Lying just west of Carson City, Nevada, and extending across the state line into California, is the beautiful Lake Tahoe. It is not only the largest alpine lake in North America but also one of the clearest lakes in the world. The majestic 440-mile Sierra Nevada mountain range surrounds Lake Tahoe, making it a popular destination year-round. Scenic vistas, 70 miles of shoreline, cultural events, art galleries, restaurants, resort areas, and pet-friendly accommodations create endless options for the perfect weekend getaway or a much-deserved extended vacation.
The city of South Lake Tahoe sits at the southern end of Lake Tahoe. It connects with Sacramento, CA, and Carson City, NV, by U.S. 50, a major east-west highway. The western end of the city is residential, and the east end is a popular tourist destination. Travelers have the option of staying in upscale resorts, or in comfortable inns, hotels, or motels, some of which offer pet-friendly rooms. Private campgrounds are also available. In the winter, South Lake Tahoe offers a wide range of winter sports activities including snowmobile tours, tobogganing, sledding, cross country skiing, and sleigh rides. Hiking, fly fishing, biking, paddleboarding, and parasailing are popular warm-weather activities. Most visitors fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport, then rent a car at the airport or jump on one of the daily South Tahoe Express shuttles to Lake Tahoe.
Although gambling isn’t legal in California, it is in Nevada. The larger casinos are close to one another along U.S. Highway 50 on the southern end of the lake. Visitors will find Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Montbleu Resort Casino, and one of the oldest casinos in the Lake Tahoe area, Harvey’s. Professional and inexperienced gamblers alike can play just about any game they can think of, from slot machines to Blackjack, Craps, Roulette tables, and Baccarat tables. Casinos are open 24 hours a day, every day. Visitors enjoy an array of hotel accommodations, including live entertainment and concerts, swimming pools, spas, shopping, golfing, and ski packages. Dining choices suit any mood, with a variety of cuisines served in upscale restaurants, casual eateries, buffets, or quick, grab-and-go take outs.
The spectacular outdoor surroundings in Lake Tahoe make it the perfect destination for those seeking more adventurous experiences. Get a birds-eye-view of the landscape and soar to new heights by trying out one of the hang gliding experiences in Lake Tahoe. Choose a solo flight, or share it with someone special in a tandem flight. Or, for those visiting between May and October, float through the skies over the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe in a hot air balloon excursion.
In a natural setting like Lake Tahoe, most people drive around the area, stopping at the many scenic vistas available to take in its majestic beauty. Others choose hiking or biking trails. But one of the best ways excursionists can take in the splendor of the lake is to view it from a boat. Consider booking one of the many boat cruises available. The view from the water provides unique, breathtaking perspectives and tons of photo opportunities of the top scenic points around the lake. These boat tours make the list of the best things to do in the Lake Tahoe area.
In 1928, Lora Knight purchased land in Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe and commissioned her nephew-by-marriage, an architect, to design a summer home that would fit in with the natural landscape. The setting reminded her of the fjords she’d seen on her trips to Scandinavia. Builders completed Vikingsholm in 1929. In the 1940s, the owner sold the home to a Nevada rancher. The state of California acquired the estate in 1953. Today, Vikingsholm is one of the most well-respected examples of Scandinavian architecture in the U.S. Sightseers can tour the home during the summer months, but there is a steep one-mile hike to the historic site.
There are growing numbers of accommodation options available for those who want to share a getaway with their four-legged companions. Some vacation rental companies even offer properties with extra amenities just for dogs. One of the top choices for hikers with pets is Page Meadows, which sits in the Tahoe National Forest. Or, try one of the many beaches around the lake. Dogs and their owners alike will enjoy the wide-open panoramas, and the area is accessible year-round.
Filled with 12 resorts and towns, North Lake Tahoe is an area on the northern tip of the lake. It is home to Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Skiers will appreciate the ski-in, ski-out properties available, with slopes offering diverse terrain options for snowboarders, skiers, and other winter sports lovers. Consider a midnight snowshoe tour, where travelers join a group of fellow night owls to trek through the snow-covered forests under the moonlight. In the warmer months, view the lake on horseback with one of the backcountry riding experiences.
Experts say it was our Nordic ancestors who started the practice of aprés ski, a French term that translates as “after ski.” But most winter sports enthusiasts agree that it is an important part of the total skiing experience. The term describes the socializing and other activities that take place after a day on the slopes. Adult beverages often play a role in these events, as does dancing. KT Base Bar and Le Chamois are popular aprés party spots in Squaw Valley. For a more romantic aprés experience, try the Cafe Fiore in South Lake Tahoe, a cozy Italian restaurant which offers a 300-bottle wine list.
Craft beer aficionados will enjoy one of the guided Lake Tahoe brewery tours. Or, for those who prefer to explore on their own, check out the Tahoe Chamber’s South Tahoe Beer Trail guide, a trail leading visitors to nine different breweries located across South Lake Tahoe. Pour your own pints at the Lake Tahoe AleWorX, or head over to the Sidellis to try their Mangoana, a mango-habanero white ale. In June, make plans to attend the Lake Tahoe Brewfest at Heavenly’s California Base Lodge. The festival features top craft beers from breweries across the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe, Northern California, and Nevada, plus food and craft vendors, music, games, and shopping. Despite its name, the event is family-friendly, and admission is free.
Lake Tahoe’s cultural offerings promise something for everyone. Festivals throughout the summer months focus on the area’s rich cultural roots. From mid-June through October attend the Valhalla Art, Music, and Theatre Festival, and catch a concert, play, or comedy improv show. In late July, don’t miss the Wa She Shu It’ Deh Native American Arts Festival hosted by the Washoe Tribe. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor starts in early July and extends through most of August. Spectators enjoy outdoor Shakespearean performances, with Lake Tahoe serving as the backdrop. Attendees can also enjoy a gourmet meal and a favorite bottle of wine during performances.