Best Sightseeing in Reno

10Best Spots for Both Urban and Natural Sightseeing in Reno

Sightseeing in Reno doesn't have to be in the form of a tour. Reno actually has a fun mix of both urban and natural sightseeing options including public bikeways along the river, exploring the University of Nevada, Reno or visiting one of the city's many museums like the award-winning Nevada Museum of Art. If you like to people watch, go down to the Truckee River to see the kayakers at the Truckee Whitewater Park or head to the Midtown District to shop, eat and check out the hundreds of murals that have popped up in this areas south of Downtown. Tours are also available with the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in the small (but sight worthy) town of Virginia City. Of course, you can't come to Reno without visiting the Reno Arch. The most photographed spot in town is right Downtown and just below the world's largest climbing wall, located at the Whitney Peak hotel.


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. The Keck museum in the Mackay School of mines is a beautiful rock and gem museum that is open to the public. 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 Sightseeing because: UNR is a wonderful walking university with historic buildings and museums.

Christina's expert tip: UNR is also home to the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center.

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The Great Reno Balloon Race is actually the largest free hot air balloon event in the world. Each September nearly 100 balloons inflate at Rancho San Rafael park and fly over the Reno skyline. Many of the balloons are themed like the very popular Darth Vadar and Yoda balloons as well as giant soccer balls, fish and birds. The event starts very early in the morning with the Dawn Patrol and then participants are allowed to walk around the park and watch the pilots inflate and load their balloons. Various food tents and vendors are also available during the event.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Great Reno Balloon Race is free to the public.

Christina's expert tip: The best experience at the Great Reno Balloon Race is being able to walk among the balloons when they are being inflated.

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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 trailer are paved and some are dirt trails that have been provided with donations. From Downtown Reno, you can access the Bikeway anywhere along the river and follow signs East or West along the river. Trail maps and current access are located on the Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway website.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Bowers Mansion is located about 20 minutes south of Reno, but has some nice views of the Sierra foothills.

Christina's expert tip: If you don't have a bike, you can rent one from several bike shops in the Reno area.

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Greater Nevada Field
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Greater Nevada Field is a baseball stadium in downtown Reno, Nevada, and the home of the Triple-A Reno Aces in the MiLB Pacific Coast League. The ballpark is located next to the Truckee River and is the centerpiece of a planned downtown Reno redevelopment effort, named the Freight House District. The Reno Aces Ballpark features all the amenities you would expect in a major league park: luxury suites, restaurants, food, several beer gardens, picnic table seating, a grassy area to stretch out on, and a kids play area complete with bouncy castle and jungle gyms. There are giveaways and audience-participatory fun at every game, and it's a great way to spend the evening downtown. A parking lot is available across the street or you can park at any of the casino hotels downtown.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Aces Stadium is a great place to visit with Reno locals.

Christina's expert tip: For $15 extra you can watch the game at the Baseball Mountain and get a full picnic with drinks.

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Take a trip back to the old Comstock days and enjoy a ride on this authentic steam train. You can go on a six-mile round trip from Virginia City to Gold Hill or take the train all the way down the mountain to Carson City. The ride is narrated by experienced docents who will take you through the heart of the Comstock mining region. As you travel along, the guide will fill you in on some of the town's tall tales and historical facts. Check the website for schedules and current ticket prices. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad runs from May to October and takes visitors on a tour of the Comstock, Gold Hill and the Carson River Canyon. Each trip is on a historic steam engine train. During the holiday season, the train becomes the Comstock Christmas train complete with lights, elves, hot chocolate and cider.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The V&T Railroad tours run from Virginia City into Gold Hill or down into Carson City.

Christina's expert tip: Cover your ears when the train whistle's loud!

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Nevada Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

This award-winning museum is just south of downtown Reno and features permanent and traveling exhibits from various artists. This excellent museum is small, but packs in a wonderful selection of contemporary and traditional art, sculptures interactive exhibits, shows, and a rooftop sculpture with a view of all of Reno and the surrounding mountains. The outside area of the museum has several permanent exhibits including several pieces from the nearby Burning Man festival.Current and past exhibitions have included: To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum, Leo Villareal: Animating Light, Explorer, Naturalist, Artist John James Audubon and The Birds of America and the Baroque World of Fernando Botero.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The museum gift shop is a real delight and includes work from local artists.

Christina's expert tip: Every third Saturday admission to the museum is free.

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National Automobile Museum
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

Even if classic cars are not your passion this 100,000-square-foot museum is still a great place to view some of the most beautiful and unusual cars you will ever see. The museum houses one of the largest collections of antique automobiles to be found anywhere and it has been voted one of the top ten automobile museums in the country and one of the best 16 museums in the world. The cars are grouped by age in street settings appropriate to their time. These real-life backdrops include everything from Burma Shave signs to old gas pumps. See the cars that were originally a part of the Harrah collection including a Cadillac that belonged to Elvis Presley, a gold Delorean, the car belonging to Alice Ramsey (the first woman to drive across the U.S.) and the Thomas Flyer. There is also a copper Rolls Royce, a Phantom Corsair and s few horseless carriages.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The National Automobile Museum is home to some of the most unique cars in history.

Christina's expert tip: The 1936 silver Mercedes Benz is one of only 3 made (they are all in Reno).

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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 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. Maneuvers include freestyle, front and side surfing, cartwheeling, throwing ends, blunt moves, spoofing and splatting, flat spinning, loops, front flips, slalom racing. There are random boulders in channels. The Whitewater Park is a great place to hang out during the summer where there are weekend concerts and events including Artown. The pools are full of tubers during the hottest months and many of them can start up the river at Mayberry Park in Verdi.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Even if you don't kayak or tube on the river, it's a fun place to people watch.

Christina's expert tip: There are shallower areas for children to play, but this is still a river and they must be watched.

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The Biggest Little City in the World's most famous landmark is the Reno Arch, located downtown on Virginia Street. The famous lighted arch went up in 1926 to celebrate the completion of the Transcontinental Highway. In 1929, the famous motto was decided in a contest put on by the city. The latest arch was put up in 1987 and in 2009 was fitted with highly energy efficient 2.5 watt LED bulbs. The old incandescent bulbs were given away to spectators to commemorate the event. The Old Reno Arch from 1964 is now up by the National Automobile Museum on Lake Street. The Reno Arch is one of the most photographed structures in the world. Another Reno Arch is located on Lake Street by the National Automobile Musuem. It is the arch that was taken down in 1964 and ended up in a scrapyard for a while. It is smaller, but more classy than the current arch.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: As one of the most photographed areas of Reno, you can't miss it.

Christina's expert tip: The best shot of the Reno Arch is at night.

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Midtown District
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Midtown District of Reno has already been featured in several national publications as an 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 of Feast, Laughing Planet and Great Full Gardens, you can spend a whole day just walking around this funky part of town. Visit Junkee or Happy Happy Joy Joy for great gifts and The Melting Pot for unusual costumes and Burning Man gear.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Midtown District is a lively area full of murals and public art.

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

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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