By Amanda Nyren, Travel Correspondent
Lively South Tahoe Resort Casino with AAA Four Diamond Dining
Friday night's revelers are still up. It's no longer Friday night—it’s nearly 7 on Saturday morning—and yet here they are, reveling. Surrounded by spilled drinks and discarded napkins, four never-say-die partiers are collapsed in hysterics on the banquette that forms the perimeter of the open-air bar at HQ, MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa's stylish boîte overlooking its 24-hour casino.
On the casino floor, gamblers wander beneath spiraling, golden light fixtures as the silvery jingle of slot machines fills the air. Other visitors find respite in the grottos of the indoor heated pool and in the deep leather chairs of the cigar shop, where Chris, a bearded, lanky employee perpetually whirling about the shop, proffers miniature chocolates, bottled water, and even occasional cigars gratis.
In premiere rooms upstairs, the high-energy excitement is replaced by the serenity of a king-size bed laden with white pillows. Mountain or lake views peek in through the windows. In the rose-marble-bedecked bathrooms, his and hers sinks accommodate the toothbrushing schedules of significant others and stunt doubles.
When hunger calls, the crown jewel of Montbleu's restaurants answers: Ciera, a AAA Four Diamond steakhouse, serves a lineup of steaks and chops augmented by seafood such as the buttery lump crab cake. The maitre d', Tommy, offers a ready, toothy grin alongside recommendations from a selection of 300 wines and champagnes.
South Tahoe: Vegas-Style Glitz in Alpine Paradise
At night, the neon letters of MontBleu's sign compete for attention with a legion of lights glittering along South Lake Tahoe's strip of casinos. An elevator lit with red and white bulbs slides up and down the external wall of Harvey's like a tethered rocket ship, and the horse and jockey statue outside Harrah's beckons to photo takers and orphaned bookies alike.
At daybreak, the lights dim and the sparkling waters of Lake Tahoe take center stage. A short walk from MontBleu takes travelers to Heavenly Village, a timber-lined resort and shopping complex that operates a mountain gondola offering breathtaking views of the lake—which never freezes but does provoke heavy, lake-effect snowfall across the Nevada-California border. The glass-walled gondola cars sail over rugged mountain faces, ascending 3,000 feet to the summit, where skiing, dining, and après-ski parties await.