Reno and Tahoe share little in common besides an airport. “The Biggest Little City in the World,” as Reno is often called, is a small but bustling city known for its casinos, while Tahoe’s main draw is its natural wonders, including its crystal-clear lake and mountain ski resorts. The combined region is located in the corner of Nevada that juts into California, with some of Tahoe even spilling over into the Golden State. Reno’s climate offers 300 sunny days a year, with occasional winter snowfalls. Although the Tahoe area is most popular in the winter for skiing and the summer for its variety of outdoor activities, the quieter shoulder seasons offer the natural beauty of spring blooms and autumn foliage.
Casinos aside, the Reno-Tahoe area is an outdoor adventurists’ paradise. Even the city proper offers plenty of recreation, including kayaking the whitewater of the Truckee River, golfing at one of the area’s 50 courses, and exploring the backcountry on an ATV. Several areas of the city have undergone recent revitalization, leading to numerous more dining and shopping options compared to just a few years back. Whether they live here year round or just fly in for a good snowfall, Tahoe residents are vehemently defensive of their picturesque setting, so much so that ordinances have been put in place to rein in development and preserve open spaces. Annual Reno events include the classic-car rally Hot August Nights and a hot-air balloon race.
Gambling aficionados looking for less glitz and fewer crowds flock to Reno, which can also be considerably less expensive than Las Vegas. Casinos cater to specific clientele, such as families at Circus Circus or those seeking a little pampering at the Peppermill Resort. Aside from slots and tables, Reno offers attractions such as the National Automobile Museum, featuring vehicles once owned by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and a kids’ discovery center. While gambling is also prevalent in Tahoe (on the Nevada side), the beauty of the great outdoors is the main attraction. Skiing in the winter, watersports in the summer, and historical locations such as the Scandinavian-style Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay are just some of the highlights.
The recent gentrification of Reno’s Midtown District has made it a hub of dining and shopping, as well as one of the best nightlife alternatives away from the casinos. Tahoe towns range from the ritzy Incline Village to the unpretentious but ever-friendly Kings Beach. The majority of the big-name casinos can be found in South Lake Tahoe, home to Harveys, Montbleu, and Harrah’s, as well as the Heavenly Gondola, offering panoramic views from 9,000 feet/2.7 kilometers up. Located about 15 miles from the north side of Lake Tahoe, the quaint town of Truckee combines Old West history with contemporary shopping and dining.