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Family Spring Break to Lake Tahoe Trip Report (Plus Reno and Seattle)

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by JFO, May 2, 2019.

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  1. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    There are a lot of inexpensive flights from Seattle to Sacramento on Alaska Air. We also saw flights you could take with 5K Alaska miles each way, and the Bank of America Alaska Credit Card gives 40K Alaska miles as a sign up bonus.

    Not sure how old your kids are, but if you haven't already, check out our family vegas report from Summer 2018, you might get some ideas from that also.
     
  2. julia

    julia (was miss_sonja)

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    We have three kids so driving is usually a better option than flying. But I have plenty of Alaska miles built up.... those are good deals.

    Kids are 19, 15 and 6. They’ve grown up on road trips.
     
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  3. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Do you mean smallest building? Carson city is the 14th smallest capital by population.

    And lol at CET being stupid over a policy and pissing a 7 Star off. Real smart.
     
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  4. marksind

    marksind VIP Whale

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    My wife and I went to Carson City a few years ago doing a day trip from Reno. We walked into the capital building and into the governor's office. There was a receptionist in the office, so we asked if the governor was in. She said he was at lunch but should be back shortly. We couldn't believe it. No guards, no metal detectors, nothing. And she never even asked who we were or why we wanted to see him. A week later someone walked into a Carson City Denny's and shot four national guardsmen. I suspect access to the governor became more difficult after that.
     
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  5. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Understood, we have gone on some road trips, also, except Dad does about 99% of the driving, which does get old. This was kind of a combo trip, flying into Sacramento, and driving to Reno/Tahoe. We also had a summer vacation trip were we flew into New Orleans, and drove to Destin Beach, Fl (about a 4 hour additional road trip from the airport) with stops in Pensacola FL, Mobile AL, and (if folks here haven't been able to guess) Biloxi MS.

    With a 19 and a 15, at least they ought to be able to share some time behind the wheel!!
     
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  6. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    I can't find where I saw that fun fact, but now I am begining to wonder myself. I did find this:

    https://www.newsmax.com/fastfeatures/facts-nevada-capital-carson-city/2015/04/14/id/638273/

    Showing Carson City the smallest of 366 Metropolitan areas, but I really thought I saw that statistic somewhere. I remember driving through, other than a couple casinos off to the side of the road, it seemed like there wasn't much here but a couple gas stations, and fast food restaurants. I wonder, is the state capital in one of the casinos? (Apologies to anyone from Carson City, we love you!!!)

    No kidding, and over VP bar drinks of all things!!! I don't know where they find some of these casino employees, but that really didn't make a lot of sense.
     
  7. julia

    julia (was miss_sonja)

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    Yes, my eldest shared driving on our last cross-country trip. But TBH I love to drive. I’m heading to Ohio this summer. Going to either go out or return via Canada. :).

    My kids have never been to either Vegas or Reno. I did take my eldest to Montreal for spring break last year-she was 18 so yes, bars and yes Casino de Montreal. Introduced her to GOT slots:).
     
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  8. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    DAY 4

    The Timbers Restaurant at Lakeside Inn Casino: Just a very short drive back into Nevada was where we found this casino/restaurant that was recommended to us. Prices were reasonable, and my wife and I really enjoyed the coffee made with sierra mountain water. We had no coupons for this place, but the check came with a $5 match play coupon for the tables. I asked if we could split the check for a 2nd match play coupon, and they just printed us a 2nd. We played our match plays at blackjack, as there was no one supporting the very long craps table they had. I mentioned to the pit that seemed like a long craps table, and they told me it was the longest in the world. Does anyone really track this stuff?

    More Ski Clothes Shopping: Between the Lake Tahoe Kmart and Big 5 Sporting Goods, we were finally able to all get ski pants and gloves, and ready to head up the mountain for some snow action. Lesson learned to be more prepared to not always expect shopping to be easy on vacation.

