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Biggest Little City in the World

That’s Reno’s slogan. Does it fit? … Hmmm the jury is still out on that one. But I will say, the city is full of surprises.

If you are flying into the Lake Tahoe area, then you will be flying in and out of Reno/Tahoe airport. You’re already in the area, why not make a stop in Reno and see what the city has to offer? The Reno-Tahoe area is known as, “America’s Adventure Place”. Go play!

Can’t wait to share my adventures in the Wild, Wild, West with you in Reno and Virginia City! Maybe you’ll find inspiration for your own trip!

Meeting My Family in Reno

The months of July/August are incredibly busy travel times for me. One of the reasons being that in addition to my usual traveling, it’s also a time that I get to see my family if we’re able to be in the same place at the same time.

On this occasion, I would fly from the Bahamas to Reno, meet up with them and spend the week, head back to New York for a friend’s wedding, then, return on the following Monday, where we would head into Tahoe together.

The only thing that ended up changing is that we were having so much fun in Reno that we decided to spend a few more days there before heading to Tahoe. As I type this, I’m recalling how surprising that was to me.

“Hot August Nights”, (a classic car show) was in town. Was awesome to see all these colorful cars from different time periods driving around.

Going to The Desert

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Reno initially appears to be a run down, little city, especially when compared to the beautiful, lush landscape of Tahoe.. at least from my initial perspective.

It’s spread out with several casinos being focal points across the valley. Up at 5,000’, there’s no doubt that the climate is dry… and super hot. It is a desert after all. 

More Than I Expected From a Desert

I’m amazed at how much of Reno I got to experience. Most people don’t spend so much time there. It’s a place you stop in on the way to Tahoe or to gamble..

I ended up staying at 4 different hotels in Reno. All so I could meet my family in between trips… sheeesh.. Wonder if they realize how exhausting that was. LOL.. At least I got to relax at the spa.

“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die…”

Johnny Cash, The Very Best of Johnny Cash

Where I Stayed, Hotel #1: Circus Circus, Reno

When I first arrived to meet my parents and sister, they were staying at Circus Circus and so I decided to stay there too.

Let me be real with ya’ll. At first, I was reluctant to stay there. If memories from my childhood were any indicator, Circus Circus would be a dump. I used to frequent their sister property in Las Vegas as a kid. 

My memory is that is was very dirty, in desperate need of a renovation, and reeked of cigarette smoke. Looking back now, it’s not shocking that my dad only took us there to play the games, not to stay. 

So, imagine my surprise to find that Circus Circus in Reno was not a dump, but actually a really cute hotel! They even have a monorail that takes you to the casino, restaurants, and of course, the Circus. It was the complete opposite of what I expected. They did one heck of a $2 million renovation.

  • The Circus 

It’s set up with acts like high wire, acrobats, and fire eaters on an hourly schedule.. in the middle of “carnival row” if you will.  

You can test your skills on Carnival games as well as the modern arcade which are both at the heart of all this.

In between playing games, I got me some ice cream. Can’t go to the circus without having circus cookies..
  • The ROW

What makes Circus Circus so unique is that it’s attached to 2 other remarkably charming hotel casinos, El Dorado & Silver Legacy to form  “The ROW”, a strip of restaurants, shops, bars, nightspots, lounges, casinos, and luxury rooms & suites. 

It makes it convenient if you want to play games at different casinos without having to walk outside, since they’re all connected. No wasting time in transit. I don’t know about you, but that’s a winner for me. 😉

FUN FACT:

Have you heard of Jacob Davis? How about Levi Strauss?… I thought so. 😉 In 1870, a customer came to Davis, (who was a tailor in Reno) for a sturdier pair of pants. To achieve this, he added copper rivets. Success! Not long after, he partnered with Levi Strauss to finance a patent on his new design. And just like that, blue jeans were born! Much needed during the Silver & Gold Rush. 

