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Peppermill Resort & Casino's Tuscany-inspired pool area

I’ll bet it has been a long time since you have been to Reno. It was for me, but recently I had the good fortune to revisit this Nevada gem that lies on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada range. Things are good here, and it shows in the opulent new casinos and restaurants that now adorn the old silver mining hub.

The Setting

Reno is a place you can get your arms around, unlike its large and sometimes unfriendly competitor to the south. It is also perhaps the most family friendly of Nevada’s gaming cities. Great skiing is less than an hour away along with white water rafting. The grandeur of Lake Tahoe is available with an even shorter drive of just 40 minutes.

Most of the hotels and casinos congregate in the downtown area on or near Virginia Street. One of the town’s most upscale properties is just a few minutes away, and that is where we stayed on this visit. The Peppermill Resort and Casino has the spectacular design features of a top Las Vegas hotel but provided a much more “guest friendly” experience.

The Resort

The ambience at the Peppermill is more like what Vegas used to be. They appreciate their guests. This is not a corporate-owned casino but instead the crowning jewel of a small group of longtime investors. From the car valet to check-in, the employees went out of their way to make me comfortable in a way that is long gone from Vegas. Many of their employees are students at nearby University of Nevada, Reno, and they have been handpicked to excel in customer service.

As we checked in, I was captivated by the scenes playing out on large video screens throughout the Peppermill. This video art is the creation of Joe Ness, the director of the resort’s Entertainment Electronics and Media Department. Hundreds of screens throughout the resort capture high-definition videos of exotic lands, nature, and wildlife along with local scenery. From the Great Wall of China to the beaches in Australia, the only movement is within the scene, and the results are entrancing. You will want more of this, and you can have it on several in-house TV channels in your room.

Our room was on one of the top floors in the newer Tuscany Tower, where old-world sophistication meets contemporary hotel comforts. For example, rich, thick curtains open electronically with just a slight touch, giving way to panoramic views across Reno toward the nearby mountains. Italian marble floors adorn the oversized bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and large showers. Did I forget to mention the LCD wall-mounted TVs encased in gold-lined picture frames? I think I could get used to this. Hand-painted Italian art and private foyers complete the experience. Visit PeppermillReno.com for complete details.

The Pool and Spa

Hearst Castle’s Neptune Pool came immediately to mind upon gazing at the resort’s Tuscany-inspired pool area. The two geothermally heated pools are open year-round and feature a waterfall and private cabanas. You will want to spend some time here, and maybe a lot of time if you have little ones in tow.

Spa Toscana encompasses 33,000 square feet and three stories of luxury pools and treatment rooms equal to the Golden Door or Canyon Ranch. The spa menu is extensive, including the increasingly popular “Oxygen Facial” which had a soothing and long-lasting effect.

The Food

On our first night we choose to dine at Chi, the resort’s Asian-themed restaurant, and the result was a feast for all palates involved. The Peking duck was outstanding, as were the pot stickers and fried shrimp dumplings starter. The exotic Chinese decor included live fish tanks, home to the freshest menu choices.

For lunch the next day we visited the River Walk section of downtown and dined at Campo, a Mark Estee creation. Estee hails from a Greek-Italian background, and this has inspired his menu. I choose “The Swimmer” entrée, which was red snapper that day, and it was excellent. For starters we had the warm Castelvetrano olives and a kale salad. Both were very good. The restaurant has a large outdoor patio overlooking the Truckee River in this newly redeveloped section of Reno. For further information go to CampoReno.com.

Mark Estee's Heritage Restaurant at the Whitney Peak Hotel

Later that evening we had the pleasure of experiencing another Mark Estee establishment when we dined at Heritage Reno on the ground floor at the Whitney Peak Hotel. This trendy downtown restaurant has the feel of New York or Chicago with a large, enticing bar area framing the open seating and exhibition kitchen. My Pacific Northwest salmon entrée was perhaps the best I have ever tasted, and the heirloom tomatoes on the side were a perfect match. Estee has a line on the freshest ingredients for all his restaurants, and you will taste this right away. Go to RenoHeritage.com to prepare for this memorable feast.


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