With its up-and-coming art-and-music scene, steady growth of locally-owned, farm-to-table restaurants and impressive ability to draw forward-thinking businesses like Tesla, Reno is quickly becoming a West-coast hot-spot for explorers of all types. What once was seen as a less exciting version of Las Vegas has since carved out its own nook in the hearts of Venuelusters everywhere—with travelers comparing it to cities like Portland, Denver and other oh-so-hip locales. Today, then, we wanted to break down visiting Reno, from tip to tail. Get ready for some unbelievable eats, impressive cocktails and endless fun—the Biggest Little City in the world packs a serious punch when it comes to Venuelusting.
When visiting Reno, you’ll be faced with countless casinos to choose from. But, why not skip the bright glow of neon and the constant ring of slot machines for a true off-the-beaten-path experience? Below is a breakdown of our all-time favorite lodging option in the Biggest Little City.
The only non-gaming, non-smoking boutique hotel in the Reno area, Whitney Peak, is a new staple for locals and visitors alike. Located just two blocks from the Truckee River (and its quaint “riverwalk” area) and 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe, we love Whitney Peak’s location (almost) as much as we love what it’s all about: A hotel for outdoor enthusiasts, thrill-seekers and go-green’ers alike, Whitney Peak offers an experience that’s worlds apart from the typical tourist-laden, gambling-driven, smoke-clouded hotels and casinos the city is typically known for.
We can’t get over the hotel’s industrial-meets-outdoors aesthetic. Perfectly placed outdoorsy elements warm up an otherwise urban-feeling space—and the combo of concrete, iron, and reclaimed wood make for a super-chic sight for sore eyes.
We especially love the guestrooms at Whitney Peak. Each of the 310 available rooms offers panoramic views of snow-peaked Sierra Nevadas, and each is impeccably adorned with design elements that nod to the area's natural surroundings and its renowned ski-and-snowboard scene.
Designed to “bring the outdoors in,” the rooms feature natural wood accents, local photographs, and pops of color in all the right places. WiFi access is complimentary, and the property is pet-friendly—so be sure to bring along your pooch for a true family vacation.
Home to the world’s tallest climbing wall (which crawls its way up 164 feet alongside the outside of the building) and a 7,000-square-foot indoor bouldering area (dubbed “Basecamp”), rock climbing novices and naturals alike will quickly fall in love with the playground that is Whitney Peak.
The property also boasts a colorful concert venue called Cargo. Featuring award-winning musicians and internationally touring bands, Cargo draws in an impressive roster of artists—so be sure to check the Cargo schedule before booking your trip.
Eat & Drink
With seasoned chefs and its close proximity to northern California (hello, fresh produce), the dining scene in Reno is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Below are a few of our all-time favorite eateries—each of which is an absolute must-try when visiting Reno.
Roundabout Grill at Whitney Peak
While staying at Whitney Peak, we definitely recommend making your way down to the Roundabout Grill (located on lobby level, right around the corner from the check-in desk) for a meal you won’t soon forget. Founded by Reno/Tahoe locals Colin and Marybeth Smith, Roundabout Grill features fresh, locally-grown, organic-whenever-possible ingredients in creative dishes for adventurous palettes and growling stomachs alike.
We especially love the restaurant's modern-meets-reclaimed aesthetic. With floor-to-ceiling bar shelving chock-full of stones and succulents, serene lighting and a super open layout, your eyes are sure to wander as your stomach waits for your perfect plate. Classic wood elements give the space a storied feel, while streamlined seating and simple lines add a super-chic modern touch.
Roundabout Grill Menu Must-Tries:
For breakfast, we recommend ordering the Apricot Granola Hot Cakes before heading up to Tahoe for a great ski session. For brunch, opt for the Hawaiian French Toast (a dish that features grilled doughnut bread pudding, bananas, strawberries, mangoes and toasted coconut). After a chilly day on the slopes, the Corn and Bacon Chowder can’t be beat for a late lunch. And, for dinner, the Housemade Pasta is one of our all-time favorite options. Wash it all down with a refreshing Canyon’s Crest, one of Roundabout’s specialty cocktails, featuring gin, strawberry lime cider, cucumber basil water and lime juice.
