Free Things to Do in Reno

10Best Free (and Fun) Things To Do in Reno

Reno is primarily known as a gaming town, but it is becoming more widely known as an outdoor paradise. In addition, many of these outdoor areas in the Biggest Little City are totally free.

If you want to stay outdoors, visit the Truckee River for several free activities and events including tubing at the Truckee River Whitewater Park. If you want to stay out of the water and just take a walk, stay on the River Walk and check out various Burning Man art and sculpture or jump on a bike to enjoy the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail that runs right through Downtown Reno.

During these walks or bikes, you can see some of Reno's beautiful parks. For visitors who don't mind taking a short drive head up the Mount Rose Highway for some snow play or mountain hiking or visit one of the world's most famous mining and ghost towns, Virginia City.


The Reno area has several hiking trails that take both beginner and experienced hikers into the hills around the city. The Hunter Creek trail is one of the more popular hikes, but there's a good reason: there's a waterfall at the end. A waterfall in the high desert is hard to come by, but this one runs all year and is a nice end to this 5.2 round trip hike in the Sierra foothills. This trail offers views of the Downtown Reno skyline as well views of Hunter Creek, cottonwood and pine trees, colorful rocks and flowers in the summer.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Hunter Creek Trail is probably the best urban area hiking trail in Reno. Parking at the trailhead is free.

Christina's expert tip: The trail starts from the Michael D. Thompson Trailhead in West Reno and ends up at waterfall surrounded by trees.

Read more about Hunter Creek Trail →

Virginia City
Virginia City
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

This historic town in the mountains above Reno was once the world's richest city thanks to the largest gold vein ever mined, the Comstock Lode. Little has changed since those mid-1800s days, and C Street, the main thoroughfare, still looks much as it did decades ago. Among the top sights are the old town cemetery, the Bucket of Blood Saloon, The Castle (the only structure untouched by the fire of 1875), Fourth Ward School, Ponderosa Saloon, and Piper's Opera House. The best way to tour the city is to start at the base of the hill on C Street and work your way upward. This route also affords absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains. VC is a must-see for anyone interested in Wild West history.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Walking around VC's streets and many events are free, but you can also visit the city's restaurants, bars and shops.

Christina's expert tip: The drive to Virginia City from Reno on Highway 341 has some of the best views in the area.

Read more about Virginia City →

Riverwalk and Arts District
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Reno Arts District and the Reno Riverwalk is located in the heart of Downtown Reno. This area is home to great restaurants and bars, shopping areas and a walkway along the Truckee River. At various locations along the river you will come upon several pieces of Burning Man art given to the city. There are also places to stop and watch the water and the various birds that like to nest here. Walk around and visit the local bars, restaurants and coffee shops including Cafe Capello coffee and Sierra Tap House. The central point of the area is Wingfield Park, a park on an island in the middle of the river. There are an amphitheater and access to the river as well as a few swimming holes.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It's free to wander along the river, but you can also check out the nearby National Automobile Museum and the Nevada Museum of Art.

Christina's expert tip: The very popular Reno Wine Walk is held every third Saturday on the Riverwalk.

Read more about Riverwalk and Arts District →


Built in 1927 Idlewild is located just west of downtown and right on the Truckee River. The park features several picnic areas, some tennis courts, a bike trail, some lakes and water features and access to the river. There is a Lions Club park for children with a lot of fun equipment and a small train. The Tahoe-Pyramid trail also passes right by the park where you can walk or bike all the way up to Lake Tahoe or down to Pyramid Lake. The park also features a rose garden, public sculptures and the seasonal Idlewild swimming pool. The park has plenty of parking in many areas of the park and is home to many of the area's special events.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Idlewild is a great place for walking and enjoying the river. The children's parks and the sports fields are free.

Christina's expert tip: Idlewild is home to the Food Truck Friday food truck festival on Friday evenings in the summer and fall.

Read more about Idlewild Park →

Midtown District
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Midtown District of Reno is an excellent example of urban resurgence. This once neglected part of Reno just south of Downtown has a new life and a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and art studios. From the Mountain Music Parlor where you can hear and participate in musical jams to the foodie restaurants such as Laughing Planet, and Great Full Gardens, you can spend a whole day just walking around this artistic and funky part of town. Visit Junkee or Hello Yoga for great gifts, antiques and clothing and The Melting Pot for unusual costumes and Burning Man gear.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: If you are an art fan, Midtown has hundreds of public artworks and murals. Walk around and check them out for free.

