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Lake Tahoe and Reno, a cool Sierra getaway

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Take a cool vacation in America's biggest mountain lake - Lake Tahoe, California, where you can enjoy casino gambling, waterslides, go-karts, ghost towns, and golf, plus fishing, kayaking, mountain biking and steam train travel. Base your trip at the luxe, Grand Sierra Resort in nearby Reno.

Great rates can be had at this full-service resort, just 15 minutes from Lake Tahoe. Be sure to request a renovated room above the 17th floor, as this 2,000 room hotel has been getting a facelift from the top down, and the views are spectacular. The Grand Sierra Resort, formerly the Reno Hilton, now features a 24-hour casino, live entertainment, a beautiful waterside location, and a full-service day spa. A beach-style outdoor pool and hot tub plus cabanas, refreshments, and DJ entertainment are open all summer. The dining highlights include three restaurants by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer. Other highlights include a 50-lane bowling alley, go-karting, an aquatic golf-driving range, and the Ultimate Rush Thrill Park. There's also a new water park just east of Reno, in Sparks.

Slightly higher rates, but still affordable 3 star hotels in the area are the nearby Holiday Inn Express in Carson City or South Lake Tahoe, where you'll enjoy the free wifi, refrigerator and microwave. Starbucks is steps away, along with numerous breakfast options. The Tahoe location is a bargain for its lakefront location.

Also a bargain at Stateline is the MontBleu Resort, formerly Caesar's, renovated to a high-end, contemporary 4-star standard with a gorgeous pool and views, only $130 per night. For top-of-the-line fun, there's the Marriott Grand Residence resort with a tram to the top of Heavenly Valley.

Nonstop sunny weather is forecast for Reno and Tahoe, with temperatures in the mid 80's. Plus, Reno's annual Hot August Nights classic car show starts in early August. During Hot August Nights, cars are “cherry” and cruisin’ is “too cool.” Over 800,000 people gather where cars are the stars and rock ‘n roll rules through dozens of concerts, controlled cruises, show-n-shines, a sock hop, drag racing and much more!

Whether you take a side trip to Lake Tahoe or the frontier era ambiance of Virginia City, there's a broad array of activities within a short drive. Visit the Nevada State Historical Museum in nearby Carson City, named after Kit Carson. Cooler than Las Vegas in summer at 5,000 feet elevation and blessed with gold-rush nostalgia, northern Nevada has a charm all its own.

Nearby highlights:

Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys, Stateline, is a new world-class music venue, just an hour from Reno.

Carson Valley offers 9 golf courses plus numerous cutthroat trout fishing opportunities.

Incline Village offers 5 star dining at the Hyatt overlooking the lake, plus Sand Harbor's famed Shakespeare festival.

The Nevada coast - South Lake Tahoe area has many new 5 star resorts, dining options, beaches and water sports.

Virginia City has mining tours, and a steam-driven train from downtown Carson City for $5 each way on weekends.

© Copyright 2012 Mary Holman. All rights reserved. This article and content may not be republished, rewritten or excerpted.

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