‘Weird Reno Walking Tour’ offers a look into the city’s unique history and charm

Nevada News
Mark Kalin talks about the history of the Virginia Street Bridge and its significance to Reno's historical divorce trade.

In 1937, a woman stood on the Virginia Street Bridge and looked down at the Truckee River.

Having recently divorced her husband just up the street at the Reno courthouse, she looked at the ring on her left hand. As a new tradition began, she took off her wedding ring and threw it into the Truckee below, leaving her married life behind.

This is one of many stories you will hear on the new Weird Reno Walking Tour, which aims to showcase the city’s unique history and charm. 

Weird Reno Walking Tour debuted in late March. Held at the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel’s basement, Weird Reno begins with a mysterious introduction to the tour guides, Mark Kalin and his wife Jinger Leigh-Kalin. Both magicians showcase the secrets of Reno through illusions and imagination.

Through the year-long pandemic, live entertainment has mostly ceased. Now, the Weird Reno Walking Tour offers a slice of entertainment while continuing to remain COVID-19 safe through social distancing and wearing of face masks.

The tour is concentrated around the Truckee River and its surrounding features of Reno. Weird Reno takes an audience several blocks through downtown, from the old post office to the city courthouse where Reno saw its first sanctioned hanging. 

Weird Reno is filled with magic tricks and audience participation, crowd engagement, and humor. Audience members will learn about the history of the Virginia Street Bridge as well as the city’s curious alleyways marked with lighted signs and their once booming events.

Mark and Jinger Kalin are the creators of the Weird Reno Walking Tour. Their show debuted in late March and is planned to run seasonally.

Kalin said he was inspired to create a show that would bring people of the community together. He said that in the time of COVID, live entertainment had been missing from communities, and he wanted to figure out how to bring it back in a way that was safe for an audience.

“COVID hit and [live entertainment] vanished,” Kalin said. Theatres were closed and entertainment probably got some of the worst of it. We lost two years of contracts. So we went from busy to nothing.”

He came up with the idea of a walking tour, he said because that was something they could be creative with while also being safe.

“Really the motivation came from feeling isolated,” he said. “What we could do that could be safe and compliant and allow us to share out talents and reconnect with the city. It just grew from there, the idea of a walking tour. Get out and get a little bit of exercise, get out in the air and we started to put it together.”

Parker Kalin is a safety emissary on the Weird Reno walking tour and enjoys watching audience members have fun on the tour.

Parker Kalin, Mark and Jinger’s daughter, works as a safety emissary on the tour to help audience members when walking around the city. She said it was nice to see her parents be able to do something they are passionate about and put the show together.

“I love to watch them do this because this is something they have been working on for a really long time and it’s kind of consumed them,” she said. “It was really cool to watch them create this reaction to the pandemic where it is a COVID safe version of live entertainment.”

Mark Kalin talks about Reno's famous alleyways and their fun historic past.

She also talked about how the tour helped friends see each other and connect as well as meet new people in a time where things feel so isolated and many people feel alone.

“I love it,” she said. “I really enjoy this stuff and I like watching people get a kick out of certain things. I like watching people look at us and wonder what we’re doing and I like watching people enjoy spending time with others they’ve never met before. I think that is why I like it.”

Catrine McGregor was an audience member on the tour from Boise, Idaho. She said she enjoyed how light-hearted and fun the walking tour was and would recommend it to others.

“It was wonderful,” McGregor said. “Great interaction and crowd involvement and had a nice mix of history and entertainment. It was nice to be able to walk around the city and learn things that you wouldn’t know otherwise”

If you go…

What: Weird Reno Walking Tour

When: Hosted Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

Where: Historic Downtown Reno

Tickets: $22 at https://weirdreno.com/

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