    Sierra at Tahoe Resort: Even though our hotel is right next to Heavenly Ski Resort, several locals suggested we try this place for a day, as it is much more affordable, so we decided to hit here first. We aren’t skiers, but as it was kind of late in the day for renting skis, so we decided to try to check out snow tubing, and we would splurge on skiing early the following day.

    Blizzard Mountain: Ok, yes, we are probably too old for this, but the scenery was very pretty up here. For $20/person, we rent a special inner-tube. A rope connected to a mechanical lift dragged us up the hill in our tubes. And then we took turns going down a snow-hill with all kinds of special safety mechanisms to slow us down at the bottom. There were a lot of really young kids doing this, as well new parents with babies. I am guessing locals out-grow this at about 4 years old. But we had fun for almost an hour.

    Camp Richardson: We didn’t feel like doing much else at the Sierra Tahoe Resort, so we came down here to catch a view of the lake. We walked through the Beacon Bar and Grill to the patio in the back, and caught some beautiful views of the lake.

    Emerald Bay State Park: A short drive up the lakeside into California was this absolutely beautiful inlet off the lake. We understood that at some times of the year boats and bikes could be rented here, but the state park office was not just closed, but completely snowed in. I am thinking this might be more of a summer attraction. But there were plenty of cars parked on the side of the road, with people stepping out and taking pictures of the Bay. We got out also and mucked around in the snow for a bit, and the family took some pictures.

    Off the Hook Sushi: This South Lake Tahoe Restaurant is famous for its “Sushi Happy Hour” 4:30 – 6:00 PM. Myself, I am indifferent to sushi, but my wife and kids love it, so when we were told they had Happy Hour sushi specials they wanted to come. We showed up at just about 4:30 PM and there was a line. I thought it was a pretty good value (but for sushi, which IMHO is almost never a good value…) and everyone enjoyed the food here, and the service was very friendly.

    Harrahs Casino: Well, I succeeded in getting the family tired out again, they were ready to come back to the hotel to relax, so I would hit the VP machines a little more. This time I would play 16 draw hands per deal at quarters, full pay ($20 per deal) so I wouldn't play as long. There was a young fellow next to me, also playing 9/6 jacks multi-line at 19 hands per deal, I could see he went to a basic strategy sheet frequently and he was most certainly grinding. We got to chatting, and I learned he was trying to pull off “Diamond in a Day”, a CET promotion where if you earn enough points in a single day, they give you a nice multiplier to get you all the way to Diamond status. He did discuss some tough downswings he had, and while we didn’t discuss too much theory, I was a little concerned that he didn't sound like he was bankrolled deep enough to handle the downswings for what he was trying to do. I asked him why he was playing 19 hands per deal, and I actually liked his answer; he told me if he were playing 20 hands per deal, and was dealt a natural straight flush, his payout would be $1250 which would trigger a tax form and withholding. But at 19 hands per deal and dealt a straight-flush, his payout would be $1187.25, under the $1200 threshold, so no tax form and no withholding. I never saw him again, so I have no idea if he made his diamond-in-a-day, but I hope he did, and I also hope he finds it worth it. The odds of being dealt a 5-card straight flush are about 72,000:1.

    END OF DAY 4

    Thanks again for reading. I will try to get this finished up soon.
     
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  9. booker

    booker VIP Whale

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    Going into my Wayback memory machine, before Indian casinos, I remember a junket. It was a day long affair out of Seattle to the Carson City Nugget. I think we had to show the flight attendant $300 to get on the plane. We flew to Reno, then were bussed to the Nugget.

    On the way home, I sat next to a sweet, elderly grandmother. She was probably a little older than me, now. I told her that, after all was said and done, I had actually won $1.00 Seriously. Then she started crying. She had lost a lot of money. It had happened before and she went pm the junket unbeknownst to him. She was terrified to return home. It was a ghastly trip back. It was a grand lesson for me NOT to lose more than I could afford.
     
