Get a taste of Burning Man without going to the playa
From 2016: Burning Man Fashion Dos and Don'ts for the playa. Be safe and comfortable at Black Rock Desert. Voiced by Kim Bickford at Junkee Clothing Exchange. Mike Higdon/RGJ
One of the first signs is when the vibrant colors emerge and permeate the region. A sign not of the onset of autumn, but the arrival of Burning Man season. Obvious aftermarket vehicle paint jobs and additions lead the migratory charge. Come mid-August, spotting the change in attire citywide is much like going on safari, except here the colorful faux-fur pelts are much easier to spot, and are often complemented by tutus and funky hats. Sparkly tracks mark Burner paths forged through the city.
Outfitting your vehicle and fashioning yourself in full eclectic glory are two steps toward the Playa experience, but what if you weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket? Or, perhaps it wasn’t the year to budget for one, but you’d still like some Black Rock flavor in your life.
Here are suggestions on getting a taste of Burning Man if you can’t make it to the playa.
Step 1: Shop
Proper garb is essential for this mission. There are several locally owned shops strewn throughout Midtown Reno that are more than up to the playa-outfitting task, even if you’re just taking the opportunity to wear all of your favorite things…at once. In town.
For vintage and upcycled items or costumes, head to Junkee Clothing Exchange and PolyEsther’s Costume Boutique. Junkee has a diverse blend of new and secondhand wares to wear, while PolyEsther’s focuses more on upcycled, vintage and custom-made clothing, costumes and hats. Some goods at both locales may have already been out to the festival and back, but are diligently checked and cleaned before heading to their next incarnation.
Down the street, one of the foundational players in Burning Man gear locally is the Melting Pot World Emporium. Reigning counterculture retail royalty for two decades, the shop sells new playa gear like goggles to stylishly protect your eyes during desert dust storms, steampunk gear, flasks, faux fur and much more.
Step 2: Go
Head to the nonprofit Reno Bike Project (RBP) and pick up a used bicycle that may or may not still be stylistically reminiscent of its initial trip to the Black Rock. August is one of RBP’s biggest months, as they fill their shop with refurbished playa-bound potentials for sale that often return after the festival.
Step 3: Do
Now that you’ve got affordable transportation, get your Burning Man art fix. There are several ways to do this in town. The Man is being built in Reno for the first time ever, but visitors aren’t encouraged during this crunch time for its creators.
However at the Reno Generator, sculptors and visionaries of other artistic endeavors headed to the Radical Ritual-themed event this year are feverishly putting finishing touches on their projects, like MegaPrayer. Curious folk are welcome to watch the process until August 22, when the large-scale piece and any others in progress will be packed up for their playa journey.
While many will be marching towards the desert, there are other sculptures that have made the mission and returned only to become temporary or permanent installations around Reno. Art Spot Reno offers a Playa Art Trail map for self-guided sojourns to scope out the many public art pieces around town, striking relics of past Burning Man festivals. Or, in a single stop one can behold many at once at the Playa Art Park, located at 520 N. Virginia St. in downtown Reno.
Step 4: Stay
A brick building built in 1928 along one of Reno’s original thoroughfares, Fourth Street, has become a Burner hostel housing some permanent residents, while also providing a place for people of like mind and experience to mingle and stay. The Morris Burner Hostel is the brainchild of a former entrepreneur and executive of the microelectronics industry who retired, headed to the Black Rock Desert and found Burning Man to be a positively life-changing experience. It is a membership-based organization, not a public lodging place, that has become a go-to for pre- and post-festival accommodations.
To stay, interested guests must apply to become a member. Hundreds of Burners contributed to the creation of this hostel that has become a hub of creativity for festival-goers. Artistically themed rooms welcome guests, while a permanent, outdoor on-property “playa” dubbed the Moasis hosts parties, dinners and movie nights.