Which brings me to…

Where I Stayed, Hotel #2: Silver Legacy, Reno

Upon my return to Reno the following Monday after my quick trip to NYC, we decided to stay at one of the connecting hotels, The Silver Legacy, where films Waking Up in Reno and Kingpin were filmed. Because why the heck not? I’m not exactly going to Reno on the reg. May as well experience as much as possible. And, kinda cool that it’s the tallest building in Reno.

Again, the primary focus of these hotels is the casinos, but they aren’t set up as an afterthought. They are actually well planned out, resort-type stays.

My sister, trying to get into the silver vault.. LOL

I Love Themed Hotels!

This particular hotel is themed after the silver rush that occurred in Nevada in the mid-1800s, specifically, the Lodi Mine find, hence the name, Silver Legacy. It added so much character to the hotel! I love hotels with themes!

FUN FACT:

Silver Legacy has a 120′ mining rig that’s a replica of an 1800s version designed to stay in motion continuously to extract the ore without human hands having to touch it.

“Ore” in a nutshell

natural rock or sediment containing valuable minerals

  • Spa at Silver Legacy

I’m a spa girl so, that’s key to a good hotel for me. This hotel has a world-class spa which I had to check out.

From the interior design elements to the spa treatments, Spa at Silver Legacy really played into the nature vibes of Reno-Tahoe well by incorporating Tahoe’s snow and Reno’s sunny, desert-like atmosphere. 

From the spa treatment area, you can head right outside to a relaxation area with coed soaking tubs. The swimming pool is located up on the roof. 

Not gonna lie, it was hot as hell. I lasted maybe 10 minutes in the desert heat and that was in a shaded cabana type bed. Too hot, much, much too hot. 

FUN FACT:

The spa gave several indigenous plants to a chemist and had their own specialty products made which they use in their services. Their signature treatment is the “Fiery Snow” massage & facial which plays the personality of both cities, Reno and neighboring Tahoe.

Entertainment at The ROW

The ROW wasn’t solely focused on the blackjack tables. At the Silver Legacy, they had great entertainment.

Luckily for me, they were performing during my visit. They’re one of my favorite groups.

At the third connecting hotel, El Dorado, they had a great little show room where they feature world class entertainment.

 

We were lucky to grab last minute tickets to see The Illusionists, which is a Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. It was an incredible magic and talent show. Seriously one of the best acts I’ve seen.

After the show, I met some of the magicians, one of whom was my personal favorite, Paul Krendl, “The Escapist”.

He performed an impressive escapist act while handcuffed and shackled, upside down in a Chinese Water Torture Cell like Houdini. Krendl escaped in less than 3.5 minutes.

FUN FACT:

At 9, Ehrich Weiss (a.k.a. Harry Houdini) worked as a trapeze artist. Then at 11, for a local locksmith where he learned to pick any lock. Not too long after, he followed in the footsteps of his idol, famous French magician, Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. “Houdini” is an homage to him. He’s quoted as saying, “My mind is the key that sets me free”.

Foodie Finds at The ROW

There were some great ones…

We were going to go to Kanpai Sushi but unlike other sushi restaurants I’ve been to, they weren’t very accommodating to my mom who is deathly allergic to eel.

We went to Pearl Oyster Bar instead which was a great foodie find. Of course we had to order oysters to start. 

The oysters were tasty…
Then I picked up a lemon to find the sticker still on it… LOL

Was a little strange… not gonna lie, I was hesitant to use the lemon. If they forgot to remove the sticker, surely they forgot to wash it..

But, I was hungry… After oysters, we moved on to lobster and filet mignon.

We all copied each other and ordered the same thing… LOL

We ate here a few times during our stay. It’s a great café perfect for late night bites like burgers, steak and eggs… Very casual.

Downtown, More to Explore

This part of downtown is also home of a cool hotel, Base Campo which holds The Guinness Book of World Record for “World’s Tallest Artificial Climbing Wall” and Outside Magazine’s “12 Best Hotel Gyms in the US”.