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  10. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Before I continue, I forgot to mention that when we were looking at hotels in Lake Tahoe, many hotel booking sites have this following picture of Harrahs and Harveys adjacent to Lake Tahoe:

    01_Ad.jpg

    (Go to TripAdvisor and enter “Harrahs Lake Tahoe” in the search window and see this for yourself…) So from this picture, one would think Harrahs would have a lot of lake front rooms? Well, Harrahs told us we would get an upper level room with a good view of the lake. And based on that photo, I figured any window with a “lake view” must also be a “lake front.” But this was the actual view from our window from our upper level room:

    02_Window.jpg

    And our the “lake view” was that little strip of lake above the trees. This triggered my OCD so much I found the photo online and talked to the diamond registration about it. They told me the TripAdvisor photo had to be a shameless Photoshop fraud to sell rooms. And they were correct. Here is a much more believable photo I found of Harrahs and Harveys relative to Lake Tahoe:

    03_Real.jpg

    Although our room was free, that photo on TripAdvisor seems to me am unnecessary scam to sell rooms. A window view does add a nice touch to a room, but I rarely pay more for it. Panoramic views are also nice for people who spend time in their rooms. When going to a beach, there is a huge difference between “ocean view” and “ocean front”, and we have in the past paid more for “ocean front balcony” rooms because we find them relaxing. Usually if I am lucky enough to get a window in a room, I get views of broken HVAC equipment and pipes.

    Okay, end of rant.

    DAY 5

    Heavenly Ski Resort: We planned today as a full day of skiing. We saw they had group ski lessons at 9 AM and 11 AM, and we agreed to try to make the 9 AM lessons and then spend the rest of the day skiing. So we left the hotel at around 8 AM. We thought the resort would be right outside the hotel across the state line, but it was actually about 2 blocks up. We found the sales booth around 8:15 AM, got in line, and about 8:35 AM we got a very friendly agent. We told him we wanted to rent ski equipment and then try to get into the 9 AM lessons. He looked at our family and apologized saying that there was no way we could all get fitted for ski equipment and make it up the Gondola in time for the 9:00 AM lessons, and urged us to take our time selecting equipment and go for the 11 AM lessons. We took his advice. Gondola passes, lift passes, ski rentals, and lessons for 4 people would come to $720, and that was with the combo discount. I handed him my card and held onto my receipt.

    We then got in line to rent our skis, and he was so right about us needing to take our time here. We all had to try on boots, learn how to snap them up, and learn how to snap them in and out of our skis. Hope I am not depressing any pro skiers reading this, just skip past all this if I am, but this did take us some time.

    Heaven’s Little Café: It was maybe 9:15 AM, when we all boots, skis, and poles. We still had some time to kill before our lessons, so we decided to grab some breakfast at this little coffee shop at the bottom of the Gondola. We went for coffee and pastries, but we probably should have gone for protein and energy drinks. The coffee and pastries here were good and not unreasonably priced.

    The Gondola at Heavenly: This 2.5 mile ride up the mountainside is pretty incredible. It does make a stop about 3/4ths of the way up at an observation deck. Then it continues where it tops off at their ski area where they have shops, more lifts, and lots of slopes. Its about a 20 or 30 minute ride.

    Ski Lessons at the top: There was a long wide plot of land with about a 5 degree slope where all the trainees assembled to meet our instructors. The instructors would line us all up at the low side and show us techniques for getting up, and then from the high side line us up again and show us techniques for going down…. None of us had problems going down, but for my wife and I getting up was very difficult. The instructors were really nice, but it was annoying that they could glide up the slope with almost no effort. The methods they were showing us for going up, including angling the skis outwards, and going up sideways, my wife and I were completely out of our element, requiring us to find leg muscles we didn’t have, and we were dropping frequently like bowling pins. (Our kids were doing just fine though.) We were out of shape as it was, and the elevation didn’t help. About 30 minutes into the lessons, I asked my wife if I should try to find some Gatorade, and she said to me PLEASE. So I took off my skis, and carried them to nearby Tamarack Lodge (everyone else is gliding effortlessly back and forth on their skis), I finally get into the shop, and they tell me the store is closing. I ask if I can just get a Gatorade or sports drink, they tell me the cash registers are closed, but they hand me a large cup and tell me I can fill up at the fountains. I filled the large cup with Gatorade, drank almost half of it, and then refilled it again… I got back to the training slope, no one was there, but everyone was huddled around the Gondola lift like human cattle. Not a cloud in the sky, I ask staff member what’s going on, and he tells me the mountain is closed due to wind forecast. I didn’t feel much wind either. I find my family in the mass of people, and they were able to finish off the Gatorade.

