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20 years after moving to Reno, 20 things I love about the city

Downtown Reno. (KRNV)

Exactly 20 years ago this week, I moved to Reno for the first time. I was born in Southern California and moved to Gardnerville prior to starting elementary school. After graduating high school at age 17, I decided to go to college at the University of Nevada. It was the local college and my older brother went there, and honestly I didn't even know much about college, so it's not like I went shopping around my transcripts to multiple colleges. Plus, I had the Millennium Scholarship, so it was basically free. I had no idea what to expect or what I wanted to do when I moved to Reno, but I moved into the Boulder Creek Apartments in Sun Valley with a couple of friends, and off I went. Twenty years later, I'm married, have two kids, have bought three homes (and sold two), have worked in the sports journalism industry for 18 years and can rightfully call Reno home. For me, it all worked out OK, and part of that is because of how much I love living in Reno. So, I figured on the 20th anniversary of moving to Reno, I'd write down the 20 things I love most about my city. Here they are.

(For more in this series, you can read "10 things I'd like to see Reno improve over the next 10 years," "How to spend three perfect days exploring the Reno/Tahoe area" and "You know you grew up in Northern Nevada if ...")

My 20 favorite things about living in Reno

1. The Truckee River: Not every city is lucky enough to have a river run through its core. We're fortunate Reno does. The Truckee River is downtown’s centerpiece, with a beautiful kayaking park anchoring the Riverwalk District, which is great no matter what time of the year it is, but it's especially epic in the summer. Reno's riverwalk might not rival the more famous ones in Chicago or San Antonio, but it's one of the best on the West Coast and easy to overlook if you've lived in Northern Nevada your entire live.

2. The events: An event a day keeps the boredom away. We have Artown, Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations, Reno River Festival, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, the Great Balloon Race, the Reno Rodeo, the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival, Burning Man, the Italian Festival, Food Truck Fridays, the Barracuda Championship, the American Century Championship, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Genoa’s Candy Dance, the Virginia City International Camel Races, the Reno Air Races ... and I could go on forever.

3. The sunsets: One thing I’ve learned over the years: Everybody thinks they’re a better photographer than they actually are. But you could be one of the world’s worst photographers and still get a great shot of a Reno sunset. Remember the scene in Christmas vacation when Clark Griswold turns on his Christmas lights for the first time? That’s basically what Reno’s sky looks like on an average summer night. We get a majestic mix of purples, pinks, blues, reds and oranges on a near every-night basis. It's easy to take them for granted.

4. The golf-fish-ski combo: I'm not a skier (I've only been once in my life, a great tragedy given our location), but you live in an amazing place when you can ski (water or snow), fish and golf all in the same day. In Reno, you can do all three in 15 hours without any trouble. Sometimes the only problem is figuring out which of those activities you want to do on a given day. Having too many great things to choose from is usually a good thing, and Reno affords world-class skiing, excellent golf and epic fishing, both in the Truckee or at Pyramid Lake.

5. The four seasons: Look, it’s snowing! Look, it’s raining! Look, there are 30 mph wind gusts! Look, it’s 80 degrees out and sunny! We call that “Tuesday” in Reno. The city’s bipolar weather can frustrate some, but you can’t put a price on having all four seasons (sometimes all in the same day!). While Southern California weather can be tough to beat, who wants it to be 75 degrees on Christmas Day, anyway? We get to taste all four seasons without being overwhelmed by any of them. As soon as we're sick of the heat, winter is right around the corner.

6. The proximity to Tahoe: Sometimes I feel like Renoites are so proud of being close to Lake Tahoe they forget how cool Reno itself is. That said, one of the best things about living in Reno is how close you are to one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. (Lake Tahoe should be one of the seven natural wonders of the world). People travel thousands of miles to get to Tahoe, North America's largest alpine lake. We only have to travel 45 minutes to get there. Throw in Pyramid Lake, and we have two great options within an hour drive. Can't beat that.

7. The arch: Not many mid-sized cities have a landmark known across the United States, but the so-called "Biggest Little City in the World" does with its downtown arch. (Sidenote: I was watching an episode of New Girl last week and it had a photo of the Reno Arch.) Reno's first arch was built in 1926 to promote the Nevada Transcontinental Highway Exposition. The Biggest Little City motto was added in 1929 (Sacramento's G.A. Burns created the saying for $100). The current arch was installed on Virginia Street in 1987 with a refresh in 2018.

8. The lack of traffic: Traffic is horrible. Nobody likes traffic. I was born in Southern California and visit there on occasion. I have no idea how people spend two hours a day idling in a car. Good thing we don’t do that in Reno. Yes, I-80, US-395 and Vista can get backed up, but it’s nothing compared to places like Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland or other popular Western cities. No matter where you live and where you work, you can get between the two in less than 25 minutes, and you can't put a price on that.

9. The local university: The state’s flagship institution is a nationally ranked Tier I college and somewhere you can be proud to send your children (K-12 can be a different story). There aren’t many campuses more beautiful than Nevada’s (I've visit more than 60 of them covering Wolf Pack games). A number of Hollywood films were set on UNR’s campus in the 1940s-50s because it was an idyllic, movie-like location. That hasn’t changed. The brick buildings are Ivy League style. Few places in Reno are better than UNR’s quad on a fall afternoon.

