We do it up big when it comes to celebrating—and our history of hosting big, spectacular Northern Nevada and Reno events is more than a century old.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered or altered all these festivals in 2020, but come 2021, most are back and better than ever. Say hello to special event season once again, when you can enjoy classic cars, off-beat music, hot air balloons, drool-worthy ribs, dragons, and Italian food. So, get out your calendar and start planning your personalized itinerary of Northern Nevada and Reno events.
All these events continue to prioritize the safety of everyone attending. To read more about Nevada’s guidelines related to larger event venues, click here to read the latest updates from Nevada Health Response.
15 Big Northern Nevada and Reno Events That Are Back In 2021
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
- When: July 17, 2021 – Aug. 22, 2021
- More Information: laketahoeshakespeare.com
Bask in a perfect Lake Tahoe sunset while enjoying an enchanting performance at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park. This season, audiences will see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at one of the most scenic venues in the world. The show features three ambitious actors ready to tackle the Bard’s entire canon of plays (and sonnets!) into two hours. This endearingly irreverent and lightning-paced romp is a favorite among Shakespeare fans and neophytes alike. Perhaps The Today Show captured its spirit best when they said, “If you like Shakespeare, you’ll like this show. If you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love this show!”
Classical Tahoe Festival
- When: July 30, 2021 – Aug. 14, 2021
- More Information: classicaltahoe.org
Each summer, Classical Tahoe brings together America’s leading classical musicians for a three-week festival of orchestra concerts on the campus of Sierra Nevada University in Incline Village. The Classical Tahoe Orchestra includes virtuoso musicians from orchestras such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, LA Phil, and more. Highlights include world premieres by Aldo López Gavilán and Chris Brubeck, along with performances of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Gershwin, Bernstein, Copland, and more.
Hot August Nights
When: July 30–31, Virginia City Event; Aug. 3–8, 2021, Reno Event
- More Information: hotaugustnights.net
The Biggest Little City revs into high gear for Hot August Nights, the country’s largest classic car and nostalgic event. Visitors pay tribute to the exquisitely powerful automobiles and electrifying music of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The world’s premier classic car event showcases more than 5,000 vehicles from the golden era of design with events throughout Reno, Sparks, and Virginia City. Restored hot rods and sexy muscle cars give car enthusiasts a first-hand experience of popular decades gone by.
- When: Aug. 2–8, 2021
- More Information: barracudachampionship.com
Experience the excitement of the Barracuda Championship, a PGA TOUR event held at Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood golf course, a short drive from downtown Reno. A favorite among golf professionals, the Barracuda Championship is one of only 46 stops on the PGA TOUR and the only stop offering the Modified Stableford playing format. This exciting scoring system encourages professionals to play aggressively as lower scores on more difficult holes are handsomely rewarded. Spectators are welcome at the 2021 event, and tickets are on sale now.
Northern Nevada International Dragon Boat Festival
- When: Aug. 21, 2021
- More Information: gwndragonboat.com/nevada
Celebrate an ancient Chinese sporting tradition at Sparks Marina. Decked out in bright and colorful designs, each dragon boat features teams of 20 who synchronize their paddling to the rhythmic pulse of a ceremonial drummer. Along with catching all the action and excitement on the water, this annual festival includes a health and wellness village, vendors, food trucks, artist exhibitions, and more.
Best In The West Nugget Rib Cook-Off
- When: Sept. 1–6, 2021
- More Information: nuggetribcookoff.com
Often referred to as the Super Bowl of rib competitions on the national barbecue competition circuit, the annual Labor Day Weekend event spans more than six city blocks in the heart of downtown Sparks, Nevada. Two dozen of the country’s best barbecue teams competed for nearly $20,000 in prize money plus prestigious bragging rights! More than 350,000 barbecue enthusiasts participate in the festivities each year, consuming more than 250,000 pounds of mouthwatering ribs during the six-day festival. In addition to the best barbecue around, a wide variety of activities are offered, including a huge arts and crafts vendor show, beer garden, kids’ carnival, VIP area, and top entertainment performing on two stages. Admission to the event is free and open to the public.
The Great Reno Balloon Race
- When: Sept. 10–12, 2021
- More Information: renoballoon.com
Soaring high above the Reno skyline, more than 80 beautiful hot-air balloons take flight during the world’s largest free hot-air balloon festival. One of the most colorful and spectacular Reno events for over three decades, The Great Reno Balloon Race takes place at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, located just two miles from downtown Reno. The early morning wake-up call is well worth it to see these beauties float as the sun rises. The Great Reno Balloon Race is free to the public, and spectators can explore balloons up close on the field.
