With a plethora of boarded up gaming venues and an ubiquitous population of street people, downtown Reno looks a little down on its luck. But unlike its more glitzy cousin, Las Vegas, Reno is a town that still has a heart and soul. For a traveler willing to overlook some rough edges, Reno offers a rewarding escape at bargain basement prices.
Mid-week, rooms at the Silver Legacy, Harrah’s, or El Dorado, all well-located four star lodging options, can often be snagged for less than $100 per night, including transport to and from the airport. That gratis return ride might come in mighty handy if Lady Luck is not smiling upon you, but in Reno, you can get your game on without betting the farm. Personally, I prefer slum gambling at the $3 minimum wager tables at the timeworn Cal Neva Casino. The cocktail waitresses are a little long in the tooth and the Karaoke is downright painful, but the dealers are low key and on your side. Shopping in downtown Reno means channeling your inner Pawn Star. Judging from the swelling inventories of guitars, wedding bands and crucifixes, it appears that rock star dreams, spouses and Jesus are the first to go when cash is tight. If you find that someone else’s trash is your treasure, don’t even think about paying the tagged price. One diversion in Reno that hits the jackpot is the National Automobile Museum. The Harrah family’s hoard of over 200 classic, historic and celebrity cars includes a gold plated 1981 DeLorean, a 1913 Stutz Bearcat, and the personal rides of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and John F. Kennedy.
Even without your own wheels, you don’t have to be a captive of the casino dining and drinking options in Reno. Shun the all-you-can-eat buffet and stroll to Campo, overlooking the river, for handmade pastas and organic farm fresh fare, or amble over to the Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery, where students and locals flock to nosh on innovative nibbles and sip in-house crafted suds. Several authentic native watering holes are also staggering distance from the casino hotels. For wine, head to Jungle Vino; for beer, the Sierra Tap House does the trick. If you do Reno the right way, you are going to need to nurse your hangover with a full throttle breakfast. Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs dishes up the cure with a down home smile.
Peg’s huevos rancheros are reason enough to visit Reno, but when you look beyond the faded façade, the Biggest Little City has much to love.