Spanning the California and Nevada border about four hours from San Francisco you will find Lake Tahoe. This beautiful destination is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, home to five-star resorts, breathtaking scenery, outdoor activities for every season, and so much more. Take a look at some of the best things to do around Lake Tahoe.
In the summer, you can hike through the mountain trails, sail on the lake, or take out a paddle board. In the winter, you can snowshoe, sit by a warm fire or hop on the slopes. This world-class destination is perfect getaway any time of the year. From Sacramento, it is only a two-hour drive or fly into Reno where it’s a 45-minute hop over to North Shore.
If you’re looking for a laid-back trip where you can explore small local spots and quieter beaches take a look at the North and West Shores. If you want to explore the casinos, shop in luxury and hit some of the top resorts South Lake might be the place for you.
Note: Some stays, tours, passes, and meals were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful to you.
WHERE TO REST YOUR HEAD
3535 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Right on the lake, you’ll find Aston Lakeland Village Resort. Here you have a lodge with studios to rent and townhomes that fit larger parties. Cute and cozy rooms where you can easily get to the beach, casinos or the slopes. They have shuttles to and from some of the ski resorts. Discounted ski passes and summer activities. Whether it’s a romantic getaway for two, a family trip or a large group of friends this property has a room that will fit your needs. You can book everything from a studio room as low as $150 or a townhouse that sleeps 10 at the Lakeland Village. Read more about my stay at the resort here.
11331 Brockway Road, Truckee, CA
Get a cabin like feel in a convenient location to explore the North Shore. Just 15 minutes from Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe and 7 miles from the Northstar Resort it’s a great spot to stay whether you’re enjoying Tahoe in the summer or winter. The hotel offers everything you need from lovely rooms to a pool, and fire pits to enjoy a glass of wine next to during the evening. To top this off you’ll find delicious restaurants, a local brewery and an award-winning winery within a block. Only a five minute you’ll also head into downtown Truckee where you can find some local watering holes, famous diners and more. Book a night, or two, at the Hotel Truckee Tahoe.
400 Squaw Creek Rd, Olympic Valley, CA
Tucked in between beautiful hills that are covered in snow throughout the winter, this property is exactly what you picture when you think of a mountain resort. In the summer, you can play a round of golf or in the winter warm up by the fire pits.
There are many beautiful hotels and resorts around Lake Tahoe, but so often when you here where people stay it turns out to be a vacation rental. There are small apartments to luxurious mansions for rent around the lake. While not always true this can be a more affordable option and can also give you some more privacy. Airbnb is a great place to start looking and you can get a $20 discount if it’s your first booking here.
Traveling to Lake Tahoe Soon?
MY FAVORITE EATS
South Lake Tahoe
1900 Jameson Beach Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA
If you want to enjoy a tasty bite, or beverage, on the lake, look no further than Beacon Bar & Grill. You can enjoy your meal with your toes in the sand. Everything from tasty salads, to a good burger, and pasta dishes. You’ll also want to be sure to try their token drink, the Rum Runner. Then spend your afternoon hanging out on the beach at Camp Richardson.
3123 Harrison Ave, South Lake Tahoe, CA
A delicious place to stop and enjoy a refreshing salad or sandwich along with their homemade kombucha. Sprouts is a vegetarian-friendly spot, which leads to all of their offerings being jam-packed with delicious vegetables. I tried their tuna burrito, which even though those are two things I love I had my doubts. Somehow they put together a mixture of ingredients that worked perfectly together.
1001 Heavenly Village Way, Ste 1A, South Lake Tahoe, CA
A popular breakfast spot right in Heavenly Village. You’ll find a wait most mornings but you can order a cup of coffee and the counter and take a short walk as you wait. The food is worth it too. From their benedict and burrito to the Huevos del Driftwood, you can’t go wrong.
1785 W Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA
For breakfast or a cozy lunch, this diner is a perfect spot to stop at as you drive along the lake, or if you are staying on the West Shore. For breakfast, their breakfast burrito hits the spot. Or try one of their sandwiches, like the grilled turkey that includes both cranberry sauce and green chilies, a tasty combo.
425 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA
Solid Mexican food with a view of the lake. Just on the other side of the street from the shore, sit on the deck or on the window. Order yourself a tasty margarita and lunch while spending a lazy afternoon at the lake.
120 Grove St, Tahoe City, CA 96145
Get yourself some Alabama BBQ right on the lake. I stumbled upon this spot by accident but with the crowd packing the space and live music playing I knew I couldn’t go wrong. The pulled pork Bama styled sandwiches is one of the best I’ve had and their potato salad didn’t disappoint. On top of that, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lake and often live music.
