In the Midst of a Makeover

During the past five years, millions of dollars have poured in to keep them fresh and relevant. They’re now offering more chic hotels, creative eateries and cardio-pumping activities, among other things.

This has resulted in exciting opportunities for phenomenal retreats and team-building soirees in both areas. Here, Smart Meetings provides a summary of some of the major changes in Reno and Tahoe, and how they can help to boost meetings.

Reno

Whitney Peak Hotel climbing wallWhitney Peak Hotel climbing wall

No longer Las Vegas’ stepsister, Reno is Nevada’s Cinderella, stepping into the limelight with a new civic pride. Key is Tesla Motors choosing Reno as the site for its new 5 million-square-foot lithium battery plant.

When completed, the site, at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Complex, is projected to bring 6,500 high-paying jobs and change the face of Northern Nevada commerce, according to supporters of the project, who add that more than 3,000 construction jobs are expected to be generated during the building phase.

Also, in January, Las Vegas-based Switch, a major data-center provider, announced that it plans to invest $1 billion in a 3 million-square- foot SuperNAP center at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Complex. It will be built on 1,000 acres and is expected to take five to 10 years to complete, but the first facility should be open by the second quarter of 2016

These aren’t the only major business developments in Reno: With a booming economy drawing more corporations, it is becoming more of a hub for business travel than ever before. Modernized hotels, upgraded venues and curb appeal are everywhere. “There’s an electric atmosphere,” says Chris Baum, CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority. “We have not seen this kind of growth in years.”

For starters, Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is standing proud after a $26 million renovation, resulting in more restaurants and alluring retail. Two terminals are now connected, making it easier to get around.

Meanwhile, two rebirthed districts, Riverwalk and Midtown, have emerged as magnets for foodies and shoppers. Entrepreneurs are moving into repurposed buildings with plans to strike it big.

Lodging

These days, the 157-room Whitney Peak Hotel is buzzing with excitement. The city’s first non-smoking, non-gaming hotel, it opened in June with a health-and-wellness emphasis. Built into the 16-floor property is BaseCamp, which features a rock-climbing wall secured on the face of the building. Tesla, the University of Nevada, Reno and health-conscious individuals and groups have been snatching up Whitney Peak rooms at a rapid clip. The hotel already intends to increase the number of guest rooms and expand its 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hotel renovations are in store for other properties. Grand Sierra Resort and Casino (which has 1,900 guest rooms and 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space) will have finished updates to its meeting space, spa and grand ballroom by mid-March.

John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort (1,382 guest rooms and 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting space) will renovate all of its West Tower rooms and its casino within the next three years.

Activities

Folks hankering for a lofty experience in Reno can choose air ballooning (the Great Reno Balloon Race is slated for Sept. 11–13), hang gliding, rock climbing or helicopter tours. Outfitters such as Soaring Adventures of America and Sierra Adventures can provide the necessary hotel pickups to get visitors up and out to glory in the lake and mountain vistas.

In the warm season, starting in May when temperatures reach the low 70s, nature lovers can enjoy kayaking, tubing, hiking and mountain biking at Reno’s many lakes, reservoirs, state parks and recreation areas. Reno also boasts more than 50 golf courses, including LakeRidge Golf and Rosewood Lakes.

Reno also offers an active winter sports scene. Mount Rose Ski Tahoe resort, 25 minutes from downtown Reno, offers downhill skiing, and Tahoe Meadows Snowplay Resort has cross country skiing, sledding and snow shoeing.

Just a 37-minute drive southeast of Reno, Virginia City, formerly a booming mining town, celebrates its colorful heritage. Groups enjoy strolling the town’s authentic board sidewalks and visiting the Old West saloons, shops, museums and restaurants. They also are able to take a ride on a stagecoach, horse-drawn carriage, trolley or the V&T Railroad steam engine train that crosses the high desert landscape dotted with old mines.

