Nothing helps heighten the contrast between the rest of the world and life along the “Loneliest Road” more than making a stop in Reno (pop. 231,027), “The Biggest Little City in the World,” as the bold archway over Virginia Street downtown proclaims. An ancient city by Nevada standards, dating back to pioneer days (the Donner Party camped here on their ill-fated way west), Reno first came to national prominence in the 1930s as a center for quickie divorces. It now has all the gambling of its much-larger sibling, Las Vegas, but at a pleasantly homey, settled-down scale.

Besides taking advantage of Reno’s cheap hotel rooms, cheap food deals, and 24-hour fun, car culture fans may want to visit the $10 million, 100,000-square foot National Automobile Museum (10 Lake St., 775/333-9300, daily, $12), on the south bank of the Truckee River, perhaps the best and probably the most extensive car collection in the country, assembled primarily by casino magnate William Harrah. Over 200 classic cars, including the 1949 Mercury James Dean drove in Rebel Without a Cause, are on display, and there’s a great gift shop too. Reno’s other national attraction is the National Bowling Stadium (300 N. Center St.), a state-of-the-art 78-lane extravaganza. The parking garage is at Center and 4th Streets.

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