What began as a small community built to serve westward travelers in the mid-1800s has become a bustling city that acts as the gateway to northern Nevada, aptly known as "the Biggest Little City in the World."
Within an short drive, there are 15 ski resorts, 50 golf courses, Lake Tahoe, the state capital Carson City, thousands of biking and hiking trails, several lakes that are perfect for fishing and boating, and the entire length of the Truckee River, which runs right through the center of Reno's downtown. Couple those activities with Reno's hotels and casinos, plus a growing nightlife, and you have the perfect place to put up for a few days and enjoy some recreation.
Kayakers can enjoy the Truckee River Whitewater Park (the centerpiece of the annual Reno River Festival), conveniently located downtown next to an eclectic mix of shops and eateries. Car enthusiasts should visit the National Automobile Museum if they can’t make it to Hot August Nights, Reno’s famous classic-car event. Visit the downtown Triple-A baseball stadium, and outdoor superstore Cabela’s recently opened west of downtown in Verdi.
As early as the 1850s a few pioneers settled in the Truckee Meadows, a relatively fertile valley through which the Truckee River made its way from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. In addition to subsistence farming, these early residents could pick up a bit of business from travellers along the California Trail, which followed the Truckee westward, before branching off towards Donner Lake, where the formidable obstacle of the Sierras began. Gold had been discovered in the vicinity of Virginia City in 1850 and a modest mining community developed, but the discovery of silver in 1859 led to one of the greatest mining bonanzas of all time as the Comstock Lode spewed forth treasure. The Comstock's closest connection to the outside world lay in the Truckee Meadows.
To provide the necessary connection between Virginia City and the California Trail, Charles Fuller built a log toll bridge across the Truckee River in 1859. A small community to service travellers soon grew up near the bridge. After two years, Fuller sold the bridge to Myron Lake, who continued to develop the community with the addition of a grist mill, kiln, and livery stable to the hotel and eating house. The tiny community acquired the name River's Crossing or more commonly Lakes Crossing. In 1864, Washoe County was consolidated with Roop County; Lakes Crossing became the largest city in the county.
In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad, building tracks across the west to connect with the Union Pacific, built from the east to form the first transcontinental railroad. Myron Lake, realizing what a rail connection would mean for business, deeded land to the Central Pacific in exchange for its promise to build a depot at Lake's Crossing. Once the railroad station was established, the town of Reno officially came into being on May 13, 1868. The new town was named in honor of Major General Jesse L. Reno; a Union officer killed in the American Civil War.
In 1871 Reno became the county seat of the newly expanded Washoe County, replacing the previous county seat, located in Washoe City. However, political power in Nevada remained with the mining communities, first Virginia City and later Tonopah and Goldfield.
The extension of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Reno in 1872 provided another big boost to the new city's economy. At first citizens viewed the changes as an omen, however in the following decades, Reno continued to grow and prosper as a business and agricultural center and became the principal settlement on the transcontinental railroad between Sacramento and Salt Lake City.
Nevada's legalization of casino gambling in 1931 and the passage of liberal divorce laws created another boom for Reno. Ernie Pyle once wrote in one of his columns "All the people you saw on the streets in Reno were obviously there to get divorces." The divorce business eventually died as the other states fell in line by passing their own laws easing the requirements for divorce, but gambling continued as a major Reno industry. Beginning in the 1950s, the need for economic diversification beyond gaming fueled a movement for more lenient business taxation. The presence of a main east-west rail line, the emerging interstate highway system, favorable tax climate and relatively inexpensive land created the ideal conditions for warehousing and distribution of goods to the growing population in the surrounding eleven western states. Today, Reno has the largest concentration of distribution related property per capita in the United States.
In more recent years, the city has gained some fame as it is the subject of the popular comedy series Reno 911! (which is not, however, filmed in the city).
Reno sits in the rain shadow of the Sierras. Winter has snowfall but typically it is light. Summer highs are generally in the low to mid 90s °F, but temperatures above 100 °F occur occasionally. July daytime and nighttime temperatures average 92 °F and 51 °F, respectively; while January day and night temperatures average 46 °F (7 °C) and 22 °F (-6 °C), respectively. Most precipitation occurs in winter and spring.
Downtown Reno is Reno's most popular area for bars and clubs. However, there are a few other hotspots including East Fourth Street, Wells Avenue, the UNR area, Kietzke Lane, and all along South Virginia St. Most neighborhoods also have their local bars, sports bars, or breweries mainly in strip malls.
The casinos, Pioneer Center, Bruka Theatre, La Bussola, Sierra Arts and the Reno Events Center also provide numerous concerts, art events, plays, and shows as well