Restaurants

Campo, RenoCampo, Reno

The secret is now out: Reno is a foodie haven, drawing from approximately 200 ranches and farms in Nevada. Eateries touting educational and experiential dining are on the uptick. Guests grill their own grub at Pignic Pub & Patio.

UnCork’d Eatery, which sells wines, cheeses and meats, hosts a four-course Thursday dinner with a cooking talk. The newest kid on the culinary block is Reno Provisions, owned by celebrity chef Mark Estee and featuring a restaurant, showcase, butcher shop and gourmet store. Estee also owns several other restaurants, including Campo, his flagship Italian restaurant in Reno.

Tahoe

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake TahoePhoto by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

More than 2 million years old, Lake Tahoe is as beautiful as ever. This gem of the Sierra Nevada, the largest alpine lake in North America, has aquamarine waters that rival hues of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

As Reno is waking up, North and South Tahoe are upping the ante. Businesses invested more than $100 million in revitalization efforts in the South Tahoe region in 2014. Mike Frye, manager of events for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, explains that the diverse agencies representing the region are uniting, resulting in an overall city beautification and faster turnaround to get permits.

“When people’s hearts and brains come together, good things happen,” he says.

Lodging

In North Tahoe, at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Valley, Nevada, guests are enjoying the recent $25 million in upgrades, including 398 new guest rooms, 24 lakeside cottages, a restaurant and Spa Terrace Conference Center.

North Tahoe also is awaiting the re-opening of Cal-Neva Resort & Casino, once owned by Frank Sinatra. Real estate developer Criswell-Radovan LLC has been tapped to re-imagine the 219 guest rooms and meeting spaces. Cal-Neva, located in Crystal Bay, Nevada, is scheduled to open in 2016.

South Tahoe has been buzzing with new development. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe opened on Jan. 29 after gutting the innards of the former Horizon. It showcases 539 guest rooms, four new restaurants and bars, and 14,300 sq. ft. of meeting and convention space.

Landing Resort & Spa, a boutique Forbes Five Star property, opened last year with 77 rooms, 7,000 sq. ft. of function space, a spa and a Mediterranean restaurant.

Edgewood Tahoe Resort will break ground on a luxury hotel in May. It will provide 154 guest rooms and 4,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, and unveil a third restaurant and new spa in January 2017. Currently, the 250-acre lakefront property features an award-winning golf course with two excellent restaurants and banquet rooms.

MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa in South Tahoe is in the midst of a $24 million makeover of the guest rooms, casino, spa and convention center. All 437 guest rooms should be completed in June, and the 13,899-square-foot convention center is already open for business.

The new Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe, which provides 262 guest rooms, will boast two meeting spaces: a 3,000-plus-square-foot conference center with outdoor deck, and a restored post office that will offer comparable space. Both will be completed by June.

According to Marlena Freitas, director of resort sales for The Ridge Tahoe, South Tahoe is an ideal spot for meeting planners on a budget. Rooms can be connected, and suites come with kitchens plus dining/living areas. The property provides 20,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor space that can be utilized for events.

“We can be a one-stop shop; we can book activities, lodging, transportation and dinner reservations, so meeting planners don’t have to make extra calls,” Freitas says.

The Ridge Tahoe will refresh its lobby spaces, clubhouse meeting rooms and restaurant starting in May, and finish the project by June 2016.

Activities

South and North Tahoe sizzle with high-action adventures that won’t quit. Heavenly Mountain Resort in the city of South Lake Tahoe continues to expand its summer program with rope courses, an insanely long 3,300-foot zipline and mountain tubing.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort, 11 miles south of South Lake Tahoe, now promotes its knuckle-biting Beyond Boundaries ski program, in which Kirkwood pros take advanced skiers into the backcountry to acquire expertise on cornices and bowls. Brave ones, meanwhile, can attempt snow kiting at Sierra Snowkite Center.

For groups that want to hang out and chill, Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort has opened a $5 million Solstice Plaza, which includes a 30,000-square-foot deck and 9,000-square-foot base facing the mountains.

