction (Colorado), Salt Lake City (Utah) and intermediate stops, and (eastbound) from Bay area California stations in Emeryville, Richmond and Martinez; and Sacramento and Truckee (near Lake Tahoe) (California). The westbound Zephyr arrives in Reno at 8:36 p.m. Pacific Time. The eastbound Zephyr arrives in Reno at 4:06 p.m. Pacific Time. Be sure to call Amtrak’s  toll-free number (800/USA RAIL) and press option 1 to confirm that the train is on time.

From the Amtrak station, 280 North Center Street, it is an easy walk to the 4th Street RTC station. If you don’t want to walk, you can take RTC Route 9 to downtown.

Bus: The Greyhound Bus Terminal: 155 Stevenson Street, Reno NV 89503 (775/322-2970) is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. RTC Routes 4 and 7 have stops near Greyhound. Megabus has daily (one bus each day) to and from Sacramento and San Francisco. The Megabus Reno stop is at the Silver Legacy bus stop on West 5th Street between North Sierra Street and North Virginia Ave. The Megabus Sparks stop is at 1421 Victorian Ave. at the RTC Centennial Plaza. The RTC SIERRA SPIRIT stops at the corner of 5th Street and North Virginia Ave. For just 25 cents,  the SIERRA SPIRIT will take you to the RTC 4TH STREET STATION.

Where to Stay

The most convenient area to most attractions and RTC’s downtown RTC 4TH STREET STATION (located between Lake St., Evans Ave., 4th Street, and Plaza Street) in downtown Reno. The closest hotels to RTC 4TH STREET STATION are Silver Legacy Resort Casino, Eldorado Resort Casino, Harrah’s Reno Hotel and Casino and Circus Reno. For more information on these hotels, visit

Getting Around

Local bus service throughout the Reno/Sparks area is provided by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). The one-way bus fare on RTC Ride (Reno’s fixed route service) is $2 (half price for students, senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. If you are visiting for a few days, consider a 24-hour pass ($5 on the bus, or $3.50 if purchased in advance; ½ price for seniors, students, and people with disabilities). Another possibility is a 10-ride pass ($16)—a good choice if you are traveling with a companion, spouse, or friends, or if you plan to make only one or two trips each day on the bus.  For more information and details about routes, schedules, fares and passes, visit or call (775) 348-RIDE.

For times and locations not convenient to an RTC route, consider a taxi. Reno has several taxi companies (all operate 24 hours every day). These include:

  • Reno Sparks Cab Company: (775) 333-3333,
  • Yellow Cab Company: (775) 355-5555
  • Whittlesea Checker Taxi:     (775) 322-2222
 If you are driving: Where to Park Free and Leave Your Car

RTC recommends three free park and ride lots where you can leave your car and use RTC buses to take you downtown and most other places where you want to go. There are two lots on North Virginia Street: one at White Lake Parkway, and another at Red Rock Road, plus a large parking lot at the Summit Mall.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) makes these suggestions: “Most hotel/casinos have free parking garages and are located along Sierra Street and North Virginia Street. The large parking lot on Court St. between Sierra and Virginia St, and the Wells Fargo lot at 200 South Virginia Street are free evenings and weekends… All major hotels in Reno off Free Valet parking”

What to Do  

A good way to start is to take the RTC SIERRA SPIRIT: RTC’s downtown shuttle that connects downtown with the University of Nevada. The SIERRA SPIRIT costs 25 cents for each ride (10 cents for students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities) operates 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and runs every 15 minutes. (There is later service during the University’s Wolf Pack football team’s home football games in the fall.)

The SIERRA SPIRIT stops at the following casinos: Silver Legacy Resort Casino, El Dorado Resort Casino, Harrah’s Resort Casino, and Cal Neva Resort Casino. The SIERRA SPIRIT also stops at Wingfield Park, where several Artown concerts are held.

Get off at the University of Nevada at North Virginia Street and 17th Street, at the Planetarium. Walk one block to Sierra Street, and visit Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. The park has several short hiking trails, and is home to the May Museum and Arboretum. (The Great Reno Balloon Race is held here in September).

The Historic Reno Preservation Society offers several guided walking tours around downtown Reno. For a list of tours, scheduled dates, and to register, visit,

If you enjoy museums, Reno has several worth seeing. The first three are in downtown Reno. The fourth is in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, near the University of Nevada.:

The Midtown District is a new, hip area located close to downtown Reno. It is home to several unique restaurants and retail stores as well as a craft beer venue and antique shopping. RTC has stops within Midtown. Once there, you can easily walk to each point of Midtown. To learn more about this area visit

If you are visiting Midtown on a Saturday, take time to visit the Lost City Farm Lost City Farm is a one-acre urban vegetable and flower farm in Reno’s Midtown neighborhood. Urban farmers Toni and Lindsaygrow vegetables and cut flowers using sustainable farming practices. That means herbicide- and pesticide-free, and no synthetic fertilizers. They sell to local restaurants within a five mile radius and do most of their deliveries by bicycle. The farm is open to the public one day a week and sells its produce onsite at its farm stand.

An exciting downtown neighborhood is the Riverwalk area ( e-mail, or leave a phone message at (775) 825-9255.) Take time to explore the shops, galleries, and restaurants. Visit Arts for All (250 Court Street), enjoy their gallery, and call (775) 826-6100 or visit to learn about their many free and low cost arts programs and workshops for visitors and local residents of all ages.

