When planning your escape from the day-to-day, sometimes you and a handful of your friends (or family) just want to land somewhere that’s both relaxing and exciting. And if that getaway just so happens to include a cobalt-blue lake glistening in the sun and a horizon lined with snow-capped mountains, well, that’s all the better.
Lake Tahoe is that rare getaway locale that satisfies fans of the great outdoors and indoors alike. Whether you’re seeking thrills on the ski slopes or at the roulette wheel, this cozy resort town straddling the California/Nevada border has you covered. Same for the folks looking to unwind on a golf course or luxuriate atop a massage table in one of the vacation town’s numerous spas. Don’t let the placid scenery fool you, nestled in this seemingly sleepy town are vibrant nightclubs, thriving casinos, laid-back lounges, and charmingly rustic watering holes in addition to the sophisticated dining scene and quirky boutiques.
Visitors to Lake Tahoe are never left looking for more things to do or more ways to relax. To get the most out of your Lake Tahoe getaway, all you have to do is read this guide, gather your crew, and pack a trusty pair of hiking boots and maybe your dancing shoes. There’s currently an outdoor jacuzzi missing a very important person—you.
The best Lake Tahoe casinos
- The dice await your roll inside the casino at Montbleu Hotel. Located on the Nevada side of the state line, you can almost feel the presence of past gambling legends. Channeling the Rat Pack seems fitting here.
- The Hard Rock Casino is worthy of a stop, even to gawk at its music memorabilia collection.
- At Crystal Bay Casino, play Blackjack, Double Odds Craps, and Roulette to your heart’s content. The slot machines are the newest on the market, and the casino offers the largest selection of both penny and multi-denomination games on the North Shore.
- Harveys Lake Tahoe has over 88,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 1,200 slot machines, nearly 100 live-action table games, and a Race/Sports Book where gamblers can bet on various games and races.
- Tahoe Biltmore has over 200 slots with table games, including a single-deck Super Fun 21, Roulette, and six-deck Blackjack. The Biltmore also has a full-service Sportsbook and bars with virtual poker and keno games.
Dine like Dean Martin
- Inside the Montbleu Hotel, take a seat on a red leather banquette behind a red velvet curtain at Ciera Steak & Chophouse. Enjoy their specialty dessert plate of chocolate-covered strawberries presented in a fog of dry ice while sipping Champagne from coups. Magical!
- Take dinner up a notch in the High Sierra at The Edgewood Restaurant. Located inside The Edgewood Tahoe Resort, the cacophony of casino life disappears. This serene setting serves up the fresh mountain air and marvelous sunset views over the lake, perfect for sipping on French martinis or a fabulous Sonoma pinot noir. Scallops over cauliflower puree pair nicely with a burst of a golden sunset. Once the sun goes down, dinner options include sea bass in lobster bisque with a giant shrimp hash mix and halibut in citrus-ponzu sauce with a side of grilled Little Gem lettuce.
- Keep things casual at Zephyr Cove Restaurant and grab a bite of spicy, crispy salmon on a bun, possibly followed by a scrumptious chocolate milkshake. Yes, dessert with a sandwich is an indulgence, but isn’t that what vacations are all about?
- Jake’s on the Lake, located on the north shore, is the place to go for summertime waterfront dining! Soak in epic lakeside views and enjoy a flavorsome meal, “mountain aloha” hospitality, and dishes that speak to the family-owned restaurant’s Hawaiian connection.
- In Incline Village, Lone Eagle Grille’s “Baked Tahoe” is a great side with a plate of elk, bison, or lamb options, or vegetarian dishes like the Mushroom Penne Rigate and more.
- Pete ‘n Peter’s is a watering hole to enjoy some downtime and a little nightlife in the form of darts, pool, or shuffleboard, and it’s the place to go for viewing Monday Night Football.
- Peppers Taqueria inside Pete ‘n Peter’s offers soft or hard tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or a tri-tip sandwich.
- The Naked Fish has locations in South Lake Tahoe and Paso Robles and is the best sushi source – even if visitors have to drive 200 miles to pick it up.
Practice your swing
- The Edgewood Tahoe is a must for golfers. Rated one of Golf Digest’s top public golf courses, Edgewood has welcomed some of the biggest names in the game, like Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, adding fame to this lakeside course.
- Designed by world-renowned golf course architect Robert Muir Graves, Northstar Golfcourse is a par-72 course set high in the Sierras for golf like you’ve never experienced. Famous for its tale of two nines, Northstar provides a challenging yet fun golf experience through tree-lined fairways and smaller putting greens in Martis Valley.
- You can tee off where the rat pack once golfed at the public Tahoe City Golf Course, the host of big-money games in the 1950s with old-time players like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., and more.
- For 30 years, The Old Brockway Golf Course has been a family-owned and operated business. The Golf Channel rated Historic Old Brockway as one of the top nine-hole courses in the country.
Where to ‘show’ up
- Harrah’s Lake Tahoe is a great place to catch a concert or even a magic show! By attending The Magic of Rob Lake show, you’ll watch surreal human levitations and body slicing that will have you asking yourself, “how do they do it?”.
