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Why Reno is a Great Escape

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Oh Reno, how I love you. I want to pet your seedy underbelly. Let your vintage neon signs light up my face. Eat your $10 prime rib at midnight. Wonder about the sordid history of the carpet in your casinos. Watch your river flow by and let my mind wander.

Reno is an awesome destination for those of you who need a break from the hussle and bussle of San Francisco and the bay area in general. Especially if that hard charging, fund my startup, life hack myself, work till you drop feeling has been getting you down. Reno has a much mellower, pioneer town vibe. It’s nobody’s ‘plan A’ or probably even ‘B’. If you end up in Reno, shit has most likely gone sideways and you have a few stories to tell. You have character. While riding my bike along the river I stopped to admire some baby Canadian Geese. A man who lived along the shore told me about a time a friend of his grabbed a Canadian goose by the neck while riding his bike and later they had that goose for dinner. Now that doesn’t happen very often in San Francisco.

It was my experience that people in Reno have time to talk. The tourists, who mostly come to gamble, are not usually in a hurry and the locals live at a slower pace too. Even the most popular places didn’t seem that crowded, compared to how things get in the city. For my get away that’s all I really wanted. Time, space and cheap fried shrimp.

Here are a few more reasons why Reno rules:

It’s cheap

Rooms are cheap and there are lots of them. I paid $40 midweek for a decent room at an only somewhat seedy casino. Drinks and food are also way cheaper than SF. Not always as artisanal and particular, but if you’re eating a $15 surf and turf special who cares?

People treat you like another human

I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of people on their phones in Reno. This is refreshing coming straight from techie SF where many people will walk right in to you while making love to their device on the sidewalk. Most people I interacted with were happy to chat and everything just moves a little/lot slower. My nervous system was seriously into Reno’s pace.

It’s pretty, but not too pretty

Vacationing in places that are overwhelmingly beautiful makes me feel like I should be hiking and taking panoramic pictures the whole time. Its god damn oppressive. Reno is surrounded by pine forests and has the Truckee River running through it, so there’s enough nature to heal your urban angst, but you don’t have to get all Ansel Adams about it. Have a beer at one of the bars along the river or enjoy the fresh mountain air when you step outside of a smoky casino. And if you’re traveling with a type A nature type, Tahoe and purple mountain majesty is just a short drive away.

There are enough hipster options to keep you comfortable

10 years ago Reno was strictly wings, prime rib and bargain booze. You’d be hard pressed to find any cold pressed juice or a decent latte. This has recently changed and now you can get most of the hipster essentials-artisanal coffee, booze and farm to table grub-so that your system won’t go into shock. I had the best (and only) nitro cold brew latte of my life at Old World Coffee. A burger that blew my mind at Midtown Eats. And pizza that I want to buried with from The Noble Pie Parlor. The midtown corridor is especially well outfitted in this respect.

More art and culture than you’d expect

Reno mural by SF artist Joshua Coffey

There is a surprising amount of art and culture for a town based on gambling and other forms of debauchery (legalized prostitution is available just outside of town). Check out the murals around town, the sculpture garden along the river walk or the Nevada Art Museum on the UNLV campus. With all these options it easy to balance out your culture and debauchery needs.

Cool Vintage Neon Signs

Though neon is not yet the official element of Nevada it probably should be and the casinos and hotels/motels of Reno provide a dizzying and electrifying array of visual stimulation. It’s the living art of Reno and though some signs have succumbed to “progress” (aka the wrecking ball) many classics are still up and bright as sleazy Christmas. Wait for darkness to fall so you can prowl around town enjoying the show.


Unlike Kenny Rogers I’ve never been much of a gambler, but other people seem to really like this pastime. If it works out you get to have some fun, a few dopamine hits and buy dinner for your friends. If you lose everything you can probably still afford wings and a beer, so don’t feel too sorry for yourself.

You deserve a break!

From the nonstop hussle of surviving in the bay area culture. The “Biggest Little City in the World” is just 3-4 hours away and more than happy to amuse and delight you. Have a few drinks and try to figure out what that city slogan could possibly mean. Just be careful not to accidentally get married at one of the quickie wedding chapels. Now’s the time to enjoy the rough and tumble gambler vibe that does not include hoverboards, electric scooters or super fancy yoga pants. A lot of people here seem pretty happy to just to have on pants at all. So pack your pants and get your stressed out face to Reno. You won’t be sorry.

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Heather Robinson - Artisanal Trouble Maker

Heather Robinson - Artisanal Trouble Maker

Heather Robinson has been doing stupid stuff in San Francisco for almost 10 years. She loves dive bars, typewriters, and creative people. Buy her a beer and she'll solve all your problems.