A light build 26" HT could also work, and be a chunk cheaper.
I built up an OO Whippet (100mm SIDs, XT 2x10 Gruppo, Crests), and the lack of weight really makes a difference in the fun + chuckability stakes (Polar momentum). It works great at places like Sherwood Pines for example.
I've had a 29er HT, and as a cruiser it was great, and for sure more comfortable on long rides. Surprisingly fast on roads (over took a fair few roadie MAMILS with it). It was just less fun.
Full disclaimer here: the 29er was a _lot_ heavier (Specialized Hardrock), I bought it whilst working abroad to tide me over for 5 weeks.
Would love to try a proper light weight racy 29er (or 650b) for a fairer comparison, but my bike fund is currently earmarked in the opposite direction (160mm + burly), and the Whippet is good enough for me as a non racer.
Of course you could even try a cross bike...