- Enjoy comedy shows with celebrity headliners such as David Spade at the Montbleu Resort and Casino.
- At the Crystal Bay Casino, you might be lucky enough to catch a show by Jackie Greene of The Black Crowes!
- In the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Vinyl is the hot spot for musically-inspired entertainment, comedic relief, and after-hours activities. Catch a headliner up close or relax in your seat and order bottle service for a UFC fight.
Where to ‘snow’ up
- You may recognize this spot as the host site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley (a name soon to be changed to avoid a continuing offense to Native American groups). This is a winter hotspot for expert skiers who crave terrain with big open bowls, classic moguls, cliff drops, and gullies. In the wintertime, the backdrop of South Lake Tahoe showcases the magic of snow-blanketed mountains and the gorgeous, clear blue lake waters that attract snow lovers from everywhere.
- In Tahoe South, Heavenly Mountain Resort, a premier ski resort Stateline in Nevada, is set on 4,800 acres full of off-the-grid terrain and the most incredible views of Lake Tahoe. The space is so large, you can ski two states in one day. With 34 miles of wide-open groomed cruisers, 1,600-foot plunges in the double-black-diamond canyons, and the most outrageous tree skiing in North America, the choices are endless.
- Rip N’ Willies is the place to rent or purchase snowboards and cross-country ski essentials, and more. Located on Ski Run Boulevard, minutes away from Heavenly, you’ll be on the mountain in just a few minutes, after you gear up, of course.
- Northstar California is the quintessential mountain getaway in the majestic Martis Valley. After a day of snow adventures, bring your focus to achieving a calm state of mind with a spa treatment at Tahoe Spa & Wellness, or maybe a yoga class. Make sure to grab an après libation, reserve a table for a fine dining experience, and open your wallet to a few chic boutiques on the property.
- North of the state line, Tahoe Adventure Company offers Sunset Snowshoe Tours for anyone seeking a peaceful snowshoeing trek through the forest. Take a deep breath and take in the beauty of an alpenglow sun cast onto the Sierras during the solitude of winter. Your guide will share local, natural, and human history during this adventure offered daily, from November through April, or by custom arrangement.
- Sledding is the best at Granlibakken Tahoe, a family-owned and operated resort located in a peaceful 74-acre forested valley just steps from Lake Tahoe’s shores. Granlibakken’s amenities include an on-site skiing and sledding hill, the Treetop Adventure Park, a Day Spa, and easy access to miles of hiking and biking trails. Insider’s tip: Purchase your sledding tickets in advance.
- Soda Springs Mountain Resort has its own Tube Mountain and caters to kids who love playing in the snow. Snow-tubing carousels, snow volcanoes, and a mini-snowmobile track set the stage for lessons on how to ski and snowboard. Planet Kids is a snow-play zone for children eight years old and younger. That’s where the young ones will find tubing carousels, snow-tubing lanes, ski- and snowboard-learning areas, and snow volcanoes to conquer. There is also Tube Town with 20 runs and a 400-foot carpet lift. The mini-snowmobile track offers up to one double and one triple lift and two moving carpets to access 15 trails, 30 percent for beginners, 40 percent for intermediate, and 30 percent for advanced.
Lakeside fun and adventures
- Summer fun on the lake begins with a boat rental, and there’s no shortage of Tahoe water options, including kayaking, for some fun water sports. Kayaks, paddle boards, pontoon boats, jet skis, and powerboats are available to rent, depending on your mood. If you’re BYOB (bringing your own boat), you can rent a slip at a few of the piers – if there are any left. Lakeside Marina in South Lake Tahoe, Stateline California, is where you can add your name to the waitlist. As luck would have it, the marina is conveniently located a five-minute walk from Tahoe South’s casinos, too.
- In the summertime, unlock the fun with a Jet Ski on the lake. It’s an easy process with a rental at Zephyr Cove Marina, where you’ll want to head out to the stunning Emerald Bay. The Paddle Wheeler & Lake Yacht, M.S. Dixie II, is a 500-passenger cruising vessel that departs directly from Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina. Reserve a ticket for a daytime cruise, dinner cruise, or private charter.
- In the wintertime, snowmobiling is the sport of choice here. Zephyr Cove Snowmobiling offers tours to spots 9,000 feet above sea level and over 45 miles of trails. More than 100 snowmobiles are available, and you can rent outer gear and get free hotel shuttle transportation.
- Chill out in the summer on the newest Lake Tahoe booze cruise, a 26-foot Tiki Boat decked out in island decor and equipped with everything you need for a party on the water. The captains have no problem sharing and operating their grill, blender for drinks, paddle boards, some floats, even light snacks, and mixers. If you want to beach up at Emerald Bay for the day or even find somewhere to catch a fish while you relax, they’ve been known to make it happen. BYOB (bring your own booze) and food if desired.
