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Travelin' with the Cougs: Reno, Nevada

Some people call it "The Biggest Little City in the World". I'm kidding, no one calls it that. There are, like, two signs that have that. Just call it Reno.

This is part one in a five part series where we take a look at the cities you'll be traveling to as you follow the Cougs on the road this season. Next up: Salt Lake City, Utah

The first time I ever went to Reno, Nevada was to visit a friend after he moved there our senior year of high school. Being 18 and in Reno means you can enjoy approximately ten percent of things to do in a Nevada casino. We were able to demolish the crab leg station of a buffet though.

Since then, I've been back on a couple of occasions and Reno remains a fun city to visit if Vegas isn't quite your speed. Its main appeal remains the proximity to Lake Tahoe for skiing in the winter and occasional events like Hot August Nights and the Reno Air Races. For the weekend the Cougs are in Reno though, Washoe County is your oyster. Lets help you shuck it.

Reno, Nevada Vital Statistics:

Population: 225,221 (city), 425,417 (metro)

Mackay Stadium capacity: 31,545

Nearest Airport: Reno-Tahoe International Airport (4.5 miles)

Random Fact: The Reno Ice Pavillion was disassembled and moved there from Atlantic City.

Reno-Tahoe International is probably the smallest airport you'll be flying into all season but it's laid out well which makes for efficient trips from the gate to baggage claim and the curb. The only airline with direct flights to Reno from the Pacific Northwest is Alaska with service out of Seattle and Portland so that'll likely be your best and cheapest bet. While you wait for your bag, there are slot machines in the claim area so you can lose money after you lost money checking your bag.

The airport is close to downtown so if that's where you hotel is located, a cab should be just fine. Even the hotels that aren't located downtown are a relatively cheap cab ride away. If you want to book a hotel at Lake Tahoe, I'd rent a car as you'll be needing it to make the roughly 45-75 minute drive (depending on where on the lake you're staying) into town for the game.

Places to Stay:

Note: Average Nightly Rate assumes a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night stay

El Dorado Resort Casino (Distance to Stadium: 1.2 miles)

The El Dorado's location in downtown Reno a scant 6,400 feet from Mackay Stadium is a big draw. The streets of "historic" downtown aren't quite as much to write home about as their bigger brother in Vegas but there's still some reasonable people watching to do. The El Dorado's rooms are well appointed and they do provide a free shuttle to and from the airport. The casino downstairs has been known to have decently low minimums on their tables as well and the sports book is decent. The internet isn't free (BOOOOOOOO) but they have a nightclub so...there's that?

The El Dorado is offering a special for WSU fans through the Traveling Cougs group. You can go here for all the details on how to book.

Special WSU average nightly rate: $109/night

Grand Sierra Resort and Casino (Distance to Stadium: 3.5 miles)

The Grand Sierra has changed ownership hands roughly 68 times in the last decade (note: numbers may not be accurate) but its recent remodel has left the place looking gorgeous. Even the regular rooms look good and the casino is in great shape as well. They provide a free shuttle from the airport during limited hours although this is the closest resort to the airport. Table limits start at a Lincoln here as well with a good sports book. There's a lot to do on the property with a large bowling alley, a gigantic pool and a driving range which is just a lake because why not? The wi-fi is free (WOOOHOOOO) and they have a wedding chapel. Nothing says "I'm a romantic fella" like taking your soon-to-be wife to Reno for Cougar game and getting married in a casino.

Expedia average nightly rate: $87/night

Peppermill Resort Casino (Distance to Stadium: 3.6 miles)

This is the place most people have heard of when Reno comes to mind and with good reason. They've recently redone some of the rooms and added a tower with better appointed rooms. They've tried to redo it with a Tuscan theme and the pool certainly looks it. For your money, these are probably the best rooms you'll get in town. The casino tends to have similar limits as all other locales in town but can move higher at the slightest hint of additional pressure. They run an airport shuttle and the wi-fi is free (WOOOHOOOO). I'm also pleased to report the buffet can withstand an extended stay from four 18-year old men who haven't eaten in 10 hours.

Expedia average nightly rate: $117/night

MontBleu Resort Casino (Distance to Stadium: 57 miles)

If you want to stay at Tahoe (like I was going to) as this was going to compensate for the fact that you had to work on the holiday weekend (like I was planning on), staying on the Nevada side of the border at South Lake Tahoe is ideal. Tahoe is sparklingly beautiful and MontBleu is only a 5-10 minute walk to the beach. MontBleu isn't as nice as the places in town that we've mentioned but it still gets the job done. No free shuttle to and from the airport but you can make up the cost of your rental car at the tables. The internet will cost you (BOOOOOOOO) but that's just another thing you can pay for at the tables.

Expedia average nightly rate: $147/night

Places to Eat:

Peg's Glorified Ham and Eggs

The neon sign is super old school and so are the portions. They'll have to roll you out of here after stuffing your face with the legendarily huge portions of Huevos Rancheros. Prices run slightly over a Hamilton for most of the plates but you won't be eating for the remainder of the day.

The Little Waldorf Saloon

Right across the street from Mackay Stadium is the Little Waldorf Saloon, a hang out for many of UNR's of-age students. Its been around longer than The Coug and dishes out a lot of really good, all-American food for not a lot of cash. Their beer selection normally approaches the half century mark so you can get tanked without ever going back to the same well.

The Island Buffet at the Peppermill

I'll admit I'm carrying a bit of a personal bias in this one but you guys: there's a fake rain storm and jungle noises every 15 minutes! Alright, not as cool as it used to be but you owe it to yourself to test the limits of your stomach lining every time you're in Nevada. The buffet usually has fairly reasonable prices and the food is above average from what I've seen at most other buffet establishments.

Things To Do:

International Camel Races

About an hour south of Reno lies Virginia City, a town that makes Colfax look like a metropolis. But what it lacks in amenities, it makes up for with the fact that, once a year, usually around Labor Day, a bunch of grown men get on camels and race them. It's a spectacle you have to witness at least once just to say you did. "Man, this one time, I saw the sun rise above the eastern shores of Australia, probably the first place in the world to see it every day. I was so awe-struck by it's beauty." "Yeah, well, this one time I got super drunk and watched two guys ride camels in a race."

Tickets can be had for as little as $20 and you can get them here.

Lake Tahoe

I've said it before but it bears repeating: this is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the country. Don't use I-80 to get there though, head south of Reno and take the winding Mt. Rose Highway scenic route. There are a few public beaches on the north side of the lake where the highway dumps you out so you can have a great Saturday afternoon relaxing in a gorgeous spot.

As always, this isn't a comprehensive list and your suggestions are welcome. If you think I missed anything, put it in the comments for everyone to see!