RENO (AND TAHOE) 411–Put These Fun-Filled Towns On Your Bucket List!

As a journalist who has been in the business thirty-plus years and who have been on dozens of press trips, what do you think the best one has been? Well, every destination has something unique to offer but I fell in love with the “Biggest Little City In The World” feeling of Reno and the breathtaking scenery of Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is a world-class destination for sporting, especially lake activities and skiing, but I was thrilled just to look at the mountainous terrain, riding around on its swerving roads and noticing that there was still snow in the mountains’ ridges in 80-something heat!

This region of Nevada is easier than ever to get to now that Jet Blue has flights direct from JFK. Flight 81 is a 6PM flight direct from JFK to Reno and I was thrilled to go on the inaugural flight, complete with games of chance at the gate (I won an orange Nike golf shirt) and fire trucks shooting arches of water at us when we landed (at first, I thought it was raining)! Flight 80 back from Reno is an 11:59 red-eye, so you can sleep on the plane or enjoy the wifi, Sirius Radio or cable TV that Jet Blue offers for free to all passengers (there are no first or business class planes used on these routes and each seat has an incredible amount of leg room).

I was on an incredible four night trip where I sampled three different hotels, several different sites and enough great cuisine to satisfy even Henry The 8th’s appetite. I enjoyed the massive corner room I had at the Silver Legacy and my view of Reno downtown at night, and was impressed with the incredible amount of diversity in the gaming. There are plenty of quarter slots for low budget gamers and also plenty of options including baccarat for those who say that the sky is the limit when it comes to gambling in Reno. I also fell in love with the Eldorado Resort in Reno. I did a quick visit to a high roller suite and it was in elegant traditional decor with a stunning modern bar in the center of the living room with a view of downtown–but my #1 love there is the wonderful La Strada restaurant. The mushroom ravioli is legendary and the private back rooms are perfect for business meetings or reunions–or people who just want some privacy while they consume large amounts of homemade pasta and grassfed veal and beef. (For more info, go to www.eldoradoreno.com.)

In the hour-long, incredibly scenic trip between Reno and Lake Tahoe are fantastic things to see and do. I wanted to see the legendary “ghost town’ of Virginia City. Once a booming gold rush town, this “lost in time” village now only has a few thousand people and all the buildings seem to be untouched from the 19th Century. You can go to the numerous saloons, check out the delicious Red’s Candies (where candy apples and fudge are made in the front window and are always super fresh), go on the same train that the miners took on their way to brothers and wild Saturday night parties, see the “Suicide Table” where gamblers lost life savings and even have homemade brews. (For more info, go to www.visitvirginiacity.com.)

Once you get to Lake Tahoe, there are an incredible amount of water activities and I tried paddle boarding for the first time. For a stunning view of the lake from a residence grand enough for The Great Gatsby, check out the historic Thunderbird Lodge  once owned by multimillionaire George Whittell and then the Dreyfus family. It features some supposedly haunted stone passageways underneath with secret rooms including an opium den and unused indoor pool. The well-traveled Mr. Whittell’s glamorous yacht built in the 30s is still kept in a covered slip at the edge of the property and resembles the Ducati luxury car he drove.

I enjoyed eating at an outdoor eatery with pizza to rivalry that in New York City called Pizza Base Camp close to my all-suite hotel called The Lake Tahoe Resort, which includes a huge buffet breakfast for all guests. My 1000 square foot suite had two fireplaces and was traditionally decorated. The inside of the hotel is actually done in a modern style with room doors opening onto a courtyard style lobby not unlike the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World. The Lake Tahoe Resort is just across the street from The Harvey which features A list rock talent and the Hard Rock Cafe so I recommend it for being in the center of the party action in Tahoe.

For the quieter side of Tahoe, I spent a night at the five star boutique hotel known as The Landing. This is actually a 50s style motor lodge re-done to be a peaceful, elegant and modern space. My room was funky and elegant at the same time. It looked like it could be in a rock video with the giant gold dice end tables and one red wall–yet featured some of the famous lodge style wood paneling and bookshelves and a modern terrace. Each room is uniquely and the spa features an endless array of services. This is the perfect anecdote to a day of drinking and gaming in wild Lake Tahoe South.

While in Lake Tahoe North, be sure to visit the legendary Cal Neva Lodge which was owned by Frank Sinatra from 1960-1963. It is under renovation now but will be reopening on December 13th for what would be The Chairman Of The Board’s 100th birthday. I admit that I trespassed on the property last month and am happy to say that the famous revolving piano in the lounge area is being preserved. I just hope that the same thing is happening for the legendary pool that has a California-Nevada state line painted through the middle! For more info, go to www.calnevaresort.com.

The best way to conclude a trip to Tahoe and Reno? Well, on your last day, make it a point to visit the Auber-fabulous Atlantis Casino in Reno. It’s only fifteen minutes from the airport and it has the best steakhouse in all of Nevada (in my humble opinion). The steaks are prime and the service is so attentive that the waiter cuts the first three or four slices for you. As ultra-modern as this eatery looks, you can still get table side service which is a casino tradition. You can get Steak Diane made at your table–and then finish off with Cherries Jubilee or Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. (This creates a lot of smoke–not unlike a heavy metal concert!) They have a spa that is to die for–the pool area is a work of art (you can see it in  my featured photo above).

Also remember that both Reno and Tahoe are great family places–not just because there are so many outdoor activities but because almost all the hotels have supervised kids’ funs, games and crafts (not to mention babysitting). I plan to go back in December for the reopening of the Cal-Neva–not just because I love the legendarily glamorous lifestyle that the Rat Pack led, but because I have the feeling that the ghost of Marilyn Monroe will be there enjoying a glass of champagne with all the other revelers!

(All photos courtesy RASC or by Anne Raso).

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