Growing up, we went to Lake Tahoe for a few days almost every summer. Hiking, biking, and swimming were always on the itinerary. I was excited to bring Josh up there for the first time and show him one of my favorite places in California, where I had so many great memories and adventures with my family to share.
Getting to Lake Tahoe
We took a quick hour long Southwest flight, flying out of LAX and into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (watch-out for bears). From there, we rented a car from Hertz at the airport and drove about an hour up through the mountains to the lake!
We ALWAYS find THE BEST rates through Booking.com. See deals of up to 50% off! You can save a bunch of money if you book a bundle flight+room+rental car! They even have apartments, lodges, and houses you can rent, just like AirBnB or VRBO! By booking through this link, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you! PLEASE support our blog and bookmark this link!
Directions to South Lake Tahoe from the airport: We usually take the 580 S and hop on the 50 W. With no traffic, it takes about an hour. You can also take the 431, but that takes longer sometimes by 15 mins or so, but you have longer lake views. We usually take it on the way back to the airport!
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
There are a few hotels at the Stateline and a few at the North shore with AirBnBs between! We like staying at the Stateline because it's more lively and city like, but not far from adventures in the wilderness.
Address: Highway 50 at Stateline Avenue, Stateline, NV 89449
Best Rate: Booking.com
Since Lake Tahoe is split on the Stateline of Nevada, most hotels have casinos and our favorite place to stay is Harvey's. It's located on the North side of Lake Tahoe Blvd without another hotel obstructing the view. Find the best rate to stay at Harvey’s by reserving your room through Booking.com. It's not bad waking up to this every morning...
The rooms have been recently renovated and are very spacious with spectacular Tahoe lake views. With a casino at the base of the hotel and a bar and restaurant at the top with breathtaking views of the lake, this place is perfect! There are many restaurants and activities that are walking distance, including Heavenly.
What to Do in Lake Tahoe
There are so many different things to do in Tahoe and something for everyone:
Heavenly Summer Adventure - zip-lining, tubing, ropes course, hiking (see more below)
Paddle Wheel Cruise around the lake on Ms Dixie II (see more below)
Visit Squaw Valley - Olympic Park
Hiking trails all over - see more in our post of our favorite trails, Tahoe Hikes for the Casual Hiker
Biking along the lake
Kayaking on the lake
Renting jet ski's
Horseback Riding in the mountains to great heights and great views
Gamble in the casinos
Here are a few of our favorite things to do in detail:
During winter these Heavenly gondolas take you up for skiing, but during summer, there is a playground. The base is close to the Stateline taking you up a 2.4 mile ride up in the Heavenly Mountain Gondola with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. On the way up, there is a stop at the Observation Deck where we took photos and breathed in that fresh mountain air. For summer 2019, Heavenly opens June 21st! There’s even a YOGA class at the top of the mountain!
At the very top, there are a few adventures you can embark on:
Tubing down a thrilling 500ft-long hill
Zip-line 1,000ft-long zip line at top speeds of 40 MPH
Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster - a single rider coasting down a 3,400' track, descends 300 vertical feet, and accelerate around two lateral loops (SO FUN)
Price: Ultimate Adventure Pass for only $99 (includes Gondola ride) Buy 3 get the 4th free!
If you have never been to Tahoe, the gondola is a must-do. Because it is a little pricey, I don't think it's something you have to do every time you go, but it was really fun to play like a kid for a day!
The Tamarack Lodge at the top has overpriced average theme park type food, setup commissary style.
2. Lake Tour on the Ms Dixie II Paddle Wheel
The Ms Dixie is a large paddlewheel boat that cruises across the lake to Emerald Bay and back. A recording plays throughout the 2 hour tour, giving the history of Lake Tahoe and fun facts. Lunch and complete bar service are available for purchase.
The sites were spectacular! It was nice being on the water and not in the freezing lake. I also learned new things about Tahoe that I never knew! For instance, "The center of the Lake can appear cobalt blue, as blue light is absorbed further, leaving visible violet light as the predominant light color. In shallow areas, the water can appear emerald or turquoise in color since green is the predominant light color at shallow depths." Cool, right?
Within Emerald Bay is the only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island, where the lady of Vikingsholm would go to have tea in the afternoon in the little castle built on top. So jealous.
They also offer a Dinner sunset cruise as well.
3. Explore Emerald Bay
Along the Southwest shore off Route 89, is Emerald Bay. It's about 45 mins (22 miles) from Tahoe City, and we usually park along the highway (or there is a parking lot for $10) and then hike down the Rubicon trail to the Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is recognized as some of the best Scandinavian architecture in the US.
