10 Things to Do in Downtown Reno

When most people hear the word “Reno,” they think of one of two things: gambling or divorce. While both are an integral part of the Nevada city’s history and identity, neither would seem to make for a particularly enjoyable family vacation.

But, it’s been 50 years since Reno began altering its reputation as America’s divorce capital and at least as long since locals started exploring Reno life beyond the gaming floor. During the past decade alone, development of downtown Reno has seen a shift from sprawling gaming complexes to smaller, mostly independent restaurants, shops and art houses. While gambling remains a key draw for visitors and natives, it’s far from the only show in town. Take a spin around downtown instead of on the roulette wheel. Here are some ideas.

1. Get wet: The Truckee River, which runs along First Street, has emerged as one of Reno’s greatest resources. The Truckee River Whitewater Park (First Street and Arlington Avenue) features 2,600 feet of class 2 and 3 rapids suitable for kayaks, canoes, inner tubes and other small watercraft. Wingfield Park, which encompasses the whitewater park as well as four other sites along the river, offers picnic shelters, barbecues, basketball courts, an amphitheater, pathways and swimming access. Some nearby shops such as Sierra Adventures) (254 W. First St.) rent and sell water gear and other equipment. Many restaurants and shops also line the so-called riverwalk.

2. Drink some coffee: Downtown Reno has quietly become home to more specialty coffee shops than the average piazza (square) in Italy! These include Dreamer’s Coffee House (17 S. Virginia St.), Se7en Teahouse and Bar (100 N. Arlington Ave.), Tahoe Roasting Co. (616 W. Fourth St.), Bibo Coffee Company (680 Mount Rose St. and 50 W. Liberty St.). The Java Jungle (246 W. First St.), and Pneumatic Diner (501 W. First St.)

3. Go to a concert: While downtown has been a notoriously tough area for small music venues, bars such as Se7en, the Satellite Cocktail Lounge, (188 California Ave.) and Tonic Lounge (231 W. Second St.) frequently host live music. Several small clubs have managed to hang on near the east end of Fourth Street, too. Most casinos also host live music that ranges from lounge crooners on the gaming floor to national acts in large show rooms. Also, the Reno Events Center (400 N. Center St.) and Lawlor Events Center (1500 N. Virginia St.,) host a variety of concerts and other shows.

4. Watch a game: The Reno Events Center is home to the Reno Bighorns, a National Basketball Association Development League team. Other local teams include the University of Nevada Wolf Pack and the Battle Born Derby Demons, a women’s roller derby team. Reno also is home to the National Bowling Stadium, which hosts the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships every three years, and is in the process of building a Triple-A baseball stadium (sierranevadastadium.com).

5. Have a drink: Among the scores of neighborhood bars, pubs and dives, several downtown Reno watering holes distinguish themselves. The Sierra Tap House(252 W. First St.) offers riverside seating and a wide selection of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. products in a Chicago-style setting. Jungle Vino (adjoined to the Java Jungle, see No. 2 above) proffers wines and elaborate mixed drinks in a wine bar setting. And the Silver Peak Brewery (124 Wonder St. and 135 N. Sierra St.) makes arguably the best beer in the state.

6. Bring something home: The new West Street Market (West Street is situated between First and Second streets) features several farmers markets and festivals, as well as a permanent bakery, wine bar, gift shops and restaurants. The Chocolate Bar (475 S. Arlington Ave.) sells high-end chocolates, truffles and beverages, as well as “small-plate” meals. Also, general souvenir shops are commonplace on West Street and in casinos, especially near the Reno Arch (Virginia Street between Second and Third streets).

7. Learn something: In addition to being a work of art in its own right, the Nevada Museum of Art (160 W. Liberty Street) features rotating and permanent exhibits in many media. The Wilbur D. May Center (1595 N. Sierra St.) houses a museum of stuffed, exotic animals and artifacts, an arboretum, and Great Basin Adventure – a semi-educational, semi-recreational amusement park. Nearby, the University of Nevada, Reno, (1664 N. Virginia St.) recently opened a stunning new student union and a multimillion-dollar library.

8. Read something: The Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper is available throughout downtown, but visitors should keep an eye out for the Reno News and Review, a free weekly publication with extensive listings of local events and activities. Sundance Bookstore (1155 W. Fourth St.), Dharma Books (11 N. Sierra St.) and the University of Nevada bookstore all offer books of local and national interest.

9. Take in a performance: The Bruka Theatre (99 N. Virginia St.) and the Pioneer Center (100 S. Virginia St) feature live performances ranging from children’s plays to existential drama and opera. The Nevada Museum of Art (see No. 7 above) sometimes hosts live performances as well. And the Century Riverside 12 (11 N. Sierra St., the same building as Dharma Books) is a standard movie theater that occasionally offers independent movies along with the blockbusters.

10. Take a walk: Though it is certainly possible to find ugly settings in Reno (visitors are advised not to wander too far east of downtown without a destination in mind), the riverfront is quite an attractive place to walk year-round. In the summer, children splash in the river while their parents lounge in one of the many parks or sip coffee on cafe patios. In the winter, glittering lights are strung from bridges and trees and people crowd the Rink on the River (near First and Virginia streets; varies seasonally). Annual events such as Hot August Nights and Street Vibrations routinely attract thousands of people from across the country.

