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Reno, NV

Reno, Nevada alive at nighttimeReno, known as "The Biggest Little City in the World", is famous for its casinos, and is the birthplace of the gaming corporation Harrah's Entertainment.

Reno is a popular vacation destination for many due to its abundant casinos and resorts, along with its close proximity to Lake Tahoe. Reno is an ideal getaway for skiers looking for some nightlife after a day on the slopes.

Reno: An In-Depth History

As early as the 1850s a few pioneers settled in the Truckee Meadows, a relatively fertile valley through which the Truckee River made its way from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. In addition to subsistence farming, these early residents could pick up a bit of business from travellers along the California Trail, which followed the Truckee westward, before branching off towards Donner Lake, where the formidable obstacle of the Sierras began.

Gold had been discovered in the vicinity of Virginia City in 1850 and a modest mining community developed, but the discovery of silver in 1859 led to one of the greatest mining bonanzas of all time as the Comstock Lode spewed forth treasure. The Comstock's closest connection to the outside world lay in the Truckee Meadows.

To provide the necessary connection between Virginia City and the California Trail, Charles W. Fuller built a log toll bridge across the Truckee River in 1859. A small community to service travellers soon grew up near the bridge. After two years, Fuller sold the bridge to Myron C. Lake, who continued to develop the community with the addition of a grist mill, kiln, and livery stable to the hotel and eating house.

The tiny community acquired the name River's Crossing, and then Lake's Crossing. In 1864, Washoe County was consolidated with Roop County; Lake's Crossing became the largest town in the county.

By January 1863, the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) had begun laying tracks east from Sacramento, California, eventually connecting with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah to form the first transcontinental railroad. Lake, realizing what a rail connection would mean for business, deeded land to the CPRR in exchange for its promise to build a depot at Lake's Crossing. Once the railroad station was established, the town of Reno officially came into being on May 13, 1868. It was named by CPRR construction superintendent, Charles Crocker in honor of Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Union officer killed in the American Civil War.

Reno, Nevada circa 1888-1892 (photo by the Nevada Observer)The extension of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Reno in 1872 provided another big boost to the new city's economy. At first citizens viewed the changes as an omen, however in the following decades, Reno continued to grow and prosper as a business and agricultural center and became the principal settlement on the transcontinental railroad between Sacramento and Salt Lake City.

As the mining boom waned early in the twentieth century, Nevada's centers of political and business activity shifted to the non-mining communities, especially Reno and Las Vegas, and today the former mining metropolises stand as little more than ghost towns. Despite this, Nevada is still the third-largest gold producer in the world, after South Africa and Australia; the state yielded 6.9 percent of the world's supply in 2005 world gold production.

Nevada's legalization of casino gambling in 1931 and the passage of liberal divorce laws created another boom for Reno. Ernie Pyle once wrote in one of his columns "All the people you saw on the streets in Reno were obviously there to get divorces." In Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead", pubished at the time, the New-York based woman protagonist tells a friend "I am going to Reno", which is taken as a different way of saying "I am going to divorce my husband". Among others, the Belgian-French writer Georges Simenon, at the time living in the US, came to Reno in 1949 in order to divorce his first wife.

The divorce business eventually died as the other states fell in line by passing their own laws easing the requirements for divorce, but gambling continued as a major Reno industry. Beginning in the 1950s, the need for economic diversification beyond gaming fueled a movement for more lenient business taxation.

Reno, Nevada skylineReno has experienced a growing economy which has resulted in new home construction around the metro area. A direct result of this growth and the "Housing bubble" has been a dramatic increase in housing prices in the area. Reno-Sparks being named the 44th most overvalued housing market in the nation in 2006. As of Jan. 2007 Reno’s housing market has experienced a correction of 7% bringing the median home price down to $315,000.

In more recent years, the city has gained some fame as it is the subject of the popular comedy series Reno 911! (which is not, however, filmed in the city).

Gaming industry

Before the late 1950s, Reno was the gambling capital of the United States, but in the last twenty years Las Vegas' rapid rise, American Airlines' 2000 buyout of Reno Air and the growth of Indian gaming in California have somewhat reduced its business. Older casinos were either torn down (Mapes, Nevada Club, Harold's Club, Palace Club) and smaller casinos like the Comstock, Sundowner, Golden Phoenix, Kings Inn, Money Tree, Virginian, and Riverboat closed, and some converted to condos. Reno casinos experience some slow days during the week, especially during winter, when mountain passes can be closed to some traffic from California.