The architect who built and designed this incredible mansion, was Leonard Palme, who was hired by his aunt Laura Knight. See more info on the CA Parks and Rec site.
We went on some great hikes that were fairly moderate, we don’t hike too often but there is a bit of an incline! See more in our Tahoe Hikes for the Casual Hiker post!
4. Visit Squaw Valley - Take the Aerial Tram to Olympic Park!
Address: 1990 Squaw Peak Road, Olympic Valley, CA 96146
Check hours on their website (usually 9a-4p - there’s a winter/summer toggle at the top of their site): Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley was home to Winter Olympics in 1960. Now during winter, its a winter wonderland with tons of runs to ski or snowboard! We went during summer and there is even a pool and jacuzzi on top. Can’t imagine getting in the water during the winter! Or getting out of the water I should say!
The Aerial Tram was $46 to take you to the top and drop off at High Camp. We explored the Olympic Museum, which was free to get into, had some fun standing on the podium and looking at other memorabilia! The clothing and style of the olympians during that era was amazing! You can check out some uniforms, sporting goods such as hockey sticks and pucks, and looking through other commemorative pieces.
There is a bistro restaurant, called Granite Bistro Cafe, complete with stunning views! If you take the last tram, you ride with some of the staff and racks! If you’re looking for a snack, souvenir, water bottle, or sandwich type items, visit the High Camp Marketplace. Check out the cute ice cream cookies they had:
The base of Squaw Valley has residencies, rentals and a large shopping center. We walked through some shops, got a coffee and saw the cutest ice cream shop!
Where to Eat in Lake Tahoe? Restaurants with Lake Views
There are so many delectable restaurants with stunning lake views. Let's start with my favorites, shall we?:
Address: 869 Tahoe Blvd, Incline Village, NV 89451
Specialty: Dessert/ Ice Cream/ Frozen Yogurt
This cute little ice cream store is located in Incline Village and attached to the toy shop, Village Toys! Inside the walls are pink with ice cream lights and decorations everywhere like an old fashioned ice cream shop. I wanted to live there. ;-)
They offer 28 flavors made locally as well as frozen yogurt, smoothies, shaved ice (18 flavors), shakes & malts (any flavors), floats, hand-dipped waffle cones, specialty sundaes, pints to go, & ice cream cakes! EVERYTHING ICE CREAM! Exceptional flavors: Peppermint, Mud pie and Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.
With stunning floor-to-ceiling windows and an elegant lodge atmosphere, diners enjoy striking views of mountains, pines, and the glistening sapphire lake while celebrating golden anniversaries and creating diamond memories.
Located on the Edgewood golf course right on the lake, its the perfect spot for dinner at sunset. The filet steaks are delicious!
Brooks Bar and Deck
Lunch Specialty: American / Sandwiches / Salads
Menu: Brooks Menu
We enjoy burgers, sandwiches and cocktails on the patio at Brooks Bar and Deck for lunch. Make a reservation ahead of time! They are on OpenTable.com
19 Kitchen & Bar - Harvey's Lake Tahoe
Address: 18 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449
This restaurant is located atop of the Harvey's Hotel with great steaks and amazing birds eye views of the lake. We usually go right around sunset and request a table by the window. Also, don't miss out on their cotton candy for dessert!
Address: 900 Ski Run Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
For lunch and cocktails, you must go to Riva Grill on the Lake and try a Wet Woody. Yes, I just said that. They are famous for these rum drinks and these woody's sure pack a punch!
Lunch options are great, ask for a table on the patio.
Address: Harrah's Hotel - 19-29 Lincoln Hwy, Stateline, NV 89449
Located on the top floor of Harrah's, this Lake Tahoe fine dining gem features a dramatic entrance, a 1,000-bottle display wine cellar and magnificent views from every table. Favorite meal: Prime Rib with mashed potatoes. Is your mouth watering too?
Address: Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa - 55 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449
I'd put them in the Top 10 best steak dinners I've ever had! This fabulous 4 Diamond Steak and Chophouse has an exquisite variety of steaks and chops to go along with their extensive 300 bottle wine list.
The sides were amazing, we ordered all potatoes (the White Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes Gratinée were my fave) and the white truffle mac and cheese. These paired well with my mouth watering Cowboy Ribeye.
If you liked this post please share it on your favorite social media site using the Share button below because we’d love to get the word out! Feel free to pin this to your favorite Pinterest board:
Also, check out these great things to do in Tahoe and California!