Simply stated, today’s Reno is a far cry from the divorce ranches and smoke-filled gambling parlors of old.

Downtown Disney Shopping Options – Part 2

If you got tired already of visiting all four Disney theme parks and even cooled off with the two water parks that they have to offer, why not just party, shop, dine over at the Downtown Disney Area. The area is divided into three sections namely Downtown Disney West Side, Downtown Disney Marketplace, and Pleasure Island. In this article we take a look on some of the shops and boutiques that you might consider doing some wonderful purchases. They have a variety of items to offer and would fit your reasonable budget. Here is the second installment of the shops in Downtown Disney.

The Art of Disney – You don’t have to be an art connoisseur appreciate art. Here in the Art of Disney, you can shop for original paintings, sculptures, collectible figurines, lithographs, limited edition Sericels and many more. This shop caters to all types of budgets from the high end ones even to those that are reasonably priced.

Once Upon a Toy Store – Whenever you see an entrance that is made out of Lincoln Logs and Tinker toys, it is definitely a fun place to shop. This toy store is perfect for the young and young at heart. You can find every Disney themed toy that you want. Even the monorail system has its own incredible display in miniature that is part of the shop. You can find every Disney DVD that you can purchase to enjoy it over and over again. There are almost 300+ selections in their binder that you can create your own Disney Collection.

Disney’s Days of Christmas – You can visit this shop in all seasons, but during the holiday season this makes it more special. You can find some Santa Hats, Christmas stockings and more Disney character ornaments. There are even more collections like train sets, snow babies, movies, books and a whole lot more. You can even have that Traditional Glass Mickey Head that can be personalized for extra dollars. They even sell some edibles like cocoa, coffee, cookies and peppermint bark. There are so many choices but so little time and you might spend the whole morning looking for the right holiday memorabilia.

Downtown Disney: What Everyone’s Talking About in Downtown Disney

Outside the theme parks of Walt Disney World, there’s a place where guests can relax, do a bit of shopping, and enjoy a myriad of other fun pursuits. Downtown Disney, located on the grounds of the Disney complex, is an ideal place to enjoy a respite from the sometimes crowded parks.

Downtown Disney is separated into three distinct areas: Downtown Disney Marketplace, Downtown Disney West Side, and Pleasure Island. Each is meant for a particular activity and all are fun to explore.

The Downtown Disney Marketplace is, of course, the place to experience Disney shopping at its finest. The largest Disney character store in the world is located here. Appropriated named “The World of Disney”, this store is made up of 12 individual rooms, all full of Disney memorabilia, from stuffed animals to t-shirts to collector’s items. You’ll also find a Virgin(TM) mega store in Downtown Disney, a LEGO(TM) Imagination Center, and at least 2 dozen additional stores. You can buy Cirque du Soleil souvenirs in Downtown Disney, do a little pin trading, pick up some original folk art, or even do a bit of holiday shopping at the Disney’s Days of Christmas shop.

Downtown Disney West Side is home to a number of unique dining experiences. You’ll love the choices of eating establishments at Downtown Disney, ranging from the elegant Fulton’s Crab Houses – located on a paddle wheel boat, to places where you can grab an impromptu meal or snack, like the Ghirardelli ice cream shop and – of course – McDonald’s. Famed chef Wolfgang Puck has left his mark here at Downtown Disney and guests can even visit an Irish pub.

Pleasure Island, a favorite part of Downtown Disney, lets you “party all night under the lights!” There are several nightspots in Pleasure Island that are popular with younger adults or, if you prefer, you can laugh your head off at the Comedy Warehouse. By purchasing just one Downtown Disney ticket, you can visit as many of these clubs as you wish…all in one night. There’s also a 24-theater Cineplex at Downtown Disney’s Pleasure Island.

For some additional indoor fun, head to Downtown Disney’s DisneyQuest interactive theme park. The five floors in this unique attraction are filled with cutting-edge technology, including virtual realty games and 3-D experiences. You can design your own roller coaster and then “ride” it, become a life-sized pinball, or “fight” pirates before they steal your gold! This Downtown Disney attraction is a huge fit with technology fanatics of all ages.

Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the stunningly magnificent Cirque du Soleil. With a permanent home in Downtown Disney, this unique French “circus” will delight all your senses with the most amazing shows.

You’ll also want to visit the incredible House of Blues, an experience that combines all three elements of Downtown Disney – entertainment, food, and shopping. Guests will enjoy a number of different experiences here, from Sunday Gospel Brunch to foot-stomping hip-hop musical entertainment.

Downtown Disney is definitely worth a stop, so take time off from your busy park schedule to spend a little time eating, shopping, and dancing here. Downtown Disney is easily accessible from all the Disney parks and hotels via shuttle buses which pick up guests at various locations throughout the resort. Park hopper passes can include a Downtown Disney option if so desired.