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The Biggest Little (Underrated) City

Forget the flashy lights and cigarette stench of the casinos and come discover the other side of small business owners and artists that make Reno a community.
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Reno is the biggest little city in the world with a long history of gambling, not to mention a shout out from Johnny Cash who "shot a man in Reno." Forget the flashy lights and cigarette stench of the casinos and come discover the other side of small business owners and artists that make this place a community. (However, if you are into all that, find the Reno Arch and gamble your heart out.)

From its seedy past as the gambling, legalized prostitution, and divorce capital U.S.A, the local business owners in Reno have really started to clean up its act. Most notable is the emerging Midtown District, just south of downtown, that is now overflowing with shops, restaurants, and bars due to the support of Midtown District Reno and the Creative Coalition of Midtown. I'm positive that all you need is 24 hours to fall in love. In fact, I'd double down on that.

To start any day off right, go meet your local, friendly barista. In Reno, this means The Hub Coffee Roasters located in a tiny little brick building with a roll-up garage door, offering fresh roasted beans and single drip coffees.

Image via Tyler Turtle

Once the caffeine is coursing through your veins, master the art of brunch with live jazz and bottomless mimosas at Chez Louie in the Nevada Museum of Art. Then check out the rooftop sculpture garden with views that will blow your hair back.

Image via Reno Has Style

Walk off that brunch (or that buzz) to Never Ender, an independent retail shop and art gallery selling handcrafted artisanal goods started by Amber Solorozano, who also happens to be a co-founder of the Creative Coalition. Shop the hip desert vibe Gold Seam Vintage which is so reasonably priced that you will go home with a pair of velvet leggings with stirrups... I know I did.

Image via Erin Fong

If you're looking for a little more character in your used clothing, head over to Junkee, which is jam packed with used/vintage clothing and accessories with an entire antique mall on the other side. I like to call that a two-for-one deal. There's even stuff for the little ones across the street at Sippee's, which feels like a ride at Disneyland!

By this point all this shopping is making you hungry. Respite is near! Old Granite Street Eatery is an all-round leader. With a great brunch selection and possibly the best happy hour in town (half off draft beers and wine AND 3 for $10 snacks), it's perfect for any time or day of the week. I'll have three orders of the shisito peppers please.

Image via Erin Fong

If you're searching for the fountain of youth, Brasserie St. James is the closest you will find in Reno. Renovating the historic Crystal Springs building, the brewery retained the rights to the natural springs below which is paired with Pilsner malts and hops from a small family farm in Sonoma Valley to create craft brews. The roof deck can't be beat on a warm summer night.

Image via Erin Fong

Speaking of craft brews, Craft Wine and Beer walks the line between being a liquor store and a bar with a gigantic walk-in fridge of specialty beers and crates of wines strewn about. With a "for here" option, most people opt for cracking their beers open and enjoying with friends at the inside picnic tables.

Image via Erin Fong

Craft cocktails on the other hand are a sure bet at Death and Taxes. This dark speakeasy style bar is known for pouring big city cocktails at big city prices. (One too many and you may be taking this Hearse home.)

If all this "artisanal" and "craft" talk has you searching for the nearest dive bar, I suggest swimming over to Lincoln Lounge on 4th street. This once VERY seedy locale housed what may have been an illegal brothel upstairs but has become more respectable with portraits of Honest Abe lining the walls by local artist. (This watercolor by painter Jaxon Northon is my favorite.)

Kill a few hours by starting your Mug Club membership which entails drinking all 60+ beers here and get your very own Abe mug on the wall. It's like a trophy for adults! Or better yet, burn those beer calories at their monthly Soul Night with DJ Andrew.

Image via City of Reno

A handful of artist studios are in the area and if you're lucky enough to go by Cuddleworks when someone is around, be sure to stop in! Cuddleworks is home to Bootleg Courier, the best (and only) bike messenger service around, who share a large converted warehouse with local artists like Erik Burke, Anthony Arevalo, Nick Larsen and Omar Pierce.

Image via Erin Fong

The most important part about your stint in Reno is be sure to be friendly to your local bartenders, servers, and fellow patrons because chances are you are in their establishments. If you've fallen madly in love with Reno, stop by the drive-thru wedding chapel on the way out of town and seal the deal!