Reno vs Las Vegas

ABOVE Bright neon lights spelling out Reno’s famous slogan
ABOVE Bright neon lights spelling out Reno’s famous slogan

Reno offers all the thrills and glitz of its big sister Vegas, but with a side order of charm


LOCATION  Reno, Nevada, is 450 miles (725 km) northwest of Las Vegas, 180 miles (290 km) northeast of San Francisco
VISITORS PER YEAR Over 5 million
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES  Jan: 33°F (1°C); Apr: 48°F (9°C); Jul: 70°F (21°C); Oct: 50°F (1O°C)

The “Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno was already a mature gambling destination when Las Vegas was cutting its teeth. Founded in the mid- 19th century as a crossroads settlement during the Comstock Lode silver- and gold-mining rush and construction of the transcontinental railroad, early Reno boomed as a divorce and, later, wedding capital well ahead of Las Vegas. By the 1930s, the back-room gambling dens that initially served transient miners had turned mainstream and legal, adding respectability to Reno at about the time that mobsters were developing Las Vegas as their own boomtown on Nevada’s southeastern frontier.

Reno’s city fathers have since been careful to preserve its quality of life and areas of old-world charm, avoiding the wilder excesses of Vegas. Sure, Reno’s answer to The Strip, Virginia Street, is a sparkling river of neon at night, lined with casinos, and the city has plenty of lounge bars and cabaret shows. But, where Las Vegas is nothing if not over the top, Reno manages to remain endearing.

Set astride the Truckee River, Reno has a historic district and bucolic parks. The downtown Riverwalk is a setting for arts and music festivals. Rent a bicycle and follow the Truckee River Bike Path or explore Newland Heights, where the millionaires of the great mining boom built gracious mansions. There are even hiking trails within the city limits.

And, while culture vultures might feel starved in Las Vegas, Reno has a fistful of cultural venues and events, as well as world-class museums. If all that’s not enough to give this desert city the edge over its rival, it’s surrounded by a sparkling wonderland of mountains and lakes. In winter, the snow-capped peaks glisten invitingly – skiing at nearby Lake Tahoe is barely a 45-minute drive away.


National Automobile Museum Set in a stunning Modernist glass building are over 200 of the world’s rarest vehicles. “Cars of the stars” include James Dean’s 1949 Mercury, and Elvis’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado.

Truckee River Arts District The Riverwalk is lined with galleries, boutiques, and bistros. Visitors can take to the water at Truckee River Whitewater Park. Nevada Museum of Art This black-clad, angular structure holds an impressive collection of works depicting nature and the desert environment.

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center Northern Nevada’s crystal-clear night skies are perfect for stargazing. The planetarium’s SkyDome has dazzling movies and 3D shows to inspire you.



The most flamboyant city street in the world, Las Vegas’s 5-mile (8-km) “Strip” is a dazzling, non-stop extravaganza of casinos and hotels with fantastic themes and flamboyant, round-the-clock entertainment, offering something for every taste and age.


The glare of neon and the incessant tinkling of slot machines can get very wearing. Strip clubs and illegal prostitution further tarnish the sheen, as do horrendous traffic, gamblers committing financial suicide, and losers seeking an instant divorce.


Visiting Vegas without gambling is like touring France without tasting the wine. But establish in advance the amount of money you’re prepared to lose. When it’s gone, walk away. And the gorgeous stranger you meet is almost certainly interested in one thing – your money. Whatever you do, stay sober. Las Vegas is mercenary and it’s shockingly easy to marry on the spur of the moment.


Getting There and Around

Reno-Tahoe International Airport is 2 miles (3 km) southeast of downtown Reno; shuttles and taxis are available to to downtown Reno. There is a well-developed and inexpensive public transportation system within the city, and the old town center is easy to get around on foot. The South Tahoe Express offers a shuttle service from the airport to Lake Tahoe, and Sierra Nevada Stage Lines operates between down town Reno hotels and Lake Tahoe.

Where to Eat

The elegant White Orchid serves top-notch American contemporary cuisine; cozy Harrah’s Steak House will satisfy carnivores with four-star dining.

Where to Stay

The sophisticated Eldorado Hotel & Casino is highly regarded for its stylish rooms, great facilities, and excellent location right by the “Biggest Little City” sign.

When to Go

Early April to late June are warm and sunny, while winter months are perfect for hitting the slopes at nearby Lake Tahoe.

Budget Per Day for Two

Allow about US$140 per day to include accommodation, meals and local travel.


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