Reno is full of great experiences, activities and tasty restaurants. But sometimes it seems impossible to be frugal downtown. We’ve aggregated some of our favorite cheap eats, low-cost activities and even a few free things to do downtown so you don’t have to empty your wallet to have a good time. Even better, all these places are under 21 friendly!

For your day out, mix and match to find what activities you want to do in downtown Reno. Even choosing the most expensive options from each section will still result in you spending less than $30 per person. Bring some friends and make it a day out to remember!

Bab Cafe is serving fresh food 7 days a week on 3rd Street. Bring your student ID for a discount!

Cheap Eats

Eating out can be expensive if you don’t know where to look. Reno has many great restaurants that serve all types of food that won’t break the bank. Check out which places offer student discounts. You may even save enough to get dessert.

Bab Cafe

Price: ~$10 with student discount (make sure to bring your student ID) 

Bab Cafe serves bibimbab, a Korean rice bowl with lots of toppings such as fresh veggies, eggs and japchae (or glass noodles). You can choose from different proteins (beef, pork, chicken or tofu) and different veggie toppings. Along with that, Bab Cafe allows you to add as much sauce as you want, from their slightly sweet teriyaki to their super spicy sauce.

Bonus: This place is vegan and vegetarian friendly and they have many gluten-free options.

Pho 777

Price: ~$10 for pho, noodles or rice dishes 

Offering hot soups and rice dishes, Pho 777 is a great place to warm up on a cold day. They offer a wide variety of pho, rice plates, rice noodle and stir-fried noodle dishes. Located right off of Center Street, this restaurant is in the heart of downtown and offers a convenient and easy place to refuel on a day or night out. 

The Original Mel’s Diner 

Price: ~$10-$13 for a burger, sandwich or breakfast plate

Mel’s is a college staple, offering old-fashioned burgers, sandwiches and all-day breakfast. The retro photos on the walls, classic red vinyl seats and rock and roll blaring from the jukeboxes may feel like a blast from the past, but Mel’s is still serving up old-fashioned American Diner food and a pretty good price.  

Pizano’s Pizza

Price: $3/slice, ~$6/person/meal 

Pizano’s is offering pizza by the slice, a college student’s dream for a cheap meal. Just order a slice (or two or three) without having to commit to an entire pie. Their menu rotates on a weekly basis so you can try something new every day of the week, or you can stick to their classics that are served every day. Make sure to check their website for monthly coupons that can be reused each time you order. 

Antonio’s Mexican Grill

Price: ~$6-$8 tacos and burritos with their 15% off student discount (make sure to bring your student ID) 

Antonio’s is serving up Mexican food that claims to be just like visiting a family cookout. Here you’ll find a wide selection of tacos, burritos, tortas and taco salads made with al pastor and carne asada to something more daring like cactus or lengua (or beef tongue). The casual atmosphere makes it great for a night out with friends and the student discount will keep you coming again and again.

The Nevada Museum of Art in Downtown Reno
The Nevada Museum of Art offers student tickets at a discounted price of only $8 with a student ID.

Paid Things to Do

Sometimes it can seem like there isn’t much to do in Reno if you’re not 21, but in reality there’s lots of options for people of all ages. All of these places are only a short walk, bike, bus or drive from campus so you can come back and try them all out.

Nevada Museum of Art

Price: $8 student ticket 

The Nevada Museum of Art allows you to explore local art and art focused on the great scenery that surrounds us here in Reno. The museum features a permanent exhibit focusing on the interaction of art and the environment as well as several changing exhibits so there’s always something new to see. Take advantage of the student discount and take a dive into the finer side of Nevada. 

Basecamp at Whitney Peak

Price: $12 student day pass with free gear rental (bring your student ID) 

The Basecamp is most widely known for its outdoor climbing wall, which was certified by Guinness World Records as the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. But did you know they offer a climbing gym inside the hotel? Basecamp is great for climbers at any skill level. Try out a student day pass or book a class to get the ropes. 

Century Riverside 12 in Downtown Reno
Century Riverside 12 theater is located in the middle of downtown Reno and is the perfect place to catch a movie on an exciting day out. Photo by Catherine Schofield

Century Riverside 12 

Price: $5 matinee tickets (bring your student ID) 

Going to the movies can be expensive but cut down on costs by using Century Riverside’s student discount. Before 5 p.m. all movies are $5 for students with a valid student ID. Since the theater is right on the river you can stretch your legs afterward with a scenic walk. 

Circus Circus Midway & XP Arcade 

Price: Load your card with however much you want. We recommend $10-$15 for about an hour of play. 

Located between the Skytower hotel and the Silver Legacy the Circus Circus Midway offers fun for all ages. The Midway features classic carnival games such as ring tosses and skee ball. Just around the corner, you’ll find the XP Arcade with modern versions of the arcade games you know and love. All games operate on a card, so you can charge as much or as little as you want and play to your heart’s content. 

Thrift Shopping

Price: As much as you want. Keep it cheap and only get that one special item, or go crazy! Usually about $5-$15. 

Thrift shopping can reveal some of the greatest treasures at low prices! Check out St. Vincent’s Thrift Store, Thrift Depot and Antiques & Treasure for clothes, small trinkets, furniture and more. Bring a friend and choose outfits for each other, or blindly take something off the shelf and try to style it with your existing wardrobe.

"Cages" public art in Downtown Reno
Finding free things to do in Reno is a way to keep you day out cheap! Try taking unique pictures with the abundant public art installations.

Free Things to Do

No money, no problem! Sometimes the budget is too tight to fit in another meal out. Reno is full of great, free opportunities to get to know the city and have a fun afternoon.

Take pictures with public art

Reno is known for its abundant public art installations and murals lining the side of towering buildings downtown. Why not make a day and try to see them all? Using this public art map you can locate any art installation that you’re interested in. Think of all the photo ops this could provide! 

Get a public library card

A public library is a budget-saving best friend. A public library card is free and allows you to check out books over and over again. The Downtown Reno Library is located on South Center Street and provides multiple floors of lush greenery, reading space, and plenty of places to do your homework. Stay on the lookout for the different bookish events they hold each month. 

Go on a self-guided walking tour

Do you want to get yourself familiar with the sights of Downtown Reno, or have just never taken the time to see what the downtown area has to offer? Try taking a self-guided walking tour to see what “The Biggest Little City” is all about. From historic buildings to many museums and the well-known Reno Arch this tour lets you look around Reno at your own pace. 

Explore the Riverwalk 

Walk, run, bike or drive along the river and see what all the hype is about. You could pack a lunch (or grab takeout) and have a picnic on the riverfront. Check out Wingfield Park, an island located smack in the middle of the Truckee River. In the summer it’s home to lots of live concerts and festivals and provides the perfect spot to take a dip in the water. 

Take a break in The Basement

It may be hard to find at first, but once you enter The Basement you won’t want to leave! Located in the old post office between Virginia and Mill streets, The Basement has turned a historical building into a place to do homework, grab some coffee, or just chat. Take a break in your exciting day to explore some of the shops, or just take a seat and enjoy the atmosphere.

As we start to enter a post-pandemic world, remember to check a business’s website to see when they’re open and be sure to still follow state mandates when you’re out. Have fun and stay safe!