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Weekender: Reno for Burners
Ellen Cushing | Photo: As credited | August 15, 2014
Your pre- and post- Burning Man vacation guide.
Reno may be the last real city between the Bay Area and Black Rock, but don’t think of it as simply your final chance to stock up on bottled water before the Playa—The Biggest Little City is an excellent place to stop for a couple days before or after Burning Man.
Before the Burn: Stock up and Get Pumped
For Food: Area Wal-Marts reportedly truck in pallets full of bottled water and packaged food to sell in advance of Burning Man, but why shop at a big box when Reno has an impossibly well-stocked independent co-op grocery store in Great Basin Community Food Co-op? “A lot of our principles here are very similar to what you’d find on the Playa,” says Jolene Cook, general manager of the store, which is conveniently located in downtown Reno. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Great Basin’s Burning Man supply game is on point: The store has a special pre-order program that allows customers to order staples like rice and beans in advance; is offering 15 percent off purchases over $100 as part of its Playa People Shop Local Program as well as specials on essentials like coconut water, BPA-free water bottles, Emergen-C, Wet Wipes, and jerkies of all provenances; and employs plenty of Burners who have seen it all and are generous with their advice. Who needs Wal-Mart?
For Clothing: Still searching that furry belt, animal suit, gold lamé bikini, or macramé leotard (OK, we made that one up) to complete your vibe? Get thee to the legendary, sprawling Midtown Reno thrift shop Junkee Clothing Exchange—think Thrift Town, if Thrift Town were 25 percent cheaper and 1000 percent weirder. Every summer, the store reserves an entire room for “festival wear,” which is exactly what it sounds like, with for prices befitting clothes you’ll probably ruin anyway. You may need to fight someone for that leotard, but it’ll be worth it.
For Partying: As a major stop on the Burning Man pipeline, Reno has a thriving year-round Burner culture, perhaps best evidenced by the Morris Burner Hotel, which bills itself as (and almost certainly is) the world’s first and only Burner Hotel, and is outfitted with playa accoutrement and funky decorations everywhere you look. Rooms are all booked up for the weekends surrounding Burning Man, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hang out: Though the hotel hasn’t made any official announcements yet, it’s well known for its regular, wild backyard art parties, to which non-guests are welcome for a $5-$10 donation.
After the Burn: Decompress, De-Dust, and Reintegrate into Civilization
Now’s your chance to really explore Reno. Save for the Morris, all of the city’s hotels are giant casino-inclusive behemoths, and while the Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa certainly fits that bill, it’s also conveniently located a mile or two away from the overstimulation of the strip. After ten days without bathing, first thing’s first: Head to the hotel’s spa (day passes available for $60 Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays), specifically the spa’s “experiential shower”—a multihead slice of heaven that offers various “experiences” on the order of “Tropical Rain” and “Waterfall,” each with setting-appropraite audio, perfumed water, and pressure patterns. (The rapper Drake reportedly has one of these showers in his house, if that tells you anything.) Elsewhere in the spa, take advantage of several lounges and hot tubs. Think about where you were 24 hours ago. Breathe deeply.
Next up: Food that didn’t come from a can, bottle, or plastic bag. Reno’s experienced a serious restaurant renaissance of late and the best place to experience it is at Campo, a high-ceilinged, low-lit temple to farm-to-table ingredients and whole-animal butchery. Order a wood-fired pizza or big bowl of wild boar and broccoli rabe rigatoni, look out on the Truckee River, and bask in the sheer luxury of a dust-free dinner. If your liver can handle it, it’s a 15-minute walk through Midtown to Death & Taxes, a newish cocktail bar with a gorgeously goth-y vibe and a potent Manhattan. During the day, relax near (or in!) the Truckee River, which runs right through downtown; is buffeted by grassy, tree-shaded parks; and was recently re-landscaped to allow for rock-free tubing, floating, and a half-mile class 3 whitewater rafting course. Along the river, the aptly named Riverwalk District offers waterside shopping, drinking, and dining: beer fanatics should definitely make a destination of the Brewer’s Cabinet, an ultra-small batch brewpub and beer garden that specializes in experimental beers, and anyone who’s not art-ed out should head to the Nevada Museum of Art, which is just a couple blocks away and which boasts a large collection of mostly contemporary, often avant-garde work, with a special emphasis on Nevada artists.