Do you enjoy whitewater kayaking?

Then, don’t leave the Riverwalk without visiting the Whitewater Park at Wingfield Park. Here is how the web page describes this experience:

  • The Truckee River starts its 121 mile journey at the majestic Lake Tahoe in California and snakes its way through the Sierra Nevada Mountain’s before pushing its way right through the heart of the city and ending at Pyramid Lake Nevada. The Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield opened in 2004 as a Reno redevelopment agency project and has become a focal point of the Riverwalk.
  • “Kayakers of all skill levels (including beginners) can enjoy the the one-half mile park which includes easy access points from all directions, class 2 – 3 rapids, 11 drop-pools, 7,000 tons of smooth flat-top rocks and boulders along the river banks and in-stream and convenient pedestrian walkways between both the east and west ends of Wingfield Park. The water temperature ranges between 50 and 70 degrees. The deep fresh water pools provide a good habitat for fish including the Lahontan cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. For safety purposes. all users need to wear helmets and flotation jackets for their protection.”
How About Some Rock Climbing in the City?

Most vacations don’t include rock-climbing, especially if you are vacationing in a city. That’s why a visit to Base Camp at Reno’s Whitney Peak Hotel can give you an experience you will remember for a long time. Located on the 2nd floor of the hotel ( Base Camp includes an indoor bouldering park. On the outside of the facility is a 165 foot rock climbing wall—the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. Base Camp also offers yoga and acro yoga, and is a full service fitness facility.

Here is the facility’s definition of bouldering:“Bouldering is the most simple and straight forward form of climbing. No ropes are used and climbers only climb up to a height where a fall will not hurt them. However simple, climbing is inherently dangerous and every bouldering fall is a ground fall and must be treated with respect and caut

For more information about Base Camp, visit, or call the Whitney Peak Hotel at (800) 776-9551 (toll free) or (775) 398-5400 (local), and press 3 for Base Camp.

Take a Walk or Bike Ride on the Truckee River Trail

Bicycles are welcome on RTC buses. They can easily be attached to the front of the buses, or can be stored inside the bus, depending on what type of bus is being used. You can rent bicycles in downtown Reno at Ski and Sundance Bike Rentals (775) 785-0222, and also get information about bike trails, plus other tips about good places to bike in the area.

From downtown, you can walk to Wingfield Park, Barbara Bennett park, and Idlewild Park. If you don’t feel like walking, RTC Routes 16 or 6 stop near the parks.

The Truckee River Trail, a good choice for both bikers and walkers, goes through downtown Reno to the nearby community of Sparks.

For a list of hiking trails in the Reno area, go to

Let’s Take a Break and Go to the Game 

Reno’s downtown Aces Park is home to the Reno Aces: the minor league baseball Triple A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Reno Bighorns, a 2008 expansion of the National Basketball Association’s Development League, plays downtown at the Reno Events Center.

What to do When the Sun Goes Down

Whatever type of food you enjoy, Reno probably has what you are looking for. For a list of Reno restaurants, visit:  To find out what local residents and experts think of local restaurants, and their top choices, go to

For a list of performing arts organizations, visit The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts ( is where most of these programs are performed.

For information about theatre performances, visit

Reno is well known for its gaming and casinos. For a list, with descriptions, of casinos in Reno, go to

Three casinos on Virginia Street share a common 2nd floor, which makes it easy to go from one to the other. Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, and Eldorado each have their own unique entertainment and dining. The Eldorado offers nightly entertainment, and often presents Broadway musicals. Circus Circus’ second floor is more like a midway with games and trophies. The Silver Legacy offers comedy shows and other performances in a concert-like setting.

The Next Day: Visit Sparks for Shopping

Today, take a break from downtown Reno, and visit nearby Sparks for shopping. RTC Routes 21 and 11 provide frequent service between downtown Reno and Victorian Square in downtown Sparks.  While you are here, take time to visit Victorian Square, and Legends Shopping Mall, the Nugget and other Victorian Square casinos. If you have time, walk to the Sparks Marina Park. If you plan to be here on July 4, come see the 4th of July Fireworks in Sparks.

If you come Tuesday-Saturday., visit the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center ( You can download The Museum’s historical tours of Sparks to your Smart Phone.

If you want More Information

  • Reno and Sparks visitor information can be found at the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority website: or 1-800-367-7366.
  • For information about public transportation, visit or call (775)-348-0400.

Once you’re here, you can get more info at the Reno Visitors Center inside Reno: 135 N Sierra Street, right near the Riverwalk.  A local visitor center staff member tell us, “They have really cool shirts and hats and other touristy type stuff, and there’s a ton of hard-copy visitor information.”

Do you have a favorite vacation spot that can be enjoyed without a car? E-mail your ideas to Please include your contact information so Steve can get back to you with any questions.

About the author

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas, author of two published books about parenting, has written newspaper columns and magazine articles about travel, career change, home-based business, parenting, and sales skills. Steve's column, “Single Parent Hotline,” was a weekly feature of Gannett News Service for several years. He has also been a contributing editor to Selling Power magazine. Currently Steve’s primary interest is reducing dependency on private automobiles. In addition to being a public transit advocate and author (since 2008) of Car Free Journey, Steve’s e-book: "Car Free at the Beach", and several reports he has written about Car Free Living can be viewed at

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