Smoke-filled casinos and seedy motels might be what come to mind when you think of Reno. Full disclosure: Those things are still there. But with an influx of tech companies (Tesla recently moved in) and a burgeoning art scene—thanks in part to the Burning Man festival—Reno is in the process of a full-fledged cultural renaissance, and there are plenty of craft beer breweries, local distilleries, third-wave coffee shops, food trucks, and chef-driven restaurants to prove it. And, with its location only 45 minutes from the summer fun and winter skiing of Lake Tahoe (Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the closest place to fly in), Reno is a convenient and affordable place to stay when you’re headed for the mountains. If you’re up for checking out “The Biggest Little City in the World,” here’s where to eat, drink, and have fun.
Wake up in an impressively chic room at the new Reno Renaissance Downtown Hotel. The hotel is clearly catering to millennials, with its enormous non-gambling play space of indoor/outdoor bocce ball courts, ping pong, darts, shuffle board, skee-ball, and a gigantic sports bar. Or take a ten-minute walk through downtown to the hip Whitney Peak Hotel. Of note, Whitney Peak and the Renaissance are two of the three gambling- and smoke-free accommodations in Reno. Challenge yourself to a workout at Whitney Peak’s Base Camp indoor boulders or 164-foot outdoor climbing wall, officially the world’s largest. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the hipster-y Midtown District neighborhood for breakfast at Two Chicks or brunch at Midtown Eats.
The Depot is located in the refurbished, airy 107-year-old building that was the headquarters to the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway and serves as homage to its historic landmark digs. A friendly staff pours house-distilled spirits, craft cocktails, and frothy brews that pair perfectly with thoughtful comfort food like cornbread fritters with bourbon honey, fish and chips, and braised lamb shanks with molé, grits, confit radish, and daikon sprouts.
After lunch take in some high-brow art at Nevada Museum of Art. The museum boasts an impressive permanent collection with focuses on contemporary works, photography, and art of the American West. On view through January is City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, chronicling the famous desert festival, which has been held at nearby Black Rock since 1990.
If you find yourself in Reno on a Friday in summer, don’t miss Food Truck Fridays, when it seems like the entire city gathers in Idlewild Park for dozens of tempting street food options. Bring a blanket and take a seat on the grass for a summer picnic.
Any other night, opt for a tapas-style meal of locally-sourced small plates at Centro Bar and Kitchen. After dinner, for entertainment, see what’s playing at The Eldorado. Then cap the night off back in Midtown with seasonal craft cocktails at the wonderfully dark, moody, and very delicious Death and Taxes.