Best Things to Do in December in Reno

10Best Holiday Attractions in The Biggest Little City & Beyond

When the snow flies, the Biggest Little City can become a winter wonderland. From ice skating downtown and skiing in the mountains to shopping in Midtown and Christmas on the Comstock, the Reno area has a multitude of things to do for the holidays. Many of the area's casinos come to life with decorations, music and family events, and of course, tons of food at the casino buffets. Traditional events like The Nutcracker ballet are held at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Reno and carols can be heard in the historic town of Genoa.

Adults can play dress up during the Reno Santa Pub Crawl along the Truckee River and under the Reno Arch and all family members can go ice skating at the Rink on the River at the Greater Nevada Field. If the kids just want to play in the snow, take them up to Mount Rose Ski Tahoe (the closest ski resort to the city) to do a few turns on the bunny hills. Just up the mountain from the resort is the Tahoe Meadows where some of the area's best sledding is available for free. Just pick up a sled and look for the snow covered hills.


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 Things to Do in December because: The National Automobile Museum is decorated for the holidays and features special science related events.

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

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Ouside the city

The Town of Genoa is located about 1.5 hours south of Reno. As the first settlement in Nevada, Genoa has seen a lot of history and much of it is still in evidence in its historic buildings. Tucked into the Sierra foothills and home to the annual Candy Dance, several bed and breakfasts and 1862 David Walley's Restaurant and Saloon, Genoa is a relaxing getaway from the city. The town only has about 250 residents, but there's still plenty to do. Visit the Mormon Station State Park Museum, Genoa Courthouse Museum, the Genoa Cemetery and the Hanging Tree for information on the city's history. Pick up lunch or dinner at the Pink House or the General Store, a drink at the Genoa Bar and enjoy the hot springs at 1862 before heading back to Reno or nearby Carson City.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: During the holidays, Genoa celebrates with an official tree lighting and traditional caroling in the streets.

Christina's expert tip: Genoa, established in 1851, is the oldest town in Nevada.

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This fascinating museum houses the personal collection of Wilbur D. May, department store magnate, rancher, and world traveler;it's been said that Mr. May traveled around the world 40 times. Collections include Tang Dynasty pottery from China, a shrunken head from South America, African artwork and instruments, Eskimo scrimshaws, Egyptian scarabs, Greek icons, and Italian amulets that pre-date the birth of Jesus. Changing exhibits include photography, watercolors and oils and special traveling exhibits. The May Museum's indoor garden houses ponds, waterfalls and a a variety of plants and flowers. The museum is located in the beautiful Rancho San Rafael Arboretum near Downtown Reno.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Wilbur D. May Museum has a huge gingerbread house competition each holiday season.

Christina's expert tip: Check out the Wilbur D. May Museum store for many certified fair trade items.

Read more about Wilbur D. May Museum & Arboretum →


The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum is a celebration of the nature, science and weather of the Silver State. At this brand-new museum, children can visit a Native American tule house, learn about the early Pioneers, work on their own farm or ranch and study archeology. They can also climb around on a three-story-tall cloud climbing structure, get wet while learning about local water resources, or build structures and art while learning more about Leonardo Da Vinci. Older children can visit the Under the Stars exhibit where they can go fishing, go on a camping trip and meet Northern Nevada's wildlife. There is also an area for babies and toddlers with a tree house and slide, a mine elevator and tunnel and a place for nursing mothers.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Discovery Museum is a great place to take children when the weather is not cooperating.

Christina's expert tip: The museum is very popular on the weekends, get there early for parking space.

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Designed by a student of Buckminster Fuller, the gold dome of the Pioneer Center of Performing Arts is located right in the middle of Downtown Reno and is part of the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The Pioneer features various performances from ballet and opera to Broadway plays like Annie and Rent to Riverdance and Blue Man Group. Tickets are also very reasonable. Most tickets around between $30 and $50. The Pioneer also features performances by northern Nevada's Reno Philharmonic. Led by music director Laura Jackson, the orchestra has over 60 professional musicians and perform various concerts around the area including the Spirit of the Season during holidays.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts puts on the Nutcracker and the Spirit of the Season concerts during the holidays.

Christina's expert tip: The Pioneer Center is casual, but for evening events, visitors will dress in business casual.

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Riverwalk and Arts District
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Reno Arts District and the Reno Riverwalk are right downtown and just south of the downtown casinos. This area is home to a variety of restaurants and bars, shopping areas and a walkway along the Truckee River. There are several places along the river to stop and watch the water and the various birds that like to nest here. The central point of the area is Wingfield Park. A park on an island in the middle of the river. Various events such as the annual tree lighting and Artown are held here. There is an amphitheater and access to the river as well as a few swimming holes.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: During the holidays, the Riverwalk area holds various events including a themed Wine Walk and the Reno Santa Pub Crawl.

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

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Incline Village

The nearest ski resort to Reno is Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. At over 8,200 feet, this resort is known mostly as a great ski area for locals, but visitors can find long, well-groomed trails, 1,200 acres of ski and board terrain, two nice ski lodges and a play area for children. The resort also offers ski and boarding lessons and an average snowfall of 350 inches. The Winter's Creek Lodge on the East Bowl area of the resort is a high-class lodge with great views of Washoe Valley, Reno and Carson City. It's a great place for weddings and other special events.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: During the holiday season, high-elevation Mount Rose has some of the best snow in the area.

Christina's expert tip: Mount Rose Ski Tahoe has a wide range of beginner and bunny slopes.

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During the holiday season, the Wild West mining town of Virginia City in the mountains above Reno becomes a Victorian celebration that features holiday shopping, food specials, concerts, a parade of lights and other holiday events. The city streets (with the original wooden sidewalks) are filled with both holiday and historical characters and the famous Piper's Opera House features concerts and the Christmas in the Sierra Concert. The V&T Railroad also offers several family train rides including the Polar Express and the Candy Cane Express. Don't forget to meet the locals and participate in the Gingerbread House Social and Auction.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Virginia City celebrates the holidays throughout all of December with light displays, special train rides and caroling.

Christina's expert tip: The former mining town of Virginia City is one of the best kept historical mining towns in the West.

Read more about Christmas on the Comstock →

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 Things to Do in December because: In December, the Greater Nevada Field holds WinterFest Reno with ice skating and Santa's Village.

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. 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. During the holiday season, the train becomes the Comstock Christmas train complete with lights, elves, hot chocolate and cider.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: During the holidays, the V&T becomes the Polar Express with Santa, hot drinks and family fun.

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

Read more about Virginia & Truckee Railroad →


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