1. Reno is home to the world’s tallest climbing wall.
Rising 164 feet toward the sky in the heart of downtown Reno, BaseCamp’s climbing wall is the tallest in the world. And that isn’t all this climbing gym is known for: It’s also home to a bouldering competition area covering 7,000 square feet, and the only official 15-meter speed wall in the country. Basically, it’s a climber’s dream, though that’s really something you could say for the whole of the Reno Tahoe area.
2. This is one of the sunniest places in America…
Reno is among the 10 sunniest cities in the country. In fact, the whole of Nevada’s Washoe County gets a ridiculous amount of rays, and the Reno Tahoe region in particular averages more than 300 days of sun each year.
3. …and Elon Musk is using that sun to construct the biggest building on Earth here.
Twenty miles east of Reno, the Tesla Gigafactory 1 celebrated its grand opening in July of 2016. Three “blocks” of the factory have been built so far, which is just 14% of what will eventually be the world’s largest building by physical area when it’s completed in 2020.
A key part of Tesla’s mission to accelerate the global transition to sustainable energy, the Gigafactory will be a zero-emissions building — in place of fossil fuels, the Nevada sun will be harnessed through the giant solar-panel-covered rooftop to provide energy for the production facility.
Once finished, the Gigafactory will be five times the size of Monaco, and inside there’ll be giant robot arms that produce…batteries. That doesn’t sound very glamorous, until you remember this is an Elon Musk project. Of course those lithium-ion batteries aren’t just for TV remotes or flashlights. They’ll run the 500,000 cars Tesla plans on producing every single year by 2020. Also, note that this is only Gigafactory 1. Expect a Gigafactory 2, 3, 4…in the coming years.
4. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America.
Covering 191 square miles and surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe is so big that if you were to skim one inch off its entire surface, you’d end up with about 3.33 billion gallons of water on your hands — enough to fill about 5,000 Olympic-sized pools. It’s also so deep, you could stand the Empire State Building in it and not see its top.
5. Reno Tahoe has the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America.
Within an hour-and-a-half drive of the city, you can hit more ski resorts than any other place on the continent. And these mountains are incredible.
6. “Tahoe Tap” tastes better than any other water in the country.
The neighboring town of Glenbrook, NV, won the 2016 Gold Medal Award at the Great American Water Taste Test. Also last year, nearby Incline Village won the “Best Tasting Water in Nevada” competition at the Nevada Rural Water Conference. Basically, Reno Tahoe water tastes amazing. That might have something to do with its purity levels. The water’s so naturally good that both towns hold a super rare filtration exemption status from the EPA for their drinking water.
7. In Reno, you can experience the Burning Man spirit year round…
Every summer, thousands of Burners from across the world migrate through Reno on their way to the Black Rock Desert, but Reno’s like a mini Burning Man all year round. There’s the Morris Burner Hostel, an arts space that’s also home to 16 rooms with themes like the Goddess Room, Forest Lord Room, and Sparkle Pony Room; the massive fall decompression party; and the local workshop / art space The Generator, in nearby Sparks, where anyone can come and help resident artists create projects bound for the playa. Not to mention the abundance of art and sculptures from the Playa that find a post-Burn home in Reno.
8. …and you can dress the part, too.
With vintage and antiques stores like Reno MidTown’s The Nest and Junkee Clothing Exchange — home to 15,000 square feet of vintage clothing, costumes, upcycled houseware, the occasional Burner fashion show, and, yes, all the tutus, knee-high socks, and goggles you could ever want — you’re sorted for looking like the ultimate steampunk whenever you come to town.
9. Basque cuisine is huge here.
What is Basque cuisine doing 5,000 miles from the Pyrenees? Well, ever since a 19th-century influx of Basque immigrants to the American West, Northern Nevada has been home to descendants of some of those early miners and shepherds. Generations on, that heritage gets celebrated in lively festivals like the summertime Reno Basque Festival, which includes weight carrying and war cry contests.
