It's high tourist season in Reno-Sparks, extending from this weekend well into the fall. Casinos vie with one another for the best entertainment bang in the showrooms, but the special events dominate the visitors market.
It all kicks off today on Reno's Virginia Street. Celebrating its 18th year, Eldorado's BBQ, Brew & Blues Festival features a wide variety of items grilled, smoked and sauced.
Food booths line the street. Offerings include 40 microbreweries from around the world. Entertainment is free and includes big-name acts such as Blood, Sweat, and Tears; the Greg Kihn Band; and Tommy Castro and the Painkillers. Equally stellar, although not as well known, are Maxx Cabello Jr., the Shane Dwight Band and the Jason King Band (2-8 p.m.; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; eldoradoreno.com).
July brings Reno's unique Artown, 31 days of live performances, art exhibits, historical tours and hands-on activities. Past events featured the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Mandy Patinkin. The opening night performance July 1 celebrates the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," with a free concert in downtown Reno's Wingfield Park that includes Corey Glover, Karl Denson, Melvin Gibbs and Nora Hendryx, among others (7:30 p.m.).
Other highlights include Rickie Lee Jones on July 7 (7:30 p.m.; Hawkins Amphitheater; $30, $40), the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra with Sheila E on July 25 (7:30 p.m.; Hawkins; $25, $35), and the closing night show with guitarist Shuggie Otis on July 31 (7:30 p.m.; Wingfield, free).
There are hundreds of other attractions, including a family-night series, a world-music series, classical music, dance performances and free movies. See a full schedule at renoisartown.com.
The granddaddy of all events returns Aug. 2-3 at South Lake Tahoe and Aug. 6-11 in Reno-Sparks. Hot August Nights features classic cars and rock 'n' roll. The event's prestige continues to grow, as evident this year from the arrival of the Barrett-Jackson auctions.
Every hotel-casino in town offers space to show off cars and many add free entertainment. This year's acts include Paul Revere and the Raiders, Tower of Power and Bill Medley. (Full schedule: hotaugustnights.net.)
Also on the summer slate: the Reno Rodeo, one of the biggest in the West, tonight through June 29 (7 p.m. daily, Reno Livestock Events Center, $12-$25, renorodeo.com); and the Biggest Little City Wingfest, July 4-6 in downtown Reno, with cookers from Nevada and California (including Sacramento's Triple Threat BBQ).
Boomtown, Reno Events Center: Mark Wells Duo, June 29. (800) 648-3790.
Carson Valley Inn Cabaret Lounge: Decoy, today-Saturday; Steve Lord, Sunday-Wednesday; Chili Sauce, Thursday-June 29. (775) 782-9711.
Eldorado, Reno Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival, today- Saturday. Showroom: "Menopause the Musical," through July 14. (800) 648-5966.
Grand Sierra Joan Rivers, Saturday. (800) 648-3568.
Harrah's Lake Tahoe The Dan Band, June 29. (800) 427-7247.
Harrah's Reno Sammy's Showroom: Biggest Little Sideshow, through Oct. 13; Taylor Hicks, July 3-7. The Stage @ the Zone: DJ Viola Lala Mia, today-Saturday; Midnight Riders, next Friday-June 29. (800) 427-7247.
Harveys, Lake Tahoe Improv: James Davis, today-Sunday; Michael Kosta, Wednesday-June 30; Outdoor Arena: Steve Miller Band, Saturday. (800) 427-8397.
Horizon, Lake Tahoe Illusion Fusion starring Alex Ramon, Thursdays- Tuesdays. (775) 588-6211.
MontBleu Resort, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Event Center: Reggae Festival, June 29. Blu: Long Beach Rehab, today; FreQ Nasty 6BLOCC, Sunday. (888) 829-7630.
Silver Legacy, Reno Biggest Little Wing Fest, July 4-6. Grand Exposition Hall: Scotty McCreery, Saturday. (800) 687-8733.