Reno-Tahoe: Two pasts, one future

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For those not in the know, thoughts of Reno likely conjure hazy images of slot machines and neon lights. While Reno still has plenty to offer those who enjoy pulling the lever, tossing the dice, or turning over cards, the Biggest Little City in the World has become so much more, including home to The Wildlife Society’s first-ever Joint Annual Conference with the American Fisheries Society this fall. One of the most culturally diverse small cities in the West, Reno offers a newly revitalized food scene along the bustling waterfront of the blue-ribbon Truckee River, and serves as a jumping-off point to the countless ski areas and off-season outdoor opportunities that surround Reno’s sibling in California, Tahoe. While long serving as a nexus between urban life and an outdoor lifestyle, Reno-Tahoe has suddenly become emblematic of the New West, where farm-to-table eateries and craft distilleries are set to a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, and a blue-collar workforce with roots in the region’s mining past steers full-size diesels along city streets.

Reno-Tahoe does have a dual history. While Reno was founded by miners scraping together a life, intent on pulling the vast stores of silver from nearby Mount Davidson, Tahoe was originally a playground for the rich and famous, where swanky boat clubs and exclusive ski resorts served the Hollywood elite. These pasts shaped the Reno-Tahoe we see today; exclusive ski resorts still encircle the cerulean gem that is Lake Tahoe, and the vibe in Reno is still that of a hard scrabble blue collar city, inhabited by locals with sun-weathered necks and country music on their radios. Nowadays however, these dueling histories have merged in Reno-Tahoe, where most full-size trucks have mountain bikes hanging off the tailgate, and patrons at area craft breweries are just as likely to be natural resources students from the University of Nevada – Reno, wearing Carhartts and trucker hats, as tech sector millennials, wearing skinny jeans and beards.

When first stepping off a plane at the Reno-Tahoe Airport, visitors are greeted by a statue of a happy skier and of a crystal blue “river” running through the concourse. Twenty years ago most visitors were headed to a casino, unlikely to see daylight again until their finances dictated a trip to the bank. Today, visitors may be carrying tubes holding fly rods for a trip to Pyramid Lake, or climbing gear for a visit to Donner Summit. Visitors may also be arriving for a stay in Reno without gambling or recreating outdoors, coming instead for the Reno River Festival, the Reno Rodeo, or a relaxing weekend of spa treatments and riverside apertifs. Perhaps equally likely to arrive on any given plane are visiting scientists, here to meet with colleagues at the Research I designated UNR campus.

Luckily for all, the airport is a short hop from downtown Reno and UNR, and what parts of the city are not easily walkable are well-served by an under-crowded public transportation system. Restaurants abound, from upscale gastropubs to food trucks serving street tacos. The same is true of evening opportunities for libations; if bocce and Pabst Blue Ribbon are your style, then Reno has something to offer. If you prefer small plates and boutique martinis, there are plenty of places to go. Regardless of your style, the synergy created by the two pasts that shaped today’s Reno-Tahoe is sure to leave you happy. If you’re on the fence about attending the Joint Annual Conference, book your tickets now. It’s not just the amazing opportunity for science and networking this year, but the destination that’s pulling people in!

Header Image: Emerald Bay on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, just a short drive from downtown Reno and the 2019 Joint Annual Conference. ©