Why Reno is one of America's 25 best towns ever: Chris Murray
Looking for something to do locally this summer? Check out this list for foodies, festival-goers and more. Sarah Litz/RGJ
Congratulations Renoites, you live in one of the 25 best towns in the nation.
That’s not my call, but rather the distinction placed upon the city by Outside Magazine, a popular publication focused on the outdoors. The magazine listed “25 of America’s best towns ever” earlier this week and Reno made the cut along with: Seattle; Kansas City; Bend, Ore; Portland, Maine; Bishop, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Kona, Hawaii; Fort Collins, Colo.; and the awesomely named Spearfish, S.D.
Reno was listed as America’s “best low-key hideout,” with the magazine writing: “Reno is home to the world’s tallest climbing wall (164 feet at BaseCamp, located at the Whitney Peak Hotel), year-round desert mountain biking, a half-mile long downtown whitewater-kayaking park and the 55-degree chutes at Mount Rose, just 25 minutes uphill from the slot machines.”
While it’s nice to see one of the nation’s most popular outdoor magazines brag about our city, we, as locals, are a better judge of why Reno is a special place to play and live. Here are my top nine reasons for why Reno is one of the nation’s 25 best cities (and remember, we’re a “low-key hideout,” so keep this on the down low).
1. We have water!
If you’ve lived somewhere without a lake or river nearby you realize how important those things are. We, fortunately, have both. The Truckee River, resurgent after a wet winter, is downtown’s centerpiece, with a beautiful kayaking park anchoring the Riverwalk District. If lakes are more your thing, we have one of the world’s best. Lake Tahoe might not technically be one of the seven natural wonders of the world but it has to be close. People travels hundreds of miles to get to Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America. We only have to travel 45 minutes to get there. Throw in Pyramid Lake and we have a trifecta of great water locations.
2. An event a day keeps the doctor away
We might not have an event a day, but we certainly have at least one cool event a week. We have Artown, Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations, the Reno River Festival, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off; the Great Balloon Race, the Reno Rodeo, the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival, Burning Man, the Italian Festival, Food Truck Fridays, the Barracuda Championship, the American Century Championship, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Genoa’s Candy Dance, the Virginia City International Camel Races ... I could go forever. Throw in the Pioneer Center, Nevada Museum of Art, Greater Nevada Field, the National Automobile Museum, Animal Ark, Discovery Museum, V&T Railway and the National Bowling Center and there are more events than weekends.
3. The sunsets
Here’s one thing I’ve learned over the years: everybody thinks they’re a better photographer than they actually are. But you could be one of the world’s worst photographers and still get a great shot of a Reno sunset. Remember the scene in Christmas vacation where Clark Griswold turns on his Christmas lights for the first time? That’s basically what Reno’s sky looks like on an average summer night. We get a majestic mix of purples, pinks, blues, reds and oranges on a nearly everyday basis. They are easy to take for granted but these sunsets rarely exist in other places. Sometimes I literally sit on my back patio at night and just stare at our great Northern Nevada sunsets (which might actually be a sad commentary on me).
4. Ski, fish, hike, golf, repeat
Houses are nice, but the outdoors is nicer, and Northern Nevada is one of the few places where you can ski (water and/or snow), fish, hike and golf all in the same day. Most people are lucky if they get to do one or two of those activities in a weekend. You could hit all four in the same day if you live in Reno without any trouble. Throw in great mountain biking and there are few places in America that offer the kind of outdoor recreation that we enjoy. Sometimes the only problem is figuring out which of those activities you want to do on a given day. Having too many great things to choose from is usually a good thing.
5. Reno’s four seasons
Look, it’s snowing! Look, it’s raining! Look, there are 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts! Look, it’s 80 degrees out and sunny! We like to call that “Tuesday” in Reno. The city’s bipolar weather can frustrate some people, but you can’t put a price on having all four seasons of weather (sometimes all in the same day!). After all, who wants it to be 75 degrees on Christmas Day? (Looking at you Phoenix). And who wants to live in a climate akin to standing under a shower head? (Looking at you Seattle). And who wants live in a place where the snowbanks are measured in feet and not inches? (Looking at you Midwest). We get to taste all of the seasons without being overwhelmed by any of them.
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6. Do you like sitting in traffic?
No, you don’t like sitting in traffic. Nobody likes that. I was born in Southern California and visit family down there on occasion. I have no idea how people spend two hours a day idling in a car. Good thing we don't have to do that. Yes, I-80 or 395 can get backed up sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to places like Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland or other popular Western cities. No matter where you live and where you work, you can get back and forth one-way in less than 30 minutes. For most people, the commute is way less than that. I’d much rather spend my time hiking up Mt. Rose than sitting in a car on the freeway. If you live in Reno, you get that luxury.
7. The University of Nevada
The state’s flagship institution is a nationally ranked Tier I college and somewhere you can be proud to send your children (K-12 is a different story, of course). There aren’t many campuses more beautiful than Nevada’s (trust me, I visit 15-20 colleges a year covering games). A number of Hollywood films were set on UNR’s campus in the 1940s-50s because it was an idyllic, movie-quality location. That hasn’t changed. The brick buildings – both those build decades ago and those added in recent years – are what you think of when you imagine Ivy League schools. Few places in Reno are better than UNR’s lower quad on a fall afternoon.
8. An entrepreneurial spirit
Reno was once known for casinos and quickie divorces and for some it is still viewed that way, but that’s so 1980s. In recent years, the town has become more defined by its entrepreneurial spirit and quirkiness, thanks in part to the development of midtown. After all, we do have a 164-foot climbing wall attached to a hotel in downtown. What other city does that? The addition of Tesla will only help create more innovation and UNR’s Innevation Center – a collaborative space created to stimulate invention, entrepreneurialism, small business and startups – should be a big boon in that regard, too. Reno is a place you can come and build something unique and great. And did I mention no state income tax?
9. Still the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’
Not too big. Not too small. That accurately describes Reno. We get the luxury of big-city living (plenty of events and festivals to attend) without the downside of traffic, pollution, overcrowding, etc. That’s the reason Outside Magazine named Reno the best “low-key hideout” in the first place. I travel a lot covering Wolf Pack games. Oftentimes, I get asked about Reno. Typically, people have a negative connotation with the city (thanks Reno 911!). At the beginning, I used to defend Reno to other people. But recently, I just tell them, “Yeah, you probably don’t want to move there.” Better to keep this gem of a city our little secret.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayRGJ.
The 25th anniversary of the Tour de Nez bike race is seen in downtown Reno on June 10, 2017. Jason Bean