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South Lake Tahoe Trip Report

Last edit: wpsteel66 on Monday, 15th June 2015 3:25 pm
Last response by Drake 26th June 5:41am

Key summary points:
Tahoe is a great place for outdoor activities with a side of gaming.
Gaming is okay, somewhat comparable to regional casinos.
Slots were tight, craps had 3x4x5x odds, most every CET BJ table was 6:5 but Hard Rock was 3:2, did see some 9:5 VP, but I only checked a few machines.
CET table limits started at $10-15 Saturday night; Sunday and Monday night dropped to $5 at both CET and Hard Rock.
Harvey’s hotel room was spacious and clean; have not hesitation staying here again.

Below is a more detailed report of our trip from Saturday June 6 thru Tuesday June 9 in Stateline, NV.

The comments below pertain to Harvey’s, Harrah’s, and Hard Rock. I did not go into Mont Bleu or Dotty’s casinos. But first let me say, “You have the comforts of the Vegas strip while on the Tahoe strip; fear not because a CVS store is located between Harrah’s and Monte Bleu.”

I thought the casinos were small for the number of hotel rooms of each property. I found an online reference saying the casino size for the two CET properties (Harvey’s and Harrah’s) were over 60,000 sq foot each, but another site said around 35,000 sq ft. I did read a Hard Rock magazine ad saying their casino was 28,000 sq ft. Using Hard Rock (and other casinos who’s sq ft has been published as a gauge), I would estimate that Harrah’s was about 30,000 sf and Harvey’s under 40,000 sf.

The slot selection in these three casinos was just okay. Typical games you see elsewhere, but most striking difference was no nickel slots. In addition, penny slots were not as abundant compared to quarter and dollar slots. This is interesting since penny slots outnumber other denominations at many casinos. CET BJ was predominately 6:5 while Hard Rock 3:2. All hit on soft 17 and had some single and double decks along with six deck shoe games. Limits varied from $5 to $25 during our stay. Waitresses were frequently stopping by asking for orders and quick to return.

Craps table count: Harvey’s, three; Harrah’s, five with one being crapless; and Hard Rock, two. The regular tables were 12 footers (if not shorter) and had 3x4x5x odds, 2x 2-and-12 in the field, bar 2 on the DC, and fire bet. The crapless was a long table; I would say 16 foot. All the dealers were really friendly and very accurate. I stopped by Harvey’s sports book to see the last few minutes of the OT NBA game; small area with only a couple TVs showing the game.

Both CET casinos were “calm” Saturday night. People were playing, but you could find many open slot along with table game seats. I was expecting more people for Sat night. One thing I noticed right away when we arrived at Harvey’s was the low number of people in the casino for a Saturday afternoon. Maybe just that weekend. Sunday night Harvey’s had only one craps table open and that was packed all night long. But both Harrah’s and Hard Rock had two craps tables open that night. Only one craps table open at Harvey’s Monday night. Hard Rock had some really good music playing while CET played more slow/love/90’s pop songs. The Cabo Wabo ‘night club’ in Harvey’s was a happening place both Saturday and Sunday nights.

The two CET casinos are linked via an underground tunnel. An arcade and the ‘night club’ are in the tunnel. But you can also easily cross the street to get to the other casino. Very short easy walk from the CET properties to Hard Rock and not much further to Mont Blue. Both CET properties have huge parking garages, which are “camoflaged” and not noticeable as parking garages from the street.

If you are up for ‘fine’ dining (but no jacket required, in fact, people were in shorts), try Sage Restaurant in Harvey’s. Great and very attentive service, well prepared meals, big plate portions, and rustic atmosphere. Yes, price was not inexpensive, but we thought worth the price (not ala carte).

Across the street from the CET properties (in CA) are many places to eat if you are not excited about any of the casino eateries. We both thought Base Camp Pizza and Azul Latin Kitchen (both in the Heavenly Village) were excellent choices for dinner. Azul had a really interesting menu and the ingredient/flavor combinations were unique. You got to try the guacamole and salsa!

This hotel has two towers, Mountain (‘older’) and Lake (‘newer’). Ask for a Lake Tower room. We stayed in the Luxury room in the Lake Tower. Yes, the room furnishings were dated and beat/nicked up, but we had a lot of space in the room. The bathroom had two separate sink counters (with a lot of counter surface), walk in shower, separate toilet room (no shat phone), and separate bathtub.

One room feature we liked was the bay window plus two nice sitting chairs and table. We sat here each morning drinking our coffee (no in-room coffee machine) and enjoying the outdoor view. Wifi for two devices was part of the resort fee; easy connection and good speed. Both of us able to use our devices without any issues. Multiple hotel elevators with minimal wait time. Housekeeping was good, room temperature could be adjusted to our liking, and no hallway noise. They had a pretty good fitness center with many cardio and weight machines, free weights, and other equipment plus a lot of space. The pool and hot tub were nothing to brag about. Harvey’s has an outdoor concert series and have some big time (but some older) names performing (eg, Aerosmith, Elton John, Kenny Chesney, Train). The only hotel room complaint was the flat screen TV had a fuzzy picture. Wife said for our next trip to Tahoe she is okay with staying here again.

