So you want to move to Reno? 8 things you need to know first
Some things you should know before you move to Reno. We love it here, we hope you do too. Mike Higdon/RGJ
Reno is super cool now, everyone says so. It's just like Silicon Valley — lol, just kidding, no it's not. But you're probably moving here anyway because we've got jobs and Tesla and mountains and a lake nearby.
Nevada is the land of boom and bust — opportunity and self-destruction. As the Reno life expert (credentials right here) in the Biggest Little City, I want to prepare you before you jump on a plane and arrive expecting a job offer from Elon Musk at the terminal.
1. We protect each other
We protect our own, and once you become one of us, we'll love you forever and ever and you'll never want to leave (because you cannot escape).
I've always joked that Reno is full of people who would yell, "Get off my lawn! But first come inside and have a beer." And that actually happened to me recently.
I walked up to an empty house to take a photo when the neighbor decided to brandish a shotgun to protect his friend's land. After a brief discussion about us both growing up in Nevada, he offered me some pot and a beer. #TrueStory #NoSeriously
Nevada is a live-and-let-live state. It's old fashioned libertarianism with a lowercase "l," not like that stuff you see in elections.
Northern Nevada's deep roots mean some seriously strong local pride and sensitivity to criticism (though you'll find plenty of locals criticizing everything). It sometimes leads to people resisting change — even if it's for the better.
So if you could bring a Nordstrom, Panera Bread and property tax laws that reset with each home purchase to the city, that would be super.
2. Traffic was great until now
Ten years ago, anyone could drive across town (a whopping 10 miles) in 15 minutes or less. Now, locals complain about the increased congestion during rush hour while folks from big cities wonder what the locals are complaining about.
If you still have your out of state plates, you will be blamed for this traffic — so get rid of them as soon as possible.
The traffic rarely stops moving unless a downtown event is to blame. Rush hour is about 30 minutes long, so it's really not that big of a deal. Just work 30 minutes later or get off work before 5 p.m. Problem solved.
"You could always just ride a bike," says everyone who owns a car and hasn't ridden their bike since the first day of spring. This is a sprawling valley not a dense, metropolitan island, so don't get too excited.
But seriously, it's fine. Just listen to a podcast because now it takes 20 minutes to get somewhere. Unless you're going to Spanish Springs, then pack a lunch.
The rising cost of housing in the last few years is making home ownership a tough proposition for Reno home buyers. We look at what’s fueling the Biggest Little City’s housing crisis and potential options for people looking for a new place to call home Jason Hidalgo/RGJ
3. You want to buy a house, you say?
The housing shortage in Reno is a real thing. It's a problem across the country, but we have less than two months of inventory in a rapidly growing region and even fewer houses under $360,000.
You will spend six months fighting people for a 70-year-old fixer upper. Each time you make an offer, someone who sold a house for $800,000 in another state will beat you. Or maybe you are that person. Don't be that person.
The prices may seem low relative to those in California, but they are high relative to the median income in Reno. Maybe see if you can keep your high-paying, big-city job and just "work from home" until your boss notices you haven't showed up for six months.
Or start a business that pays $100 an hour. That'd be fine, too.
You'll hear people say, "it's just a bubble, I'll wait to buy." But those people are not economists. Economists and local real estate experts do not agree that the housing prices are caused by a bubble. They are pretty certain the prices will just keep going up for another few years.
4. Reno is not near Las Vegas
Like seriously, look at a map. Tell your friends and family. Please. Thanks. That is all.
5. Reno is super white
Nevada was one of the last western states to stop being so racist. It was called the Mississippi of the west in the 1960s. Hotels used to ban black performers from staying in the same place they played and real estate agents often prevented black people from buying within the city limits.
That has changed but the demographics are still skewed because of it.
The white population is 74 percent. Hispanic and Latino combined represent 24 percent. Asian, black and Native American populations all are in the single digits.
We still deal with racism just like the rest of America and have had our fair share of racist people screaming in public, but we've also held many peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies and are home to a constantly growing Latino community.
6. Reno is gritty
There is a cultural conflict brewing between Reno's grittiness and its future as a maybe less seedy city.
It's seedy because it used to be affordable and attracted blue-collar workers, tourists and transient people into one place. Casino workers could live out the American Dream without higher education.
And yes, we were known for drive-through marriages and quickie divorces 80 years ago and that reputation just won't quit.
We serve tourists and locals with large industries not found elsewhere. It changed the way the city grew, developed and prioritized spending.
Tourists would lose all their money gambling, then trade their valuables at pawn shops and buy gift store tchotchkes. Then they'd end up at the motels trying to dig their way out. Those places still color downtown with history, but some remain as ugly shells of failed business models.
Illegal prostitutes still walk Fourth Street while legal working women appear on reality TV one county over. Sixty-year-old waitresses in short skirts serve free cocktails to people plunging money into a happy-sounding machine. You might even spot a school bus parked in front of a strip club and shrug it off.
The culture all of this created, combined with our libertarianism, helps "Keep Reno Awkward" or dirty or gritty or seedy, depending who you ask.
Drive 15 minutes (no wait, 20) to the suburbs and all of that changes completely. It suddenly looks like every other town with polished family values and chain restaurants.
But the casinos always dot the skyline below the imposing mountains, reminding us that this place is not like others.
7. Reno is not like [insert city here]
People like to compare Reno to other big cities like Portland, San Francisco, Austin, Texas and Denver. We are not them. They are not us.
We are Reno.
We love mountains and the desert. Blue, pink, green and brown paint the vista. Grasses dancing in the wind give way to dark evergreens. Bleached sand and tumbleweeds blanket the horizon. Scorched brown hillsides and snow-soaked mud are indistinguishable. Deep-blue Lake Tahoe reflects the cloudless sky. Pink sunsets offer unparalleled moments of beauty.
Reno is full of urban cowboys. Its vice industries seem normal to us. We have the biggest beer crawls. People carry guns, but we don't get too excited about it (here's looking at you, Texas).
Small business owners rule the community. Farmers and ranchers force life to thrive in barren soil and embody the western flavor, while tattoo-covered hipsters drinking craft beer balance them out.
An influx of new residents might alter the landscape, but the desert will consume you and mold you before you can fashion it in your own image.
8. We hope you love it here
Theresa Lynn Thornton put it best on a comment on the RGJ's Facebook page:
"Reno is this intensely bizarre place where I've spent my entire life, and also spent my life wishing I could afford to leave. However, every time I go somewhere (vacations, family emergencies, etc.) I find myself missing the local humor, jokes, news, people, everything. ... I don't like it here, I really don't, but the idea of living anywhere else is something I dislike even more."
Welcome to Remo, Sriracha. Come over for a beer anytime, but stay off my lawn.
Mike Higdon is the city life reporter at the RGJ and can be found on Instagram @MillennialMike, on Facebook at Mike Higdon, Reno Life and on Twitter @MikeHigdon. This story was inspired by "How to Become a Portlander in 11 Not-Very-Easy Steps" in Portland Monthly. The irony is not lost.