Many hotels offer live music. Harrah’s (who is sadly, permanently closed as of 2020) was doing an outdoor Summer concert series which was great fun.

We caught a glimpse of the Harrah’s fireworks from our hotel room afterward..

Where I Stayed, Hotel #3: Atlantis, Reno

Much to our surprise, we were having such a good time that we decided to stay a few more days. So, we booked rooms at Atlantis, another hotel in Reno further out from the downtown city center.

The hotel itself was a nice stay. I often have sleeping trouble and need perfect conditions to fall asleep. Sometimes it makes picking the right hotel when traveling tricky…

  • Pillows Galore!

Imagine my surprise when I found a bunch of pillows on my bed. I sleep with 3-4 every night. If that wasn’t enough, they had a menu with 4 different pillows to choose from (Diamond Support, Bed, Buckwheat, Aqua Plush). It made for a comfortable and luxurious hotel stay!

  • Spa Atlantis

I am hugely influenced by bloggers and magazine articles and happened to find that this hotel had a Forbes Travel Guide rated 4 star spa with many lovely amenities. Say no more.. I’m in! 

I was pleasantly surprised to find they had so many different amenities all around the spa facility, both indoor and outdoor.

I got the Jacojupayan Opulence (Ja-co-ju-pie-an) treatment which was 90 minutes and incredibly relaxing.

My sister and I were able to have lunch delivered to us while we relaxing in the hot and cold-soaking tubs, which is nice so you can enjoy the amenities all day without leaving the spa.

Where I Stayed, Hotel #4: Plaza Resort 

For our final stay in Reno, we headed back Downtown for a unique hotel find, Plaza Resort in the lively Riverwalk District.

I really enjoyed the old fashioned vibes. There were novelties scattered throughout the hotel. It was very nostalgic.

“War Eagle” slot machine circa 1935. From the company who built the first mechanical gaming device.
They had a speakeasy style cocktail lounge, pool table room, and more…

The rooms were clean and spacious. I also enjoyed the bath products. 

Spontaneity Leads to Exciting Adventures

A couple of fun timing coincidences happened while we were there, without even planning for it.

  • Hot August Nights

It’s super fun what happens when you don’t plan for it. Because we had extended our stay so long, we were now in Reno during Hot August Nights, a classic car lovers dream. In fact, it’s the “Largest Nostalgic Car Show in the World”.

Within a few days, this seemingly quiet little city was fully packed with car-loving aficionados, 50’s vibes, and music scenes set up all throughout the city.

I love old fashioned things… classic cars are no exception!

  • Gay Pride Parade

Unfortunately, I missed the gay pride parade in Reno as it occurred while I was back in NYC. My parents and sister had a blast. 

Next Stop: Virginia City

A day trip took us just a half-hour from Reno to Virginia City, a former mining town that now resembles a ghost town. It’s packed full of history.

Virginia City or “Old Virginny” as the locals call it

Home to the Comstock Lode, (the largest single deposit of silver ore ever discovered in the U.S.), Virginia City at its peak in the 1850’s, was a boomtown with a population of around 25,000. Now with around just 800 residents, it’s a place stuck in time.

FUN FACT:

After failed mining attempts in Nevada, Samuel Clemens needed money and took a job as a writer in 1862 for the Territorial Enterprise, a local newspaper in Virginia City, where he took the pen name “Mark Twain”. It was his first stint as a writer. The rest is history… literally.

“Step Back in Time”

That’s Virginia City’s motto. I’d say, it’s pretty accurate.

Almost hard to believe that this was once a bustling, cosmopolitan city. Back in the silver mining days, it boasted great wealth from its rich soil (literally) that men from all over risked their lives to get their hands on.

Along with the typical tourist shops in a not so typical setting, you’ll find buildings and places that seem as though they were preserved in a certain time period.

When you walk the wooden sidewalks and head into a saloon, you’ll seriously feel like you’re in an old Western movie. 

History can be found in the many famous visitors who stayed in this area from Buffalo Bill and Mark Twain to President Grant. 

