Reno is Nevada's third largest city with an approximate population of 210,255 (2006), and is the seat of Washoe County. Reno shares its eastern border with the city of Sparks. Longtime residents have a saying that jokingly refers to the geographic location of the two cities: "Reno is so close to Hell you can see Sparks."
Around 1850, the area was settled by a few families that came to the Truckee Meadows, the fertile valley along the Truckee River that connects Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake. In 1859, the discovery of one of the largest silver deposits, known as the Comstock Lode, created an explosive population boom. Soon after the discovery, the Central Pacific Railroad joined its lines with the Union Pacific to form the first transcontinental railroad. Reno officially became a city in 1868. The extension of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Reno in 1872 provided another big boost to the new city's economy. At first citizens were wary of the changes and viewed them as an omen of doom. Despite the feelings of a few, Reno continued to grow and prosper as a business and agricultural center and became the principal settlement on the transcontinental railroad between Sacramento and Salt Lake City.
Nevada's legalization of casino gambling in 1931 and the passage of liberal divorce laws created another boom for Reno. The divorce business eventually died as the other states fell in line by passing their own laws easing the requirements for divorce, but gambling continued as a major Reno industry. Today Reno is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World", and is famous for its casinos, and as being the birthplace of the gaming corporation Harrah's Entertainment. Reno is the location of the corporate headquarters for International Game Technology, which manufactures slot machines used throughout the world. Bally's Technologies and Gaming and GameTech also have development and manufacturing presences in Reno.
Before the 1960s, Reno was the gambling capital of the United States, but Las Vegas' rapid rise, American Airlines' buyout of Reno Air and the growth of Indian gaming in California have seriously reduced its business. However, two local casinos have shown significant growth, and have moved downtown gaming further south on Virginia Street. These include Atlantis and The Peppermill. The Peppermill, having added a 600-room all-suite hotel tower, 62,000 square feet of convention space, a resort-style pool complex, and many additional restaurants and lounges, has greatly increased the once slumping tourist trade.
Reno is home to the University of Nevada at Reno and is the oldest university in the state system. Adding to the list of higher education institutions is Truckee Meadows Community College, The Nevada School of Law, and the Career College of Northern Nevada, a nationally accredited technical trade school.
With an active academic population comes a vibrant and eclectic nightlife. Several new businesses have contributed to the social life of residents and visitors by opening bars and nightclubs on what is commonly referred to as the "West End." Bars and clubs in this area include Imperial Lounge, Sierra Tap House, Tonic, El Cortez Lounge, the Green Room, Five Star Saloon, the West 2nd Street Bar, Vino's, 210 North, Jungle Vino, Silver Peak Brewery, and Divine Ultra Lounge. In addition, various downtown casinos host lounges and nightclubs, including Roxy's, The Brew Brothers and Bubingas at the Eldorado Hotel Casino, Rum Bullions at the Silver Legacy, and Sapphire Lounge at Harrah's.
Reno is home to a variety of recreational activities including both seasonal and year-round. In the summer, Reno locals can be found near three major bodies of water: Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River, and Pyramid Lake. Lake Tahoe, which splits the border between California and Nevada, provides visitors and locals with opportunities to fish, water-ski, wakeboard, para-sail, jet-ski, and swim. The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe through the center of downtown Reno and up to Pyramid Lake which now boasts a multi-million dollar whitewater rafting/kayaking area. Winter in Reno means skiing and snowboarding that draws in many tourists. There are approximately eight major ski resorts, including Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, Diamond Peak, Heavenly, and Mount Rose. Other popular winter activities include cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowmobiling.
The city and various organizations hold several events throughout the year. They include Hot August Nights (a classic car convention and rally), Street Vibrations (a motorcycle fan gathering and rally), The Great Reno Balloon Race, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off (held in Sparks), a Cinco de Mayo celebration, bowling tournaments (held in the National Bowling Stadium) and the Reno Air Races.
The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is a federally recognized Indian Tribe located near Reno and Sparks, Nevada . The tribal membership consists of over 900 members from three Great Basin Tribes - the Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Washoe. The reservation lands consist of the original 28-acre residential colony located in downtown Reno and a 1,960 acre Hungry Valley reservation located 19 miles north of the downtown colony. The colony was established in the early 1900s and formed a more formal Tribal Government in 1935 under the Indian Reorganization Act. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is a growing organization employing approximately three hundred people and is progressively taking steps to provide for the needs of their people while, at the same time, maintaining their culture and sovereignty.