Reno’s tourism industry shifted into high gear in the years following World War II, as Americans jumped into their cars and hit the highways in search of fun and adventure. Motels popped up along all the major entrances to town, and the downtown casinos were booming.
In 1953, millionaire developer Norman Biltz announced plans to build the Holiday Hotel on the south bank of the Truckee River between Center and Lake Streets. Perhaps most surprising was his insistence that unlike the neighboring Mapes and Riverside Hotels, the Holiday would offer no table games. Instead, its investors planned to promote the area as a sportsman’s paradise, an aspect Biltz thought had been all but obliterated by the city’s reputation for gambling and divorce. “For every ten crapshooters,” he said, “There are a hundred who would rather shoot birds.”
As a major developer of Lake Tahoe, Biltz had good reason to emphasize the region’s outdoor attractions. Still, this approach was a major risk, and even the Wall Street Journal picked up the story, asking, “Can a non-gambling hotel survive in Nevada?” In order to best ensure its success, Biltz and his partners gave the hotel all the best amenities, and upon its opening in December 1956, the Holiday was something to behold. A striking green with rose-colored touches, the eight-story hotel took full advantage of its riverfront location with balconies on all north-facing rooms and a ground-floor dining room called the Rainbow Room with large windows overlooking the Truckee.
The Holiday was the first hotel in Reno to offer full services for motorists. Guests could drive into a spacious garage beneath the hotel and have their bags taken directly to their rooms while they registered. In addition, the hotel had its own game reserve, located 4-1/2 miles east of Dayton, where guests could hunt on 1,000 acres with no license required.
Despite its many attractions, the Holiday’s non-gaming “experiment” didn’t last long. According to Biltz, one week after it opened, “you could shoot a cannon through the place.” In July 1957, the hotel was purchased by Newton Crumley and associates, who immediately added a casino floor to the southwest section of the building. The Holiday underwent many changes of ownership through the years, finally closing in 1998. A few years later, the property was completely gutted and remodeled, reopening in 2001 as The Siena Hotel Spa Casino. Sixteen years later it was sold and extensively remodeled again, opening in April of 2017 as the non-gaming Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel, operated by the Marriott hotel chain.