BigAZMarty ventures outside of Vegas to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Hey all, BigAZMarty here with… wait for it…a NON-Vegas Trip Report / Room Review. Before you brand me a heretic for not being in Las Vegas for the 4th of July like I’d promised (yup we even had a Caesars Palace Palace Tower Premium Room reserved) I just have to say in my defense… blame the band Train. Long story short my wife really wanted to see the Train concert, although there were shows in my home town and Las Vegas, none could buttress as well as a trip to one of the most breathtaking, beautiful places in North America, Lake Tahoe. We found not only Train, but OAR and Natasha Beddingfield opening as well in an all in one concert night. Plus being able to see one of the top 5 4th of July Fireworks show (Lights on the Lake) we decided to change locals for our vacation to Lake Tahoe.
For those unfamiliar with me, I live in one of the hottest and large (7th in population in the nation) metropolitan areas in the US (usually 5-10 degrees above Las Vegas). As such, 4th of July is usually a weather change from Hot and Dry (115-120 degrees) to Monsoon Season (104-109 degrees and humid with thunderstorms). So going to Las Vegas typically doesn’t offer any true relief from the heat, but Lake Tahoe (low 80’s in the day and high 40’s to low 50’s at night) does, and it was a much-needed respite from the mind-baking heat. I am sure there are people in Las Vegas that do the same thing, by either visiting SoCal beaches or heading up to Mt Charleston or even Lake Tahoe. So, in theory, this could answer your question where do people of Las Vegas go for their vacations in summer.
We looked and planned first, so instead of flying into Reno (1.5 hours from South Lake Tahoe), we decided instead to fly into Sacramento, CA. For one it was about $100 a person cheaper each way than going to Reno, and the Alamo/Costco discount amounted to about $100 as well….so saving $500 there. My wife is Diamond at Caesars Entertainment, so we combo’d on a Premium Room King – Non-Smoking for the week.
We flew out on Monday, July 3rd and arrived in Sacramento at 8:10 PM. Except for the painfully slow baggage arrival, it is a very nice and clean airport. They use a shared airport bus to get to the rental, we got our car and were off and out of the airport by 8:45 PM.
There are two ways up to South Lake Tahoe area, one is the freeway I-80 which goes to Truckee, NV and do the mountain pass to North Lake Tahoe and then drive down the east side of the lake to get to where we were staying. My alternative and the way we drove was the old US 50 which I did not know drops from a multi lane freeway to one lane each way mountain road. Needless to say, driving that at night was a white knuckler but we arrived at just before 11 PM. We used the Harrah’s valet parking, checked in, went up to Floor 8 and were just two room bays off the elevator. We slid the key in and ahh….home for the next week. A very nice pillowtop bed with two large glass topped night stands with plenty of electrical outlets and lighting.
At the window facing back into the room is a gently curving large sofa and foot rest/table combo. Opposite the bed was the 40″ Panasonic LCD on a wall unit that had an empty fridge, a three drawer dresser, a desk and chair as an all in one unit. Back right off of the entrance is a large closet and safe that then goes to what my wife loves the most about the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe rooms….every room has two full bathrooms. One is a sink, toilet and shower stall; the other is a sink, toilet, and tub/shower combo. This layout made getting ready that much quicker in the morning.
The view out the window is both Mountain and Lake view as all Harrah’s rooms have an outward V shaped set of windows that look both ways. Either you will look into South Lake Tahoe/Heavenly Ski Resort or on the other side of the hotel over to the Kingsbury Grade side of the hotel (that side sees MontBlue and Hard Rock as well) and the southeast side of Lake Tahoe).
We had no issues with the room and services. We called down to the front desk when we left for the day to have the room made up (housekeeping button on the phone did have an issue but nothing a front desk call couldn’t get around). The Room Service menu is the American River Cafe Menu for the most part. Eateries local to Harrah’s is Forest Buffet, American River Cafe, Sushi Kai, Fat Burger, Tahoe Italian Kitchen (Sbarro’s knockoff), Thai Asian Food, and the Steakhouse Friday’s Station Steak and Seafood Grill (fantastic Filet Mignon at Medium). Of the restaurants listed the exceptional 18th-floor views of Forest Buffet and Friday’s Station Steak and Seafood Grill were the best in the hotel, wrap around windows looking out at the beauty of the surroundings were outstanding.
