While it’s a common misconception, Reno is much more than just a small Las Vegas. The city has plenty to offer besides gambling establishments and live entertainment. One of its most unique offerings is the Riverwalk District which features tons of local businesses and gives you a complete taste of Reno’s distinct culture. You can participate in everything from shopping, dining, and sightseeing to even whitewater rafting.
Here at De Castroverde, we’re well aware of the significance of the Riverwalk District to Reno. Locals and tourists love to explore everything it offers, so if you’re looking to hop on board, read this guide on the Reno Riverwalk District. We’ll discuss the area’s history and provide top recommendations so you can make the most of your visit.
History of the Reno
The transcontinental railroad finally reaching Reno in 1868 aligned with the city’s official establishment. Reno paralleled the beautiful Truckee River and had other significant landmarks like the University of Nevada, which opened in 1874. However, certain events and associations would impact Reno’s reputation throughout the 1900s. Perhaps most notably, the casino scene gained a lot of traction, especially with Nevada’s legalization of gambling in 1931. Many people associated the city with debauchery, and the run-down infrastructure certainly didn’t help matters. Additionally, Reno’s reputation as a quickie divorce destination in the early 1900s further diminished the country’s perception of the city.
The Revitalization of Reno
Looking for a way to redeem Reno and return it to its roots, the city undertook a serious renovation project in the 1990s. One significant change was the rehabilitation of the vacant Riverside Hotel. Once a casino and hotel before closing, this building on Virginia Street now consists of 35 lofts for local artists and features various restaurants, retail stores, and art galleries.
Another notable part of the project was the establishment of the Raymond I. Smith Truckee River Walk. It serves as the unofficial center of the Riverwalk District, which has loose boundaries that reflect its lively nature. As for its name, this river walk honors Raymond I. Smith, who established Harolds Club in downtown Reno in 1935. This casino was the largest in the world prior to the 1960s and greatly contributed to the local economy. In addition to participating in the gambling scene, Smith gave back to the community through donations to local organizations and college scholarships.
The city continued to redevelop Riverwalk through the 1990s, turning it into the popular tourist attraction we know and love today. The Riverwalk Merchants Association was formed to further encourage this development. As a group of energetic local business owners, they strive to preserve the unique culture of the historic Riverwalk District. They host monthly and annual events to spread awareness and raise money to ensure proper upkeep.
While Riverwalk District’s boundaries are loosely defined, most people consider the area to live on the Truckee River between Arlington Avenue and Lake Street. Guests visit year-round, but April, May, September, and October tend to have the best weather. These months also feature the thinnest crowds, so you can fully enjoy your shopping, dining, and sightseeing experiences. See below for some of our top recommendations when you visit the Riverwalk District.
Truckee River Arts District
Though its rough image during the early 1900s would lead you to guess otherwise, Reno has become a center for the arts. The Truckee River Arts District sits within the Riverwalk District and allows you to appreciate the local art scene.
Consider visiting the Nevada Museum of Art, which emphasizes how humans interact with their environments. Its proximity to landmarks like Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada, and the San Francisco Bay Area result in truly inspiring exhibitions. If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ll get a kick out of the National Automobile Museum. This establishment focuses on bringing light to the history of the automobile and its impact on society, which it accomplishes through various artifacts and educational programs.
West Street Market
When you get hungry while exploring the Reno Riverwalk District, be sure to visit West Street Market. This downtown hub serves delicious food from several local establishments. You’ll get to choose from various cuisines and even explore vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, as West Street Market caters to those with dietary restrictions.
For instance, Thali Reno sits in West Street Market and is the city’s only fully organic north Indian restaurant. There’s also The Pizza Collective if you want some delicious slices and Sabrina’s West Street Kitchen if you’re in the mood for comfort food. Bibo Coffee Co. is perfect for those who need a little pick-me-up.
If you’re looking to experience Reno’s sense of community, visit The Eddy in the Riverwalk District. This spot is family-friendly and dog-friendly during the day, featuring activities ranging from yard games and live music to free fitness classes. At night, hang out at one of the three bars and order from the selection of craft beers on tap, fine wines, and handcrafted cocktails.
Truckee River Whitewater Park
Active individuals are interested in adventure flock to the Truckee River Whitewater Park. Vendors provide rentals for kayaks, canoes, rafts, and inner tubes so you can explore the river on your own terms. Different portions of the river offer different difficulties, making this activity accessible to visitors of all skill levels.
You’ll notice wildlife like the Lahontan cutthroat trout as you glide across deep pools with continual fresh water. If you don’t feel like getting out on the water, the 7,000 tons of smooth flat-top rocks and boulders along the banks provide plenty of room for spectators. There’s also a surrounding grassy park where you can enjoy a picnic or watch live concerts.
This guide has demonstrated that the Riverwalk District is Reno’s ultimate comeback story. It helped the city highlight its beauty that was always there and reinvigorate excitement for the local culture. Feel free to let us know about your experiences in the Riverwalk District and share any recommendations you have.