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Weekender: Betting on Reno's Softer Side

Craft beer, fancy cheese, and a serious art museum—the “biggest little city” isn’t just for gamblers.

 

You might think of Reno as Vegas’s baby brother—a smaller, less glamorous strip of high-rise casinos. But there’s more to the city than gaming and old-school lounge acts. Think award-winning breweries and distilleries, a thriving restaurant scene, and a museum featuring artists from Grandma Moses to Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial). With a special Tahoe exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art on view for the next six months, it’s a great time to cross the state line.

Stay

Not a gambler? The Whitney Peak is the only nongaming, nonsmoking hotel in Reno. Instead of a casino floor, the year-old hotel built an indoor bouldering center called BaseCamp, a climbing room for kids, and a 164-foot outdoor climbing wall that overlooks Reno’s famous neon sign. Snag a hotel room here and you can grab a day pass for just $10. But if you’re feeling lucky, not to worry. The nearest casino floor is within spitting distance.

Climbing wall at the Whitney Peak. Photo: Courtesy of Shiny Things/Flickr

Eat and Drink

Midtown Reno might look a little rough, but it’s an up-and-coming neighborhood full of solid restaurants. Head to the bright and airy Brasserie St. James—Great American Beer Festival’s 2014 Midsize Brewpub of the Year—for a Red Headed Stranger or the gold medal–winning saison Daily Wages. Stick around for upscale bar food like Basque mussels, Argentine flank steak with chimichurri and roasted peppers, and porter-braised lamb shank with five-chili mole sauce.

The Depot’s hybrid restaurant–distillery–brewery sounds like a lot for one institution to handle, but so far it seems to be doing just fine. It’s only been open since New Year’s Eve, but last spring its corn whiskey won gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The massive space—the owners remodeled the 1910 brick headquarters of the Nevada–California–Oregon Railway—houses the entire operation, spitting out a huge menu alongside its beer and spirits list.

The beauty of the menu is that you can grab a juicy burger to go with your beer, but the place also puts out a lot of healthier fare, from sizable entrée salads to quinoa bowls with asparagus and pickled peppers to whole trout with summer squash.

Locals are crazy about midtown cheese shop Wedge. (Really. Ask one.) As serious about salumi and other cured meats as they are about cheese, this place is a smorgasboard of fancy snacks. You’ll see some makers native to the Bay Area—Cowgirl Creamery, for starters—but there are lots of local options, too. If you really want to bone up on your cheese knowledge, take their Cheese Basics class.

See

The Nevada Museum of Art is the only accredited art museum in the entire state. Luckily, it’s a good one. The 60,000-square-foot building is mere blocks from the nearest casino, but it feels like a different world, with four floors of art from the West and beyond. Until January 10, though, the entire space has been taken over by a single exhibit, “Tahoe: A Visual History.” The show features art from textbook names you’ll know—Albert Bierstadt, Maya Lin—as well as maps, Native American baskets, photography, and even beer cans.

 


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