I was driving the cheapest rental car that I could find to visit my sister in Tahoe when I saw the icy road warning signs just west of Sacramento. My plans were about to be thwarted by deep snow and icy roads. I stopped in the rental car agency to tell them my plight. They’d upgrade me for $20 if I didn’t mind driving a shiny black Hummer. Tahoe in a Hummer? Was I in Heaven? Almost. Tahoe is about as close as it gets.
Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the US and it’s postcard perfect both in the summer and winter. There is no “off-season” in Tahoe. During warmer months you can organize boating activities on the crystal blue water and hike the scenic trails. In the winter, there’s skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating and snowmobiling.
If you can’t make up your mind about where you want to be, Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada state line. Usually a state line doesn’t make that much of a difference, but it does here. The Nevada side has 16 plus casinos to California’s zero. They’re a little toned down from their Las Vegas counterparts, but they still make the California side feel much more chill than Nevada. Not to be outdone, California has a bigger slice of the lake and the majority of Tahoe’s ski resorts are in the Golden state. Regardless of where you stay, you’re never very far away from resorts or casinos and there’s no shortage of things to do.
Heavenly Mountain Resort is on the border line and it’s name is certainly fitting for my favorite ski resort in Tahoe. Not only does it have a great location in the hub of the action near the south shore, but it’s the largest ski resort in the area. The views of Lake Tahoe from above are breathtaking. That’s what I love about Tahoe: that feeling of being on top of the mountain and looking down at the snowy peaks and frosted trees surrounding the pristine blue lake. Then I ski to the bottom and have a nice hot cup of chili at the lodge. There’s also a lovely ice skating rink in the village that will make you feel like you’re in a snow globe.
If you’re not on a budget, you can’t go wrong with The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe, a 2017 hotel that was voted “Best Resort” in the US the following year by Travel and Leisure. Located right on the banks of Tahoe, it’s got unmatched views of the crystal blue lake. Every room has it’s own cozy fireplace and soaking tub. You’ll spend minimum $350/night.
Casino hotels are usually a good value unless you spend all your savings at the blackjack tables. Harrah’s and the Hard Rock are obvious choices, but Harvey’s and Montbleu are also in the heart of the action.
You won’t find a lot of historical places in Tahoe, but Tallac Historic Site is a nice diversion to learn a little about what life was like in Tahoe 100 years ago. There are three estates in this beautiful complex on the lake, as well as a museum and a blacksmith shop to wander around in. Admission to the property is free. The Pope house has a one hour tour for $10.
Vikingsholm, built in 1929, is a Scandinavian inspired castle open for tours in the summer. The property is a little off the beaten path so be prepared for a one mile steep hike. You can also arrange a boat tour and arrive at the dock of the historic home.
Sunnyside Restaurant is one of the favorite restaurants in the area, not just for it’s great food, but also for it’s location right on the lake. This eatery dishes up seafood, chowder, tasty salads and elk steaks. Outdoor seating is summer only, but there’s also a lodge on the property where you can stay with lakeside views starting around $200/night.
Gar Woods is another great restaurant with lakeside dining. You can rent a boat from Tahoe Sports and pull it right up to the pier. Check out their live cam before you show up to check out the water and see how busy it is. If you’re fishing, you can bring your catch to the restaurant and have the chef perform his magic. The restaurant also allows guests to bring their own wine and just pay the corkage fee.
The most convenient way to Tahoe is to fly into Reno and make the hour drive southwest.