During weekends, holidays and special events Reno does see an increase in business. Large special events such as Hot August Nights and The Great Reno Balloon Race pack the area hotels to 100% occupancy.

Circus Circus in Reno, NevadaHarrah's Hotel and CasinoSeveral local large hotel casinos have shown significant growth and have moved gaming further away from the Virginia Street core. These larger hotel casinos are the Atlantis, the Peppermill and the Grand Sierra Resort. The Peppermill was chosen as the most outstanding Reno gaming/hotel property by Casino Player and Nevada Magazines.

In an effort to bring more tourism to the area, Reno holds several events throughout the year, most of which have been extremely successful. They include Hot August Nights (a classic car convention), Street Vibrations (a motorcycle fan gathering and rally), The Great Reno Balloon Race, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off (held in Sparks), a Cinco de Mayo celebration, bowling tournaments (held in the National Bowling Stadium) and the Reno Air Races.

Reno is the location of the corporate headquarters for International Game Technology, which manufactures slot machines used throughout the world. Bally Technologies and GameTech also have development and manufacturing presence in Reno.


Reno is home to a variety of recreation activities including both seasonal and year-round. In the summer, Reno locals can be found near three major bodies of water: Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River, and Pyramid Lake. Lake Tahoe, which splits the border between California and Nevada, provides visitors and locals with opportunities to fish, water-ski and wakeboard, parasail, jet-ski, and of course swim. The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe through the center of downtown Reno and up to Pyramid Lake. After receiving city funding, the Truckee River now draws kayakers from all over the United States. The river is also a major part Artown, held in the summer at Wingfield Park, where locals and visitors come to swim, inner-tube, raft and enjoy local Reno culture.

View of Lake Tahoe from HeavenlyWinters in Reno are just as enjoyable. Skiing and snowboarding are among the most popular winter sports and draw in many tourists. There are approximately eight major ski resorts, including Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Sugar Bowl, Diamond Peak, Heavenly and Mount Rose Ski Resort located as close as eleven miles and as far as ninety-eight miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Other popular winter activities include cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowmobiling.


Downtown Reno is Reno's most popular area for bars and clubs. However, there are a few other hotspots including East Fourth Street, Wells Avenue, the UNR area, Kietzke Lane, and all along South Virginia St. Most neighborhoods also have their local bars, sports bars, or breweries mainly in strip malls.

The casinos, Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, Brüka Theatre, La Bussola, Sierra Arts and the Reno Events Center also provide numerous concerts, art events, plays, and shows as well.


Reno sits in the rain shadow of the Sierras. Winter has snowfall but typically it is light. Summer highs are generally in the low to mid 90s, but temperatures above 100 °F occur occasionally. July daytime and nighttime temperatures average 92 °F and 51 °F, respectively; while January day and night temperatures average 46 °F and 22 °F, respectively. Most precipitation occurs in winter and spring.

Reno is situated just east of the Sierra Nevada on the western edge of the Great Basin at an elevation of about 4,400 feet above sea level.


The course of the Truckee River runs through Reno, as does the Union Pacific Railroad, Interstate 80 (east-west) and US 395 (north-south).

Reno has an extensive bus system called RTC RIDE (formerly known as Citifare), which is provided by the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County. The bus system has its main terminal in downtown Reno and secondary terminals in Sparks and at Meadowood Mall in south Reno. The RTC also has a service called RTC ACCESS (formerly known as CitiLift) that provides transport for disabled people. RTC INTERCITY (formerly known as PRIDE) buses link Reno and Carson City.

The RTC also provides a free bus service up and down Virginia Street in Reno called RTC SIERRA SPIRIT, which many locals refer to as "the Pinwheel bus" due to the pinwheel design on the bright yellow buses and at bus stops. This regular service is free of charge.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Reno. The city's passenger rail station is located at 280 North Center Street, East Commercial Row in downtown Reno. Amtrak train 5, the westbound California Zephyr, is scheduled to depart Reno at 12:03 pm daily and provides service to the cities of Truckee, Colfax, Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, and Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco. Amtrak train 6, the eastbound California Zephyr, is scheduled to depart Reno at 2:11 pm daily and provides service to Sparks, Winnemucca, Elko, Salt Lake City, Provo, Helper, Green River, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Omaha, Galesburg, and Chicago.

