Located on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a world-renowned destination attracting thousands of tourists every year. Whether you’re planning a trip in winter or summer, here are the best things to do in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe offers a variety of cultural activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the local arts, history, and events. Dive into the rich tapestry of the region and discover its unique charm through several experiences.
1. Attend Local Events and Festivals
Lake Tahoe is home to several events and festivals that cater to diverse interests. With a strong emphasis on arts, music, and history, you can explore the following events:
- Valhalla Art, Music, and Theatre Festival: Held during the summer months, this festival showcases plays, concerts, and art exhibits in the historic Valhalla Estate.
- Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival: With the scenic backdrop of Sand Harbor State Park, watch classic Shakespearean plays during the warm summer evenings.
- Merry Days & Holly Nights: Celebrate the holiday season with a range of festive performances, workshops, and tree lighting ceremonies.
2. Visit Cultural and Heritage Sites
Some of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe is discover its history by visiting some of its most notable cultural and heritage sites:
- Vikingsholm Castle: Tour this 38-room mansion, inspired by Scandinavian architecture, and learn about its history dating back to 1929.
- Tallac Historic Site: Step back in time to the turn of the 20th century and stroll through the grounds of this historical resort, featuring three well-preserved estates.
- Gatekeeper’s Museum: Delve into the region’s history, including Native American artifacts and early photographs of Lake Tahoe, housed within the rebuilt Gatekeeper’s Cabin.
3. Engage in Traditional Experiences
Immerse yourself in the local culture of Lake Tahoe with these unique experiences:
- Native American Cultural Tours: Join a guided tour to learn about the history, legends, and traditions of the Washoe Tribe, native to the Lake Tahoe region.
- Art Galleries: Browse through local galleries showcasing regional artwork, such as the North Tahoe Arts Center and The Eadington Gallery.
- Local Artisan Markets: Peruse handmade creations and support local artists at crafts fairs and farmer’s markets, like the Tahoe City Farmer’s Market or the annual WinterFest Art & Craft Fair.
Outdoor and Nature Activities
1. Nature Trails and Hiking
Lake Tahoe is a hiker’s paradise, with trails for every season and every skill level. In summer, you can enjoy hiking through lush forests and blooming meadows, while winter offers stunning snow-covered landscapes for snowshoeing. Be sure to explore the popular Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile loop that offers breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. For a more leisurely hike, head to the picturesque Sand Harbor State Park, where the easy trails lead you along pristine beaches and through unique rock formations.
2. Water Activities
There’s no shortage of water-based fun at Lake Tahoe, with a variety of activities available all year long. In warm weather months, take advantage of the numerous beaches like Kings Beach and Crystal Bay, where you can swim, sunbathe, or rent a kayak. Paddleboarding is a popular way to explore the lake’s crystal-clear waters, especially around the scenic Emerald Bay State Park. For something a bit more adrenaline-pumping, try your hand at water skiing or jet skiing. Fishing enthusiasts will love casting their lines in search of the lake’s diverse aquatic life.
3. Adventure Sports
Lake Tahoe’s diverse terrain and natural beauty make it an ideal destination for adventure seekers. When the snow starts to fall, head to the mountains for some world-class skiing and snowboarding, with resorts catering to all skill levels. Snowmobiling is another exhilarating way to explore the picturesque landscape. In the summer months, mountain biking and off-roading are popular activities, with the challenging Rubicon Trail being a must-try for experienced off-roaders. For those interested in backpacking, pack your gear and set out on one of the many scenic trails leading you through untouched wilderness and offering spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
Relaxation and Wellness
1. Spas and Wellness Centers
In Lake Tahoe, you can treat yourself to some rejuvenation and relaxation at a variety of spas and wellness centers. Indulge in a soothing massage, unwind with a rejuvenating facial, or try a unique treatment such as a hot stone therapy. Many centers also offer yoga and meditation classes to help you connect with your inner self and find balance in your life.
2. Beaches and Pools
Soak up the sun and unwind by the pristine, crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe’s beaches and pools. Some popular spots include Sand Harbor, Kings Beach, and D.L. Bliss State Park. The calm waters and stunning views make it an ideal place to relax, take a refreshing dip, or enjoy a leisurely paddleboard session.
3. Parks and Gardens
Lake Tahoe boasts numerous parks and gardens, offering you a peaceful escape amidst nature. Emerald Bay State Park and Commons Beach Park are excellent spots to enjoy a tranquil stroll or have a picnic surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Additionally, the South Tahoe Public Utility District Community Garden provides an opportunity to connect with nature while tending your own small plot or admiring the fruits of others’ labor.
Food and Culinary Activities
Lake Tahoe offers a variety of food and culinary experiences for you to delve into. The area boasts an array of restaurants featuring local and international cuisines, as well as unique opportunities to learn about the region’s culinary heritage and improve your skills in the kitchen. Be sure to explore these three main categories of food-related activities during your visit to Lake Tahoe.
1. Local Cuisine Tasting
Discover the flavors of Lake Tahoe by sampling its local cuisine. The region’s restaurants offer a diverse selection of dishes, ranging from fresh seafood to hearty comfort foods. You can indulge in:
- Truckee Sourdough Company: Offers artisan baked goods made from locally sourced ingredients
- Tahoe Trout Farm: Serves freshly caught and prepared trout from the farm itself
- Fire Sign Café: Known for its delicious breakfast dishes made from scratch
2. Cooking Classes
For a more hands-on culinary experience, consider taking a cooking class during your stay in Lake Tahoe. Local chefs and cooking schools offer classes that cater to various skill levels and culinary interests. Some options include:
- The Cork & More: Offers cooking classes focusing on seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients
- Tahoe Food Hub: Provides workshops on preserving and preparing local foods, and understanding sustainable food systems
3. Visit Local Markets
Immerse yourself in the local culinary scene by visiting Lake Tahoe’s farmers’ markets and specialty food shops. Here, you can find fresh organic produce, artisanal cheese, and handmade confections. Some favorite spots include:
- Truckee Certified Farmers’ Market: Open seasonally on Tuesdays
- Tahoe City Farmers’ Market: Operates on Thursdays, May through October
- Tahoe Art Haus Chocolates: Offers handcrafted chocolates and sweets made from all-natural ingredients
Don’t miss out on the delicious food and culinary adventures waiting for you in Lake Tahoe. Embark on a journey of regional flavors, cook with the guidance of local experts, and savor the vibrant local markets of this scenic destination.
