Reno Renaissance: Downtown Diversity Brings the City to Life

Reno may have originally been branded The Biggest Little City because of neon lights, Vegas-like casinos, and a 24-hour scene, but this moniker feels apt in today’s Reno for different reasons.

Over the past decade, communities across the U.S. have been undergoing city-center transformations, with explosions in dining, drinking and entertainment options, and Reno has gotten in on the action. What makes downtown Reno feel different is that while many of the transformations are akin to big city experiences, the packaging is still very much Reno; a small town with a big city feel. For those making the trek to Reno this fall for The Wildlife Society’s first joint conference with the American Fisheries Society, be sure to plan time to visit Reno’s revitalized downtown. Whether working through a flight at Sierra Tap House, enjoying a game of table tennis at The Rack, or jamming out to local bluegrass at the Mountain Music Parlor, Reno won’t disappoint.

For many conference-goers, a trip to a local brewpub is a must when visiting a host city. While there are plenty of options to quench your thirst in and around Reno, it’s worth making a trip to the Sierra Tap House, “the best dang bar in Reno!” The Sierra Tap House first opened its doors nearly 15 years ago in downtown Reno, and features a rotating cast of delicious creations from the well-known Sierra Nevada Brewery, located across the border in Chico, Calif. The Tap House is conveniently and comfortably located along the Truckee River across from Whitewater Park, part of the happening Riverwalk scene in downtown Reno. In fact if you come in the late afternoon, choosing to start your evening at the Tap House, you might catch of glimpse of local paddlers playing in the standing wave on the river. Whenever you get there, you’re sure to be greeted by some unique Sierra Nevada brews that haven’t yet made it to a bottle, and by a crowd of locals who consider the Tap House their favorite watering hole.

The motto at The Rack is “Party, Eat, Bowl.” Enough said. If your version of enjoying the local scene involves munching comfort food in a laid back atmosphere while rolling a few frames, be sure to carve out time to head down underneath Virginia Street, where you’ll find a full bar, tasty wings, and a friendly staff ready to facilitate the establishment’s motto. In addition to the aforementioned bowling lanes, The Rack also features foosball, billiards, darts and even ping-pong tables. During the day, The Rack might be hosting birthday parties, but at night, it’s a hang-out for the local set where you might run into students from the University of Nevada – Reno shooting a bit of stick. Open late, The Rack has also become an end-of-evening go-to for super nachos and winding down. Whenever you make it through the doors, you’re sure to leave happy, unless of course one of your friends, colleagues or fellow conference-goers manages to beat you at foosball!

If you’re one of the many musical wildlifers planning on attending the joint conference this year and you anticipate needing a bit of relief from long days of learning and networking, then be sure to stay tuned to the calendar on the Mountain Music Parlor website. A relative newcomer to the Reno scene, the Mountain Music Parlor was established five years ago with the goal of “teaching and preserving America’s grassroots music while creating a strong cultural music-loving community.” By all accounts, the Parlor seems to be achieving this goal by playing host to workshops, community events, concerts and jams. There are regular gatherings of the Aloha Ukelele Club in addition to monthly Accordion Bands and Bluegrass Jams at the Parlor, and the Folk Shoppe offers a wide variety of unique grassroots instruments for sale. If you’re in the market for a new dobro or a used mandolin, then head down to the Mountain Music Parlor during the day so you can take one of these instruments for a test-drive. If you time it right, you might be able to stick around and participate in the jam later that evening!

A cargo container park may not evoke images of a typical downtown destination, but The Eddy, an outdoor beer garden along the Truckee River in downtown Reno, has become a go-to destination for visitors and locals alike. Modeled after the now-famous Proxy container park in San Francisco, The Eddy was built to serve drinks and food from rotating vendors while also playing host to local art installations. In addition to the requisite IPAs and street tacos, visitors to The Eddy will find bocce courts and corn hole alleys arranged amidst stacked and reworked CONEX boxes. The best part of The Eddy may be its central location along the Riverwalk on Sierra Street, making it a great place to both start your evening and end your night. If you’re looking for some tasty open air street food before heading over to the Sierra Tap House, then look no further than The Eddy. If you’re looking for a place to sit after an evening of bar-hopping but The Rack is too crowded, then The Eddy is perfect. Whenever you find time to stop by, rest assured that The Eddy will have something to offer.

Regardless of where you decide to spend time away from the conference this year in Reno, downtown is a must-visit. The revitalized Reno Riverwalk District is the epicenter of a cultural renaissance that’s taken place in Reno in recent years, where attendees from Brooklyn will feel just as at-home as those from Missoula. With high-end eateries, gastro-fusion pop-ups, food trucks, and everything in between, downtown Reno is sure to sate your hunger. The same goes for quelling thirst, as the variety of libation-centered establishments rivals anything that can be found in a similar-sized city. Just be sure to make time to get there; The Biggest Little City is ready to excite!

Header Image: Reno’s Riverwalk District lit up at night. ©