10. The size: Not too big. Not too small. That accurately describes Reno. We get the luxury of big-city living (plenty of events and festivals) without the downside of traffic, pollution and overcrowding, at least for now. Typically, people have a negative connotation with the city (thanks Reno 911!). I used to defend Reno to other people, but of late I just tell them, “Yeah, you probably don’t want to move here.” It's better to keep this gem of a city our little secret, although the secret's gotten out to a lot of Californians who now call Northern Nevada home.

11. The lack of taxes: I've never paid state income tax in my life. That's not because I dodge taxes. It's because Nevada is one of seven U.S. states without a state income tax. It's always nice to get a little bit of money back come tax time. It certainly makes me want to do my taxes in January rather than waiting until April. With that said, I wouldn't mind a state income tax so we can better support education in the state, which typically ranks among the bottom five in the nation. It's a give-and-take with the taxes, but there are pros to no income tax.

12. The museums: I love museums. That was one of my favorite things to do when I traveled covering Wolf Pack games. During the Wolf Pack's Sweet 16 run in 2018, I liked its stay in Atlanta way more than Nashville because I'd rather go to a cool museum than party, and Atlanta's museums are great. Reno's are pretty good, too, including the Nevada Museum of Art, the National Automobile Museum, the Discovery Museum, the Wilbur D. May Center, the W. M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum and the Fleischmann Planetarium.

13. The hiking: You could do one cool hike every weekend in Northern Nevada and still have hikes to check off your to-do list a decade later. It's an endless stream of outdoor recreation all within a short drive. Among my favorite hikes in the greater Reno area are the Hunter Creek Trail; Keystone Canyon Hike; Peavine Peak Trail; Galena Creek Trail; and Rattlesnake Mountain for a quickie. There's also the nearby Tahoe Rim Trail, Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway and my favorite in the area, the Flume Trail, which oversees Lake Tahoe with panoramic views.

14. The bars that never close: This was more appealing when I was in my 20s than today as I haven't gone on a "I'm staying out all night" adventure in nearly a decade. But last call? Here in Reno, we don't know what that is. The bars simply don't close, which means the fun never has to end (at least until the next morning when you feel like crud). In addition to some great dive bars, Reno has become home to quality high-end bars like Death & Taxes, The Emerson, The Depot, 1864 Tavern and we can't forget Peppermill's old trusty Fireside Lounge.

15. The ballpark: One of the great recent additions to Reno is Greater Nevada Field, which opened in 2009 as home to a Triple-A baseball team. Trying to get a new minor-league park and team was a long-time goal in Reno basically since the Reno Silver Sox stopped playing in 1992. Joining the Triple-A Aces in 2016 was Reno 1868 FC, a USL soccer team. As somebody who grew up a big sports fan, having a family-friendly place to take my kids for a game and some fireworks (they much prefer the fireworks over the game) has been great.

16. The Animal Ark: I've done a 180-degree turn on zoos in recent years. Yes, I love seeing animals, but there's also a cruelty element to it you just don't comprehend when you're a kid. I certainly wouldn't want to be locked up in a cage if I was an animal, even if that cage was nicely put together and I was well cared for. But the Animal Ark in north Reno is different. It provides sanctuary to orphaned, injured and non-releasable wildlife. Basically, the animals wouldn't live if they were freed, so you get to see amazing animals without any guilt.

17. The mountains: I've ventured into the Midwest a few times for sporting events, and it surprised me how much I missed the mountains. I mean, they just sit there and don't do anything, but I still missed them. Most people don't know this fact, but Nevada is home to more mountain ranges than any U.S. state with 314, many of which cut around Northern Nevada, including the famous Sierra Nevada and its offshoot, the Carson Range, as well as the Virginia Range, Pah Rah Range, Sand Hills Range and plenty more. They're beautiful.

18. The Pioneer Center: For a long time, I had never been inside what is affectionately known as "The Golden Turtle" in downtown Reno, and didn't even really know what it was. But the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 1967, is an architecture gem and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Beyond the distinctive gold geodesic dome roof of the Pioneer Center are great musical and dance acts. I also need to submit the Grand Sierra Resort's renovated Grand Ballroom as a great place to watch a show.

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19. The people: No matter where you go, you're going to find some negative people. But that's not prevalent in Reno. This is truly a community of people who care about each other and care about what it means to be from Nevada. Generations of families grow up in Reno and are proud of the city's history. At one point, the city was looked at as your cliché gambling town with slot machines aplenty and divorces easy to come by. But that label has worn off and what remains is the heart and soul of a citizenry that truly does care about each other.

20. It's home: And this is why I love living in Reno the most. Working as a sports journalist, it's easy to skip from one town to the next trying to upgrade in jobs and salaries in a pursuit to work for ESPN or some other big network or publication. That's never what I wanted. I grew up in Northern Nevada (albeit Gardnerville not Reno) and wanted my kids to do the same. In the process, I've turned down jobs that might have been more appealing on the surface but would have taken me away from my home. There's definitely nothing wrong with living in a bunch of different cities and getting a bunch of different experiences in your life, but I wanted a place I could truly call home. And in Reno, I've found just that.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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