by Ben McDonald -
Special to the SGN
Snuggled in the valley northeast of Lake Tahoe, just over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the city of Reno is the home base for a variety of nightlife, dining, special events, and innumerable opportunities for an escape into the great outdoors. The region is diverse in its amenities as it is in its geography, and cultural shifts in the psyche of Nevada residents and politicians is leaning heavily against old-school conservatism of the region's past and toward a common-sense culture of inclusion. The Nevada Attorney General announced in February she will not be defending the state's Gay marriage ban in federal court, and Republican Governor Brian Sandoval has indicated that this is the will of the state. A former Texas Democrat, Reno's Republican Mayor Bob Cashell also spoke publically about the need for a change during a press conference where he championed for marriage as an equal right for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation.
Despite a lag in legal and political arenas, the landscape of acceptance in Reno, Sparks and North Lake Tahoe is not just a current trend. The Reno Gay Pride Festival has been held since 1997, and the 18th annual event is coming up on August 16th, at Wingfield Park, which is right along the cool waters of the Truckee River in the heart of downtown Reno. The nationally touring Out-Fit Challenge is a high-impact, 5K course with more than 15 obstacles, and it's being touted as the first-ever LGBT mud run. This year, Out-Fit is holding events in New York City, Boston, San Francisco and in Reno on September 20th.
The summer events season is unbelievably packed for an area the size of Reno-Tahoe. May's Reno River Festival kicks off the bulk of an almost daily barrage of outdoor events that don't slow down until sweater-weather returns in September. The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey takes teams on 178-mile, 24-hour jogging tour from Reno to Lake Tahoe, down into Carson City and back up through Historic Virginia City before returning to Lake Tahoe; the Reno Rodeo comes back in June, as it has every year since 1919; in July Reno is Artown, a month-long celebration of arts and culture which takes over the whole city with more than 400 events, concerts and art displays, of which more than half are free and open to the public; the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival presents the writer's finest works in an outdoor amphitheater on the beach overlooking Lake Tahoe as the sun sets. Smaller events such as Canfest present a more intimate opportunity, or excuse, to get together for some unique, craft beers with an emphasis on the best canned beers from more than 60 international brewers. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger event, anywhere in the world, than Burning Man, and Reno is the base for the annual arts and culture festival held in the Black Rock Desert, about two-and-a-half hours away from the Biggest Little City. Though this year's event will be the largest ever, with roughly 60,000 Burners expected, you may want to start planning now for 2015.
Major resort-hotels set the tone for the region, with multiple restaurants from fine dining to buffet and some of the best hotel rooms you'll find at such a great value. Spa Toscana at the Peppermill, and Spa Atlantis at Atlantis, are regularly recognized by SpaFinder Magazine as two of the best casino spas in the country. EDGE at Peppermill and LEX at Grand Sierra Resort, once open this July, are the two largest nightclubs in Reno, but most of the downtown hotels have bars and lounges where you'll find there's more to do than just sitting down for a cocktail. Live entertainment and headlining entertainment can be found at the Reno Events Center as well as the major resorts, but there are quite a few local bars in the downtown corridor, which showcase local talent as well as traveling acts. The Knitting Factory in downtown and Jub Jubs on Wells Avenue are becoming hot spots for touring bands, but you're sure to find a quality set at a number of non-descript bars in the downtown on any given weekend. If you're looking for some insight on bars catering specifically to LGBT nightlife, 5 Star, Carl's Pub, Tronix and The Patio are a few good places to start.
The food scene appears to be booming with recent additions such as CAMPO, along the Truckee Riverwalk, and Brasserie St. James in the developing MidTown District. These restaurants have a very different vibe from a little more upscale farm-to-table approach to a classic pub atmosphere with equally delectable selections and a strong effort to introduce local brews and produce to diners. If you really want to check out an up-and-coming area, head over the Under the Rose brewery and tasting room on East 4th St. It's in an old, auto paint shop and has an extremely raw layout. Under the Rose just opened its tasting room in November and is already distributing to more than 14 bars and restaurants in Reno and, as of this writing, doesn't even have a sign on the face of the building where it's located.
The Nevada Museum of Art is the only nationally accredited art museum in the state of Nevada, and it truly is a gem of the city. With three levels of rotating exhibits, you'll find it hard to see everything in an hour or two, and if you come back in a few months the entire experience will be a new one. The Nevada Museum of Art is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and is located in downtown Reno.
The Reno Tahoe region is overloaded with natural beauty, and there's never a bad time to saddle-up and get your butt out into the wonderland of northern Nevada. North Lake Tahoe is just a 45-minute drive from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and whether you're looking to hit the slopes at one of the 18 ski resorts in the winter or rent a boat or waverunner, or just lay on the beach, in summer, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world to spend a vacation. Hiking and biking the Sierra can take you up to more than 10,000-feet in a mountainous forest, and similar activities can be had in the high-desert around Reno and Sparks. Whitewater rafting are available in the summer months, and dropping-in upstream with a kayak or tube can find you enjoying a warm, sunny day as the Truckee River leads you right back to Wingfield Park in downtown Reno.
Gaming is a historic draw of northern Nevada, even though gambling is now legal in 48 states. The options in Reno Tahoe, however, are still a bit more diverse than many other destinations. Every major casino has a poker room, and table games run the gamut from Blackjack and Pai Gow to Craps and Baccarat. If you'd like to play slots and newest video gaming machines on the market, of course, you can do that as well. But know when to say 'when.' Reno Tahoe is a 24-hour destination.
There's far too much to mention here, so if you want to start planning your next trip to Reno Tahoe USA, you can learn more and even book rooms online at www.VisitRenoTahoe.com.
Courtesy of Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Bureau
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