10 Weird Facts About Reno, Nevada, to Amaze Your Friends

Weird Facts About Reno NV

Most people who love gambling know only the basics about gambling in Reno, Nevada. It’s “The Biggest Little City in the World,” after all. It’s also one of the most popular casino destinations in the United States.

You might have even seen some “Reno facts” articles explaining that Reno was named after a Civil War general, Jesse L. Reno.

My goal with this post, though, is to share 10 of the weirdest facts about Reno that you likely won’t see in other places.

1 – Reno Is a Popular Filming Location

Most people know that a lot of movies are set in and filmed in Las Vegas, but Reno lays claim to multiple films, too.

Hard Eight is especially good. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film and features John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson. It has great action scenes set in the old Flamingo Hilton there.

The Cooler is also notable and features great performances from Alec Baldwin and William Macy. It’s about a casino cooler, an unlucky gambler employed by the casino to bring bad luck to someone on a winning streak.

Balls of Fury is a silly sports comedy about table tennis starring Christopher Walken. It’s widely considered a pretty bad movie, but it did well at the box office, making over $40 million.

Kingpin is another silly sports comedy set in Reno. It’s a Farrelly Brothers film, and Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and Bill Murray all feature prominently.

2 – Reno Also Used to Be Home to Many Local Breweries

When mining was still a big thing in Reno, the town was home to many local breweries. The first brewery in Reno was called, appropriately enough, Reno Brewery, and it opened in 1868. It set the precedent that most breweries in Reno would be owned and operated by German immigrants.

Out-of-state brewers used to send beer to Reno via train so that it could get bottled or kegged. The beer would then get re-shipped via trucks to other towns where the trains didn’t run.

Guy Sitting With Beer In Front of Him, Thumbs Up

The proliferation of Reno breweries slowed and eventually stopped because of Prohibition, but in the 1990s, microbreweries became popular throughout the United States, including Reno.

3 – DB Cooper Hijacked a Plane Going to Reno

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the story of DB Cooper well. It was the most successful hijacking of an airplane in the history of the United States—assuming that Cooper lived, which isn’t a surety.

In 1971, DB Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 that was traveling between Portland and Seattle but eventually landed in Reno. The plane stopped in to collect $200,000 in ransom money and four parachutes, and Cooper leaped out of the plane somewhere above Southwestern Washington.

The FBI investigated the case for 45 years and never learned the real identity of DB Cooper or even whether he survived the experience. The current thinking is that Cooper did NOT survive the jump because a cache of banknotes from the ransom was found near the Columbia River in 1980.

The investigation was suspended in 2016.

4 – Sun Valley Is the Trailer Park Capital of the World

People say that Sun Valley, just north of Reno, is the trailer park capital of the world. Here’s how trailers became the standard way to live in Sun Valley.

The United States passed the Small Tract Act in 1938, a law meant to encourage settling in the west. Basically, if you agreed to live there permanently, you’d be deeded a five-acre tract of free land. Within 20 years, hundreds of these tracts had been settled.

The Bureau of Land Management oversaw the implementation, and they decided to allow settlers to use trailers for the purpose of establishing residency. After all, it was cheap to get set up there. It only involved digging a well, installing a septic tank, and buying a trailer to put on the land.

Home in Sun Valley Nevada

Sun Valley hasn’t always been the most pleasant place to live, and some of the stigmas associated with trailer park living apply here. In the 1950s, for example, Reno put a landfill in near Sun Valley. If you’ve ever lived near a landfill, you know what that means for property values and odors.

Settlers in the area tend to like the freedom of being in the wilderness, though, so they’re often willing to deal with some hardship.

5 – Reno and Nevada Lead the US in Multiple Areas That Aren’t
Necessarily Desirable

The city of Reno and the state of Nevada lead the United States in multiple areas, but these aren’t things to brag about, necessarily. They include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Bankruptcies
  • Gambling addiction
  • High school dropouts
  • Suicides
  • Tobacco use

Some of these areas are clearly related.

For one thing, gambling addicts are several times more likely to die by suicide than the average person. In a state where the gambling industry is such a force, it does make sense that gambling addiction is high.

I’ve seen writers theorize that the population in Reno and in Nevada grew so fast because of a large number of transients and free spirits. These folks have weaker social networks as a result, leading to these higher numbers.

6 – The Entrances for Most Reno Casinos Used to Be in Alleyways

Reno casinos don’t do this anymore, but at one time, most of their entrances were located in alleys like Douglas Alley and Fulton Alley. Nowadays, you’ll most likely find trash cans in the alleyways, but it wasn’t always like that. The alleys used to be well-lit and didn’t have much of an odor at all in those days.

Having the entryway to a casino opening into an alleyway is still common in some European casinos. In fact, in Europe, they’ll even set up dining tables in the alleys in front of the casinos. That’s hard to imagine in the United States, where most alleys are home to dumpsters and unsightly things.

7 – Reno Is Home to at Least One Legendary Plane Crash

In 1985, Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 crashed just a mile and a half from the airport. 70 people died, and only a single person on the flight survived—George Lamson, Jr.

Some people are awestruck by his survival, but people do survive plane crashes. And in a town full of gamblers, no one should be surprised when the statistically unlikely occurs.

Delta Airlines Plane Taking Off From McCaran Airport

Lamson remained in Reno and got a job as a casino dealer. He also starred in a movie, Sole Survivor, on CNN.

8 – Reno Is the 5th Sunniest City in the United States

The only four cities with more days of sunshine per year in the United States are Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and El Paso. If you scored the cities on a scale from 1% to 100% in terms of the number of sunny days they get, Reno would score about 80%. (Phoenix, which is #1, only scores 85%.)

That sunshine has led to the building of Tesla Giga Nevada. It’s a Tesla battery component factory east of Reno.

Telsa Giga Nevada is one of the largest buildings of any kind in the world, bigger than Monaco by a multiple, and it’s not even finished yet. The factory uses solar panels on the roof to become energy self-reliant.

One of Elon Musk’s goals is to help the world make the transition to sustainable energy. He estimates that they’ll need 100 more factories like this one to accomplish that goal.

9 – Blue Jeans Were Invented in Reno

In 1870, Jacob Davis—a Reno tailor—had a customer ask for some sturdier pants. He added the copper rivets to the denim pants and eventually became partners with Levi Strauss and patented blue jeans in 1873. Levi Strauss generally gets credit for being the inventor of blue jeans, but Davis was the originator of this popular work wear.

Blue jeans became popular with workers who needed durable clothes to work in, but they’ve gone on to become the most popular kind of pants in the world.

Copper Button on a Pair of Blue Jeans

Davis’s store was located at 211 N. Virginia Street in Reno. That address is now home to the Virginia St. Brewhouse, but a plaque commemorates the invention of blue jeans at this location.

10 – Reno Is ALL About Burning Man

Burning Man is an art and self-reliance festival located in the Western United States. They call it “Burning Man” because of its penultimate event—the burning of “The Man.” The festival has been held at Black Rock City for over 20 years, and it’s located about 100 miles from Reno.

But most Burning Man attendees begin their trip to Burning Man in Nevada, and the spirit of the festival goes on year-round in the Biggest Little City in the World.

Nothing exemplifies this spirit better than the Morris Burner Hostel. It’s not just a hostel with 16 rooms, though, it’s also an art space.

And many of the works of art and sculptures created at Burning Man eventually find their way to Reno to be displayed.

You can find a wider variety of vintage clothing stores in Reno than just about anywhere, so you can look the part of a Burning Man attendee anytime.