3 Nevada casino towns to visit

Las Vegas 

Little did the early settlers know about the future of this spot in the middle of the Mojave desert. Before the Europeans arrived, the area was inhabited by the Native American tribes of the Southern Paiute. The first European in the Las Vegas Valley was the Spanish Scout Rafael Riviera and well, after him many have arrived.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) does amazing job with statistics that give you perspective on the scale of tourism in LVNV. Year 2016 saw more visitors than ever in Las Vegas, 42,9 million visitors arrived. And there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from, Las Vegas has nearly 150 000 hotel rooms! The average age of a visitor is 47,7 years and only 16% of the visitors come for the first time – many have got bitten by the Vegas bug and keep returning. On average, a visitor spends 3,4 night in Sin City – sounds like conventions and/or long weekends in the middle of all the gaming, the endless possibilities to enjoy food & beverage and dive into the sea of entertainment.

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Our average stay in Las Vegas is about 1,5 weeks – we’ve never stayed less than a week. We genuinenly enjoy staying at the casino hotels. First of all, they are adult playground. Second, we have chosen not to buy a summer cottage or a sailing boat in Finland, we choose to buy flights abroad when we have time off – often we’ve found ourselves in Las Vegas. We even got married in Las Vegas (that will be a story of it’s own). And yes, as a pastime we enjoy gambling, too. During our stay we like to take day trips outside the Strip, there’s a lot to do in the Valley, but return to the bright lights and the sound of the slots by dinner time.

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Throughout the years we have tested a great number of the establishments at the Strip and Downtown area. The biggest players on the Las Vegas Boulevard are Caesar’s Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, not to forget the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts. There is no place on earth where you can live like royalty with a fraction of the price you’d have to pay for four and five star hotel rooms like these in any other city. And these are not just hotels, these resorts are filled with things to do, see and experience. The sensory overload and the seemingly endless possibilities to choose from in hotels, entertainment, activities, casinos, dining, bars and nightclubs take some time to get used to for anyone arriving the first time. Even for us there is always something new to discover. We follow the news about Las Vegas regularly to get latest updates on what’s new and trending. That way we are never short of new stuff to discover when we arrive.

Returning to the hotel part: It’s a good idea to join the players clubs at the casinos and sign in for their newsletters. The loyalty programs are designed to really reward you even if you are not a big player: you may get comped for most of the week nights, only paying for the weekends. Ok, we know – they do know how to get us there to spend dollars at their services. But we don’t mind. Las Vegas will always get us back. Sometimes we choose to split our stay in between hotels. Two or even three parts is not uncommon for us. That gives us price options, but different options for each time of the day as well. We might choose one hotel with the awesome pool area in mind, the other by the convenient, central location on the Strip and the third for a stay in the Downtown area. The seasons make a difference, too, when choosing hotels. July and December are not only different in terms of weather, but in terms of entertainment, pool options, possibilities on being outdoors for a longer time and so on.

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Everything Las Vegas is sort of a hobby for us and we have absorbed the history, the stories and the legends, learned about the rich and the famous, the good, bad & ugly. Part of the fun is learning more about the past and the present & the future of this odd city.

FAQ: How do you get there from Turku, Finland?

We tend to fly from our hometown Turku on Scandinavian Airlines SAS and that means flying first to Stockholm and from there to Newark, NJ or to Chicago for the Las Vegas Flight. We could travel to Helsinki first and use some other company than Scandinavian, but so far, as frequent flyers we’ve been able to maintain our EuroBonus member levels high and that gives us points to use on upgrades whenever there’s a possibility for one. We find that to be the best way to use those points and the best way to get better seats over the Atlantic. The connecting flights are operated by United as with SAS they both belong to Star Alliance.

You’ll discover more stories of Las Vegas and surroundings here at DINKgo, for sure. Don’t forget to check out and follow our Instagram account and Facebook account – some stories may only appear there.

