North versus South

When it comes to Nevada’s drinking culture—it’s all about your latitude.

Photo/Andrea Heerdt

Most major cities have just about every type of bar you could ask for—dive bars, cocktail lounges, wine tasting rooms, breweries and so on. But each city has its own spin on a night out, and despite Las Vegas and Reno being in the same state, the drinking culture in Sin City is a world away from the Biggest Little City. Living in Las Vegas for over 13 years and then attending college in Reno, I’ve had the chance to get up close and personal with each city’s nightlife scene.


Unless you’re heading to midtown, you can pretty much walk the distance of downtown Reno without getting severe blisters on your feet or spending exorbitant amounts of money on cabs or rideshare apps. Known for its Zombie, Santa and upcoming Leprechaun crawl, Reno’s bar crawls span just about a dozen city blocks, allowing you to hop from one bar to another by simply walking (or crawling). This allows you to squeeze in a variety of Reno’s decidedly different bars all in one night without having to put too much thought or effort into it.

If you think you’re going to walk the entire Las Vegas Strip in a night while stopping to drink along the way, I hope you’re joking. The Strip itself, the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that extends from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue, is 4.2 miles long, offering quite the endurance challenge for dedicated walkers. Keep in mind you’ll be tipsy and there are thousands of tourists clogging up the sidewalk, making it difficult to get anywhere fast.

Plus, there’s all of downtown Las Vegas just north of the Strip and the Fremont Street Experience after downtown. This is great in the sense that there are hundreds of new and exciting bars to try, but rather difficult to formulate a bar crawl unless you keep it confined to a certain area of town. In a city known all over the world for its drinking culture, it’s no wonder why it’s difficult to even cover a fraction of the bars Las Vegas has to offer while on foot.

Drinking Laws

Sorry, Reno, Vegas wins this one. In the City of Las Vegas, it is legal to consume alcoholic beverages in public if the drink is purchased in an open container. So if you buy a beer in a plastic cup at one bar, you can walk around on the street still drinking your beer without any issues, just as long as it’s not in a glass container. Many tourists take advantage of this law by enjoying Vegas’ famous yard drinks, which usually contain frozen piña coladas, daiquiris or blended margaritas inside three-foot-long souvenir cups. If you are considering this option, just make sure you consider these special exceptions—drinking isn’t allowed within 1,000 feet of a church, synagogue, public or private school, hospital, withdrawal management facility or homeless shelter.

In Reno, walking around with an open container is much more restricted. It’s illegal and could lead to misdemeanor charges. This is why you’re asked to pour out your cups before heading outside on bar crawl nights. Renoites have an outstanding talent for chugging drinks before hitting the next bar, though.

Luckily there are laws statewide that both Las Vegas and Reno dwellers can enjoy, like being able to purchase alcohol 24 hours a day from convenience stores, supermarkets and liquor stores. Bars are also permitted to stay open as late as they want to since there is no legally mandated last call for alcohol in the state of Nevada.

Local specialties

Yes, Reno has Lex Nightclub and Edge Nightclub, but the nightclub scene down south includes world-famous DJs like Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Tiësto regularly performing at venues like Hakkasan Nightclub, a decadent five-floor space equipped with restaurants, DJ booths, dance floors and private seating areas. However, you must be daring enough to wait in line with the masses of tourists, pay an expensive cover and dress up in order to gain entrance.

Reno’s comparative drink specialty? Craft beer. That’s not to say Las Vegas doesn’t do craft beer well. There are plenty of tap rooms that’ll satisfy your craving for a refreshing beer when you need one, like Hop Nuts Brewing, for instance, but Reno just does it extra well. I mean, after a long day of skiing or hiking in gorgeous mountains, it only seems natural to grab a crisp craft beer. With places like The Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery, Lead Dog Brewing Co. and Great Basin Brewing Co. you’re bound to go through craft beer withdrawals when you move down south. Plus, jeans, t-shirts and baseball hats are always permitted on the premises—no dress code required.