Since opening in 1989, the National Automobile Museum has firmly parked itself onto the A-list of Reno attractions. See more than 220 automobiles, a collection that traverses the history of the motor vehicle, from the winner of the first and only Great Race, The Thomas Flyer, to the star of a hit 1960s TV series, Batman,The Batmobile.
This museum is sometimes referred to as The Harrah Collection. Casino mogul and avid vehicle collector Bill Harrah was responsible for the majority of the museum’s vehicles, and after his passing in 1978 the collection continued to develop.
Start your visit in the theater where The Bill Harrah Story and the Magic Carriage are screened on the hour, lasting for approximately 25 minutes.
The museum is neatly laid out with the collection divided into four chronological galleries that span the automotive ages. Wander through stylized street scenes, such as the cobblestoned 1930s Street. It’s easy to spend hours examining the photographs, collectables and period fashions that help recreate the atmosphere of decades past. Throw on a vintage coat and hat from the “dress up” area and slip behind the wheel of a vintage classic for a charming souvenir photo.
Celebrities and automobiles go hand-in-hand, and you’ll find some silver screen favorites here. Look for James Dean’s sleek Mercury Coupe from the movie Rebel Without a Cause. Take an imaginary spin in Elvis Presley’s 1973 Custom Cadillac or John Wayne’s 1953 Corvette.
This museum prides itself on being far more than just a collection of gleaming autos. Be sure to visit the Changing Exhibits Gallery. Displays here have included a celebration of the life and times of Bill Harrah, which examined not only his passion for cars but his fast-paced and turbulent lifestyle. Other exhibits have featured automotive paintings and memorabilia.
The National Automobile Museum is located along the Truckee River in downtown Reno. There’s free parking, and it’s accessible to public transporation. It’s open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving.