Nevada Travel Roundup Lady Luck

Nevada is the place to be on the luckiest day of the century, July 7, 2007. The number 777 is lucky in more than one culture, but in a gaming culture, it takes on a whole new wealth of meaning. Visitors from all over the world are expected to flock to Nevada to roll the dice and play their cards on that lucky day. And there is no shortage of hotel packages designed specifically for that special day. For example, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas has created a “Savory Sensations of Seven” package for $777 that includes a one-night stay on the seventh floor, a seven-course dinner, a 70-minute spa treatment for two and a seven-themed breakfast.

Las Vegas wedding chapels are booked solid as couples plan to take the plunge under such a fortunate omen. Couples are invited to visit the Nevada’s “City of Lights,” Paris Las Vegas, and say “I do” atop the Eiffel Tower overlooking the exciting Las Vegas Strip. Or spend the day in the sun at Mandalay Bay resort-casino with a beach reception and a serenade by KC and the Sunshine Band. The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino has expanded its chapel capacity for the day and will conduct 77 weddings on July 7.

Happy Birthday, America

Spark some fun at Star Spangled Sparks
The city of Sparks, adjacent to Reno, holds one of the largest Fourth of July festivals in the state. Star Spangled Sparks is full of family fun, beginning at the Sparks Marina with a milk-carton boat regatta, a kite-flying contest and arts and crafts. The food and drinks will be flowing all day long, and live entertainment will keep spirits high on this special day.

The fun then continues at Victorian Square in Sparks for an evening of music and festivities leading up to the big moment when the fireworks shoot off of the roof of John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Get there early to get a good seat and ooh and ahh over the brilliant colors lighting up the night sky. For more information, visit www.ci.sparks.nv.gov.

Lake Tahoe celebrates with ‘Lights on the Lake’
Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, doesn’t do anything small, and Fourth of July fireworks are no exception. Rated one of the top five displays in the nation, the fireworks at South Lake Tahoe are not to be missed.

This year’s festivities will be especially meaningful as Lake Tahoe residents recover from a devastating fire that tore through the region just before the holiday week. Come celebrate the nation’s birth, and Tahoe’s recovery, with music and fun on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, capped off with “Lights on the Lake,” the largest fireworks display west of the Mississippi. There are several great vantage points to witness the aerial celebration, including the deck of two paddlewheel boats, the M.S. Dixie and the Tahoe Queen. For more information, visit www.bluelaketahoe.com.

Speed and fireworks light up the Fourth in Las Vegas
There are several venues hosting Fourth of July fireworks shows in and around Las Vegas, so gather the family and choose your favorite spot for the annual July 4 festivities.

The Las Vegas Speedway will host a night of NASCAR-sanctioned stock-car racing and USAC Midgets, small and lightweight cars jammed full of horsepower and built for speed, followed by a traditional fireworks display. NASCAR star Kyle Busch will be among the racers tearing up the track for fans of all ages.

Nothing is as American as apple pie and baseball, and Las Vegas has plenty of the latter with its own minor league team, the 51s. The Las Vegas 51s will take on the Fresno Grizzlies for a four-game series June 30 through July 3, celebrating the nation’s birth – and hopefully four victories – with a “Fireworks Extravaganza” after the first and fourth games. Tickets to the fireworks games are $13.

Just south of Las Vegas, visitors can watch “Rockets over the River” in Laughlin. The lively gaming town just across the Colorado River from Arizona will celebrate all day long, ending with the fireworks display over the water.

For information on these celebrations and more, including parades, poolside parties and Pops, check out www.visitlasvegas.com.

What’s Happening

Reno transforms into Artown for the month of July
Artown, one of the nation’s largest and most inclusive arts-and-culture festivals, has been presenting world-class events in Reno for over a decade. From July 1 through 31, there are art performances and exhibits going on all day, every day, in the city of Reno. While most of the events are free, Artown also boasts an impressive lineup of headline performers at special ticketed prices.

Some of the free musical highlights include an international musical performance by SambaGuru July 11, America’s only Sanskrit rock band, Shanti Shanti, performing July 14, “A Celtic Summer’s Eve” July 15 and the Drum, Dance and Didgeridoo Festival July 28.

Visitors and residents are treated to a series of festivals within the Artown festival throughout the month as well. On July 8, the American Arts Festival will feature American music, visual arts, storytelling and arts projects for the entire family. On July 14 celebrate Nevada’s rich Basque heritage, and legendary cuisine, with the 40th annual Reno Basque Festival. Then salsa, mambo and cha-cha to Latin jazz, Afro-Cubano and traditional Mexican music at the Baila Reno! Latin American Music Festival July 22.

Arguably one of the most beloved Artown events, the Great Basin Chautauqua Festival returns to Reno July 15-19. This year’s theme is “Exploring the Nature of Creativity” and presents actors portraying famous authors and composers with first-person monologues delivered in an old-fashioned tent setting. Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley will deliver the keynote address and hold a book signing July 16.

For a full lineup of the month’s events, visit www.renoisartown.com.

Cool cars and Hot August Nights
Reno celebrates the automobile culture of the 1950s and 1960s during Hot August Nights Aug. 3-12. This annual event draws more than 800,000 people to Reno and Sparks for “show-n-shines,” a car-part swap meet and live music and dancing all week long.

Shine the Deuce Coup and take your special gal for a cruise, or be-bop the night away to the cool sounds of The Drifters, Tony Orlando or Lil’ Elmo and the Cosmos. Check out the schedule of entertainment and events at www.hotaugustnights.net and cruise down to Reno and Sparks for a taste of an era gone by.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival adds modern comedy amid traditional plays

Every summer fans of the Bard converge on Sand Harbor State Park, on the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe, for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. Sipping wine, digging toes into the warm sand and watching some of the most famous plots unfold on stage against the breathtaking backdrop of the lake is a summer tradition for residents and visitors alike. However, Shakespeare isn’t for everyone, and this year the festival is adding a modern comedy to its playbill.

“Greater Tuna” is a fast-paced comedy about the small town of Tuna, Texas, and its wacky residents. And the best part: Theatergoers do not need to decipher Old English to understand it. Not straying far from its roots, however, the festival is still presenting two Shakespearean plays during its run from July 12 through Aug. 19. This year’s selections are the classic tragedy of star-crossed lovers “Romeo and Juliet” and the wickedly comical “The Taming of the Shrew.”

The festival has also revamped its food selection. Shakespeare’s Kitchen now offers an array of gourmet fare from around the world, from barbecue tri-tip and Cobb salads to hardwood smoked ribs and rack of lamb. More casual dishes include nachos and cold sandwiches.

Tickets to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival range from $22 for open seating to $67 for reserved seating and can be purchased at www.laketahoeshakespeare.com. Visit the Web site to find out about this year’s plays, the food and drink selections and the spectacular venue, Sand Harbor State Park.

San Francisco Symphony musicians invite public to rehearsal performance in Elko

Many Nevada residents know that Elko, the thriving cowboy town on Interstate 80, is a unique jewel of culture and fun. Members of the San Francisco Symphony and fellow musicians have discovered the same thing and now retreat to the idyllic western town every summer to rehearse and prepare for their upcoming season, and the public is invited to watch.

The event, formally known as the Ruby Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Aug. 16-18, was founded with the intent of bringing chamber music of the highest level to the northeastern Nevada community. It is an opportunity for visitors and residents alike to witness musical magic up close and personal. With the Ruby Mountains looming in the background, world-class string musicians and vocalists present chamber music at its best. For more information on the free rehearsal performance or the fund-raising dinner and concert Aug. 18, call 775-738-2823.

The stars shine at the Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe

Seventy-five celebrity athletes and entertainers tee off at the annual Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course July 10-15. Celebrities include “The Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer, former U.S. Women’s Soccer Team player Brandi Chastain, NBA star Michael Jordan, actor Cheech Marin, talk-show host Maury Povich, comedian and actor Ray Romano, Super Bowl champion Joe Theisman and actor Chris Tucker.

Each year the championship benefits a worthy charity, and this year’s charity is the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which provides information and tools for people living with cancer, as well as raises money for cancer research. Tickets to the practice round and celebrity-amateur tournament are $10, and tickets to the American Century Championship are $20. Visit www.tahoecelebritygolf.com for directions to Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, information about the tournaments and to purchase tickets.

‘Art cars’ take the spotlight at National Automobile Museum

The National Automobile Museum in downtown Reno presents “Ice Hot Cars” July 14 with more than 40 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, art cars and air-brush art demonstrations. Visitors will have an opportunity to become “art car” artists themselves and unleash their creativity on a car at the museum.

One art car on display is Gustine Castle’s “CANapillar,” the world’s hairiest limo. Castle glued synthetic fur on the former taxi cab and used foam to build a giant pair of lips while the car’s arms are made from a dryer duct.

Also part of the Ice Hot Cars exhibit is the documentary “Automorphosis,” a film featuring a van completely covered by cameras that was utilized to capture expressions of people from across the nation. To complement the Ice Hot Cars are ice cream sundaes and root beer floats for only $1. Bring the family to the National Automobile Museum and check out the hot rods, art cars and more. For information, visit www.automuseum.org.

Take a ‘Taste of Gardnerville’ in August

The picturesque and lively northern Nevada town of Gardnerville is holding its fourth annual Taste of Gardnerville Aug. 4. As the sun sets and the temperature cools, the streets will fill with the aromas of authentic Basque and Italian cuisine, as well as freshly brewed coffee and tantalizing drinks. Gardnerville is about an hour south of Reno on Highway 395, near Nevada’s first permanent town, Genoa. Tasters can check out the shopping and historic sites while noshing their way through town.

Tickets are $20 per person, and proceeds benefit the Douglas County Historical Society. Call 775-782-2555 for more information.

Nevada’s Colorful Past

History exhibit looks at deathly side of Virginia City
The Comstock History Center in Virginia City, about a half-hour from Reno, recently unveiled a new exhibit called “Undertaking the Past,” a look at death and the historic cemeteries in the famous 1800s Comstock Lode area.

The exhibit features Victorian mourning items, undertaking equipment and documents used in researching the history and landscape of the various cemeteries in Virginia City and Gold Hill. Items in the collection come from the Nevada Historical Society and various other donors to inform visitors about death in the 19th century in an effort to rehabilitate and protect the region’s historic burying grounds.

Virginia City was once the epicenter of western gold and silver mining following the famous ’49er Gold Rush. Its wooden sidewalks, historic saloons and mine tours are testaments to its colorful and fascinating past. Visitors can see the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at the Comstock Historic Center in Virginia City. For more information, visit www.nevadaculture.org.

State railroad museum steams to life in July
The Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City hosts a series of “steam-ups” and motor-car rides throughout the month of July aboard historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad equipment. The V&T; was once the richest short-line railroad in the country and transported materials and gold for the booming Comstock Lode in Virginia City, just a short distance from the state capital, Carson City.

Steam-ups are rides on an authentic steam engine train, and tickets to ride are $5 for adults. Motor-car rides are $4 for adults and take visitors on the 1926 Edwards Motor Car. Visit www.nevadaculture.org for a schedule of steam-ups and motor-car rides.

Did You Know?

Heavenly Gondola reopens after Lake Tahoe fire
With the Angora Fire at South Lake Tahoe nearly contained, Heavenly Mountain Resort has announced that its gondola is open and ready to whisk visitors up the mountain for breathtaking views of the lake. The gondola is a favorite summertime stop while touring the south shore of the lake and is especially popular during the Fourth of July festivities.

Heavenly has some of the best views of Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness and the surrounding Sierra Nevada, and the gondola is an ideal way to take in the vast natural beauty. Stop mid-mountain at the observation deck and grab a cold drink, then hop back in for the climb to Adventure Peak where visitors can dine on sizzling barbecue fare in the fresh alpine air. Visit www.skiheavenly.com for ticket prices and information on things to do and see in the South Lake Tahoe area.

