Summer Festival Season in Reno, Nevada

Y’all, my favorite season is upon us. No, I’m not talking about spring, though I do like spring for its skiing and cocktails, among other things. And no, not baseball season, though that’s virtuous in its own right. For our purposes, I’m talking about festival season. And after spending last week festivaling the hell out of Reno with Reno Tahoe USA, it was time to team up with them to bring you the 4-1-1 on summer Reno festivals. I recently shared about how Reno is one of my favorite outdoor adventure destinations. Hello nearby ski resorts, the largest rock climbing wall in the world, and downtown Reno's whitewater park. But Reno is also becoming one of my favorite festival destinations. Alright, so perhaps there’s no Coachella, Full Moon Party, or Tomorrowland, but what Reno does boast are unique festivals that you can’t just find anywhere.

Summer Reno Festivals

I was in Reno a couple weeks ago for what could largely be considered the kick-off weekend of festival season, featuring Reno River Festival and Reno Sculpture Fest. And these two festivals couldn’t be any more “Reno,” and unique to the biggest little city in the world.

But you need only walk around downtown Reno to understand why Sculpture Fest is so “Reno.” Street art and sculptures are on just about every corner of downtown and Midtown Reno. Additionally, there’s no other city that's more associated with Burning Man, where art is front and center, than Reno. The city even has a Burning Man store! One of my favorite pieces of Reno art even comes from Burning Man, the “Believe” sculpture, which is a 70-foot-wide steel sculpture near the Reno Arch, and which was one of the most popular pieces of art at Sculpture Fest. This celebration of sculptures is on display up and down the streets of downtown Reno for Sculpture Fest, with a number of different sculptures and unique pieces of artwork, with some artists even creating art right in front of you.

Mere blocks from the Reno Sculpture Fest was the Reno River Festival, which as the name presumes, takes place riverfront in downtown Reno along one of the city's most unique features, the Truckee River Whitewater Park that flows through downtown. One of the top professional kayaking competitions in America, Reno River Festival is essentially a mashup of all things Reno, including a number of professional kayaking competitions, a rock climbing wall (Reno is home to the tallest rock climbing wall after all), a costumed bicycle ride (yes, I dressed up), live music, and a craft beer village.

And that craft beer trend continues this week with Craft Beer Week, taking place at Reno restaurants, bars, and craft breweries around the city. It kicked off this past weekend with Backwash Reno, an annual craft beer tasting and competition featuring local and regional home brewers. This year consisted of 50 brewers and nearly 100 homebrews! Craft Beer Week, which goes through May 21st, will include more than 70 craft beer events in Reno, including beer tastings, tap takeovers, beer and food pairings, and more. Winner, winner, beer dinner!

Meanwhile, late May sees something of a teaser for the first festival I ever attended in Reno, Hot August Nights, which is one Reno’s longest-running festivals, and one of the largest nostalgic classic car shows in the U.S. The main event, happening August 2nd through 7th, sees classic cars from around the U.S. descend on downtown Reno for a week that celebrates nostalgic cars, including a swap meet, live music, autocross, and classic cars lining the streets. Spring Fever Revival, taking place May 20th to 22nd, features several hundred classic cars, street food, and live music. Consider it the tune-up (<--see what I did there?) before the headliner in August.

But what’s festival season without food festivals? And you won’t be left wanting (or hungry) with Reno’s food festivals. Perhaps the only thing better than a food festival is a barbecue, beer, and blues festival, which is what you get with the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival, taking place at the Eldorado Resort Casino on June 17 and 18. The festival features fresh barbecue and more than 50 craft beers, including microbrews from Eldorado’s own Brew Brothers. The event is celebrating its 21st year, which is apparent with its headlining acts, Everclear and the Gin Blossoms. Let’s party like it’s 1995!

However, Reno really brings the heat, literally, for its Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, considered one of the biggest and best rib festivals in America. Best of all, entry is free. Taking place over Labor Day Weekend, the rib cook-off is in its 28th year, taking place at the Sparks Victorian Square, and features some of the best rib cooks and more than 40 bands playing over the entire weekend. BYOWW (Bring Your Own Wet Wipes).

But you didn’t really think I was finished talking about beer did you? Enter CANFEST, which is a contender for my favorite Reno festival, taking place at the end of August at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino. Dubbed the “Original International Canned Beer Festival,” CANFEST features more than 100 different caned beers, many of which come from other parts of the world. VIP tickets include a dinner, while general admission consists of several hours of tasting, live music, and a silent disco.

The uniqueness of Reno’s festivals continues in the fall when the events take to the air with two different types of air race festivals that have been taking place for decades. The first, The Great Reno Balloon Race, happens the second weekend of September, and is the world’s largest free hot-air balloon festival, with more than 100 hot air balloons (many that are very unique) taking to the skies. The second Reno air event, the National Championship Air Races, takes place the following weekend, and is considered one of the top air shows in the world. In addition to world-class air races, the event features demonstrations by the renowned Blue Angels and military displays.

For a full listing of summer Reno festivals, check out Reno Tahoe's special events calendar, which includes other events, such as rodeos, Nevada State Fair, The Lantern Fest, a helluva lot of "crawls," and many other great events.  Pack your aviators, sunscreen, and dancing shoes (and perhaps your stretchy pants), because it’s going to be a good summer.

What are your favorite summer festivals?