If you’re in the city, head to the half-century-old Reno institution that is Louis’ Basque Corner for a family-style meal where you’ll be digging into huge helpings of fish, oxtails, and tongue Basquaise, and breaking French bread — along with Basque beans, salad, and French fries — with the strangers / new friends sharing your bench.
10. Reno’s also one of the top grilled cheese stops in the country.
Once a food truck and now a brick-and-mortar café by the University of Nevada, GourMelt is known for its wicked menu of grilled cheeses, including fancy croque madames with fontina and chevre cheese on sourdough, and “The King” — Elvis Presley’s favorite combo of peanut butter, bananas, and bacon. The ingredients are always fresh and local. The taste is always amazing. So good, in fact, that various magazines, including The Daily Meal, Via, and Culture, have recognized GourMelt as serving up some of the best grilled cheeses in the nation.
11. Every July, Reno becomes Artown.
Think about every arts festival you’ve ever been to. Now imagine all of those festivals combined into a month-long, citywide celebration of the arts. That happens every July with Artown in Reno, when over 500 arts events — from music to dance, theater to film — are produced by more than 100 organizations and businesses in nearly 100 locations across the city. From Dancing in the Park to jazz orchestra productions, most of the events are free (or close enough).
12. This is a place where Dada and Shakespeare collide.
“No vacancy” takes on a whole new meaning during June’s NadaDada. We’ve already mentioned Burning Man and Artown, but just to drive home the point that Reno is an unexpected artists’ sanctuary in the middle of the Northern Nevada desert, there’s also NadaDada, an arts event where Reno artists rent out motel rooms and decorate them in absurd art in keeping with the anti-art Dada ethos.
And over in Incline Village, you can trade the slopes for the Bard during the summertime Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
13. Every year, Sparks hosts the biggest rib cookoff in the country.
This gigantic barbecue festival at the Nugget Casino Resort is free to enter. And once you’re in, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of the world’s best barbecue competitors serving more than 240,000 pounds of ribs to the hundreds of thousands who’ve descended on Victoria Square. The fun happens August 30 – September 4, 2017.
14. The locals are big on alternative sports.
Tahoe might be known for its powder heads come winter and for summer’s seekers of plush golf courses, but there are tons of other ways to connect with the landscape. Tubing the Truckee is a summertime must when you’re in Reno country. Head to Sierra Adventures for packages that will shuttle you a few miles up the river for a lazy, fun float back to Downtown Reno. Or, check out Hang Gliding Tahoe for a bird’s-eye view of Lake Tahoe.
And if you need to gear up for your Reno Tahoe adventures, just head to the biggest sporting goods store on the planet: Scheels, in Sparks. Covering 295,000 square feet, it’s so big there’s an actual Ferris wheel inside the store.
15. Blue jeans were invented in Reno.
Yep, without Reno there’d be no mom jeans or boyfriend fits, no skinny jeans or 501s. That’s because this is the birthplace of blue jeans, y’all. Back in 1870, someone came to Reno tailor Jacob Davis asking if anything could be done to make a sturdier pair of pants. Davis added copper rivets to his designs, partnered with Levi Strauss to finance the patent, and lo — the blue jean was born.
Davis’s store was where the modern-day Rock Bar is. Stop by to read the plaque and learn a little more about this sweet piece of Reno history.
16. Rattlesnake Mountain is one of the biggest skate parks in the West.
Fifteen minutes from downtown Reno, this 40,000-square-foot park is full of half pipes, street-style banks, bowls, and a 170-foot snake run all carved into the concrete and surrounded by mountain views. Is that “Biggest Little City” moniker starting to make sense now?
17. The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot air ballooning event in the world.
Held the first weekend after Labor Day each year, more than 140,000 come to see roughly a hundred balloons take part in this fun, three-day competition. Yet another unique, artistic backdrop for this awesome city.