- Ziplining awaits you at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks. For an elevated aerial trekking experience, visit these courses that navigate through towering Pine and Incense Red Cedar trees. These parks include ten courses, 97 tree platforms, and 27 zip lines. Visit Vikingsholm Castle on the west shore of the lake in Emerald Bay State Park, on Fannette island – the only island on Lake Tahoe. The island stands 150 feet above the water and in the past century has been referred to as Coquette, Fanette, Baranoff, Dead Man’s, Hermit’s, and Emerald Isle. Vikingsholm is a hidden castle and is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. The house is open for tours during the summer months, but the magnificent scenery can be enjoyed year-round.
- Head for the hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Donner Memorial State Park is the perfect spot – once covered in glaciers that have since left behind impressive valleys and massive boulder deposits. If you aren’t hiking, it’s still a great stretch stop if you’re on the road for a day trip to Truckee and Reno.
- Mountain biking enthusiasts have their own community in South Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association is the place for detailed maps and ways to connect with this biking community. Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile-long loop trail that circles the ridgelines above Lake Tahoe.
- Go camping at Fallen Leaf Campground on Fallen Leaf Lake’s north shore, adjacent to Taylor Creek. The south shore of Lake Tahoe is less than a mile away. The campground features 206 sites that include six yurts and standard tent and RV sites. It’s open from mid-May through mid-October.
- Swim, kayak, and scuba dive at Sand Harbor, the largest alpine lake in North America. This cobalt-blue water of Lake Tahoe sits atop the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Its eastern shores are the perfect place for swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving. Launch your boat from the park’s ramps, stop for a picnic under the shade of cedar trees and Jeffrey pines, or grab a picnic table and use the barbecues on-site. Each July through August, this is also the spot where the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is held. This festival has evolved over the years and now offers the highest quality theatrical and cultural productions for all to enjoy.
- D.L. Bliss State Park beaches and the Rubicon trailhead are so popular you’ll want to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to find a parking spot. It’s a two-mile mountainous walk to the beach and is open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
- The Kings Beach vibe on the North Shore is one of a “funky little beach town.” Its main road (CA Highway 28) is lined with old-timey hotels, cool shops, and several restaurants. Lake Tahoe’s view is enjoyed from almost every spot here, which makes it a centerpiece for summertime activities, such as paddleboarding and kayaking.
- The off-winter season is when the best hiking awaits, with trails accessible by Gondola and Tamarack Express. The Heavenly Mountain Resort Gondola is located one-half block west of Stateline. The gondolas’ eight-passenger cabins take guests 2.4 miles up the mountain in 12 minutes while they enjoy views of Lake Tahoe. The first stop on this heavenly gondola is at the 14,000-square-foot mid-station observation deck. Located at 9,123 feet, guests are treated to views of the Carson Valley, Desolation Wilderness, and Lake Tahoe’s shore-to-shore views. . Guests then re-board the gondola to continue up the mountain. From the top, the gondola travels nonstop back to Stateline.
- Tallac Historic Site opens to the public every summer. It’s free to wander throughout the estates, stroll through the gardens, visit the Tallac Museum, view the Vintage Clothing Exhibit, and more.
- At Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina, a fun summertime activity is to sign up for a Rum Runner Day & Sunset Cruise to Emerald Bay. This Lake Tahoe boat cruise departs several times daily for a 1.5-hour cruise to Emerald Bay and back. There’s plenty of room for everyone, yet small enough to enjoy an intimate and unique view of Lake Tahoe and its shoreline. Rum Runners, beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, and snacks are available for purchase.
Shopping in Lake Tahoe
- The Eadington Galleries of Lake Tahoe features the fine art landscape photographs of Michael Eadington, who was born and raised in the beautiful scenic Sierra Nevada region.
- Over 40 shops are located at Heavenly Village to accommodate a wide spectrum of retail therapy. Craving something sweet? Head inside Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, famous for its assortment of old-fashioned caramel apples. Need sports equipment? They’ve got a store for that. In fact, there’s even an ice rink for some ice skating time in between purchases. When you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve dropped, catch a movie at the 8-Plex, South Lake Tahoe’s only movie theater.
- Book a stay at AvantStay’s Atlas home in Tahoe City to be close to locally-owned shops selling books, chocolates, wine, children’s toys, souvenirs, art, clothing, and more. You can rent a bike nearby and pedal around a most beautiful lake area, but shopping is easily walkable. The Cobblestone Center is where you’ll find Bluestone Jewelry, Lather & Fizz Bath Boutique, Wanda’s Floral & Gift store, Tahoe T-shirtery, and more. Be sure to wear flat shoes to walk on cobblestones.
- GaiaLicious Boutique is filled with 89 percent of either locally handmade, made in the USA, or Fair Trade clothing.
- Avoid Tahoe traffic jams and take the South Tahoe Water Taxi at Camp Richardson, Round Hill Pines, Lakeside, and Timber Cove Marinas. No traffic, no hassles, and bikes ride free.
This dreamy lake destination is the perfect spot for some much-needed relaxation or heart-racing adventures. With tons of trails and mountains to hike, a plethora of snow and swim activities, and more, Lake Tahoe is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a new experience. Discover all of the fun, food, and family-friendly activities this place has to offer by booking one of AvantStay’s Lake Tahoe properties.