    The Gondola at Heavenly 2.0: Well, after a long wait with no real line, moving slowly a little at a time, we finally got to a Gondola car. They were packing 8 people per car so we got in a car with 4 random skiers. This would be a long ride down. I made sure I had my receipt, pulled it out and stared at it. Most amusement attractions have a strict “no rain-checks” policy. The skiers in the car with us told me I should definitely try to talk to the sales office, but wished me good luck on getting any refund. Well, remember my gripe about not having a good view of the lake from our hotel? Finally here was a good view from the lake from our Gondola car:

    04_Paid_For.jpg

    Heavenly Ski Resort 2.0: So we finally get to the bottom, and I waste no time going straight to the sales office. I find the friendly agent who sold us the rentals, lifts, and lessons package, and told him very gently we only got 30 minutes of lessons before they closed the mountain on us. His first question to me is if we would be around another day. I told him we would be flying back the following day. His next question is “well, how about a full refund then?” And I gladly accepted. I want to give an A++ to Heavenly Ski Resort for doing the right thing for the customer! This would put me in a very good mood for the rest of my trip, and while this place is expensive and we didn’t do much, I really can’t speak higher of everyone working here. I wish it worked out, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was the weather. YMMV.

    Port of Subs: I was in such a good mood that I was willing to take the kids wherever they wanted for lunch and dinner. We had a lot of interesting recommendations, but our kids just wanted subway. I talked them into trying this place instead, and they agreed (I am familiar with this place from the LVA airport, it’s a west coast sub shop.) We all got medium sized subs which were huge, and had plenty to wrap up and take back to our hotel room.

    Back to Harrahs: The family wanted a nap and to hit the arcade some more. No one wanted to do anymore snow based activities, so we looked at other things we could do in the area. I made reservations for an Escape Room nearby, and then went down to play some more VP while they all napped and watched TV.

    “The Bunker” Escape Room at Montbleu Resort: Last summer our family did 3 escape rooms in Las Vegas (on the Las Vegas Pass), and they were such good family experiences, we just decided to blow $100 on a room here. The Montbleu Resort was about a 5 minute walk from our Hotel. This escape room theme was we are on a Lake Tahoe vacation, we got kidnapped, knocked unconscious, and all woke up locked in a cold war era CIA bunker, and had 60 minutes to find the way out before the place implodes on us. This was a good challenge for us, we had enough escape experience that we were able to solve this with about 2 minutes left on the clock. We had the two-way radio to talk to the game master, we didn’t use it much. She actually called us after my son unlocked a key puzzle out of sequence; there were 5 levers on a wall in a secret room we unlocked, because that’s only 32 combinations, and he thought it would be easier to just try all combinations than wait until we found the clue (which we weren’t supposed to find until near the very end…) So we reset the levers and completed the room the intended way. This was another good family experience.

    Hard Rock Casino: After we were done with the Escape Room, I asked the family if anyone wanted to cross the street and check out the Hard Rock, but no one did. So after I walked with them back to the Hotel, they let me go by myself. The ACG has a play $40, get $20 in free-play coupon. As a new signup I got an additional $10 in free-play. The best game here was 7/5 Jacks, so I played the absolute minimum, and left with a $20 profit. All of the Hard Rock casinos are independently owned, and have independent Players Clubs. I heard the Hard Rock in Atlantic City will status match CET Diamonds, and give them free rooms, shows, food, and free-play on the spot. However, I showed this location my CET Diamond card and they just laughed at it.

