9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Reno, Nevada

Reno has been called "the biggest little city in the world" and is often described as a smaller version of Las Vegas. In northwestern Nevada, near the California state line, Reno is the second largest city in the state. Boasting more than five million visitors a year, Reno offers a wide range of entertainment and educational attractions, many of which are ideal for families. Some of these include hot-air balloon races, bowling tournaments, car shows, and performances at the large resorts. Reno also makes a great base if you are planning to visit the Lake Tahoe recreational area 45 minutes away, as well as Pyramid Lake to the northeast of the city.

1 National Automobile Museum

National Automobile Museum
National Automobile Museum brewbooks / photo modified

Car enthusiasts will want to be sure to visit the National Automobile Museum. This museum is one of the highlights of Reno, with everything from vintage cars right through to modern vehicles. The museum is divided into four galleries: 1890s-1910, teens-1930s, 1930s-1950s, and 1950s and beyond. Also on display are two art collections that encompass auto related pieces, as well as costumes and accessories. The museum offers historical lectures on the development of cars and a "Passports to Adventure" program that helps children learn about the history of cars in the United States. Check the museum's calendar for upcoming events, activities, and exhibits.

Address: 10 South Lake Street, Reno

2 Animal Ark

Animal Ark
Animal Ark

Animal Ark, just outside Reno, is a great place for families and animal lovers. This wildlife sanctuary and its dedicated staff help non-releasable wildlife survive in a stunning rural setting. While the Ark focuses mainly on the rescue and rehabilitation of North American predators, several exotic species have found sanctuary at the Ark as well. The animal collection is quite diverse, ranging from tortoises and cheetahs to bears and wolves. The organization hosts tens of thousands of tourists each year for educational opportunities on topics related to the rescued wildlife and the ecological principals governing their habitat. The enclosures at the Ark are full of native trees and other vegetation as well as boulders and materials that mimic natural habitat. The zoo is small, but each animal has its own unique story.

Address: 1265 Deerlodge Road, Reno

Official site: http://AnimalArk.org/

3 Nevada Museum of Art

Nevada Museum of Art
Nevada Museum of Art ellenm1 / photo modified

Considered one of the finest art museums in the state, the Nevada Museum of Art, features its own unique collections and frequently hosts national and international traveling exhibitions. The museum can also be rented for events. Of particular note in the permanent collection is the work by E.L. Wiegand and the Sierra Nevada/Great Basin works. The museum's signature exhibit is the Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment, a photography collection focused on human interaction and interdependence with the natural world. The museum is a good cultural addition to the city and a great escape from the resort entertainment.

Address: 160 West Liberty Street, Reno

Official site: www.nevadaart.org

4 Wilbur D. May Museum, Arboretum, and Botanical Garden

The Wilbur D. Day Museum, Arboretum, and Botanical Garden displays loads of flowers, picnic meadows, hidden coves, and is a beautiful place for a creek side stroll. This fantastic living museum and multifaceted facility is a great place to spend a day. The museum highlights rare and unique species from around the world and frequently hosts traveling exhibits.

Address: 1595 North Sierra Street, Reno

5 Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts

Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts
Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts chicadecasa / photo modified

The Pioneer Center in Reno is this city's premier performing arts center. The facility, located in a beautifully designed building, hosts a wide variety of performing artists ranging from opera to ballet to rock concerts. The Pioneer Center posts all the upcoming events on its website.

Address: 100 S. Virginia Street, Reno

6 Reno Air Races

Reno Air Races
Reno Air Races

The National Championship Air Races, also known as the Reno Air Races, are a fifty-year-old September tradition that takes off from the Reno-Stead Airport just a few miles north of the city. The race features amazing multi-aircraft races over three to eight-mile courses. Racing planes range from World War II aircraft all the way up to modern jets and everything in between. Many of the planes are home-built. The show also features air show acrobatics and military flight demonstrations. Vendors and food stands are everywhere. Check the website for updated event dates and entrance fees.

Official site: http://airrace.org/

7 Nevada Historical Society Museum

Nevada Historical Society Museum
Nevada Historical Society Museum

The Nevada Historical Society Museum in Reno is one of Nevada's oldest museums. It was founded in 1904 and has been going strong ever since. Some of the permanent exhibits include "Living on the Land," "Neon Nights," and "Riches of the Earth," which traces the habitation of the Reno area over the past 10,000 years from early Paleo people to the Paiute, the coming of the Euro-Americans, and events up to the present day. The museum also hosts an impressive research library.

Address: 1650 North Virginia Street, Reno

8 Reno Arch

Reno Arch
Reno Arch

Lighting up the night sky as it towers over Virginia Street and Commercial Row in the entertainment district is the Reno Arch. This iconic landmark has moved about the city since its creation in 1926. This is its third location. The arch was originally built to honor the Nevada Transcontinental Highway Exposition. After the exposition, the city fathers held a contest for a town slogan, and the phrase "The Biggest Little City in the World" was coined. In November 2009, the City of Reno replaced the 2,076 incandescent light bulbs in the Reno Arch with energy efficient LED bulbs.

9 Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe

For an escape from the city, it's hard to beat Lake Tahoe. Set high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy swimming, sailing, diving, and fishing. The massive two-million-year-old freshwater lake is 22 miles long and the second deepest lake in the United States. Originally inhabited by the Washoe people, the area is now home to a number of ski resorts as well as boating, fishing, water skiing, mountain biking, and hiking activities. Surrounded by hills of pine trees, the water is crystal clear and is rimmed by sandy beaches in areas. The higher altitude allows for a cooler climate making it a pleasant destination in summer.

Where to Stay in Reno for Sightseeing

We recommend these centrally located hotels in Reno near the top attractions in town:

  • Eldorado Reno: 4-star hotel, neon lights, multiple restaurants, live entertainment, 5th-floor pool.
  • Whitney Peak Hotel: mid-range boutique hotel, contemporary decor, rock climbing gym, valet parking.
  • Silver Legacy Resort: affordable rates, full-service spa, seasonal pool, fitness center.
  • La Quinta Inn Reno: budget hotel, clean rooms, outdoor pool, breakfast included.

More on Nevada