Wedding season is fast approaching, and, contrary to any "divorce capital" stories you may have heard, the Reno area is a popular place to get hitched.
It's been 50 years since Reno began altering its reputation as America's divorce capital and at least as long since locals started exploring Reno life beyond the gaming floor. During the past decade alone, development of downtown Reno has seen a shift from sprawling gaming complexes to smaller, mostly independent restaurants, shops and art houses. While gambling remains a key draw for visitors and natives, it's far from the only show in town. Take a spin around downtown instead of on the roulette wheel.
But let's face it: If you're planning to tie the knot this spring and you're only making plans now, there's not much a Web site (or anyone else) can do for you. However, if you've already got plans in this neck of the woods, the following shortlist should give you some ideas for pre-rehearsal snacks or post-reception drinks. Even if you don't hear wedding bells ringing, these stops can make a great impression, whether it's your first date or your 500th. So, with some help from the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, here are some romantic ideas in the Reno area:
Start your evening with wine tasting at one of the city's wine bars. The Enoteca Wine Cellar and Tasting Bar (inside the Siena casino, 1 S. Lake St., www.sienareno.com/dining/enoteca.html) teams suberb appetizers with more than 35 wines. Wines are served by the glass, and a special appetizer menu recommends fare to accentuate the taste of each. Upscale but not overly formal, Enoteca is a cool place to hang out with friends, have a drink and some food and relax in a smoke-free environment.
A few blocks away, Jungle Vino (246 W. 1st St., www.javajunglevino.com) offers a selection wines in a sleek, dim, big city-style environment. An extension of the years-old Java Jungle coffee house, Jungle V ino is representative of the niche bar scene that has sprung up in downtown over the last five years. In addition to wine, Vino offers hors d'oeuvres, local art and a full-service bar featuring chocolate- and coffee-inflected cocktails. And if you're in the mood for coffee, the pleasantly funky Java Jungle is right next door.
The relatively new Vintage Wine Shop and Tasting Bar (6135 Lakeside Drive, www.vintagewineshop.com) uses mechanized, stainless steel wine tasting systems similar to those used in more urban wine bars (as well as Reserve wine bar inside Reno's Grand Sierra Resort). Customers load money on a shop debit card which is inserted into the system to order varying sized glasses. Vintage offers more than 50 types of wine, which can be sampled by the ounce or the bottle. The shop also offers a variety of decanters, furniture, books and tasting accessories. For couples looking for a special wine, this is a good first stop.
Moving on to dinner, check out LuLou's (1470 S. Virginia St.), an elegant restaurant that is often favorably compared to chop houses in San Francisco and New York. While you can certainly get steak or grilled fish, the menu features an ever-changing specials list including paella, gourmet casseroles and other dishes.
It can be tough to land a table at Sezmu (670 Mt. Rose St., http://sezmurestaurant.com), another obscure but excellent dining choice, but the food makes it worth it. The establishment keeps a low profile in a residential neighborhood and is only open a handful of nights per week, so reservations are a must. Once there, the menu tends to be limited but exquisite: Think goat merguez sausage with Oaxacan black beans or golden tilefish with lobster-crab wontons. The fact that Sezmu can be so tricky to find, let alone get into, adds to the overall experience. And if you and your significant other manage a couple of seats at the chef's occasional Sunday supper, so much the better.
After dinner, there's little reason to venture out of downtown. For those looking for evening entertainment, the Pioneer Center (100 S. Virginia Street, www.pioneercenter.com) is a classically romantic venue. Hosting everything from plays to hypnotists to ballets to Broadway-style shows, it feels like an old-fashioned night at the theater -- the perfect antidote to the sensory overload of casinos.
Nearby, the engagingly weird Bruka theater (99 N. Virginia St., www.bruka.org) puts on a variety of local and traveling performances, many of which play havoc with the fourth wall. While the audience doesn't generally participate in shows, the intimate venue means actors can often be within a few feet of the patrons. Something about huddling together on a couch in the dark while a madman stalks the aisles makes for a special evening. Bruka also hosts occasional dance parties and children's productions.
Lastly, the Nevada Museum of Art (160 W. Liberty St., www.nevadaart.org) offers hours' worth of smart fun for any couple. Situated in a four-level, 55,000-square-foot building that is a work of art in and of itself, rotating exhibits and a chic cafe will give you something to explore together. The museum also hosts early viewings, guided tours, art classes and cocktail parties.
Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.