Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at Hard Rock in South Lake Tahoe, a resort town at the lower end of North America’s largest alpine lake. This isn’t a typical HR café; it has multiple eateries since it’s also a hotel, and like most hotels in the region, comes with a casino. The Alpine Union Bar & Kitchen offers a typical American breakfast all-day, with frittata and as-you-like-it eggs. Burn off some of the calories while wandering through the hotel to spot artefacts like Madonna’s dress from her ‘87 world tour, and Elvis Presley’s autographed guitar (Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, 50 Highway 50, Stateline, NV; breakfast for two $35/ Rs2,450).
Barely two blocks away is Heavenly Village, a street lined with restaurants, souvenir stores and outdoor equipment rentals where you can pick up gear for the sport of your choice.
Head out for a day of skiing at Heavenly Mountain; you can drive or take the gondola if the wind is favourable (check conditions on www.skiheavenly.com). Grab a convenient lunch on the slopes. In summer, choose from a wide range of other outdoor activities like kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, parasailing or jet skiing. More relaxed options include golfing, and hot air ballooning for stunning lake views (laketahoe.com; prices vary with sport). Going up the gondola or chair lifts at Heavenly also offer phenomenal views of the lake.
Set along the fairy tale shores of Lake Tahoe, Edgewood Tahoe blends seamlessly with its surroundings and is the place to unwind at the spa after a day of activity. Try a relaxation massage to ease tired muscles or jetlag in the spa’s serene atmosphere (180 Lake Parkway, Stateline, NV; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; treatments from $150/Rs10,500 for a 50-minute massage).
Follow this up with dinner at the Edgewood restaurant, voted one of the country’s most scenic eateries on OpenTable. Get there before sunset to catch the view (meal for two under $200/ Rs14,000).
After a leisurely breakfast, drive to the less touristy North Lake Tahoe. The 50-odd kilometre drive takes you through half of the 116-kilometre shoreline. Stop for many photo-ops along the way to capture stunning views with different shades and moods in each season.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort is perfect for novice skiers seeking lessons. Community-owned and run, this is a beginner-friendly place that has the fourth most rideable vertical in all of Tahoe. Offbeat winter sport options include snowshoeing, snow tubing and fat tire biking. Spend the morning on the snow, followed by hot cocoa or lunch at Snowflake Lodge (accessible via a descent from an intermediate slope; beginners, the chair lift is only for emergencies), which has unmatched views of Lake Tahoe from its outdoor deck, aptly named the Million Dollar View Bar (Diamond Peak Ski Resort, Incline Village, NV; 10.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.; meal for two around $50/ Rs3500).
An overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe is highly recommended, not least to have a soak in the outdoor hot tubs, which are only accessible to in-house guests. This is an experience best enjoyed after an arduous day on the slopes. Keep dinner casual but indulgent at the Cutthroat’s Saloon, an on-site diner that offers gourmet pub food and late-night bites, while watching the latest match on-screen (Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino, 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, NV; last call 11 p.m.; meal for two $65/Rs4,550).
Drive an hour through the beautiful Sierra Nevada region to Reno, which has the area’s nearest international airport.
Check into any of the three distinct hotels—Silver Legacy, El Dorado, or Circus Circus—at The Row, Reno’s one-stop destination for entertainment. With thousands of luxury rooms and suites, 25 restaurants, 22 bars and lounges, 11 nightspots and a labyrinth of casinos, The Row is a hub of raucous fun. Freshen up and enjoy a hot Mexican lunch and a delicious margarita at El Jefe Cantina, one of the latest dining options (Circus Circus, 500 North Sierra Street; closed Mondays and Tuesdays; meal for two around $50/ Rs3,500).
Walk around downtown Reno, which is dotted with art installations, both homegrown and sourced. A short drive away is Virginia Lake, an oasis of tranquillity in the middle of the fast-paced town. It is ideal for an evening walk and a dose of nature that will give you time to breathe before a heady Reno evening.
Dine at Peppermill Reno, 800 metres east of Virginia Lake. Among the lavish hotel’s many dining options, Bimini Steakhouse is a fine dining joint that serves classic and contemporary grills, exclusive cocktails and tableside flambés (2707 South Virginia Street; 5.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., weekends until 10 p.m.; meal for two under $200/Rs14,000 for the full experience). Peppermill also houses Spa Toscana, which has Northern Nevada’s only caldarium with an indoor pool (treatments need to be pre-booked).
Head back to The Row and catch a show at the Laugh Factory. Be warned, however, most of the material is adult comedy. There are other options as well (performing artists and show timings are listed on www.therowreno.com). Hit up any of the Row’s myriad bars for a drink, and gamble the last of your dollars before the return flight.