Photo by Thinkstock, design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel
Reno gets a bad rap. I’m about as open-minded a traveler as they come, and even I was skeptical when my husband said we should stay in Reno for the weekend.
“Are you trying to divorce me?” I asked him.
“Trust me,” he replied.
And as with many things involving travel, he was right. Reno is Vegas without all of the bulls***. And if you’ve been to Vegas in the past five years, you know exactly what I mean.
Perhaps it’s unfair to say that Reno is better than Vegas. Making such comparisons is silly anyway. But the truth is that Reno certainly holds its own as a destination for a great weekend away at about a third of the amount you’ll spend amid the crowds, lines, and velvet ropes of Sin City.
These are the reasons you need to be reconsidering Reno.
1. Penny slots everywhere. There are plenty of bargain slot machines in Vegas, but Reno has penny slots … all over the place, in the casinos, the hotels, the restaurants. See a penny, pick it up, pay for dinner!
2. Great shows, half the price. Forget Britney. Tickets to Footloose, the musical, at the Eldorado Resort start at $30. Upcoming concerts include Carrie Underwood, Stevie Nicks, G Love, Lady Antebellum, and Yanni.
And while we’re talking about prices, cocktails around town are less than a third of the cost of anything you’ll purchase in Vegas.
3. The Awful Awful. The Little Nugget Diner, nestled into the back of the Little Nugget casino on Virginia Street, is home to the best burger with the worst name this side of the Mississippi.
Diving into the Awful Awful. (Photo: Nick Aster)
The diner wants you to know that 9 out of 10 vegetarians do not eat there and for good reason. The Awful Awful burger at this classic greasy spoon is a half-pound beef patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, raw onions, and an unidentifiable special sauce.
Check out this deliciousness. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
It’s delicious. But if you’ve had a wild night out on the town and you need something to take the edge off, you may want to order the Nugget’s Hangover Omelet, a four-egg version stuffed with chili and smothered in melted cheese and salsa. It comes with a complimentary Nugget “Bucket” bloody mary.
4. It’s home to the National Bowling Stadium. Most towns in America have a bowling alley or two. Reno is home to the National Bowling Stadium — 78 lanes, with the longest video screen in the world (440 feet in length).
5. You can ski during the day and gamble at night. Reno is just 30 minutes from some killer ski slopes, including Mt. Rose, which has the highest base elevation of the Tahoe mountain resorts at 8,260 feet.
Fantastic powder at Mt. Rose and discount lift tickets from Liftopia. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
6. You can go back in time in Virginia City. History buffs, rejoice. Virginia City, once one of the most important metropolises in America following the discovery of the Comstock lode, a series of silver mines whose wealth essentially built San Francisco, is just a 30-minute drive from Reno.
Virginia City was once a boom town. But don’t you dare call it a ghost town today. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Samuel Clemens famously renamed himself Mark Twain while living and working here as a reporter and fair weather miner. According to legend, Twain also discovered a valuable vein of silver but was too lazy to get around to cashing it in.
Don’t let the name Bucket of Blood scare you away. The staff and locals here are friendly, and the live Western music can’t be beat. Just ignore that guy in the corner with the sawed-off shotgun. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
The main drag of Virginia City is home to kitschsy gift shops and old-timey photo booths and saloons. Make sure to stop by the Bucket of Blood, which has been serving up liquor to the locals since 1876.
7. The kayak course. Walking distance from the hotels and casinos is the Truckee River Whitewater Park, featuring 11 pools for kayaking and a kayak race course. There are 11 drop pools and tons of boulders. But the best part is that the course is free to anyone who brings a kayak, and it’s open year-round.
8. The Patagonia outlet. Why pay retail when you can find this season’s fleeces, sweaters, and jackets for less than half the price at this outlet about 10 minutes outside of town off of Highway 80?
Discount adventure-wear is worth the trip alone. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
9. It’s less seedy than Vegas. Let me say that again with feeling: Reno is less seedy than Vegas. Not once during my visit to Reno was I solicited to visit a strip club. No frat boys threw up on my shoes. I was never uncomfortably groped by a drunk dad in town for a convention in the hotel elevator.
Shockingly enough, there are kids all over Reno. They’re in strollers and snuggies and getting their faces painted in the casinos. Reno is surprisingly family friendly.
10. Live music karaoke. If velvet ropes, bottle service, high cover charges, really long lines, and bouncers who will judge you are your thing, then you should head to Vegas. But if you want to have a great night out, try the live band karaoke at the Eldorado at the Brew Brothers pub. First prize is $50 off your bar tab.
11. Amtrak goes here. I like any destination where you can arrive by train, and Reno is one of them. Take the legendary California Zephyr from the Bay Area or as far as Chicago and relax and enjoy the scenery of the gorgeous Sierra Nevada mountains.