If you and your family have never been to South Lake Tahoe, then you’re in for an exciting treat! The views are amazing, the air is fresh and there are lots of activities to please everyone. In the winter there’s skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing and roller coasters, for starters; and in the summer there’s ziplining, rock wall climbing, hiking and swimming. Any time of year you can go for a walk or a drive to see foliage, trees, flowers and wildlife.
There are lots of things to see and do in South Lake Tahoe, but some things are too good to be missed. Here are five things that you MUST do on a family trip to South Lake Tahoe! (Don’t forget your camera!)
1. Ride the Heavenly Gondola
Heavenly is a Vail Resorts property nestled in the Sierra Mountains, straddling the border of California and Nevada. With lodges, bases and trails in both states, you get the best of both worlds. Located on the California side is the Gondola, which offers breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, and is an adventure in and of itself. The Gondola takes you from the Heavenly Village shops on Highway 50, all the way up the mountain, to the center of the Heavenly Village Resort. The ride is 2.4 miles long and you can stop midway at the Observation Deck and enjoy the scenic views of the lake and the mountains.
The ride can be a little scary for people who have a fear of heights and the Gondola cars do swing, like you’re on a Ferris Wheel. But the trip is exhilarating and well worth making.
2. Visit Emerald Bay
One of the most beautiful and most photographed places in the world is the incredible Emerald Bay! Located on the West side of Lake Tahoe, the bay is a must-see for anyone who appreciates beauty. Inspiration Point is located on Highway 89 and sits 600 feet above the bay. You can see Lake Tahoe’s only island, Fannette Island, in the middle of the bay. There are several trails near Inspiration Point that offer even more amazing views of the mountains, the bay and the lake.
The drive down Highway 89 to get to Emerald Bay has sections that are very twisty with steep drop offs on both sides of the road. This can be very nerve-racking for some drivers and people with a fear of heights, however the views from the road are the most spectacular views of Emerald Bay and shouldn’t be missed.
3. Harrah’s Forest Buffet
Another place to experience panoramic scenic views of Lake Tahoe is from the 18thfloor of Harrah’s while enjoying the Forest Buffet. The view will take your breath away and, unlike the previous options, can be seen while seated and stationary, which makes this a good option for those who don’t like heights! Winter or summer, the views can’t be beat.
The buffet is a standard buffet offering options for every type of eater. It has been voted “Best Buffet” by Best of Tahoe, Tahoe Daily Tribune polls and Casino Player Magazine.
Harrah’s Hotel and Casino is a Caesar’s Property located on Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada, on the border of California and Nevada, in South Lake Tahoe’s casino corridor.
4. Take a ride in a horse drawn carriageor sleigh
Jingle bells, anyone? South Lake Tahoe offers its own sleigh rides, complete with 2000 lb. Belgian horses! Take the family on a sleigh ride and see the sights in style. Children, even small children, are welcome and they can pet the horses and feed them, after the ride. Picture taking is encouraged. The rides typically last 30 minutes, but you can book a private tour for an hour. The sleighs are handmade and there are sleighs available for two people, up to twenty people. Blankets are provided so you’ll stay snuggly warm while riding through the snow!
In the summer, you can ride in an elegant, European style carriage, through the streets of Lake Tahoe. Again, the rides last for 30 minutes unless you book for one hour. There are also dinner Carriage rides that include a meal at Lake Tahoe Resort’s Echo Restaurant.
The rides begin in front of Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, on Highway 50, right on the border of California and Nevada.
5. Take the family for a bike ride on a Surrey Bike
In winter, if it’s snowing, this may not be an option. Otherwise, this is another must! Your kids will be enchanted when they see the adorable surrey bike! With its brightly colored canopy, two steering wheels, headlights, four bicycle tires, bench seats and pedals, even grown ups will be delighted. There’s even a place for the toddler to sit on the front! The surrey bike is fun to drive and (don’t tell anybody) it’s a healthy option for exercise on your vacation!
The bikes can seat two to four people in the pedaling section, with up to two children in the front, non-pedaling area. The surrey bikes can be ridden on sidewalks, walkways and on the beach. They’re a great way to see the town and have fun, together, as a family.
People come from all over the world to see the pristine forest, the crystal-clear waters and the enjoy the smog-free air of South Lake Tahoe. August is usually the warmest month of the year, while January is the coolest. The summer tourist season generally starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. In the winter, tourist season is determined by the weather and the amount of snow.
When visiting South Lake Tahoe, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and frosty cold nights. Make sure you have water for hydration and sturdy shoes for walking. Be aware that South Lake Tahoe is home to bears, coyotes, raccoons and other wildlife, and be cautious when you’re outdoors.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and it’s the second deepest lake in the United States. Because of the high altitude, the water is clear and very cold, year-round. The clear skies and clear water can result in a nasty sunburn in a short time, so sunscreen is another must!
While there are many options to explore in South Lake Tahoe, these five are “musts” because they allow you to see the best of South Lake Tahoe while spending time, and making memories, with your family.