Best Lake Tahoe Vacations
Lake Tahoe is home to numerous vacation offerings, many that are bound to fit one’s likings. The variety allows tourists to mix and match activities as they plan their trip, even if they’re traveling with people who don’t necessarily share their interests.
There’s a smattering of things to do for every budget, so pick and choose. Also keep in mind that you might encounter something unexpected—maybe a museum, hiking trail or restaurant off the beaten path—which could cause an alteration in plans. It’s OK to deviate from your schedule. Isn’t lack of schedules one of the advantages of vacation?
With that being said, below are some of Lake Tahoe’s best vacations.
AN ATHLETIC VACATION
No matter the time of year, there’s something at Lake Tahoe for the athlete and for those who like to exercise but don’t consider themselves athletes.
Staying fit on vacation is much more fun than going to the gym where you’re a member or riding that same bicycle route you’ve been doing from home for years. The different environment can be enough to keep you interested.
During winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular options. Experienced skiers and riders can purchase a regular lift ticket from resorts and first-timers can buy a learn-to-ski or ride package, which includes equipment rental, group lesson and a full-day lift ticket onto beginner runs.
Those visiting Tahoe in winter who are on a budget—or want do so something with less of a learning curve—might prefer snowshoeing or ice skating.
Other seasons are perfect for hiking, biking, boating and fishing.
The South Shore’s most popular spot for winter sports is Heavenly Mountain Resort, which also has an ice skating rink in its village, along with snowshoe rentals. Rabe Meadow in Van Sickle Bi-State Park, located behind Heavenly Village, is a popular snowshoe spot.
An ideal accommodation on the South Shore is The Ridge Sierra, which is 4.7 miles (7.6 km) down the road from Heavenly.
One of the North Shore’s best locations is Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village. It’s got 655 acres (2.65 square km) of skiable terrain, six lifts, and 30 runs, the longest being 2.5 miles (4 km). Diamond Peak is more popular with Tahoe locals than tourists. It’s only 0.8 miles (1.3 km) from Tahoe Chaparral and 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from Northlake Lodges & Villas. Both resorts have onsite fire places—perfect for settling down after a day in the cold weather.
Anyone visiting Lake Tahoe must bring along something to capture its pristine beauty. Experience as a professional photographer isn’t necessary, nor is an expensive camera. Your pictures will speak for themselves, no matter the device.
Binoculars will come in handy for birdwatchers and for those hoping to get up-close views of wildlife, flora and fauna.
While capturing Lake Tahoe’s beauty, don’t forget to get a few shots of yourself and your travel mates.
Drive around the lake and stop for photos at scenic sites. The route is about 72 miles (116 km).
Use a travel guide to mark destinations or come upon things at your own pace; and rotate drivers, which allows everyone to enjoy the views. Use the designated slow vehicle turnout lanes to allow faster moving vehicles to pass so your sightseeing isn’t a hindrance to traffic. Have a roadmap on hand if your vehicle isn’t equipped with a GPS.
If attempting this during winter, be cautious as roads are susceptible to black ice, an invisible layer of snowmelt that runs onto the road when sunny and refreezes overnight. Also be sure to adhere to posted chain and snow tire requirements and give snowplows room to work.
If your idea of scenery is more subdued, admire the mountains and forests at any time of day or night from your unit at one of several QM Resorts properties.
On Tahoe’s North Shore, stay at North Lake Lodges & Villas or at Tahoe Chaparral in Incline Village. On the South Shore, there’s Ridge Sierra and Lodge at Kingsbury Crossing in Stateline. All units have private balconies, two bedrooms, fully-equipped living and dining space, along with a stocked kitchen. This will allow you to enjoy views in the privacy of an at home-like atmosphere.
When visiting a new area, why not learn its history and ecology? Lake Tahoe has plenty of it. Before visiting any sites, check to be sure they’re open because some locations close at certain times of year or adjust hours seasonally.
The UC-Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village is an opportunity to learn about Lake Tahoe’s water quality, physical processes and ecology. TERC has hands-on activities and is open year around but hours vary by season.
Taylor Creek Visitors Center has a Steam Profile Chamber that provides a look at life above and below the waterline, along with a mural that illustrates life during the creeks’ seasons. Its visitor’s center is open late May until late October. Its onsite Sky Amphitheater holds events Friday nights in July and August on topics such as history, nature and astronomy.
Ten miles (6.2 km) south of Tahoe City is the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion. Built in 1903, it shows lavish life at Lake Tahoe once lived. Then there’s the 1909 Watson Cabin, a testament to pioneer life. It was among the first in Tahoe City to have indoor plumbing and contains turn-of-the-century construction. The Gatekeeper’s Museum has a 1916 Lake Tahoe shoreline survey, historical information on steamers and boating, an Indian basket collection and an overall history of the area.
If learning more about food and alcoholic beverages appeal to you and your traveling companion, consider Tahoe Brew Tours LLC, which has service from the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe. The tour stops at three brewers, giving guests behind-the-scenes looks at how beer is made and how each prepares its delicious food. For those who prefer wine, an option is Wine Tours From Tahoe, which departs from the South Shore.
SHOP & RELAX VACATION
We’ve all got our own definition of relaxation but the thought of it often goes hand-in-hand with vacation.
Among ways to relax include getting a massage, going out to eat, listening to music, a leisurely walk or sleeping in late and having breakfast in one’s pajamas. If you picked the latter, consider staying at a resort with the comforts of home.
North Lake Lodges & Villas and Tahoe Chaparral in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore provide guests with a fully-stocked kitchen, living space, balcony and two separate bedrooms. The same is true at Ridge Sierra and the Lodges at Kingsbury Crossing on the South Shore. So stop by a local supermarket and stock up on your favorite food, sleep to your heart’s content and make yourself some breakfast in the morning. Shower at your leisure and get out on the town when you feel like it.
Amenities available offsite for Ridge Sierra guests include spa services.
Popular shopping areas include Factory Stores at the Y and Heavenly Village in South Lake Tahoe, Artisan’s Market Place in Truckee and Cobblestone Center and Boatworks Mall in Tahoe City. For one-of-a-kind Tahoe gifts on the North Shore, visit the Potlach in Incline Village and Robins Nest in Kings Beach.
Places to hear live music around Lake Tahoe abound, but well-known spots are Crystal Bay Club Casino in Crystal Bay, Whiskey Dick’s Saloon in South Lake Tahoe and Moody’s Bistro & Bar in Truckee.