Even though it’s mostly known for gaming, Reno is a very outdoors and sports oriented city. This is reflected in many of the free things you can do in The Biggest Little City. If you want to stay outdoors, visit the Truckee River for several free activities and events including tubing at the Truckee River Whitewater Park or watching the annual Reno River Festival. If you want to stay out of the water and just take a walk, stay on the River Walk and check out various Burning Man art pieces given to the city or jump on a bike to enjoy the Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway that runs right through Downtown Reno. During these walks or bikes, you can see some of Reno’s beautiful parks. If you are visiting in the summer and fall, don’t miss Hot August Nights or the Great Reno Balloon Race, both of these popular festivals are some of the biggest in the area and most of the events are free.
Hunter Creek Trail
The Reno area has several hiking trails that take both beginner and experienced hikers into the hills around the city. The Hunter Creek trail is one of the more popular hikes, but there’s a good reason: there’s a waterfall at the end. A waterfall in the high desert is hard to come by, but this one runs all year and is a nice end to this 5.2 round trip hike in the Sierra foothills. This trail offer views of the Downtown Reno skyline as well views of Hunter Creek, cottonwood and pine trees, colorful rocks and flowers in the summer.
Built from a former parking lot, Urban Roots is now a thriving farm and educational center for both adults and children. The farm has its own campus and demonstration area right above the Truckee River where day camps, classes and workshops and tours are held. The farm includes several building demonstration buildings as well as a few farm animals, beehives, hoop houses and greenhouses. The seasonal Folk Art Series aims to keep the past alive by providing a space for participants to explore and practice traditional crafts and skills. Farm tours are held on Wednesdays from 1-3 pm and Saturdays from 9 a.m to noon. ((775) 636-5105)
Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway
The Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway is a partially finished pedestrian and bike trail that runs from Lake Tahoe, along the 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. ((775) 825-9868)
Hot August Nights
During the first and second week of August, the streets of Reno, Sparks and Virginia City turn back in time for Hot August Nights. This annual celebration of the classic car has gotten bigger every year and includes free parades, show-n-shine events around the entire area, free concerts, drag races and special dances and music events at local casinos. Nearly 6,000 cars participate in the event every year and you can even sell or purchase a car at the various car swaps. Participants are encouraged to register and bring their classic (pre-1976) and visitors are encouraged to attend all free and paid events.
Riverwalk and Arts District
The Reno Arts District and the Reno Riverwalk is located in the heart of Downtown Reno. This area is home to great restaurants and bars, shopping areas and a walkway along the Truckee River. Along the river you will come upon several pieces of Burning Man art given to the city and there are places to stop and watch the water and the various birds that like to nest here. Walk around and visit the local bars, restaurants and coffee shops including Reef Sushi & Sake and Sierra Tap House. The central point of the area is Wingfield Park: a park on an island in the middle of the river. There is an amphitheater and access to the river as well as a few swimming holes. ((775) 825-9255)
Built in 1927 Idlewild is located just west of downtown on the Truckee River. The park features several picnic areas, some tennis courts, a bike trail, some lakes and water features and access to the river. There is a Lions Club park for children with lot of fun equipment and a small train. The Rose Garden and the public art including some colorful trout jumping from the lake are popular as well as the seasonal Idlewild Pool. This pool is outdoors and is only open in the summertime, but features a lap pool with diving boards and a kids pool. The park has plenty of parking in many areas of the park and the bike path leads out of the park and into downtown and Verdi. (702-329-6008)
It’s hard to miss this futuristic and interesting building on the north part of the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The Fleischmann Planetarium soars out of a lush garden like a spaceship ready to take off and hosts a variety of astronomy exhibits and seminars, and is the only planetarium to show “full-dome” IMAX movies. The science museum exhibits a one-ton meteorite, a solar system model, weather instruments, interactive science exhibits and more. The Exhibit Space is free to visit and the Planetarium shows, like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, are only $7.50 for adults and $5 for children. (775-784-4812, 775-784-4811)
Rancho San Rafael Park
Rancho San Rafael Park is the largest park in Reno with hundreds of acres that are home to a large dog park, playgrounds, an arboretum, gym equipment, jogging areas, and special event pavilions. The Arboretum is a beautiful place to walk among the trees and landscaping. Dogs are not allowed in this area of the park, but it is fine for walking and jogging. Behind the Arboretum is the Great Basin Adventure which is great for kids. There is a petting zoo, a flume ride, a playground and a nature discovery center. There’s also a museum that offers a look at the park’s previous life as a working ranch, and a beautiful old ranch house that can be rented for weddings or other special events. ((775) 785-4319)
Truckee River Whitewater Park
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. There are random boulders in the 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 begin up the river at Mayberry Park. (775-657-4634)
Great Reno Balloon Race
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.
For more information and to book a room in Reno, call 800-458-2423