Christina's expert tip: Midtown has regular special events like the annual Art Walk and monthly mural tours.

Read more about Midtown District →

Even when Reno doesn't get a huge amount of winter snow, this area near the Mount Rose Summit has some of the best snow play in the area. Located on the Mount Rose Highway/Highway 431 on the way to North Lake Tahoe, this area is known for its summer access to the Tahoe Rim Trail as well as some great snowshoe, cross country skiing and sledding spots. The area is free and you can find a variety of sled runs for beginner and intermediate tubers. Follow snow trails that lead into the forest or up into the hills with excellent views of blue Lake Tahoe. There are several small parking areas and two bathrooms. One by the Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead and another by the Mount Rose trailhead.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: On winter days, you can't beat the free fun and free parking at the mountain play area.

Christina's expert tip: On winter weekends, the parking lots and the side of the road can get very full. Come early.

Read more about Tahoe Meadows Snow Play Area →

Rancho San Rafael Park is the largest park in Reno with hundreds of acres that are home to a large dog park, playgrounds, an arboretum, gym equipment, jogging areas, and special event pavilions. Various botanical gardens show the range of plants that grow in this high altitude city. The Arboretum is a beautiful place to walk among the trees and landscaping. Dogs are not allowed in this area of the park, but it is fine for walking and jogging. BThere's also a museum that offers a look at the park's previous life as a working ranch, and a beautiful old ranch house that can be rented for weddings or other special events.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Rancho San Rafael has a wide range of natural areas from a xeriscape and dog parks to massive trees and lakes, all free.

Christina's expert tip: The largest special event at San Rafael is the Great Reno Balloon Race. Held in September, it is also free.

Read more about Rancho San Rafael Park →

University of Nevada, Reno
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The University of Nevada is central to the city of Reno. Over 25,000 students call UNR their alma mater and there are events and things to do all over campus. UNR is home to the Wolf Pack baseball, football and basketball teams and all UNR games are open to the public and full of fun and excitement. The campus has several restaurants and coffee shops as well as free museums. There are public green spaces, a large quad and many parks. The Mathewson/IGT Knowledge Center is the largest library/knowledge center in the state of Nevada and features thousands of books, computer labs, a coffee shop and public spaces.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: While taking classes is not free, the campus is open to the public and features free museums, events, performances and the state's largest library.

Christina's expert tip: UNR is also home to several free museums including the Keck Museum features rocks and gems and the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art.

Read more about University of Nevada, Reno →

Truckee River Whitewater Park
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Truckee River Whitewater Park is right in the middle of downtown Reno, just a few blocks from the casinos. It is 2,600 feet long park with class 2 and 3 rapids for kayakers, canoes and boats. It is easily accessible from the shore and from the nearby Wingfield Park. There are five drop pools and 7,000 tons of smooth rocks to sit on along the river. Boaters and tubers can start anywhere along the park and go through several rapids, drops and marked tracks. There are random boulders in the channels. Whitewater Park is a great place to hang out during the summer where there are weekend concerts and events including Artown.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It's free to bring your own gear to the river. In the summer there are rental vendors available in the park.

Christina's expert tip: If you want to tube from further upstream, put in at Mayberry Park or Crissie Caughlin Park. A Mayberry Park tube ride will take most of the day.

Read more about Truckee River Whitewater Park →

The Tahoe Pyramid Trail is a partially finished pedestrian and bike trail that runs from Lake Tahoe, along the Truckee River through Downtown Reno and into Sparks on its way to Pyramid Lake in the Nevada desert. Along the way, the trail will descend over 2,000 feet in 116 miles. Several sections of the trail are paved and some are dirt trails that have been provided with donations. From Downtown Reno, you can access the trail anywhere along the river and follow signs to various parks, access points and public art along the river. Trail maps and current access are located on the Tahoe Pyramid Trail website.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Tahoe Pyramid Trail is a one-of-a-kind bike and pedestrian path...and it's free.

Christina's expert tip: If you don't have a bike, you can rent one from several bike shops in the Reno area. They will also give you a map of the trail.

Read more about Tahoe-Pyramid Trail →


Meet Christina Nellemann

Christina has lived in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area since she was a baby. A first-generation Nevadan, her Danish parents instilled in her an intense love of travel and the wild, rugged outdoors...  More About Christina