Amtrak California Thruway Motorcoaches also arrive and depart Reno four times daily in each direction connecting to and from the Coast Starlight, Capitol Corridor, and San Joaquin trains at Sacramento, California.

The city is served by Reno/Tahoe International Airport, with general aviation traffic also handled by Reno Stead Airport.


Reno is home to the Reno Silver Sox Golden Baseball League team and will be home to the Reno Raiders of the ECHL in the future. In addition, Sierra Nevada Stadium is in the planning stages for the Reno Aces franchise. The Tucson Sidewinders will be moving to Reno in 2009. In addition, the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League will begin play in the 2008-09 season, set to play at the Reno Events Center. Reno also enjoys a thriving college sports scene, with the Nevada Wolf Pack achieving appearances in football bowl games and an Associated Press Top Ten ranking in basketball in 2007.

Reno, Nevada Whitewater ParkIn 2004, the city completed a $1.5 million whitewater park on the Truckee River in downtown Reno which attracts paddlers from all over the region and hosts whitewater events throughout the year. The course runs Class 2 and 3 rapids with safe and free, year-round public access. The 1,400-foot (430 m) north channel features more aggressive rapids, drop pools and "holes" for rodeo kayak-type maneuvers. The milder 1,200-foot south channel is set up as a kayak slalom course and a beginner area.

The Reno area boasts 14 ski areas within two hours of the city.

Reno is also home to the Battle Born Derby Demons . Northern Nevada's "FIRST and ONLY Flat Track Roller Derby League!!"

Reno is the home of the National Bowling Stadium, which hosts the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Open Championships every three years.

Noteworthy residents

  • Mädchen Amick - Actress.
  • Chris Ault- Hall of Fame NCAA Football coach. Attended St Albert's, a Catholic School in Reno, and currently coaches the Wolf Pack football team.
  • Brent Boyd - Offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Chris Carr - McQueen H.S. Alumni, Kick returner and defensive back for the Oakland Raiders.
  • Chino XL- Rapper. Owns a residence in Reno
  • Walter Van Tilburg Clark - Author of The Ox-Bow Incident.
  • Doug Clifford - Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer. Lives in the Reno suburb of Galena.
  • Brian Crane - Cartoonist who created the comic strip Pickles.
  • Summer Cummings - Adult film actress.
  • Thomas K. Dye - Creator of the webcomic, Newshounds.
  • Joe Flanigan - Actor.
  • Rudy Galindo - Figure skater lives in Reno.
  • Jim Gibbons - Governor and member of the United States House of Representatives from Nevada.
  • Curtis Hanson - Producer / Director of 8 Mile, L.A. Confidential, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and others.
  • Jennifer Harman - American professional poker player.
  • Terri Ivens - Soap opera actress on All My Children.
  • Brian Kehoe - Male model from the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency.
  • Mark Kotsay - Professional Baseball Player. Resides in Reno.
  • Paul Laxalt - Governor and U.S. Senator from Nevada.
  • April Meservy - Singer/songwriter.
  • Randy Messenger - Professional Baseball Player.
  • Chuck Ruff - Edgar Winter Group drummer lives in Reno and works at Bizarre Guitar.
  • Jason-Shane Scott - Soap actor who created the role of One Life to Live's Will Rappaport (July 1998) is a Reno, Nevada native.
  • Shannyn Sossamon - Actress of A Knight's Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights.
  • Sharon Stone - Actress owns a residence in Reno.
  • J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner - Forensic Psychologist/Television Personality
  • Dawn Wells - Miss Nevada 1959 - Actress of TV series Gilligan's Island.
  • Kristi Yamaguchi - Figure skater and Olympic Gold Medalist Albertville 1992. Owns a residence in Reno.
  • Rajan Zed - Prominent Hindu chaplain who read the first Hindu opening prayer in United States Senate.