Visit Territorial Enterprise and go into the Mark Twain Museum.

Ghost Town

There are stories of the brothels that thrived in this dusty town and people who made a fortune. Some such residents have refused to leave (as you can find in the many haunted attractions).

Featured on the Travel Channel’s “Haunted Places”, Virginia City has tons of stories to tell even from the great beyond.

  • The Silver Queen Hotel

After looking for a saloon to grab a drink, I found The Silver Queen Hotel, named after a beautiful woman.

An ode to the miners who risked their lives in search of silver, “The Silver Queen” is 16′ tall, 210 lbs. & composed of 3,261 Silver Dollars collected from local mines.

I originally came in after seeing their sign about ghosts… Usually, that wouldn’t be a very warm welcome. Actually, if you were anywhere else, you’d turn right around.

Playing a game of roulette with new my skeleton friend.

But, that’s Virginia City’s thing… it’s part of the fun. Turns out, they have a haunted chapel where they do weddings too.

Can’t believe people are actually crazy enough to get married here! It spooked me so much I couldn’t walk in the chapel for longer than 5 seconds.

They have a camera inside capturing the ghost activity which you can watch from the TV at the bar if you’re a scaredy cat like me. Or, maybe that’s your thing… Then this is the place for you. LOL

They’ve been on Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel, 3 times.
  • Washoe Club

If you really want to be spooked, head to the haunted Washoe Club, Virginia City’s oldest saloon. There’s a trio of ghosts here. Bartenders entertain one such ghost (who’s known as a drink snatcher) by leaving shots of Bourbon at the bar before they close up. The next morning, the glass is always empty. 

Adventures in Virginia City

Just a 30 min drive from Reno-Tahoe Airport, even if you’re not into paranormal activity, Virginia City is full of history and definitely worth stopping by for a day of fun.  “Step back in time” and feel like a cowgirl or cowboy from the Wild, Wild West. There’s so much to explore for such a tiny town.

  • Visit a Mine

There are 100+ mines in the Comstock area which produced over $600 million in gold and silver back in the day. You can get a tour from the numerous mines still standing, explore the mining history, even pan for silver!

Speaking of silver…

  • Shopping 

They have cute stores in the “Western” theme where you’ll find everything from homemade fudge and nostalgic novelties to jewelry and stones.

I went to a store that had boleros and paired it with my turquoise hat. I got to be a cowgirl for the day. 😉

You can buy unique handcrafted jewelry with different colors of turquoise or silver.

  • Eat & Drink 

Or drink.. then eat. LOL… If you’re hungry after shopping… stop by one of the city’s many restaurant options. The one that’s by far the most interesting…

  • Delta Saloon

Built in 1875, Delta Saloon is one of Virginia City’s original watering holes. You can enjoy drinks, food, and an astonishing piece of gambling history.

FUN FACT:

Delta Saloon’s head bartender, Prof. Jerry Thomas was the most celebrated Barman in American history. He crafted drinks that elevated the taste of the uncouth people of Comstock and improved their drinking habits. There’s even a drink he invented with his name on it. You might of heard of it… Tom & Jerry anyone? 😉

Check out their Suicide Table and imagine what it was like for the 3 different owners who took their lives on this very table after losing big on “Rocky Mountain” (known as 21 or Blackjack today). 

Virginia City is a hidden gem in The Wild, Wild West. You can plan your stay here. Then, read how to get there.

And now, for my favorite part…

Real Girl Reviews

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Hotel #1: Circus Circus

Was very surprised by the $2 Million Renovation. They did a great job. The hotel was clean and sparkly too.

As part of The ROW, Circus Circus is connected to shops, restaurants, & other hotel casinos which was convenient. Circus Circus has a monorail that takes you around.

Great for kids and adults. Circus shows every hour and carnival games. Casino at hotel. Something for kids & adults.

Gym:

The gym was bare minimum. I would have liked it if it had more equipment.