Located right along the picturesque Truckee River, Campo (meaning “gathering place” in Italian) is one of our all-time favorite Italian eateries—and it’s an absolute must-try for anyone visiting Reno. Just a five-minute walk from Whitney Peak, we recommend heading out of your hotel one night and giving this local-favorite a try (or three). On Saturday and Sunday, Campo also offers a brunch menu, which is definitely worth a try if you're visiting Reno on a weekend.
Founded by renowned chef Mark Estee, Campo’s constantly-evolving menu features fresh, local ingredients that come together in mouthwatering (and super creative) takes on traditional Italian dishes. Campo is most famous for its Napoletana-style pizza, made in-house in its wood-burning oven.
This space is among our favorites in Reno. Unfinished woods, concrete flooring, and deep hues make for an aesthetic that feels like you're eating in a big, warm, Italian kitchen. If the weather is nice, we recommend asking for a table outside. That way, you can watch the welcoming waters of the Truckee roll past as you enjoy your meal under charming market lights.
Campo Menu Must-Tries:
Everything on Campo's menu is amazing, but the Bee Sting Pizza (pictured above, left) is an absolute must-try. Featuring salami, serranos, mozzarella, red onions, basil, honey and a fried egg, it's unlike any other pizza we've ever tried—and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. We also recommend the Rigatoni with Wild Boar Bolognese (pictured above, center)—Campo chefs know how to do a meat sauce, and this dish seriously proves our point (plus, the housemade pasta is cooked perfectly al dente and tastes truly authentic).
If you're looking for a small, local lunchtime spot that packs a serious punch when it comes to craft beer, look no further than Midtown Eats. Just a 15-minute walk (or 5-minute drive) from Whitney Peak Hotel, Midtown Eats is located in the up-and-coming Reno Midtown District, where there's no shortage of hip things happening. Known for their diverse (and impressive) beer list and meals that will leave you speechless, Midtown Eats is a locally- and family-owned spot that prides itself on unique dishes and artisanal cocktails made with seasonal ingredients and housemade syrups. We especially love that you can tailor your experience to exactly what you're looking for—stop by the bar for a light bite at lunch time, or enjoy a quaint sit-down dinner for two in their small, but completely charming, dining area. The small-but-versatile space really is able to deliver both an easy-breezy mid-day experience and a dreamy date night for two.
Midtown Eats Menu Must-Tries:
You can't go wrong with a burger at Midtown Eats. For the meat-lover, we recommend the Classic Burger or the Atomic Burger (a spicy take on a class cheeseburger, featuring habanero, avocado, chipotle aioli and mixed greens). For the vegetarian, Midtown's Portobello Burger can't be beat.
For a spicy mid-day snack, you have to try the Blistered Shishito Peppers, which are finished with bits of chorizo, chipotle salt and lime (yes, please). To help balance the spice, we recommend washing this sizzling dish down with a refreshing "El Cid," a cocktail featuring tequila, pineapple honey, lemon and serrano cherry bitters.
Brasserie St. James
No list of Biggest Little City eats would be complete without a mention of one of the area's best breweries, Brasserie St. James. Voted Best Mid-Size Brew Pub in the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, St. James (often just referred to as "Brasserie" by area locals) is known for crafting old-world-style ales and lagers that pair perfectly with their unbelievably tasty menu items. Once an old icehouse, the storied space boasts its very own artesian lake of Sierra Nevada spring water located 285 feet below its surface—a private source of water that's likely responsible for the unbeatably fresh beers they brew.
