Thoughts of relaxing restaurant dinners cooked and served by others, watching a live production show in a real theater, and, perhaps, a refreshing dip in the infinity pool lured us out of town for our first weekend away in 16 months. Even better would be the chance to chat with fun folks again—without smile-hiding masks. With feelings of excitement tempered by doubts about embarking on unchartered territory, my husband John and I packed up the car and hit the road for Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada.

Reno, known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” seemed just right for our inaugural adventure. With our two-night stay booked in a freshly decorated room at the Grand Sierra Resort and reservations set for an intriguing culinary event called Pigs & Pinot, what more could we want?

Reality check #1

Guest room in the Concierge Tower

Guest room in the Concierge Tower (Credit: Grand Sierra Resort)

Who knew crossing a state line—California into Nevada—would be such a change of pace? Only a few days earlier, Nevada had eased masking guidelines, while at home in California, it was still masks-on pretty much everywhere indoors.

Arriving at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno (GSR), we parked the car in the vast lot, unloaded our overnight bags and began wheeling them toward the entrance. Yes, we were outdoors, but it was jarring to be surrounded by unmasked groups of enthusiastic vacationers.

Entering the opulent lobby of the 2,000-room casino resort was another revelation. While signs posted the latest mask rules—none required for those fully vaccinated—only a handful of people wore masks. What about all those small children, clearly not protected? John and I quickly donned our masks.

From that moment, we made it our rule to mask up on the elevators, while walking through the casino and anywhere we saw unmasked kids or encountered crowds. I also wore my mask during the first night’s show, as I was seated between John and a total (unmasked) stranger.

The show, the eye-popping spectacle “Viva Le Cirque,” astounded us with one amazing feat (acrobats, contortionists, daredevils) after another. The nearly 3,000-seat Grand Theater was part of the MGM Grand Hotel when the property originally opened in 1978 and still lays claim to being one of the world’s largest indoor stages. The stage that once held an airplane with an 80-foot wingspan still does. Built for a performance of “Hello Hollywood Hello,” the plane made a cameo appearance for the grand finale of “Viva Le Cirque.” The prop (pun intended) seems too large to be moved from its backstage landing and has been a hit throughout multiple hotel owners/brands.

Wining and dining at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno

Star of Pigs & Pinot at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno

The star of the annual Pigs & Pinot event

No getaway would be complete without a generous helping of tasty treats, and ours was no exception. Our first evening found us at GSR’s Rim Asian Bistro for a dinner featuring too many delicious dishes to count. Strangely, dining at a table for 10 new-found friends seemed totally normal. We didn’t hesitate for a moment to pass and share multiple dishes, all the while chatting and getting to know each other.

Rim is one of the resort’s upscale dining venues. Sushi lovers will be impressed by the lengthy menu of hand rolls, sashimi and nigiri. A few of my favorite dishes, from a second menu, were a rich hot and sour soup, honey-glazed walnut prawns, a spicy General Tsao’s Chicken, and Singapore-style vermicelli with BBQ pork, shrimp and veggies. For dessert, my vote went to the creamy lychee cheesecake.

GSR is also home to Reno’s only celebrity chef-owned restaurant, Charlie Palmer Steak. In regards to chef Palmer, we hit the jackpot, arriving on time for his annual Pigs & Pinot event, with the sociable Palmer on hand to greet guests.

The spit-roasted suckling pig and wine dinner took place outdoors by the pool. With various food stations (juicy pork ribs, shredded pork tacos, pinot marinated tofu) and six superb pinot noirs to sample, this was the closest we came to back-to-normal. All guests met and mingled freely, not a mask in sight. I felt totally at ease.

Relaxation, please

Pools at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno

Pools at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno

To round out our visit, we checked into the resort spa, an oasis of calm and quiet amid the casino hubbub. A massage for me and a pedicure for John revived us for the day’s activities. Both treatments were topped off with a complimentary glass of wine, bubbly or beer. A nice touch.

GSR offers a huge swimming pool, an adults-only infinity pool and two hot tubs, all currently up and running. We packed swimsuits in anticipation of our first dip in more than a year. Yet, when it came time to take the plunge, we decided against it. Just too many people in a close space. Next time, we’ll be ready!

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler? 

  • There’s no need to leave the property in search of fine dining. The Grand Sierra Resort is home to Charlie Palmer Steak, Rim Asian Bistro, and several more casual options.
  • Grand Sierra Resort in Reno offers adults-only (ages 18 and up) floors for a more peaceful stay. The outdoor, infinity pool is adults-only (ages 21-plus).
  • Reno is less than a four-hour drive from San Francisco Bay Area cities. If you fly into the Reno airport, the resort provides a free shuttle service.

Take note

  • Weekday resort rates are often considerably lower than weekend rates. A resort fee of $33.84 plus tax is added to the room rate each day of your stay.
  • Parking is complimentary, but spaces may be a relatively long walk from the entrance, especially in the hot sun. A new, more convenient and attractive drive-up entryway is under construction.

COVID-19 Update: Grand Sierra Resort in Reno

As COVID restrictions are easing, it’s best to check the resort’s website for current protocols. As of June 1, 2021, guests and employees at Grand Sierra Resort who are fully vaccinated no longer need wear a mask or practice social distancing. Those not vaccinated must continue to wear a mask and social distance. For detailed information, visit the resort website and that state website, Nevada Health Response for Washoe County.


The author’s stay was hosted by Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. Any opinions expressed in this post are her own.

All photo credits: Ginger Dingus, except resort entrance chandelier and guest room in the Concierge Tower, courtesy of Grand Sierra Resort

Previously on GettingOnTravel

Read about a casino resort getaway in the south: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi

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