Road to Grand Canyon West undergoes improvements
Grand Canyon West, a new visitor destination on the west rim of the Grand Canyon, will soon be easier to reach via improved road access. The visitor area is in the rustic wilderness of Hualapai Indian land and its natural setting is being preserved as much as possible. The improvements to the road will include sealed gravel until it is paved in the future, reducing dust and making it a more car-friendly surface while maintaining low impact on its natural surroundings.

Grand Canyon West is about 120 miles east of Las Vegas and 72 miles north of Kingman, Ariz., and is the only location throughout the entire Grand Canyon where visitors can access the Colorado River and water recreation at the bottom of the canyon via helicopter tours. In addition to water activities, visitors can take Hummer tours along the rim of the canyon and through private areas otherwise inaccessible to the public. The destination also boasts The Hualapai Ranch, a western town with horseback and wagon rides, as well as the magnificent Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass walkway that extends over the rim of the canyon. For information on the Skywalk and the Hualapai nation, visit www.grandcanyonwest.com.

BLM launches program to connect children and families to public lands
More than 80 percent of Nevada is public land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), making it an ideal place to explore the Great Outdoors. The BLM has launched a nationwide program called “Take it Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands,” designed to ignite in children an interest in the outdoors.

The program will focus on schools, youth organizations and families to reconnect children and families with the outdoors and reintroduce the nation’s youth to nature. It will expand on some of its successful current programs such as “Hands on the Land,” a network of field classrooms that teach environmental and heritage education, and Kids Fishing Day and Wonderful Outdoor World, which introduces urban youth to fishing, camping and other forms of outdoor recreation.

One of the main goals of the program is to encourage stewardship of public lands and give children a sense of ownership and respect for their surroundings. For more information on the BLM’s “Take it Outside” program, visit www.blm.gov.

Bundle of aquatic joy arrives in Las Vegas
Duchess, a bottlenose dolphin at The Mirage Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas, gave birth to a male calf in June. The happy family are bonding in the resort’s Research and Birthing pool under the watchful eye of habitat staff and the curious public.

The Dolphin Habitat is part of The Mirage resort-casino’s wild-animal attraction, which includes Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden, home to the famed white tigers. The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat are open to the public every day, and visitors can see the newest addition to the Dolphin Habitat, which boasts five female adults and the calf’s father, Lightning. For more information and habitat admission prices, visit www.mirage.com.

Tourism Tidbits

Get your kicks on Bellagio’s Route 66
The Bellagio resort-casino celebrates historic Route 66 in its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, which change seasonally. The carefree days of summer are reflected in the Conservatory’s thousands of vibrant plants, flowers and trees, offering a captivating view of summertime adventures. The enchanting centerpiece is a 42-foot Ferris wheel in a country fair setting surrounded by sunflowers, tent-tops and balloons. The Route 66 display will be open through Sept. 8. Visit www.bellagio.com for details.

Las Vegas Monorail announces cool summer fares
Forget the worries of driving while in Las Vegas and hop on the monorail, which is offering a special summertime fare. The regular $15 all-day pass is reduced to $8, making the monorail a more affordable, and air-conditioned, alternative to driving. The monorail links the major Las Vegas Strip hotels, whisking riders from one end to the other in 15 minutes. Its electric trains make the monorail one of the nation’s most environmentally friendly public transportation systems. For more information on the Las Vegas Monorail or where to purchase tickets to ride, visit www.lvmonorail.com.

Laughlin welcomes ‘Gilligan’s’ sans the Skipper
Gilligan’s Over the Marina is a 3,800-square-foot meeting facility and South Pacific-themed lounge recently opened in Laughlin, a lively town south of Las Vegas on the Colorado River. The lounge envelopes the desert oasis atmosphere of Laughlin, as well as its namesake TV show minus the S.S. Minnow and Skipper, with natural bamboo and lava rock. Gilligan’s has expansive views of the Laughlin Bay Marina and is a short drive from the casino resorts on the shores of the Colorado River. For more information, visit www.laughlinlocals.com/gilligans.

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