As far as the space itself goes, the aesthetic is as cool and eclectic as they come. The restaurant and brewery are super spacious but still manage to still feel warm and quaint. Exposed brick, warm woods, charming stonework, two oversized bars and a tucked-away game room make for the perfect spot to pull an all-nighter with some of your closest travel companions. Think: old-world European meets new-age hipster. (And, if the weather is warm, we recommend venturing up to the rooftop deck for dining and drinking under the star-cloaked Reno sky.)
Brasserie Menu Must-Tries:
The food at St. James is both hot and hearty, and is meant to be washed down with anyone of the brewery's renowned beers. We are huge fans of "The Mac" (pictured above), a mac-and-cheese dish featuring mushrooms, leeks, cauliflower, gruyere, and cheddar. We also love anyone of their mussels dishes (they currently have three to choose from, our favorite of which is "Moules Basque," a Basque dish where muscles are soaked in a delectable bath of butter, wine, tomatoes and—wait for it—crispy french fries).
As far as Brasserie's beer goes, we highly recommend asking your seasoned server or bartender to suggest the perfect pairing—especially considering the beer list is always rotating. (Though, you really can't go wrong sampling them all.)
After you've climbed the Whitney Peak rock wall, filled up Campo's handmade pasta, and washed it all down with a few ice-cold brews from St. James, we recommend topping your trip off with a walk over to a few of our favorite Midtown Reno shops.
Sundance Books & Music
Sundance Books is one of those one-off, local shops that you can't help but fall in love with. Guaranteed to make book-lovers weak in the knees, this once-mansion is now a thriving book and music store that Reno/Tahoe locals swear by. One of the most charming spaces we've ever laid eyes on, we're not exaggerating when we say you'll lose yourself Sundance for hours on end. It's just that great. And Sundance doesn't just talk the talk—it's played a huge part in advancing the literary scene in the Reno/Tahoe area for over 30 years now. We especially love that they support up-and-coming local writers by selling their work and allowing them to host readings in their quaint downstairs reading room.
On the first floor, you'll find an impressive collection of new vinyl records (their vinyl shelf is known to boast everything from the Black Keys to Janice Joplin to Rage Against the Machine); a wall lined with greeting cards; a tiny kitchen-like room that's home to cute tchotchkes and cookbooks; and a room filled with New York Times Bestsellers, new releases, staff reading picks, and books by local Nevada authors.
Venture up the storied staircase and you'll find books separated into rooms by genres. Remember, Sundance was once a house, and they've kept the original layout essentially the same as it was all those years ago, so what were once bedrooms are now spaces that designate a certain genre—nonfiction in one room, children's books in another, fiction in another, etc. Worth mentioning is the fact that each room boasts über-cozy reading chairs, so you can take your time browsing books and thumbing through pages before you make your way back downstairs to check out.
Insider's Tip: Sundance regularly hosts readings that bring in nationally-known authors, so be sure to check the Sundance Books & Music Events Calendar before planning your trip to see if you can catch a literary great in action.
Wedge Cheese Shop
If there's any cheese shop in the States greater than Wedge, we've yet to find it. Before heading back home, we definitely recommend stopping in this artisanal cheese shop for a slice (or three) of your favorite cheese. Wedge's staff is among the most knowledgeable we've ever come across, and, from the moment you walk in the door, you'll feel like family. So, not to worry if you're not a natural cheese aficionado—they'll be more than happy to walk you through the entire tasting process.
With over 100 different kinds of cheese to choose from, Wedge offers an unbelievable selection of both cheeses, meats, and accompaniments (like olives, nuts, oils, crackers and fruit preserves). If you're feeling especially adventurous, we recommend signing up for one of Wedge's classes, where you'll taste your way through a number of different cheeses and, depending the class, wines as well. In our opinion, there's really no better way to wrap up your off-the-beaten-path trip to the Biggest Little City in the world.
Have a Reno-area staple we missed? Share your insider information with us in the comments section below. We can't wait to hear what you have up your sleeve.