115 Grove St, Tahoe City, CA 96145
If you want a chance to enjoy a beautiful view and a nice glass of wine, the SandBar at Tahoe City’s fine dining restaurant can be a great fit. It’s only open during the summer, but from Wednesday to Sunday evenings you can pull up and relax in a more casual environment and grab a bite off their small plates.
10144 W River St, Truckee, CA
An old school diner that has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, for good reason. Grab a delicious breakfast or savory dinner where you’ll feel like you’ve been brought back in time. Sounds like the spot can get rather busy but I went in for an early(ish) breakfast and was seated immediately, had great service and a delicious twist on Huevos Rancheros.
THE BEST PLACES TO GRAB A DRINK
South Lake Tahoe
18 U.S. 50, Stateline, NV
Underground between Harvey’s and Harrahs in South Lake you’ll find my favorite spot out at the casinos. You may have visited them elsewhere but one thing I love about Cabo Wabo is they always have live music going. Go in and join the band as they play great rock classics. Also, it’s no cover.
Center Stage at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
If you’re a Tahoe regular and you know someone else visiting you always ask if they’re going to see Arty. A DJ in one of the lounges right on the casino floor, Arty plays hip-hop and R&B from the past few decades. He also takes requests, so you can get down to your favorites. He attracts a crowd pretty much every weekend night. A great alternative to paying a cover to get into one of the clubs.
Another fun spot to hit if you’re not interested in paying for cover. If there is a decent crowd in town you’ll find this bar filled with folks enjoying the casual environment and dancing their butts off. They always have a great DJ that plays a variety of hits. It’s a fun spot to enjoy with your friends.
11467 Brockway Rd, Truckee, CA
Right on your way towards the Lake from Truckee, you’ll find this award-winning winery. Stop by for a tasting, starting at $5, or grab a bottle and take it out to the bocce ball courts. A great way to spend an afternoon. Best known for their Pinot Noirs the Truckee River Winery buys grapes from all over California. A stop well worth making on a trip to Truckee or the North Shore.
11197 Brockway Rd #1, Truckee, CA
A casual spot that has anywhere from 6 to 10 rotating taps, ranging from light Belgium ales to hoppy IPAs. Try a tasting of five for less than $10 and find out which ones you like the best. They also have rotating barrel-age beers which I often enjoy as they remind me a lot of wine. I didn’t grab a bite here but I had to use a lot of willpower to stop myself. Everything that was coming out looked delicious and worth trying.
ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES TO TRY
One of the most notable things about Lake Tahoe is how clear the water is and how far you can see in it. The best way to do this is getting right out on it, and, in my opinion, there is no better way to do this than hopping on a paddle board. Head over the Kings Beach and rent a board or take a tour from Tahoe Oar and Paddle. It’s a great way to see the lake from a different perspective.
A great activity for just about anyone, depending on your fitness level only depends on how challenging of a hike you want to take. There are spots all around the lake including by Emerald Bay and in Tahoe Vista at the North Lake Regional Park. If it’s your first-time hop on a tour with Tahoe Adventures. Or pick up a pair of rentals from them if you are looking to venture out on your own.
1001 Heavenly Village Way, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Typically, I don’t like tourist shopping spots, but between the people watching and cute boutiques, I always seem to enjoy stopping by Heavenly Village for a little wandering. Visit North Face, skate on the rink, and grab some hot chocolate or a glass of wine by the fire pits.
Driving the Lake
A must-do when you visit. Taking the time to drive all the way around the lake is a perfect way to enjoy your day. You can do it all at once, about two hours, or you can make a day of it. Stopping at vista points, enjoying lunch in one spot. Have coffee in another. Then wrap up with drinks and dinner back where you started.
Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA
One of the best, easily accessed, vista points around the lake. About a 15-minute drive from the Stateline in South Lake you’ll start heading up a hill and on your right, you’ll find the lookout. Park your car and head out to enjoy the view. You can even see the clear water from all the way above as you view across the lake.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Only what the region is best known for other than the lake itself. Hop on the gondola up to Heavenly right out of South Lake where you can just walk your skis over from your hotel. Or relax up in Squaw Valley where the Olympics were once held. There is a wide variety of spots to choose from and everyone seems to have a different favorite.
Find more information on activities you can’t miss while in Lake Tahoe click over to this post.
For more information about Lake Tahoe check out these great books on Amazon including Fodor’s Northern California, Insiders’ Guide to Reno and Lake Tahoe, and Afoot and Afield: Tahoe-Reno: 201 Spectacular Outings in the Lake Tahoe Region.
Did I miss any of your favorite spots in my best things to do around Lake Tahoe? If so, let me know in a comment below. I’m planning a trip back up this summer for some warm weather activities and would love your tips.