By Maria Lenhart
Nevada’s three most celebrated tourist spots — Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe — deal a winning hand to travelers of many persuasions. Whether you seek alpine skiing and white-water rafting or epic shopping, dining and entertainment, these Silver State destinations, all featured in Pleasant Holidays vacation packages, are a sure bet.
It’s best known for the famous Las Vegas Strip with its dazzling parade of casino resorts lighting up the desert skies in a rainbow of flash and sparkle. Las Vegas also shines in other ways. Evolving from gaming mecca to entertainment capital in recent years, Las Vegas now encompasses everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and over-the-top designer boutiques to cultural attractions showcasing its colorful history and desert environment.
Venturing downtown to the Mob Museum is a great way to learn about Sin City’s fascinating past. It’s located in a repurposed courthouse where federal hearings on organized crime took place in the 1950s. Interactive exhibits trace the history of organized crime in America, including the part mobsters like Bugsy Siegel played in creating the early casino industry. The nearby Neon Museum celebrates the days when neon, rather than today’s LED and digital lighting, gave Vegas its signature look. The 2.25-acre Neon Boneyard is a wonderland of marquee signs from the Stardust, Sahara, Golden Nugget and other icons of yesteryear.
Not far beyond the city, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the surrounding region. Just west of downtown, Springs Preserve illustrates the wonders of the Mojave Desert with botanical gardens, nature paths and a natural history museum. Other options include Jeep excursions to explore Red Rock Canyon or Hoover Dam, flightseeing over the Grand Canyon and rafting on the Colorado River.
Back in town, there are endless ways to enjoy indoor pursuits, whether it’s a Cirque du Solei show or dining at restaurants run by almost every celebrity chef with a Food Network show. For thrilling views of the dazzling scene below, take a nighttime helicopter ride above the Strip or climb aboard the High Roller Observation Wheel with its spacious passenger pods large enough to host mid-air cocktail parties.
Resorts along the Strip, including those featured by Pleasant Holidays, are full-scale and often eye-popping destinations in themselves. Among them is AAA Five Diamond-rated Bellagio with its ceiling of Chihuly-designed glass flowers and lake where water jets soar at timed intervals paired with music. At the adjoining Venetian and Palazzo resorts (both AAA Four Diamond-rated), guests enjoy leisurely gondola rides along meandering canals lined with cafes and strolling minstrels. The sleek and sophisticated Cosmopolitan is a high-rise alternative where spacious terraces overlook the Strip lights to the desert mountains beyond.
Just over 20 miles away, Reno is part of a magical region of alpine waters, mountain peaks and high desert where Nevada and California meet. Visitors can be based in either destination while easily enjoying the array of pleasures each has to offer.
Reno still sits under the iconic arch proclaiming it “The Biggest Little City in the World.” It no longer draws silver miners and divorce-seekers, but instead attracts vacationers to a mix of options encompassing everything from casino gaming to outdoor adventures in the middle of downtown.
A walk down the main street leads to Truckee River Whitewater Park where visitors can rent kayaks, canoes or inner tubes for navigating the river’s Class 2 and 3 rapids. Downtown Reno is also home to the tallest rock climbing wall in the world. At the BaseCamp climbing park participants can scramble 164 feet up the side of a local hotel for thrilling views.
Another facet of Reno is a burgeoning arts community brimming with galleries and museums to explore. There’s also a full roster of arts and music events during the annual Hot August Nights festival. Its cultural jewel is the Nevada Museum of Art, which features both local and international artists in an architectural landmark inspired by Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The popular National Automobile Museum boasts a collection of rare and vintage vehicles that include Elvis Presley’s 1973 El Dorado Cadillac and the 1949 Mercury Coupe driven by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
When it comes to Reno accommodations, top choices include AAA Four Diamond-rated Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, with casino gaming, headliner entertainment and a luxury full-service spa, and Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel, with a prime riverfront location and an activity center with bocce ball courts.
A sparkling blue sapphire in a setting of snow-capped mountains, Lake Tahoe is a year-round recreational paradise. It draws winter sports enthusiasts to nearby ski resorts like Squaw Valley and Heavenly. Tahoe is also a magnet for those who find the lake’s 72-mile shoreline of beaches, historic mansions and hiking trails through towering forests an irresistible allure.
Chief among the must-do activities is to get out onto the lake itself, whether in a canoe, kayak, motorboat or excursion vessel like a luxury yacht or vintage paddlewheeler. A lake cruise along Emerald Bay highlights lordly Vikingsholm Castle sits in splendid isolation on the pine-fringed shore. The castle is one of several magnificent estates open for tours. Among them include Thunderbird Lodge, a stone marvel built by a scandalous 1920s playboy, and Tallac Historic site, a complex of three mansions, at the south end of the lake.
Tahoe also offers casino gaming and headliner entertainment as well as a wide range of top-notch resort hotels. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino has a prime beach on the north shore and accommodations that include lakeside cottages. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe located at the North Star Mountain Resort offers easy access to ski slopes as well as the waterfront Lake Club. In Heavenly Village on the south shore, Marriott’s Timber Lodge is a few steps from shopping and dining as well as a gondola taking passengers up the mountainside for breathtaking views of the lake.
You won’t need luck to book the perfect Nevada getaway! Just call your local AAA Travel Agent and they’ll manage all the details for you.
Visit your local AAA office.
(Traveler Fall 2020)