Lake Tahoe is a destination perfect for a getaway, provided you appreciate skiing or hiking or nature, golf, shopping, gambling, fishing, boating, or dozens of other outdoor activities. Straddling the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe often exceeds the expectations of first-time visitors. Its natural beauty, crystal clear waters, towering Jeffrey pine trees, and mountains are stunning during any season.
But there is more. Lake Tahoe surprises with its casinos and city life. It is by no means a bustling metropolis, but part of it is in Nevada. The state is well-known for its casinos and gambling opportunities, so there is a subtle hint of this lifestyle infused into the otherwise tranquil destination. Places like Harrah’s and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino have a home here. These establishments have slot machines, table games, nightclubs, entertainment, and fine dining to accommodate guests.
The best way to get to Lake Tahoe from out of state is by flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (45 minutes away from North Lake Tahoe), Sacramento International Airport (two hours away), or San Francisco International Airport (3.5 hours away). From those locations, you can rent a car or take the Amtrak California Zephyr line to Truckee. There are also shuttles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to North Lake Tahoe and Truckee.
Lake Tahoe is massive, with a surface spanning almost 200 square miles. The south side of the lake is the most developed, with casinos and large resorts. If you’re looking for golf courses, spas, and entertainment, South Lake Tahoe is an ideal place to stay. Not too far away is Stateline, which has a similar vibe. This area has hotels with ski resorts, making it a great destination to visit year-round. During the warmer months, however, it is the watersports that reign supreme. Paddleboarding, boating, kayaking, and fishing are popular enough to make you appreciate the expanse of Lake Tahoe.
The lake’s northeastern shore is a more tranquil destination. Tahoe City has a fascinating history and culture that blends with the lake’s natural beauty. If you are interested in going camping, there are excellent campsites here, as well as many family-owned businesses, boutiques, museums, and swimming spots.
Other outstanding locations to stay in Lake Tahoe include Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista, and Homewood. There are balloon rides and helicopter adventures to get an eagle-eye view of Lake Tahoe, as well as tours and cruises on the lake for those wanting to keep their feet closer to the ground. Guided hiking, tours, and sightseeing options are plenty.
One of the most popular and exciting activities in Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park. This park lies on the lake’s southwestern shore. Here, visitors find some of the lake’s best panoramic views, especially at sunset. There are also vibrant granite cliffs, lush greenery, and the lake’s only island (Fannette Island). Another unique feature of this park is Vikingsholm, an impressive 1920s Scandinavian mansion.
During the winter, Lake Tahoe transforms into ski country. One of the best places to ski in Lake Tahoe is Squaw Valley. This fine resort hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and ranges across six peaks on the lake’s western shore northwest of Tahoe City. There are plenty of slopes to choose from at this nearly 4,000-acre resort. While it is fit for an Olympian, there are ample beginner and intermediate slopes. If you want to avoid the crowds, you may want to consider Alpine Meadows as an alternative. Though lesser-known, the 2,400-acre facility sports more than 100 runs.
There is a bit of dark history to the area as the home of the Donner Memorial State Park. The pioneer families crossing the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846 originally numbered almost 90 people, but the harsh winter conditions trapped them without adequate shelter or provisions. Many resorted to cannibalism to survive. A 22 foot tall stone marker at the Emigrant Trail Museum stands testament to the deeps snowfalls that winter.
A popular activity in Lake Tahoe is the Heavenly Gondola. This two-mile gondola ride carries riders to a 9,200-foot-high observation deck. There are outstanding views from the observation deck and countless recreational activities. At the top, there is the Epic Discovery adventure area with zip lines, climbing walls, ropes courses, a roller coaster, and guided hiking during the summer.
While at Lake Tahoe, you’re going to want to enjoy the water. Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a perfect place to spend time at the lake. During the summer, the water is surprisingly warm, making it ideal for swimming and watersports. Outside of the lake, there are picnic and BBQ facilities where guests can gather and spend time together. Another beach spot you’re going to want to check out is Sand Harbor State Park. This beach area has sandy beaches, hidden coves, and pine forests. The water here is entirely translucent, making it ideal for scuba diving and swimming. There are also several hiking trails to be enjoyed.
The juxtaposition of natural beauty and modern amenities makes Lake Tahoe an intriguing place to visit. Whether you are bringing a family, going on a group excursion, or spending a romantic weekend with a partner, you’ll find something to do here and more activities than you can possibly fit with a week’s stay.
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