United just launched a direct flight to the Reno-Tahoe airport from Houston, so you can now reach this desert city year round. I spent three days exploring Reno, Carson City and Tahoe and feel so invigorated from my times in the mountains and on the lake shores. This Weekend Guide to Reno-Tahoe contains highlights from my trip and things I would do next time I go back! Because let’s be real…there is definitely going to be a next time!
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Heads up: This trip was sponsored by Fly Reno-Tahoe but all opinions and recommendations are my own!
Where to Stay in Reno-Tahoe
The Nevada area offers many amazing places to stay. These are some of the top hotels in the region that would make a weekend in Reno-Tahoe memorable.
- Grand Sierra Resort (Reno): This privately owned hotel is regularly remodeled and has spacious modern rooms (the best rooms according to my Uber driver!). It has a concert theater, club, spa, and amazing outdoor pool. Plus, someone high in management is vegan so every restaurant has a vegan option.
- Silver Legacy (Reno): This casino/hotel is located on the Row. It’s in the heart of Reno and walkable to a lot of attractions such as the Reno sign, restaurants and murals. The Row consists of three hotels, Silver Legacy, Circus Circus and El Dorado.
- Atlantis (Reno): Another casino-resort in Reno. My friend Reanna stayed here during her trip. Click here to read her Reno guide.
- Hotel Becket (South Lake Tahoe): This motel style hotel has updated modern decor with a glamping vibe and a prime location across the street from shops and restaurants and Lake Tahoe shores. Skip the breakfast and head across the street to Heavenly Village for good eats!
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What to Do in Reno-Tahoe
Reno is the “Biggest Little City” of Nevada and brimming with excitement. It’s filled with resorts, shows, and casinos. If you want a break or a change of scenery from Vegas, many people find their way here. It’s also the launching point for Burning Man in the Playa and “burners” from all over the world convene in Reno for the summer before they adventure out into the desert. Surrounded by mountains with easy access to ski resorts, hiking and Lake Tahoe, Reno is a year-round destination with a festival nearly every weekend.
- Downtown Reno Art Tour: Take a stroll through the town to discover the Burning Man art and rotating murals. Don’t miss the Burning Man “BELIEVE” sign or the Playa Art Garden. You can sign up for an official tour with Art Spot. They host tours on Saturdays, Sundays and some Thursdays.
- Truckee River Trail: Accessible from Downton, the trail is a super cute spot to go for a run. It’s 12 miles long and is spotted with art sculptures and overflowing flower baskets.
- National Automobile Museum: This museum had a massive collection of antique cars from 1800s to 1950s.
- Catch a Festival: It seems like every weekend there’s something happening. When I was talking to locals they all had their favorite events from Beer and Chili Fest to Reno Air Races. The Reno Balloon Race caught my eye and I’m already planning my next trip.
At the Resort
- Grand Sierra Spa: I got the “Grand Custom Image Facial” and then lounged in the spa area with a mimosa for another hour. Definitely bring a swim suit so you can do the spa circuit of steam room, sauna, hot tub and cool showers.
- Grand Theater: I would definitely recommend planning a trip to Reno when a show is in town! This intimate theater seats only 2900 people but hosts big name acts! All the acts sign a wall backstage and I was able to spot the Backstreet Boys, Beach Boys, Evanescence and more! There’s no bad seat in the house. Afterwards you can hit up the club, LEX for a DJ pool party. They’re known to host big name acts as well.
Carson City. The capital city of Nevada was founded during the Gold Rush by visionary Abe Curry who bought land and knew that one day Nevada would become a state. Downtown has a Wild West feel with small shops and cute restaurants. I visited in late September but I’d love to see it in October when the leaves are changing. The city celebrates “Nevada Day” on Halloween.
- Kings Canyon Waterfall: From the parking lot, it’s a quarter mile hike to see the waterfall and the trail continues further. Good place to park and multiple trailheads to choose from.
- Kit Carson Trail: A 2.5-mile walking tour of Carson City’s west side, which includes nearly 60 homes and buildings. You’ll walk by the Governor’s Mansion (has incredible Halloween decorations and tricker treaters), Bliss Mansion (largest home in Nevada in 1879), home of the inventor of the American Christmas card, Mark Twain’s brother’s house, and more! The fences and buildings are restored and maintained under strict historical guidelines, so you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time.
- Ghost Walk: A town built during the Gold Rush has tons of history–and drama! In October, you can catch a tour that takes you through some of the haunted places in the city.
Virginia City. The city is a former mining town that boomed during the Gold Rush. While I didn’t visit this city as a day trip, Erika, one of the other bloggers I was with, did. She said “when you walk down the street, it does feel like you are in the wild wild west but you are equipped with a cell phone (with shaky signal) instead of a pistol.” Click here to read her full blog post!
