The Biggest Little City

The American Legion’s national convention is returning to Reno – “The Biggest Little City in the World” – for the first time since 2007.

Legion Family members traveling to Reno for the 99th National Convention Aug. 18-24 will find high-rise casinos dotting the landscape. But Reno and its surrounding communities offer much more than gaming. A river walk winds through the heart of the revitalized downtown area with easy access to restaurants. In fact, more than 100 new eating places have opened in Nevada’s third-most-populous city over the past decade. There are plenty of eclectic stores, antique shops and unique museums, too.

Reno – which is actually further west than Los Angeles – is a short drive from Lake Tahoe and other day-trip locations. Here are a few ideas on places to spend your time in and around the city,  several of which are included in tour options available to Legion convention-goers.


The National Automobile Museum The museum displays more than 200 cars, some of which were once owned by entertainment icons such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, James Dean and Sammy Davis Jr.

National Bowling Stadium The 89-lane bowling center is a venue for professional bowling tournaments, as well as the spot where the movie “Kingpin” was filmed. The first floor is a museum, open to the public. Individual bowling isn’t offered, but groups can make reservations.

The Outlets at Sparks Located in Sparks, a city adjacent to Reno, the outdoor outlet mall is home to major brands in apparel, sporting goods and entertainment, as well as restaurants and an IMAX theater. Among the highlights is Scheels, a sporting goods store with an indoor Ferris wheel and two-lane rollerball (miniature bowling) alley. 


Lake Tahoe The northern tip of Lake Tahoe is about a 50-minute drive from Reno. Considered by many the most scenic drive in America, the 72-mile route around Lake Tahoe offers breathtaking views of serene waters and majestic mountains. There are plenty of roadside scenic outlooks and hiking trails, and opportunities for cruises and paddlewheeling. 

Truckee, Calif. A 45-minute drive from Reno, Truckee’s quaint Main Street – Donner Pass Road – is home to locally owned restaurants, gift shops, boutiques and other small businesses. Nearby is the Emigrant Trail Museum, which tells the stories of people who lived and traveled through the Sierra Nevada region, including Native Americans, builders of the Transcontinental Railroad and the ill-fated Donner Party.

Virginia City, Nev. In its heyday, Virginia City – a 30-minute drive up curvy, mountainous roads – was the largest city between Denver and San Francisco. The miners are long gone, but visitors can take in a ghost tour or check out more than 50 boardwalk restaurants and shops selling leather goods, Western wear, collectibles and jewelry. (Note: the rolling boardwalk can be a challenge to those who require assistance walking.)


Basque food Originating in the region bordering France and Spain, this type of dining has taken hold in Reno. It’s family-style dining, where guests order their entrées and share the sides – French fries, salad, beans and a scoop of ice cream for dessert – with others at a long table. Louis’ Basque Corner is the most popular in Reno. 

Cheers! Reno has a growing number of craft brews and distilleries, some of which offer tours. Check for an interactive map listing locations, hours of service and more.  

Henry Howard is deputy director of media and communications for The American Legion.