Entertainment and Nightlife
1. Live Shows and Performances
Lake Tahoe offers a variety of live shows and performances for your entertainment. The region is home to several world-class theaters and performance spaces, such as the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Showroom and the Valhalla Art, Music & Theatre Festival. Make sure to check the local event calendars to catch your favorite acts, or discover new talent during your visit.
2. Bars and Nightclubs
After a day exploring the outdoor beauty, get ready to experience Tahoe’s nightlife. The area is dotted with lively bars and nightclubs where you can mingle with locals and tourists alike. Head over to the famous Cabo Wabo Cantina for a night of dancing and signature cocktails, or unwind at the Beacon Bar and Grill, offering unobstructed lake views and a cozy atmosphere.
3. Evening Cruises or Tours
For a memorable evening on Lake Tahoe, consider booking an evening cruise or a guided sunset tour. The M.S. Dixie II and Tahoe Gal are popular choices for dinner cruises that provide spectacular views of the lake, mouthwatering dining options, and a unique opportunity to soak in the ambiance of the area. These cruises are perfect for couples seeking a romantic evening adventure or groups looking for a memorable way to experience the lake after dark.
Shopping and Souvenirs
1. Local Artisan Shops
If you’re looking for unique and authentic souvenirs in Lake Tahoe, visiting the local artisan shops is a must. You’ll find many talented artisans showcasing their handmade crafts, jewelry, and artwork. Explore the numerous boutique shops where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces that represent the region’s culture and beauty.
2. Popular Shopping Districts
Lake Tahoe has several popular shopping districts that offer a mix of local and international brands. For a memorable shopping experience, you should visit:
- Heavenly Village: Located near the Heavenly Ski Resort, this vibrant shopping area features a variety of stores, restaurants, and entertainment options.
- The Shops at Squaw Valley: Nestled in the mountains, this shopping area offers a selection of unique boutiques and specialty stores.
Both shopping districts have a charming atmosphere, making them great places to stroll, shop, and enjoy a meal.
3. Unique Finds
For shoppers who love hunting for treasures, Lake Tahoe is full of opportunities to discover unique finds:
- Antique Shops: The region boasts several antique stores, where you can uncover vintage memorabilia, furniture, and ornate collectibles.
- Beachwear and Outdoor Gear: Due to its lake and mountains, Lake Tahoe is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You’ll find many stores offering beachwear, sporting goods, and adventure equipment.
Remember to visit the diverse shops and shopping districts in Lake Tahoe for a truly unforgettable experience.
Lake Tahoe offers a wide range of family-friendly activities for you and your kids to enjoy. From interactive museums to parks and workshops, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful mountain destination.
1. Children’s Museums and Attractions
- KidZone Museum is an interactive space designed for children aged 0-8. Here, your little ones can explore hands-on exhibits and participate in educational programs.
- Tahoe Trout Farm allows your family to try their hand at fishing in their stocked ponds. No license is required, and they provide all the necessary gear for a fun-filled day.
2. Parks and Play Areas
- Lakeview Commons is a popular lakeside park where your kids can enjoy the playground, while you take in the stunning views of the lake. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
- Bijou Community Park offers a skate park, disc golf course, and playground for kids of all ages to enjoy.
3. Interactive Workshops
- Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema offers a variety of cinematic experiences and workshops, including children’s movie screenings and animation workshops where your kids can learn the art of stop-motion animation.
In addition to these attractions, don’t forget to make time for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and beach days. Your family will love exploring all that Lake Tahoe has to offer.
When visiting Lake Tahoe, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. In general, people in Lake Tahoe are friendly and welcoming, so a warm smile and greeting go a long way. Be mindful of noise levels, especially near the lake, as locals and visitors alike come to enjoy the peace and serenity. Littering is frowned upon, so always dispose of your trash properly, and if possible, participate in environmentally friendly practices like recycling.
While Lake Tahoe is generally a safe destination, it’s essential to take basic safety precautions. Keep an eye on your personal belongings, especially in busy areas. If you’re venturing out into nature for activities like hiking, skiing, or swimming, always let someone know your plans and check weather conditions beforehand. When exploring the mountains, stick to designated trails and carry a map or GPS device. Lastly, if you’ll be engaging in water sports on the lake, be aware of local regulations and always wear a life jacket.
Emergency Contact Numbers:
- Police, fire, and ambulance: 911
- Non-emergency police: (530) 542-6100
Cost and Budget Tips
Lake Tahoe can be an affordable destination if you plan wisely. Accommodations range from budget-friendly to luxury, so book in advance and take advantage of seasonal deals. Dining options include low-cost eateries, food trucks, and fine dining restaurants, catering to all budgets. Here are some quick tips to help you save money:
- Visit during shoulder seasons (spring and fall) for better deals on accommodations and activities
- Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions such as hiking trails, public beaches, and parks
- Look for discounts on ski passes and equipment rentals in the winter
Note: Remember that tipping is customary in the United States when dining at restaurants, with a standard tip being 15-20% of the pre-tax bill. Be sure to include that in your dining budget.