Now for the cool thing, Harrah’s is attached via a tunnel under US-50 to Harvey’s (also a Caesars property).
So if you don’t have luck at Harrah’s you can go over to Harvey’s and see if your luck is better there. Not only that but we found some neat places to eat there as well. There is a Hard Rock Cafe, a Straw Hat Pizza (the $9.99 M-F lunch deal 1-4PM is outstanding…an individual 7″ two topping pizza, a single salad bar visit with a large plate and a drink). Also, there’s a Cinnabon/Carvel’s ice cream shop. Their steakhouse is called the Sage Room. Downstairs is a Cabo Wabo that usually isn’t open until 4 PM (dancing).
Now for the trip… since I’d had some issues with my right foot from the flight, I was not walking a lot the first day or two. The first day we ordered room service, my wife enjoyed the pool (indoor but large with a deep end) and the outdoor grass tanning area. After playing a little at Harrah’s, we walked over to Harvey’s to check out the Fireworks (Lights on the Lake is a 4th of July only event). I was going to reserve an Edgewood Golf Resort space but at $300 a person I balked, then found that Harvey’s had a parking garage event for the viewing and thought we’d just go there. We arrived to find we missed the last tickets that had been sold about an hour earlier (they did have a limit for fire code reasons). We decided to play in Harvey’s until the 9:45 PM time frame where we snuck out and found a good spot that had excellent sight views. Within 15 minutes we were joined by about 150 people, and at 10 PM the show started.
It was not that different than the 2016 show that was on YouTube here. Close to 30 minutes in length and an outstanding fireworks show. Afterward, we stopped at the Carvel’s in Harvey’s for a nice dessert treat and then played at Harrah’s. The interesting thing I hadn’t noticed about Harvey’s until that night is they have some suites with balconies that would make great viewing for the fireworks for next year (they start at $285 and go up in price…I am assuming 4th of July will be stupendous charges).
The second day my foot was doing a little better, so we gamed it up a bit, and then decided to go over to the Heavenly Resort shops. There is a theater there, and my wife wanted to catch a movie, so we saw Baby Driver. Highly recommended, a non-stop thrill ride set to great music. On the way back we stopped at RocketFizz (a candy/soda shop). I grabbed some hard cinnamon candy and some sarsaparilla soda while my wife grabbed salt water taffy and some black cherry soda. She had snuck over the CVS on the first day to get a decent supply of water for the fridge so it was stocked up well. My wife was on a hot streak, so we played most of the day at Harrah’s and then ate at Forest Buffet at 5 PM. She got her favorites twice as the carving station has both Prime Rib and Turkey, so she did both a Prime Rib and Turkey dinner plate before hitting up the dessert area.
I was more vegetable and fruits oriented since I well was just missing some of that and had an odd craving. A full plate of salad, steamed vegetables, a plate of melon later I also hit up the dessert station, and we went back to the room for a bit. The wife then headed back down for some blackjack while I loosened up the drawstring shorts a bit. She found a couple of “lucky” machines for her and hit 4OAK Aces with the little card, and a Straight Flush to end her night.
Third day: my wife again went to the pool while I got ready in the morning. After she came back and got ready, we played a bit at Harrah’s (not so good this time) and decided to hit up the Straw Hat at Harvey’s. If you lived in Southern California in the 80s or 90s, this is the same place you remember. They even had the lunch special (mentioned above), so we both ordered that. We played some more at Harvey’s, and while my wife wasn’t doing that well, I was making up for it with some low-end 4OAKS and some winning Slot Play on Dancing in Rio at $1 level (walked off with $120 just on that machine). Now for a surprise event…we were right at the 4 PM mark and noticed that there was an odd elevator at the front of the property. Come to find out it’s a limited time Diamond Lounge and not named it per se (if I remember it says Lakeside Lounge). My wife presented her card and up to the top of the old hotel building we went. Up there is wraparound glass and window seating. My wife had 2 Amaretto Sours, and I had 2 Shirley Temples (my BP meds and drinking don’t mix).
