Let’s face it, the bright lights and frenetic pace isn’t for everyone. While ‘Sin City’ is the image that Nevada conveys to the rest of the world there’s a lot to be said for the more laid back and bucolic Northern half of the state. Even the largest city in Northern Nevada–Reno–has a vibe that is completely unlike Las Vegas. There’s a lot to do other than gamble with all manner of outdoor activities leading the list. During the winner, the skiing and snowboarding resorts of the Lake Tahoe area are some of the best in the world. At this time of year Reno becomes a bizarre hybrid of a ski town and a casino town but it’s actually kind of nice that way.

For the real Northern Nevada experience we recommend that you get away from the Reno/Tahoe area and check out some of the smaller towns. These towns offer a laid back lifestyle, beautiful scenery and in most cases surprisingly good gaming options. The small towns in Northern Nevada of interest to casino players include Elko, Winnemucca, and Carson City. Although we list them together they’re spread out across the wide expanse that is the ‘Silver State’ but all three are easily accessible from Interstate 80, the main East/West corridor between Utah and California.


We’ll start with Carson City which is a short drive South of Reno just off of I-80. It’s the capital of Nevada and a thriving community of 55,000 people. There are 7 casinos that serve the Carson Valley but our favorite by far is the Carson Nugget which has some of the best low limit gaming you’ll find anywhere in Nevada. You can get $3 blackjack at most times but the video poker and slots are what keeps people coming back. The novelty of the Carson Nugget is a ‘blast from the past’–all gaming machines are ‘coin in’ and you won’t find any tickets or bill receptors. This is ‘old school’ gaming to be sure.

The other casinos of the Carson City area are decent but done have the charm of Nugget. It also has excellent food by casino standards with a high class Italian eatery and a ‘greasy spoon’ type coffee shop that offers excellent hamburgers and prime rib at night!


Elko is a beautiful community of 18,000 that is starting to gain notice among outdoor sports enthusiasts. There are quite a few transplants from California who love the beauty and mountain scenery but prefer the lower housing prices and cost of living of Northern Nevada. There are several casinos worthy of attention in the Elko area starting with the iconic Stockmans’ Casino downtown. This was the first hotel/casino to open in Elko and is still one of the best. Not far away is the Commercial Casino which rivals the aforementioned Carson Nugget for ‘old school’ charm. This property was built in the 1800’s and is still very unique in a world of cookie cutter casinos in most parts of the country.

One of the best casinos in Elko is the Red Lion Hotel and Casino. The well known Western US hotel chain likely offers the most modern and refined hotel/casino experience outside of the Reno/Tahoe area. There’s also a very modern casino with table games, a full service sports books and a wide assortment of the latest video poker and slot machines in both fixed jackpot and progressive at all denominations.