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Reno

Reno is located in the northwestern part of Nevada and you can drive there from, say west coast in 2,5 hours or from Las Vegas in less than a day. Or fly there from numerous US cities. Reno has a population of 450 000 and is known as the ”Biggest Little City in the World”. This second urban center of Nevada has bit of a redneck reputation, but offers nice things to experience if you pay a little attention to the city in advance. You find culture, arts and fun events.
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We visited Reno in June during the Reno Rodeo one year and it sure did give character to the days as all those cowboys stayed at the casino hotels at the same time. We went to see some of the Reno Rodeo events, unfortunately the finals were already sold out when we realised we’d be in town.
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Compared to the miles long array of casinos on the Strip and the sprawled city of residential Las Vegas, Reno is more compact in scale. It’s easy to walk from one casino to the other, only a handful of casinos are located further away. The establishments may not be as glitzy as their counterparts in Las Vegas, but they have their own, unique atmosphere that makes you remember times that took place before you were even born. The city has torn down less of the old than you might expect from a casino town, history is kept alive and cherished in this city by the Truckee River. One reason to stay for some time could be the brew pubs, including the Brew Brothers that was named the Best Brewpub in America by the Nightclub and Bar Magazine. And in Reno we’ve had our best ever BBQ chicken pizza with fresh cilantro on top.
Easy day trips can take you to places like the Pyramid Lake, home of the rare, white pelicans. And if your next destination after Reno is Lake Tahoe, it’s only an hour away! On the way, if you have time to drive a little more, don’t miss the living ghost town of Virginia City that used to be a gold mining mecca.

Lake Tahoe

Visiting Lake Tahoe feels a little like being in a movie set. The surreal beauty of the deep, blue alpine lake ”The Lake of the Sky” that is surrounded with lush, evergreen pine trees takes your breath away. Located in the middle of white top mountains, Lake Tahoe was a sacred place for the Native American Washoe tribe that used to inhabit the areas surrounding this magnificent lake. We understand that more than well. Lake Tahoe is an around year destination, with magnificent winter sports and summer months that beat the windy west coast anytime. You see a lot of people with hiking boots, back packs and groups with tents and kayaks tied on top of the cars. Like everyone came out of an active wear catalogue.
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Touring the lake (75 miles) takes less than a day, but to actually find out more about the various sites that the history here is made of, give it more time. We stayed at the casino hotels on the Southern shore and explored the shores each day. (The handful of casinos include properties of Caesars Entertainment, which was convenient for us as players club Total Rewards members in terms of hotel bookings). From the tourist information centre we got a good and detailed map. The map introduced us with the beaches, more remote stretches of the shoreline, the mountain tops, the famous houses like the Godfather II filming location, ”The Kaiser Estate” on the western shore etc.
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Take your swimming gear along and stop for beach breaks. Find beaches of the Zephyr’s Cove with sand that’s filled with fool’s gold – we’ve never seen sand like that anywhere. Imagine coming face to face with the lake monster ”Tahoe Tessie” or the Washoe Indian tribe’s mythic Ong, a creature that is half dragon, half eagle. Visit sacred sites like the Cave Rock on the western shore. Drive up the mountains to see Tahoe from a bird’s eye perspective. Or get carried away with the legends of the legends of the 1950’s – we did all that.
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The latter was one more Frank Sinatra encounter as we’ve noticed that we sort of follow Frank Sinatra everywhere (there will be a “On the Footsteps..” post one of these days on that) and here at Lake Tahoe we found our way to the Cal Neva Resort & Casino, the casino hotel on the border of Nevada & California, on the northern shore of the lake. Sinatra was one of the owners back in the day and Cal Neva was a popular hide away of the rich & the famous. Regulars included names like the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minelli, Lucille Ball and Sinatra’s Rat Pack fellows. As we visited, there were framed photos on the walls of the lodge showing that Lake Tahoe really was a party central during the Sinatra years. Then came the time when Sinatra was accused of having  too warm relationship with the notorious crime families, supporting an illegal prostitute ring etc. and he had to sell Cal Neva. There are still stories of secret tunnels beneath the property and rumours of all kinds of secretive operations that happened during the Sinatra era. Who knows. Still today, you can sleep in the bungalows that Monroe and Sinatra called their own.
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In the evenings we hanged around the casinos. Had nice dinners and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere. There’s also a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on the southern shore, which meant one more bear to Pekka’s collection.

 


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