Walking is a necessary method of getting around this university. I figure, at bare minimum on an average school day, students walk from the Thompson Student Services building to Morrill Hall at the bottom of the quad, which is roughly 15 minutes. There are those of us, though, who forget our books in our car or have a class at Lombardi, and we walk much more than that. Some of us even walk for fun.
Rancho San Rafael Regional Park
Say you just parked your car in the parking lot by Thompson Student Services. Heading west, cross Virginia Street, then Sierra Street, and you’ll find yourself at the entrance to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. Explore the Arboretum, tour the Wilbur D. May Museum, stroll through the self-guided gardens gleaning factoids about our native species, birdwatch, or enjoy a delish picnic. And don’t forget: The park’s open, ever-windy fields offer lots of opportunities to fly your kite.
You could also head further up Virginia Street, past the Nevada Historical Society (great place to trace your genealogy or admire a Dat So La Lee basket), past the Lil’ Waldorf on your left (specials just for the average college student), across McCarran Boulevard and catch the Rancho San Rafael Nature Trail (across the street from the main portion of the park).
Will walk for food
Heading south from the bottom of the quad, all of Reno’s downtown and the arts district lay in your path. Walk down the old steps leading from Morrill Hall, turn left to Evans Street, cross the street and go down half a block on the right, and you’ll bump into a shabby-chic converted house with huge windows and patio tables. You’ve found Record Street Café, home of the world’s greatest grilled-cheese sandwich and hummus plate. Doubling as an art gallery and stage for open mic nights, this upscale café employs many of your classmates.
Virginia Street is our city’s main artery. Here, the casinos glitter through your brain, traffic never seems to get anywhere, and there are sidewalks for miles. While the casinos mostly offer over-21 fun, students can eat at all the fabulous buffets and ritzy restaurants—from sushi to flambé—or can visit arcades, theaters or indoor golf ranges. You will never suffer from lack of stimulation in the casinos.
But for the average beginning-college student, let me offer some fresh-air ideas. At Virginia and First streets, you can step through the curtained doors of Brüka Theatre and take a seat next to your new best buddy on the assortment of sofas and loveseats. A block further and your feet can take you through the glass doors of Dreamer’s Coffeehouse in the bottom floor of the Riverside Artist Lofts. Meet one of our city’s best cups of Joe and tangiest pasta salads. Take your lunch outside and, from your seat by the water fountain, watch the ducks floating on the river. Once outside again you have a few options. Directly across Virginia Street looms the Pioneer Theater, the hub of all Reno’s music, dance, theater and opera. You must catch at least one show there before you graduate the university.
Another option for exploring would require only a few steps to the south. You will find yourself inside of Bantu Spirit, a curiosity shop filled with African imports, including instruments, clothes, jewelry and gifts.
Or you can head next door into the Sierra Arts Gallery to check out its rotating art exhibits. (The air conditioning always soothes the aching body).
From the Artist Lofts, you may want to cross the river and head west on the path that ambles past the Century Riverside Theaters, the least-crowded theater in town. Further down, you’ll find a few upscale boutiques and hear the tolling of various church bells. Across the river towers Trinity Episcopal, while the Methodist Church sits across West First Street from the theater. As you continue west, don’t forget to appreciate our city’s most beautiful view of the Truckee River, which is generally graced with ducks, geese and children. A few more steps bring you to First Street Plaza. Take a moment here, sit down on the steps by the river and watch families have a good time in the water, kayaking or playing with their dogs. From your vantage point, you can see the wooden bridge into Wingfield Park, an oasis of green in the concrete of downtown.
After your break in the shade, you have a few options. If you need some quiet time, and your tootsies aren’t weary, follow the sidewalk along the river to its end in the shade of old cottonwoods in Idlewild Park.
The art of walking
But perhaps you need more art. From the river, a few blocks south on Arlington Avenue to West Liberty Street, your feet will carry you to the Nevada Museum of Art, where you’ll find a mix of famous and not-so-famous artists to satisfy your mind. Deux Gros Nez is across the street, and you can stop for a carrot milkshake and the most delicious molasses cookie you’ve ever bitten into. And if you aren’t too tired for a really decadent treat, the Chocolate Bar, 475 S. Arlington Ave., welcomes your every compulsion, from jasmine truffles to tiramisu martinis to chili pepper hot chocolate.
With your mind, stomach and thirst for adventure satisfied, I’d advise calling your roommate for a ride home.