During the winter, groups staying in North Tahoe can shop at Incline Village or ski at Squaw Valley. They can later board a free shuttle, and use the same pass at sister property Alpine Meadows. In the summer, participants have just as many choices: Teams can tackle Granlibakken Treetop Adventure Park, rife with ziplines and suspension bridges, or kayak with Tahoe City Kayak. For more information about activities, contact the North Lake Tahoe Visitors’ Bureaus at gotahoenorth.com.

Restaurants

For an intimate space, Manzanita restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe—in Truckee, California,16 miles north of Tahoe City—is an attractive option. Up to 25 guests can fit into its opulent private room and indulge in a special dinner profiling California cuisine with regional influences.

At any retreat, great grub is imperative. Meeting planners should check out Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Tahoe City, the newest lakeside restaurant, with meats smoked daily in-house. Seven miles south of Tahoe City sits the 150-seat West Shore cafe in Homewood, where diners can enjoy an outdoor meal at tables on the pier.

Many popular eateries in South Tahoe have maintained their quality for years. Locals point to Riva Grill in South Lake Tahoe, stationed on a marina with water views, and offering American comfort food including beef, seafood and pasta.

Summing Up

Best of all, groups are able to enjoy the exciting new options in Reno and Tahoe throughout the year. They not only enhance meetings, but also provide attendees with a morale boost that can last well after the trip.

Woo-Hoo! The Reno Fun Train’s Comin’ to Town

Every February and March, for five weekends the Reno Fun Train takes NorthernCalifornia passengers on a rippin’ railway romp from Emeryville to downtown Reno. This all-day party ride (with strolling minstrels tossed in for free)is arguably the most memorable means of transportation ever, and has been successfully run by Key Holidays for 52 years.

Theme rides include Soul Train Hits of the ’70s and ’80s, Mardi Gras, and country and western tunes. Guests depart from the Amtrak station on a Friday morning, arrive by early evening in Reno, and re-board in Reno by 10 a.m. on Sunday. During the trip, the train chugs past snowcapped mountains and mysterious emerald forests.

Prices start at $305 per person, and the weekend includes transportation on an Amtrak train, two light meals, two nights at one of the Fun Train’s preferred hotels (with bus transfers) and a book of coupons. While aboard, passengers can move from their seats to visit the dance car with a live DJ, cigar lounge and piano lounge. Guests are encouraged to bring their own snacks and beverages, and the train provides glasses and ice.

For groups of 16 or more, passengers pay $10 less, with every 16th guest riding for free. For an additional $150 per person, guests get a viewing seat in the Dome car and a three-course luncheon, among other things. The train’s Platinum Service is popular for groups of 22 to 28. It’s available for an additional $265 per person and includes lounge access, private Dome car seating and elegant buffet meals with beverages.

Fun Facts About Tahoe

Deep blue lake: At 1,645 ft. deep, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the country and the 10th deepest in the world. The water is so clear that you can see a 10-inch white disk up to 75 feet below the surface.

A touch of Scandinavia: A must-see is the charming Vikingsholm cottage, designed in the 1920s by a Swedish architect. Located in Tahoma, a 20 minute-drive from South Lake Tahoe, it remains one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States.

Hoppers’ delight: The Nifty 50 Trolley offers $5 rides through the west and south shores of Lake Tahoe. This hop-on and hop-off transport stops at many of the attractions and hotels along this route. It runs June through September, daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fairy-tale island: Tree-lined Fannette Island is the only island in Lake Tahoe on Emerald Bay. Encircled by sapphire waters, it is one of the most photographed sites in the region. In the center of this fairy-tale island is a 150-foot granite peak topped by the remnants of an old stone teahouse that resembles a medieval castle. It is accessible by canoe, kayak and boat.

