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Reno: that “other city in Nevada”

Oct 27th 2015 at 1:48 PM

Heard of Las Vegas? It’s that big, glittery “Disneyland for grownups” out there in the desert. But what if you want the more traditional Vegas experience, back when it was really all about the gambling? A city where casinos could be casinos, and didn’t have to have all the extras to keep the rest of the family happy? Where it actually looks like a city “out west”, not a city that changes from one country to another every time you pass the next (gargantuan) hotel/casino/everything else entertainment megaplex.

Reno the “Biggest Little City in the World”

Try the other end of the state. Reno actually used to have more and bigger casinos than Las Vegas! They’re mostly still there, even some new ones. It’s just that the city hasn’t grown as fast as Vegas since the 1980s. There’s still a vibrant and exciting scene, but focused more on the gambling than the glitter.

Of course in the 21st century, a city had better offer more than just gambling. After all, if all you’re there for is the game, you might as well play online. Gambling online can give you a virtual casino experience, with just as much (or as little) risk or gain as a real casino. As long as you are careful to select a high-quality online casino, probably with the aid of a rating and review site like, there’s not a lot of difference. Or rather, the conveniences of playing at home outweigh the cost and distance of travel.

So then, why visit Reno?

  • Because unlike Vegas or (unless you’re very lucky) home, there’s also a lot of outdoor recreation near Reno to balance out your casino time. Lake Tahoe is only about an hour’s drive, and summer or winter, there’s always something fun to do out there. Boating, fishing, swimming, skiing, all of them some of the best the USA has to offer. Ever since Mark Twain accidentally set an island on fire there (or so he said), Lake Tahoe has mesmerized visitors with its stunning blue depths and the mountains and forests that come right up to its edge. And they don’t call the ski resort Heavenly for nothing! (Not to mention its nearby neighbor Squaw Valley, where they still talk about when the Olympics came to town.)

  • Surprisingly, there’s also a lot of history in the surrounding area. Reno is just up the road from Carson City, the capital of Nevada and the heart of the old silver country. Many’s the abandoned mining town up in these hills. You can still find them, often completely deserted, and wander the old wooden sidewalks just like the prospectors and outlaws of the past. Some towns are falling apart (be careful!) but others could be straight off the set of a Hollywood western (in fact, if the town you visit looks familiar, that could be because it was actually used to make a movie about the old west!). But make sure to bring enough water along and, seriously, watch out for rattlesnakes.

  • Back in the city, you’ll find every convenience. You can of course play at the casinos any time you want, 24/7. But Reno offers restaurants, sports, all the entertainment options of a normal city, and even a big annual air show! From all over northern California and further away, all kinds of people come to relax. It’s a much more down-to-earth crowd than in Vegas, both less showy and more tuned-in to the region. You’ll find a fair share of San Francisco engineers and entrepreneurs, and maybe even the occasional retro hippie, but you’ll also meet people who wear those big cowboy hats as their normal style, not just to show off that they’re having a vacation “out west”.

So if you just want to gamble – go online. And if you want to take a wild ride in a fantasy city full of lights and recreated pyramids and Roman arches – go to Vegas. But if you want a genuine experience of a gambling town, Reno’s the best you’ll find. And it offers plenty of ways to spend the rest of your time, amid some of the most beautiful scenery the western USA has to offer.

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