Reno in music

  • Woody Guthrie wrote a song in 1937 originally titled "Reno Blues" but later known as "Philadelphia Lawyer" about a lawyer who has an affair in Reno with the "maiden" of a "gun-totin cowboy" only to later be killed by said cowboy.
  • Johnny Cash recorded a song in 1956 called "Folsom Prison Blues" in which he sings, "When I was just a baby, my mother told me, 'Son, always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.' But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."
  • Rock band R.E.M. had a single in 2001 called "All the Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be a Star)".
  • The song "Loser" (1994), by alternative artist Beck, contains the line, "Baby's in Reno with the vitamin D, got a couple of couches, sleep on the loveseat..."
  • Rapper Kanye West's video for the song "Drive Slow" (2006) was filmed in Reno and Las Vegas.
  • Rocky Votolato's 2007 album The Brag and Cuss has a song, "The Wrong Side of Reno" in which Voltolato sings, "I hear a train whistle blowing and it's in key with my song, all the way on the wrong side of Reno where all my toughest friends are from."
  • Modest Mouse's video "Little Motel" was filmed in Reno.
  • Tom Waits refers to Reno in several songs: Virginia Avenue from the Closing Time album is set in Reno refers both to Virginia Avenue, Reno's main street, and Harold's Club, once the largest casino in Reno; Hang on St Christopher from Frank's Wild Years; and Better Off Without A Wife from Nighthawks at the Diner.
  • The Grateful Dead's Friend of the Devil starts out with the line: I set out from Reno; I was trailed by twenty hounds.
  • Folk singers Richard Fariña and Mimi Fariña wrote a song called, Reno, Nevada.
  • Country Rock Band Southern Pacific had a hit song entitled Reno Bound.
  • Doug Supernaw's "Reno" appeared in album Red and Rio Grande in 1993.
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Reno" appeared on the 2005 release Devils & Dust.
  • Reno is a major center for Straight Edge.
  • Goran Bregovi?'s "Man from Reno" appeared in album P.S. in 1996. P.S. is a choice of Goran's favourite compositions that appeared in several films (Goran Bregovi? is widely popular for making music for films).
  • 7 Seconds-one of the longest lived hardcore punk groups, hails from Reno.
  • Vampirates relocated from Ashland, Oregon to Reno and has resided there ever since 2004, growing to be one of Reno's most prominent punk rock bands.

Reno in pop culture

  • Reno is the setting of the Comedy Central show Reno 911!, although the show is not filmed there. This is proven by numerous palm trees on the set, which are not present in real-life Reno.
  • Marvel Comics supervillains Oddball, and Tenpin (Elton and Alvin Healey), were born in Reno.
  • Marvel Comics superhero Phantom Rider (Hamilton Slade) was born in Reno.
  • In the opening scenes of Anthony Horowitz's 2007 book Nightrise, two of the main characters perform at a theatre in Reno.
  • Reno (as New Reno) is a location in the computer role-playing game Fallout 2.
  • An episode of Arrested Development, Season 3's premiere The Cabin Show, takes place in Reno.
  • Walter Van Tilburg Clark's autobiographical novel The City of Trembling Leaves has detailed descriptions of Reno, as well as nearby Lake Tahoe and the Mt. Rose Wilderness in the 1920s.
  • In the film Balls of Fury, Randy Daytona works at the Peppermill Casino in Reno as a dinner show entertainer and wears a Peppermill jacket throughout the movie.
  • Reno appears in xkcd 206 where Black Hat Man and another character exchange "Reno Rhymes" based on Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues".
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Movies filmed in Reno

The Cooler


Hard Eight

Charley Varrick

Desert Hearts

The Wizard


The Misfits


Blind Fury

Pink Cadillac


Sister Act

Father's Day

Waking Up in Reno

Jane Austen's Mafia!

California Split

Up Close and Personal

The Pledge

Thunder Over Reno

Kill Me Again

The Last Don


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Reno culture

National Automobile Museum

Nevada Shakespeare Company

Nevada Museum of Art

University of Nevada, Reno Arboretum

Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Reno Pops Orchestra


Reno Philharmonic

Pioneer Center For Performing Arts

La Bussola & Center Gallery

Sierra Arts

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University of Nevada

The University of Nevada, Reno is the oldest university in the state of Nevada and Nevada System of Higher Education. In 1886, the state university, previously only a college preparatory school, moved from Elko in remote northeastern Nevada to a site north of downtown Reno, where it became a full-fledged state college. The university's first building, Morrill Hall, still stands on the historic quad at the campus' southern end.

The university grew slowly over the decades, but has began to expand rapidly along with the rest of the state and currently has an enrollment of approximately 16,000, with most students hailing from within Nevada. Among its specialties are mining engineering, agriculture, journalism, and one of only two Basque Studies programs in the nation. It also houses the only judicial college in the United States.

2018 Winter Olympics

The resort region around Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border have formed the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition to make a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. They cited the airport, close mountains, and compact geographic area in which the games could be held. Squaw Valley Ski Resort, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, is considered a major advantage to the bid.