We also had good snacks and actually spent about 20 minutes with a couple from Minnesota that normally visits Harrah’s Ak-Chin in winter and does Lake Tahoe in summer….lots of interesting discussions there as their “home” casino is Harrah’s Council Bluffs in Iowa across the river from Omaha, Nebraska. After that, we left and came back to Harrah’s where my wife found a lucky Double Double Bonus machine and I loaded up on a 100 play DDB machine. Interesting because I’d been playing 100 play in Las Vegas and never got anything more than a 3 of a kind dealt so it was new to me but that machine was very lucky, several dealt four cards to the Royal which resulted in a minimum of at least 3 Royal Flushes. So for $60 I’d average leaving with $120 or playing the $60 down on each sitting and building back up to even….I’d say on that machine over the entire time I was better than even on for the whole week.
The fourth Day, I’m walking well enough that we walk to the lakeside sand beach down the street that divides Nevada and California just off Harvey’s west side. We spent about 3 hours, and there is a huge variety of people there, very east coast beach feel there. All body types and people in the water paddle boarding, swimming, throwing footballs and such. It’s $7 a person there if you are from one of the hotels and we paid for an umbrella and two full lounge chairs as well. It was a very enjoyable time, but I was getting a little fried from the sun, so we headed back, we got out of the beach clothes and cleaned up a bit.
We headed into South Lake Tahoe and turn down Lakeside Ave to find a little side street that doubles as an entrance to a lakeside park. We spent about 45 minutes there taking pictures and enjoying the outdoors, then decide to explore.
We eat in the car at a Jack in the Box and tool around getting lost and unlost in South Lake Tahoe enjoying the sights and interesting storefront names.
We get back at about 8 PM, and my wife heads down to play, and I join her about an hour later. I hit up another 100 Play machine for that four cards to the Royal for 4 Royals ($160…play it down to $140 and cashed out). My wife and I played Super Times Pay and were up a little then went back to the Progressive Bank for a bit before I got bored and headed back up to the room. She shows up about 2 hours later with another 4OAK Aces with Kicker win and some other 4OAKs winnings.
Fifth Day, today is the tooling around day and checking out the other resorts, there is a Hard Rock and a MontBlue resort just to the east of the Harrah’s and Harvey’s.
If you have ever seen the movie Smokin Aces, the MontBlue is the NOMAD motel; the Hard Rock is the Horizon.
Both have been redone since that movie was filmed and while nicely redone we noticed some oddities. The MontBlue casino, well, wasn’t clean…VP machines had a crap ton of full ashtrays and ashes all over the machines; the Hard Rock was, well, just dead except for their big billing $1 3/2 Blackjack table (only one) that had a three deep wait for a seat. I’ve heard that the Hard Rock has gone through 2-3 property management changes. Park Brothers took it back since they own the land there and Warner Gaming managed it for a bit. Park Brothers ended their contract and then got into legal payment issues on the renovation, and I think Paragon Gaming might be running it now. MontBlue is a Tropicana property (not the Vegas one but the AC one owned by Carl Icahn). At one point Harrah’s owned 4 of the five casinos in the area (Bill’s Gambling Hall, Harvey’s, Harrah’s and the Caesars Palace Tahoe) in that section and had to close the Bill’s Gambling Hall (A CVS now) and sell the Caesars Palace Tahoe. The Caesars Palace Tahoe is now the MontBlue, interesting item; their indoor pool is “grotto” design based, it’s a little like the Playboy mansion pool but indoors and fewer places to hide and do, well, you know.
We get done with the walk around and play a little, I head back to the room to let the dogs breath in the room while my wife is checking on her diamond celebration dinner status. She comes up with a new printout so at 5 PM we head to Friday’s Station Steak and Seafood Grill for a fantastic meal.
Now the view is fantastic as it directly looks out the front of the hotel on the 18th floor and it’s an awesome view. We get a basket of two full loafs of bread, one is Country Rye, and the other is Sourdough. She orders an Amaretto Sour, and I have a Shirley Temple for drinks….for dinner we both order the filet which comes with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. They arrive, and mine is fairly close to Ruth Chris thickness while my wife’s is a little thinner but larger circumference. Both are outstanding without the sauce that comes on the side (Hollandaise if I remember). The mashed potatoes taste just like the filling of a fully loaded twice baked potato, and the steamed veggies are full-length uncut versions. Afterward, we get a free anniversary dessert but also my wife orders a berry cake, and I get a Kahlua Cheesecake, both of which are fantastic. We went over our Diamond Celebration dinner limit so still had to pay about $50. It’s well worth it just for the view during dinner. We head down and play for several hours and end the evening almost even.