Major Meeting Venues

Reno

Reno Events CenterReno Events Center

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa 
Sky-high views from the Concierge Tower; AAA Four Diamond winner; 824 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Circus Circus Reno
Acrobatic circus shows, county fair games and more fill a bustling simulated circus tent on bottom level; 1,572 guest rooms; 28,000 sq. ft. of event space.

El Dorado Hotel Casino Reno
A staple to the downtown area; connects to Circus Circus and Silver Legacy via sky bridge; 814 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hilton Garden Inn Reno
Located in south Reno’s business district; 135 guest rooms; 2,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

National Automobile Museum
Some 200 vehicles including rare cars make this an entertaining space for groups.

National Bowling Stadium
Undergoing a $15 million renovation; recently completed the luxury Kingpin Club, featuring a full bar, as well as 10 new competition and training lanes.

Peppermill Resort Spa Casino
Bringing Italy to Reno, this luxury property has 1,623 guest rooms, including 600-room all-suite Tuscany Tower; 106,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Ramada Hotel and Casino
281 guest rooms; 8,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, including Skyline Ballroom, which provides outstanding views of downtown Reno and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Reno Events Center
Downtown facility; schedules big-name celebrity concerts; flexible event space available for up to 7,000 people. q

Reno-Sparks Convention Center 
Provides 500,000 sq. ft. of event space; five minutes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO).

Sands Regency Casino Hotel
More than 800 guest rooms; five restaurants; claim to fame is having Reno’s largest outdoor swimming pool complex; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Silver Legacy Resort Casino
Northern Nevada’s tallest building, at 400 feet; 1,720 guest rooms; more than 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum 
Located in former City Hall building; seven galleries; covers 64,000 sq. ft.

North Lake Tahoe

Chateau at Incline VillageChateau at Incline Village

Granlibakken Conference Center
Located one mile south of Tahoe City; provides a relaxed, low-key environment among trees and mountains; 200 guest rooms, including studios and suites; offers 24,500 sq. ft. of meeting space in the main conference center.

North Tahoe Event Center
Lakefront conference center in Kings Beach; 8,300 sq. ft. of indoor and 3,000 sq. ft. of outdoor meeting space; meeting rooms are equipped with full technical support.

The Chateau at Incline Village
Mountain architecture with timber ceiling and stone fireplaces; grand ballroom with seating for up to 300 with mountain, lake and golf course views; 5,200 sq. ft. of event space. q

Resort at Squaw Creek
Elegant, upscale Squaw Valley property situated next to Squaw Valley ski resort; 405 luxury guest rooms and suites; 47,500 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including 24 newly enhanced conference rooms.

The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe 
Located in Truckee; 170 guest rooms, with two-to-four-bedroom residential suites available; 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Village at Squaw Valley
Located by ski lifts; 198 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of event space; offers aerial tram ride to the top of High Camp for ice skating or fine dining.

South Lake Tahoe

Tahoe QueenTahoe Queen

Forest Suites Resort
Near Heavenly Village restaurants and shops; 119 guest rooms including suites with kitchens; 2,900 sq. ft. meeting space.

Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
18-story hotel tower features 535 award-winning guest rooms, with many boasting lake or mountain views; casino; Friday’s Station Steak & Seafood Grill features a 1,000-bottle display in the wine cellar; 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino & Resort
The largest hotel in town, with 742 guest rooms and 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; casino; outdoor stage; comedy club; upscale American restaurant, 19 Kitchen, has spectacular lake views.

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel 
Walking distance to Heavenly Ski resort; 400 guest rooms; world-class gaming; dining; ice-skating, golf, hiking, biking; 10,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Tahoe Biltmore Lodge & Casino
Located in Crystal Bay; 113 guest rooms: casino; restaurants; 6,435 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Tahoe Paradise
The largest yacht in the region, with two stories and measuring 82 feet long; can hold 74 people for dining and 90 for cocktails.

Tahoe Queen
Historic paddle wheeler; hosts parties and can be booked for special events for as many as 312 guests during the day and 150 for a dinner cruise.

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