The closest international airport to Lake Tahoe is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. This airport is really convenient (unlike a lot of U.S. airports) in that it’s right in the center of town. If you are stuck at the Reno airport (most likely due to snowy weather) and have a few hours to spare, you can catch a cab to downtown. This will be about $12-$14 one way. Here you have access to several hotel casinos including the Silver Legacy, the Eldorado and the Grand Sierra Resort. Also downtown are several local restaurants including the Golden Nugget with the famous Awful, Awful burger and the Reno Aces Stadium and the Freight House.
Also just a short cab ride away is the must-see Nevada Museum of Art, and the University of Nevada where the Fleischmann Planetarium is located. The Truckee River and the Reno Arts District is just south of downtown Reno and includes a movie theater, coffee and wine bars, shopping and restaurants. If you want to do some big-time shopping, take a cab in the opposite direction of downtown Reno and head into Sparks and the new Legends at Sparks Marina.
If you don’t mind walking, just outside of the airport is the Airport Plaza Hotel which has a nice lobby and several good restaurants.
If your time is limited and you don’t want to leave the airport, you are in luck (no gambling pun intended). I have traveled the world and have seen dozens of airports and I actually think the Reno-Tahoe airport is one of the nicest small airports anywhere. It has been newly remodeled and is clean, comfortable and is full of light and views of the surrounding mountains. It is not very big, so you can wander around without having to worry about getting back to your gate on time. In addition, the security lines are usually short and the TSA agents are friendly. There are only two concourses, plenty of local artwork and a few shops including a PGA Tour shop, a news and magazine store, a Duty Free shop and an Adventure Reno-Tahoe store. There are several restaurants including a Brew Brothers, La Brea Bakery, a Peet’s Coffee and a Starbucks, and a huge McDonald’s. Also, like most places in Reno, there are slot machines on each concourse and on the main floor that can keep you entertained for hours.
There are a few free wi-fi hot spots located near and in Concourse C and in Concourse B. There are also a few massage chairs and even an outdoor area for people traveling with pets. One of my favorite places to wait while at the Reno-Tahoe International is in Concourse C, just at the top of the escalators. There is a pseudo campfire set up with comfy Adirondack chairs, a few life-size black bears and some fake pine trees. This is a nice little place to people watch and wish you were back up in the mountains instead of heading home.