International Camel & Ostrich Races
- When: Sept. 10–12, 2021
- More Information: visitvirginiacitynv.com/event-directory-2/
This hilarious annual affair dates to the late 1950s when the Territorial Enterprise, the Virginia City newspaper where Mark Twain once worked, published a farce about racing camels in Virginia City. When the San Francisco Chronicle appeared with camels ready to take on the challenge, the tradition was born. Each year, jockeys maneuver camels, ostriches, and zebras as they race around the track in historic Virginia City to the cheers and laughter of thousands of spectators. Daily tickets can be purchased online with general admission, premium, and VIP seating options available.
STIHL National Championship Air Races
- When: Sept. 15–19, 2021
- More Information: airrace.org
Named the No. 1 Air Show in America a Top 10 Air Show in the World (2016) by USA Today readers, the National Championship Air Races combines the world’s fastest motorsport with spectacular military and civilian air entertainment. One of the most unique air racing events in the world, this exciting exhibition showcases six different classes of race planes and up-close access to aircraft, pilots, and crews in the pits.”
Street Vibrations Fall Rally
- When: Sept. 23–26, 2021
- More Information: roadshowsreno.com/sv_fall.php
Street Vibrations Motorcycle Festival celebrates music, metal, and motorcycles, offering poker runs, live entertainment, ride-in shows, stunt, and bike shows to more than 50,000 riding enthusiasts. One of the biggest Northern Nevada and Reno events, it rocks at several locations throughout the region. Major event venues are planned in Reno’s Neon Line, historic Virginia City, at Reno Harley-Davidson, Carson City Motorsports, and Battle Born Harley-Davidson in Carson City. Enjoy plenty of local and regional bands on three outdoor stages throughout the rally. Visit and shop the 250 vendors and many factory rigs selling everything for your motorcycle and more. The event is open to all motorcycles and is free to the public.
Off Beat Music Festival
- When: Sept. 30, 2021 – Oct. 2, 2021
- More Information: offbeatreno.com
The OffBeat Music Festival is a citywide, multi-venue series of Reno events that’s all about discovering the city’s music, food, art, and more. Performances are at various venues, from small bars to large theaters, creating a festival crawl experience. Attendees can discover new music from a choice of 80 performances over three days at different locations around the core of Reno’s thriving Midtown district.
World Championship Outhouse Races
- When: Oct. 2, 2021
- More Information: visitvirginiacitynv.com/events/32nd-annual-world-championship-outhouse-races/
This is one time and place where potty humor is accepted and encouraged—the 32nd annual World Championship Outhouse Races. This free event dates to when angry residents took to the streets with their outhouses to protest the banning of outdoor latrines in Virginia City in 1859. Today. this hilarious event pits teams of costumed outhouse racers against each other in an all-out potty race pushing their homemade outhouses down C Street toward the toilet paper finish line to claim the latrine title. The Parade of Outhouses begins Saturday at noon, with races immediately following.
The Eldorado Great Italian Festival
- When: Oct. 9–10, 2021
- More Information: eldoradoreno.comevent/events/2021-eldorado-great-italian-festival
Mangia! Mangia! For the 39th year, the Eldorado Casino Resort at THE ROW brings Italy’s sights, sounds, and flavors to downtown Reno. Held annually over Columbus Day weekend, the Eldorado Great Italian Festival celebrates Italian culture and traditions. Downtown Reno transforms into Little Italy with free live entertainment, a sauce cooking contest, and of course, pasta—lots of pasta. The fun-filled weekend also features craft vendors, lots of delicious food vendors, grape stomp, and other activities.
Reno Zombie Crawl
- When: Oct. 23, 2021
- More Information: crawlreno.com/event/zombiecrawl/
Name by USA Today as one of the 10 Best Halloween Parties in the Nation, and Redbook as the best way to celebrate Halloween in all of Nevada, the Reno Zombie Crawl is one of the biggest bar crawls in the world. With an average of 40 participating bars, including four different resort casinos within walking distance and no last call, nobody crawls like Reno.
Nevada Day Celebration
- When: 28-31,2021
- More Information: nevadaday.com
Mark your calendar for the 157th Nevada Day celebration and the Nevada Day Parade on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The theme for this year is “Historic Moments in Nevada.” This event is a celebration of Nevada’s statehood and has been held in Carson City since 1938. Nevada is one of the few states to commemorate its admission into the union on an annual basis. The Nevada Day celebration provides a uniquely Nevadan event that encourages local, regional, and out-of-state participation in many activities that are fun, educational, and historic. The parade has been termed “The Best Hometown Parade in the West” and has won several awards. This is a unique event that brings Nevadans together and promotes tourism at the same time.