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Reno, Nevada is one of the two largest cities in its state. It lies in the northwestern corner of the state, not far from the California state line. Like its sister city to the south, Las Vegas, Reno is known for the casinos that populate its city limits. The same goes for Sparks, Nevada, its next-door neighbor. You can hardly tell when you leave Reno and enter Sparks, so they might as well be the same town.
When someone hears you've been to Reno, they usually want to know if you lost any money or got divorced, Reno being the quickie divorce capital of the U.S. However, there is far more to do in the Reno area than gamble or dissolve a marriage. Some of America's best sightseeing is within 90 minutes of the city.
Reno is conveniently served by the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. It is a small airport, but it handles several different airlines, making it fairly easy to get a flight into the city. The airport has car rentals, of course, and getting around the city is not difficult.
A traveler might do a little desultory gambling the first day in town, but should be ready for a lot more. Staying in one of the casinos in Reno or Sparks is probably one of the cheaper options for a decent room, and the casinos also offer the advantage of late-night dining, so the traveler doesn't have to get out of the parking deck and find a place to eat. Neither Sparks nor Reno is especially safe late at night for those walking around downtown. There are a lot of panhandlers and prostitutes hanging around the casinos, so women alone, especially, should be forewarned.
Start the first day in town with a trip to Virginia City, Nevada. This little western town, featured in the television show "Bonanza," still has many of the original buildings from the 19th century. The town has even kept wooden sidewalks, adding to the authentic feel.
Virginia City is something of a tourist trap, but it is worth seeing, and the short line train that runs the five miles to Gold Hill, past some of the sites of the Comstock Lode, is a very pleasant 90 minutes of history. St. Mary's in the Mountains Catholic Church was the first Catholic congregation in Nevada, and the church is a beautiful work of art. Going back through Carson City, the state capital, the traveler can see the Nevada capitol building and other state buildings. Carson City is congested, however, so build plenty of time in the schedule to get through it.
A second day trip might be to Truckee, California - about 35 miles from Reno. Truckee has a historic downtown district with excellent shopping. In the winter, the skiing is good at Truckee, too.
About five miles from Truckee is Donner Pass, site of the sad fate of the Donner Party, a wagon train that camped there in 1846-47. Forty-one of the over 80 members of the party died of disease or starvation that winter when the snows piled over 20 feet deep. A state park and marker remember those who perished.
Donner Lake is nearby and is surely one of the most beautiful lakes in America. Recreation is available and the lake is a popular spot for fishermen. Those interested in nature can find beautiful plants and animals to observe here, too.
No trip to the Reno area would be complete without a drive to Lake Tahoe. About 90 minutes away, Tahoe is the jewel of the Sierras. The lake is deep, cold and clear. It is nearly always a cobalt blue that pictures simply cannot duplicate. Remember the opening credits of "Bonanza" and the lake in the background? That's Tahoe.
Skiing reigns around Tahoe, of course, but water recreation of all kinds is popular when the snow melts. Accommodations around Tahoe are cheaper than one would expect, and the casinos offer great dining, as well as gambling. Hotels and restaurants line the lake on all sides, and most offer lovely views of the water.
A trip to Reno offers "the best of the West." A traveler can see small towns, large towns, gorgeous scenery and a lot of history. He might even win a dollar or two. Reno is not to be missed.
I think Lake Tahoe is my favorite spot to visit around Reno. It is so beautiful! It's one of the few places I've been that actually lives up to the hype. The lake does look exactly like you see it on TV and in the travel guides. It's even bluer though, like the article said.
Yeah, the prices aren't nearly as high as you'd think for a resort area, except for the lake cruises. Those are pretty pricey. But most of the restaurants have good food and the prices aren't bad at all. The Forest Buffet at Harrah's isn't cheap, but you're also paying for the incredible view, since the restaurant is on the 22nd floor and you can eat facing the lake. Wow. It's incredible.
@Grivusangel: Virginia City sounds like fun. If I ever make it back to Reno, I'll have to check it out.
Reno also has some pretty good places to eat. One Mexican restaurant is Bertha Miranda's. It's been there for years and years, and is a family owned place. There is a Bertha Miranda and her grandkids run the place now. They have great food.
There's also a restaurant called the Black Bear Diner, which I'm told is a chain, but is still a good place to eat. I guess it’s in Reno. Sparks and Reno are so close together, it’s hard to tell.
I was in Reno several years ago and we hit a couple of these spots. We went to Virginia City and Truckee. Truckee's downtown is so cute! They have a couple of really good restaurants there, too.
Virginia City is interesting, too. They have wooden sidewalks, just like they did in the late 1800s.
There are several signs on the road up to Virginia City that say "See the suicide table in the Delta Saloon." Well, I saw it. It refers to a faro table where a lot of people lost their shirts. Some committed suicide because of it. I guess any place like that has its gruesome spots.