No weekend guide to Reno-Tahoe would be complete without featuring the lake itself! With hiking and skiing at your finger tips, a visit to Lake Tahoe is truly a year-round destination. Depending on where you go, this lake is about an hour away from Reno. Due to its altitude, it’s called the “The Lake in the Sky.” Part Nevada part California, Lake Tahoe has so much water in it that it can cover the entire state of Texas 8 inches deep! The water is 99% pure, so you can often see 75 feet down on calm days. The towns in North Lake and South Lake have a bit of a rivalry as to which side is better, but at the end of the day it’s all one lake and magical all around. I stayed in South Lake Tahoe and loved it!
On the Water
- Lake Tahoe Cruises: We took a tour on the Ms. Dixie II, an old school river boat. It moved slowly so there was no wind which was nice and had a solid selection of margaritas for sale. The tour took about 2 hours to do a round trip between Zephyr Beach and Emerald Bay. Tours run daily 11am and 2:30pm with “Dinner and Dance” cruises at 6pm.
- Sunset Boat Cruise: Wind down at the end of the day with a one hour “Happiest of Hours” cruise. This cruise includes one free drink and all the beautiful scenery that Lake Tahoe has to offer.
- Beaches: Lake Tahoe has plenty to choose from but some favorites from locals include Zephyr Beach (South Lake), Chimney Beach (named after the chimney on the beach!) Secret Cove (North Lake), and Sand Harbor (great for kids).
- Clearly Tahoe Kayaks: Rent a clear kayak and cruise around the crystal clear turquoise waters of Tahoe. Even with some wind and waves this was the highlight of my trip. It’s so cool being out on the water.
- Hike Cave Rock: This short trail takes you from the beach up to Cave Rock for some spectacular views. It took us about 30 minutes round trip, but there were additional connector trails that lead deeper into the forest. It’s a very sacred to the Wahoe Native Americans.
- Hike Emerald Bay: The shallow water in this narrow cove of Lake Tahoe reflects vibrant turquoise green water in good weather. It’s home to a Norwegian castle and island complete with a tea house. People hike and kayak and take boat tours through the region. I would love to come back and hike!
- South Lake Tahoe Bike Trail: Many paved trails biking trails that stretch 2 to 10 miles around the lake.
- Nevada-California State Line: In South Lake Tahoe, you can straddle the state line in the Van Sickle Bi-State Park.
- Skiing: Tahoe is truly a year-round destination and has the highest concentration of ski hills in the North America. Depending on how you count there’s between 15-20 resorts. Squaw tends to have a lot of out of towners. While Diamond Peak, and Mount Rose are more local and chill closer to Reno.
Where to Eat in Reno-Tahoe
This weekend guide to Reno-Tahoe wouldn’t be complete without some solid foodie options! While the nature is the real draw to the region, the food sure doesn’t hurt. Here are some of my favorite places to visit in Reno-Tahoe.
- Liberty Food & Wine Exchange: This restaurant serves lots of locally sourced ingredients from berries and fish. Go for brunch and try the avocado toast, melon burrata salad, breakfast pizza, shashuka. I fell in love with the skillet pancakes topped with fresh berries.
- Cafe Capello: We popped into this cute coffee shop to warm up during a freak Reno rainstorm. They put cinnamon on my chai latte and warmed my soul.
- Charlie Palmer: I don’t eat steak, but I’m a big fan of how vegetarian friendly this steak house was. It’s one of the nicest restaurants in Reno and the chef made me a special off the menu dish with Napa cabbage wraps filled with rice and beans topped with a chimichurri sauce. Wine menu is legit too!
- The Eddy: Grab a beer at this outdoor bar made of repurposed shipping containers on the river. Play lawn games like bocci ball and cornhole, giant jenga and Connect Four. The Eddy serves lots of local craft beer and has an onsite pizza oven and rotating schedule of food trucks.
- The Union: This sister restaurant to the Liberty Exchange in Reno had lots of delicious new-american classics. The tortilla soup was delish!
- Basque Restaurants: Oddly enough, there’s a large population of Basque (from Spain) that live in the Carson City area. Check out one of their restaurants for some unique cuisine. Apparently Basque ketchup is a hit!
- Gar Woods Grill & Pier: Our friends from Reno travel to this place just to try the Wet Woodies–rum based frozen cocktails!
- Riva Grill: A staple on the South Lake Tahoe food scene, it’s known for seafood and I will forever remember it for my first Wet Woodie! They also make a virgin Wet Woodie if you don’t drink. Head there in the evening to watch the sun set over the water.
- Driftwood Cafe: Family friendly diner, serving comfort food and breakfast all-day. Get the cheesy home fries! It’s located in Heavenly Village which has lots of food options to chose from.