I barely play at CET properties, thus have only a gold Total Rewards card. So I was pleased to see their hotel rates (compared to the standard rate) when I checked on their website to book the room. They did charge a resort fee ($20) for each night, even the comped nights. I spoke with a casino host before I checked out and she did comp some more of my expenses.

Local Area
As mentioned, so much to do outside plus a lot of conveniences next to the casinos. A shopping center with a Raley’s supermarket and other “everyday” stores was about two blocks away and easy walk. Other shops and restaurants also are within walking distance. A state park is behind the supermarket that has a few hiking trails that we spent pretty much all day Sunday hiking. The trials were from simple to more complex. If you are adventurous, you could climb the mountain using the trail underneath the gondola track. We rented bikes on Monday and road down to Camp Richardson park. Many places to stop and see the lake plus do stuff in the lake (ie, paddle board, jet ski) during our bike ride. Furthermore, they built some smaller parks on the route so you could stop and take in the scenery, restroom break, eat lunch, get out into the water, etc. They built a well-marked bike path along with a bike lane on the main road. Motor vehicle drivers are very polite to and aware of bike riders and pedestrians. We rented our bikes from the Sports LTD shop (similar to a REI store in Vegas) next door to the Raley’s. Ask for Matt, he was really nice and helpful.

The main and most popular route from Reno to South Lake Tahoe is via Carson City and US-50. We rented a car and took us just under 90 minutes from the Reno airport to Harvey’s on a Saturday late morning. If you have time, travel back to Reno on the west side of the lake, via CA-89. You will go past Emerald Bay so stop and get a few pictures. A few other places are along the way and worth stopping to get some pictures and take in the scenery. We continued on CA-89 to Truckee and then took I-80 east to Reno. The CA-89 route takes a good 30-45 additional minutes versus US-50, but go the CA-89 route if you are not in a rush to get to Reno (which I see no reason to rush to Reno, see my next report about Reno). Just like other interstates in the west, there is nothing from Truckee, CA to Reno. So go to the bathroom, fuel up, get a drink, eat, etc before getting onto the interstate.

Overall, we are really glad we visited Lake Tahoe. We will definitely go back. As you would expect, this place is so different than Vegas, without the glitz, lights, energy, people, etc. But we were not-at-all disappointed we selected Lake Tahoe. We have started a list of things to do (eg, zip line, eateries, different hiking trails, water sports) during our next trip to South Lake Tahoe (Stateline, NV).

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 HedgedBettor responded on Thursday, 18th June 2015

Always appreciate your views, and interesting to see a trip report on a less-visited spot like Tahoe. I'm hoping to do a skiing/gambling winter trip there someday!

 wpsteel66 replied on Monday, 22nd June 2015

Thanks for the feedback.
We talked to some of the locals about the skiing conditions. They said although the past three winters have been bad in terms of snow fall amounts, Heavenly does a really good job of making snow for their trails. They also commented low snow fall is why the lake is a few feet lower than normal.

We did notice a board in Harvey's displaying the various road conditions. Obviously all roads were open but this gives you an idea that at times some roads are affected by the weather and may be closed.

 Drake responded on Friday, 26th June 2015

Nice report! My wife and I did a Reno/Tahoe trip in early May and loved it, too! It's definitely worth the visit. This was our third visit (we were married there on a previous trip).

We stayed at Harrah's. We love the fact that every room has two bathrooms -- a nice suite-like perk without paying suite prices. However, we did most of our gambling at Harvey's (VP and slots) and had a great time there without a doubt. We ate at Hagar's Mex place one night and it really hit the spot. I don't think you can go wrong staying at either place.

I'll just add a few thoughts of my own, if you don't mind, for other VT'ers who are considering the trip:

If you stay at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, ask for "California view" on the highest floor possible. We were on 10 (with a standard room reservation) and had a great lake and mountain view.

Definitely take a trip driving a loop around the lake and stop at everything, state parks included. Do it clockwise, because the majority of scenic pull-offs will be then be simple right-hand turns.

Donner Pass State Park in Truckee is worth a stop-- especially if you take the route to/from Reno that wpsteel66 lays out, you'll be right there. Stay for the movie presentation. It's mind-boggling to imagine what those poor souls went through. There's a second Donner site a few miles away too. It's something to actually see the sites where it all took place.

Other day trips: Virginia City is a 1/2-day trip and a cool place to visit. Bodie State Park is a full-day trip, about 2-1/2 hours away, but it is SO worth it. It is an amazingly preserved ghost town.

Food: We had breakfast daily at the Driftwood Cafe in Heavenly Village and enjoyed it. It's a short walk from Harrah's and Harveys, and it was nice to get out of the hotel. We also ate dinner at Cafe Fiore in South LT and it was excellent. That was our one "fine dining" experience, and it's a great little place.

Next time we'll visit in the summer. We saw lots of little pocket beaches that look like great places to stretch out and relax on the lake.