Sixth Day, it’s Concert Day we hit up the American River Cafe for breakfast, then play in Harrah’s for a bit and then start off to Harvey’s once 4 PM rolls around. I somehow find a DDB VP .25 Progressive machine that was just hitting 4OAKS for about 2 hours. Once it started not to pay we cashed out and headed to the concert venue at Harvey’s. Now I could not have gotten these seats in LV or locally, my wife got them via Total Rewards/TicketMaster, and they were just fantastic: Section 3 just to the right of the stage and Row 6. It took a bit to clear security and ticket check, so we missed about five songs of Natasha Beddingfield, but the favorites were late in her set, so we didn’t miss much. OAR was on next and played 45 mins, a lot of fun and so many different sounds. Finally, Train comes on, and well, I sat for a bit. But, the wife was up for all but one song…it was that good of a show, and I don’t think she’s been as close to the stage since her Garth Brooks 3rd row seats at Wynn in January 2010. She had a blast as did I…so good, in fact, we ordered the Platinum Collection of Train off Amazon after the concert. There were celebrities there as the Celebrity Golf Tourney at Edgewood Country Club was going to start two days later. Once the concert was done, we tried to win at Harrah’s, but it had gone dry for us for the night.
Seventh and final full day. Yup, we were getting depressed and talking about not going back and living homeless there, it’s just that pretty there. We both hit the pool as it’s fairly windy which would ruin a sand beach visit. We hit up the Fat Burger in the early afternoon after cleaning up; I hit $140 off a 45 free spin at BierHaus playing 40 cents (nice rare payout). My wife isn’t getting much, and it’s sorta stale for me after that as well so we hit up Harvey’s and she starts to hit for a bit. So. we play there until it goes stale around 4:30 PM. We hit the final visit to the Forest Buffet and get seated on the side over looking the East side of Lake Tahoe, the Hard Rock, and MontBlue. She repeats her dinner choices from the first time, but I try out the Chinese (General Tso chicken with Spring Rolls) and some Italian (pizzas were actually good) before we both hit up dessert. Afterward, we hit up the Diamond Lounge for drinks for a bit and then revisited the casino floor. I found another DDB VP .25 machine in Harrah’s where it’d 4OAK and I’d cash it out. It would repeat before the next $20 was gone. Down the row, someone hit the 4Aces with the kicker and everyone left at that point as the Royal had been hit earlier the night before (while we were at the concert).
Finally, we played a couple of more games and then I went upstairs to watch the news (smoke up north of the lake and I-80 was closed which would cause us to change our route back to Sac). Good thing that I had gone up as my wife comes back in with about $800 as she went to the machine that hit the 4Aces with kicker and repeated on it for another $500 win and another Straight Flush and then some lower 4OAKS. At this point, we realized we needed to get some sleep as the Celebrity Tourney was going to start at 7 AM the next morning and might cause traffic issues which might delay our getting to Sacramento on time.
The following morning we left. Valet was busy, so it was a 15-minute delay as we were competing with the Celebrity Buses going to the Tourney. We made it to the airport about 45 minutes ahead of time due to very little traffic up until we got to Sacramento itself. Several hours later we were in 109-degree heat heaving bags in our car trunk and heading for the house. We miss that weather already….I think we might make this a new yearly event and save the LV visits for cooler times.
For your enjoyment, there are some additional pictures of the Heavenly Gondola Ride (about three buildings over in the Heavenly Shops), and it’s Halfway Scenic Platform (stops halfway up for photos) also the Blue Wave Cruise to Emerald Bay.
Both are a MUST do, we’d done it on a prior trip and had events to see so we missed it this time…but enjoy the photos. Emerald Bay has on its shore Vikingsholm, one of the best Scandinavian designed historic homes in America.