    Harrahs Food Court: I asked the family where they wanted to go for dinner, and they said they weren’t very hungry and didn’t want to go out, but actually wanted to try food court in the hotel's casino. We had $30 in “Resort Credit”, but when we got down to the food court, they told us the food court wasn’t part of the resort. Regardless, they wanted to food court to take to the room, so that’s what I got them.

    Harrahs Casino: After I finished grinding on the 9/6 jacks multi-play for quarters, the CW service so bad even in the high limit room, I decided I would stop at the downstairs bar for a bit. The bartender had been very nice to us the entire trip, she recognized my wife and I since the first day and would give us non-alcoholic drinks to take to the kids (Shirley Temples, Hot Chocolates, Sodas) for just tips and without making us go through the motions of getting that green light to come on. I decided to finally sit and play here for some real drinks, and discovered she was a very experienced bartender who mixed drinks well. The best game I could find was 9/5 jacks for dollars which I played while I was here, although there were games a lot worse for quarters and half dollars on the bartops. It was our last night of vacation, so I probably had a few too many. Not sure how late I stayed here, but when I got back to the room everyone was asleep.


    Day 6 - Final Day of trip

    American River Café: This is a casual restaurant at the bottom level of the Harrahs hotel. Food was OK. I wouldn’t call it a great value, but they did accept out $30 in resort credits, making the total bill four 4 of us around $25.

    Depart Hotel: We checked out of the hotel, and tipped the valet for the last time. We expected gas would be cheaper on the Nevada side, but I recall that Tahoe Tom’s right inside the California actually had competitive prices according to google maps search for the area, so we just filled up there. And we were on our way down the mountainside back to Sacramento.

    Placerville, CA: Driving down the mountainside, we got to see some natural waterfalls that were nice views. Placerville was another planned stop at the bottom of the mountain to break up the trip. Unfortunately their top attraction, the Gold Bug Park and Mine, which we read was the only gold mine in California that allows tours, was closed for private school tours. We did stop in the historic downtown and walked around. The Placerville Hardware Store touts itself as the oldest hardware store in the country, and doubles as a gift store. We also drove by a restaurant that called itself The Original Mel’s Diner, which I did not expect. Soon I learned it is actually one of a chain of restaurants spread out over Northern California, each one calling itself “The Original”. No, we didn’t eat here, but I did step inside to look around due to my lack of understanding of what can be called an “original” in California. The wife and kids wanted nothing to do with this type of place even if it actually was an original.

    Sacramento, CA: We arrived in the city about 4 hours before our flight departure, so we had a couple hours to check out this city we had only been to when we landed. We went to Old Sacramento, the riverfront historical district by the Sacramento River, which was also the western terminal for the Pony Express. This place was definitely an original. There were so many museums, restaurants, gift shops, riverboats, and other attractions in this area that we wished we had more time to spend here. In fact, they had a visitor’s center that doubled as a little museum itself. We spent a lot of our time here in Evangeline’s (gifts, toys, nostalgia, costumes, and practical jokes store), a store worth checking out if you are ever here.

    Flight Return Notes: Both our outbound and our connection were completely full, with standby lists of 100+. We actually flew out the day after all the 737-MAXs worldwide were grounded, so the passengers of all the cancelled flights were being rerouted on anything they could find. Fortunately we were able to make both our flight and connection with no delays and got back safely.

    END OF TRIP REPORT

    Thanks all of you so much for reading, and thanks for all the comments.

    I will be making a solo trip to Vegas the 2nd weekend in June (very soon) where I will be meeting poker friends and probably playing a lot of table poker. I will check for VMB meetups. Shortly after that we have a family trip to the Atlantis in the Bahamas on CET Diamond the end of June (our original planned Spring Break destination), and we need planning tips for that, as we have never been there before either. Please feel free to comment on this thread, and/or send me PMs on anything related.
     
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  11. luckylinda

    luckylinda High-Roller

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    Thanks for wrapping up your trip. Glad your family had a good time.
     
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  12. booker

    booker VIP Whale

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    Love your reports! Hope to run into you at a 1-2 no limit game sometime.
     
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