Explore the region’s most interesting and out-of-the-box happenings

By Natasha Bourlin

Eclectic events dot the Sierra annually. Reflections of the area’s quintessential quirky character, they range from, “Wow, never seen that before … ” to, “I’ve always wanted to do that!”

Get your dose of weird and wonderful at these annual gatherings.


Doesn’t everyone really have a little Irish in them? Find out by immersing yourself in the culture at the annual Northern Nevada Celtic Celebration, May 18 at Reno’s Bartley Ranch Regional Park. Irish and Scottish dancers, Celtic musicians, Highland Athletics, games, vendors, a living history section and more comprise this rousing event. renoceltic.org

Elizabethan England comes to life during the 26th annual Valhalla Renaissance Faire at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe, June 1 – 2 and June 8 – 9. Like wandering through the old world, stroll amongst fully costumed nobles, barbarians, pirates, Shakespearian actors, jugglers and musicians. More than 100 merchants and food vendors dot the faire, also featuring four stages with continuous, era-appropriate entertainment. valhallafaire.com


Between June 16 – 20, let your inner cowgirl or cowboy roam free during the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive. Modern cowpokes help wrangle more than 300 steers through thousands of acres of range land into Reno over several days. Luggage-laden wagons pulled by horses and mules, campfire songs and a mobile saloon add to the authentic experience, which culminates in a parade June 20. renorodeo.com

Return to the old west when the Pony Express Re-Ride passes through Reno, presenting letters to veterans during the 100th anniversary of the Reno Rodeo. More than 750 riders travel their respective legs solo, as the original Pony Express riders did, across eight states for 10 days each year. They pass the mochila, a saddle bag carrying about 1,000 letters, like an Olympic torch. Catch the presentation ceremony on June 21. nationalponyexpress.org


Ever wanted to try a bunch of really bizarre beers? Head to Reno’s Strange Brew Festival May 18 at the Brewer’s Cabinet. Local and regional brewers bust out their craziest concoctions, such as the Great Basin Brewing Co.’s S’mores Beer, The Brewer’s Cabinet’s Gazpacho “cold soup” Ale and Lagunita’s Sumac, Pink Peppercorn, Pequin Chile, Purple Sweet Potato Sour (SPPPCPSPS). strangebrewfestival.com

Costume up and visit dozens of downtown bars during Reno Bar Crawls’ many themed drinking events. Get decked out for their Pride Crawl June 1, Superhero Crawl July 13, Pirate Crawl August 17 or Zombie Crawl October 19. But first, stock up on hangover cures. crawlreno.com


Live music and snow flicks accompany Cajun food, craft brews and cocktails at the Craw Thaw in front of Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats in Truckee May 31 – June 1. A feast fit for Mardi Gras is served up while riveted spectators watch crustaceans slowly “race” through Downtown Truckee in the Craw Cross. You can blink, maybe several times, during the race and probably not miss much, but it’s oh-so amusing to watch. truckeecrawthaw.com


2017 Broken Arrow Skyrace Race Myke Hermsmeyer
2017 Broken Arrow Skyrace Race Myke Hermsmeyer

Squaw Valley hosts the Broken Arrow Sky Race, June 21 – 23. An exhilarating tribute to the human body’s fortitude and strength, this three-day event sends expert and recreational participants on an epic journey mountain running, European-style, up super-steep terrain. Spectators can take in the live music, food, craft brews and family friendly activities. brokenarrowskyrace.com

Camels, ostriches, zebras, oh my! Saddle up an exotic animal in Virginia City alongside professional jockeys and get ready to gut laugh at the 60th annual International Camel and Ostrich Races, September 6 – 8. Brave souls atop beasts round a track at high speeds in the historic mining town’s absurdly fun event. If you’re not up for a race, casual rides are also available, along with food, drinks and live music. visitvirginiacitynv.com

Virginia City Outhouse Races
Virginia City Outhouse Races

Hilarity continues to ensue at Virginia City’s 30th annual Outhouse Races, October 5 – 6. Prettied-up potties roll through the town’s main drag trying to cross the toilet paper finish line first. Prepare your potty mouth and puns aplenty for the daily outhouse parade featuring about 15 – 20 participants, then watch them race at this unforgettable event. visitvirginiacitynv.com


From July 1 – 31 annually, Artown brings about 500 arts events in a multitude of genres, exhibitions and more than 100 workshops to Reno. Other featured events that artistically and culturally enrich the region also dot the calendar year round. Among the fest’s many featured local, national and international acts in 2019, catch the return of festival faves Pink Martini, plus the Koresh Dance Company and singer Sheléa. artown.org

Burning Man
Burning Man

So, there’s this little festival in the Black Rock Desert you may have heard of called Burning Man … this year it’s taking place August 25 – September 2. Okay, it’s now gargantuan and legendary and you should, by all means, check it out at least once in your lifetime. If you can score a ticket, that is. burningman.org

So many events, so little time, so get these in your schedule now and have a very event-full 2019.