Hotel #2: Silver Legacy

Make sure you ask for the renovated rooms. They were modern and new which was nice.

Spa:

Cute nature vibe and quintessential Reno-Tahoe theme.

Spa info & amenities here.

Gym:

Loved the gym, 2 different rooms of equipment.

The ROW

Entertainment:

They have great acts playing. One of my favorite shows was The Illusionists. Would definitely recommend whether you're into magic or not! It was quite a performance.

Restaurants:

So many to choose from!

Casino Hotels:

El Dorado, Circus Circus, & Silver Legacy. Great resort type stays. Not just another casino hotel.

The ROW is very convenient for experiencing what Reno's top hotel casinos have to offer in terms of night life, gambling, shopping, dining, & hotel stays.

Pearl Oyster Bar

Other than finding a sticker on my lemon that made me question the cleanliness, I thought the food was yummy and the service wasn't bad either.

Cafe Central

Open 7 days a week, Sun - Thurs, 24 hours. Great late night spot!

Hotel #3: Atlantis

Atlantis Hotel was a fun surprise.

I came just for the spa.. I know, I know. Girl can’t help it. 😉 But the hotel itself ended up being great. I got a specialty treatment, Jacojupayan Opulence (Ja-co-ju-pie-an).

Gym: The hi-tech gym was incredible, it’s crazy but it was such a relaxing experience. Rather than loud pop or rock coming from the speakers, they had soothing zen music and fruit infused water while you worked out.

Indoor & Outdoor Pools and Hot Tubs (for hotel guests, not just spa)

Spa & Amenities: well let’s just say, I found my sanctuary back at the spa. The award winning Four Star spa was exceptional.

  • Tour the spa facility virtually here!
  • Get more spa info here
  • View the Treatment Menu here
  • View Spa Amenities here 
  • View Spa FAQs here 
  • Book your spa appointment here

Hotel #4: Plaza Hotel

What a cute hotel. Definitely has character.

Awesome speakeasy-style cocktail lounge, library w/ books, board games, billiards room

Indoor heated pool w/ nice pool bar, sauna, sun deck

Breakfast free after signing up for their email list. Or $8/adult. It was decent. 

Gym:

They had a decent gym, but small. Had cute old fashioned feel to it. 

You can book your stay here

Elta MD UV Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a necessity on the West coast, even more so for me w/ my Lupus. I brought this on my Reno, Tahoe, Virginia City trip.

Later, learned through Consumer Reports it wasn't that effective. Funny because I stopped using it even before I read that review. It's pretty expensive for the size, hard to get full coverage. Maybe it's one of those "Blink" moments (Malcolm Gladwell)... trust your instincts.

I really like the other products at DermStore though. 

Hot August Nights

If you're a classic car lover, this is right up your alley, literally! Ha! Even if you weren't particularly into these cars before, it's definitely an interesting time of year to come to Reno. Gives the city extra flare.

Delta Saloon

It's really worth a stop if you're in Virginia City. The history alone is fascinating. They serve drinks and food here. They also do weddings and banquets.

See past events they've done here. They look really fun!

Silver Queen Hotel

It was by no means, clean, new, or sparkly.. but that goes with the Virginia City vibes so I was fine with that.

You can get married here! Ghosts have been spotted in the chapel. Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" has been here 3 times.

Check it out for yourself! I got a drink here and bought some ghost stories they had at the counter.

Plan Your Trip

Get My Reno & Virginia City Google Maps Itinerary Here!

You can also copy, print, share, or download it!

Yeehah! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my Wild, Wild West adventures in Reno and Virginia City! Maybe you got inspiration for your own trip!

Would you come out to either city on your way to Tahoe? I’d love to know! Comment below. 

Ya’ll come back now, ya here? 😉

FACT CHECK:

Real Girl Review strongly values truth and strives for accuracy. If you read something that doesn’t sound right, feel free to contact me and I will investigate the facts and make changes as I deem necessary. Posts are updated regularly.

Always keep it real…

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