By Amanda Nyren, Travel Correspondent
Friday night's revelers are still up. It's no longer Friday nightits nearly 7 on Saturday morningand yet here they are, reveling. Surrounded by spilled drinks and discarded napkins, four never-say-die partiersstill wearing their Friday night apparel, from the looks of itare collapsed in hysterics on the banquette that forms the perimeter of the open-air bar. You could say that the sleek interior of HQ, MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa's stylish boite overlooking its 24-hour casino, has acquired a morning-after air, except that mornings-after are hard to come by at MontBleu, where nights carry far into the next day.
In the Premiere rooms upstairs, the high-energy excitement of nightlife is replaced by the serenity of a king-size bed laden with white pillows. Mountain or lake views peek in through the windows, and a green velvet sofa competes for attention with a jetted tub big enough for two. In the rose-marble-clad bathrooms, his and hers sinks accommodate the toothbrushing schedules of significant others and stunt doubles.
Back down on the casino floor, gamblers wander beneath massive light fixtures of spiraling golden glass 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.
MontBleu encompasses five on-site dining venues, the crown jewel of which is Ciera, a AAA Four Diamond steakhouse. Amid plush red drapes, dim lighting, and the soft strains of jazz and pop, diners sample a lineup of steaks and chops augmented by seafood such as the buttery lump crab cake, which makes a delectable appetizer or a satisfying meal on its own ($16). Tommy the maitre d' offers a ready, toothy grin alongside recommendations from a selection of 300 wines and champagnes kept on display behind a glass wall.
At night, the neon letters of the MontBleu's sign compete for attention with a legion of glittering lights 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 photo takers and orphaned bookies. 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. The glass-walled cars sail over rugged mountain faces, ascending 3,000 feet to the summit, where skiing, hiking, and dining await.
A 20-minute drive west along the southern rim of Lake Tahoe reaches Emerald Bay, touted as one of the most photographed sites in North America. Thick evergreen forests hug the bay's sapphire waters, punctuated in the center by an island on which sits Vikingsholm, a '20s-era summer home built in the manner of a medieval Swedish castle. The bay, a National Natural Landmark, faces northeast, making it the best site in Tahoe to watch the sunrise.
Local microbrewery Mt. Tallac puts Tahoes famed waters to good use in perennial amber and pale ales as well as seasonal specialties such as Desolation Wilderness Wheat and the potent 10th-anniversary brew. The brewery, an off-the-beaten-path cinderblock building adorned with vivid murals, hosts daily tastings, at which pints cost only $3.
Driftwood Cafe A local favorite housed within Heavenly Village, Driftwood Cafe serves hearty plates of eggs with locally roasted coffee and ugly fries, grilled potatoes with onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese.
Emerald Bay Touted as one of the most photographed sites in North America, Emerald Bay lures visitors with sapphire waters set amid evergreen forest and punctuated by a castle-topped island.
Eagle Falls Just across US 89 from Emerald Bay, Eagle Falls' hiking trails wander past foaming waterfalls and a 90-foot wall perfect for scaling and rappelling.
Mt. Tallac Brewing Company This off-the-beaten-path microbrewery hosts tastings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Customers can sip $3 pints of amber and pale ales or the potent 10th-anniversary brew.
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