When you arrive at South Lake Tahoe, prepare to be stunned by the amazing beauty of the area’s stellar landscape.
From the crystal clear waters of the largest Alpine lake in North America at an elevation of 6,229 feet, to the mountains’ highest peaks rising to over 11,000 feet, you will witness an amazing natural panorama.
Whether your first glimpse of the Blue Jewel is at the top of a mountain precipice as you push off on skis or snowboard, or seen from your hotel room—Lake Tahoe is guaranteed to take your breath away with its indescribable blues, spectacular mountains and impossibly blue sky overhead. Even the aptly named ski resort, Heavenly, recognizes the near perfection of this glorious Lake Tahoe. Where else can you choose to ski in two states on the same mountain, with Heavenly’s highest peak at 10,067 feet?
You will be mesmerized by the sheer size of this alpine lake, one of the largest in the world and the largest in the United States at 22 miles long, north to south, with the state lines of California and Nevada dividing it down the middle. Lake Tahoe also celebrates some of the clearest water that ranges in color from topaz blue to emerald green. Indeed, this lake truly earns the name Jewel.
I love the frigid air that makes my eyes water when I step outside, and the sense I have of experiencing one of the world’s most beautiful locations. There is no mistaking the sensation of being alive, and the anticipation of the day. Will I ski, snowshoe, or romp in the snow? Decisions. Decisions. I love skiing, but then snowshoeing is such a quiet, private sport. There’s nothing to learn. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Stepping out onto virgin snow on a sunny day is as though you are stepping from Heaven onto a cloud. The snow sparkles with nature’s true diamonds. The sun kisses my face, and with more than 300 days of pure sunshine, that’s a lot of kisses! Unwind, relax and let the cool, crisp mountain air inspire you to explore Lake Tahoe.
Whatever you choose to do – everything or nothing at all – a Tahoe vacation is the perfect answer. Outdoor activities include golf at the area’s award-winning courses, powerboat, sail or kayak along the lake, hike or climb the mountains’ steep faces, swim, shop, parasail, run a marathon, join a bike ride, go to museums and attend concerts. Or perhaps you would like to be whisked up the mountain on the gondola that delivers you to the top of Heavenly Ski Resort, where you can enjoy lunch with a panoramic view of the south shore and afterwards hike some mountain trails. Up where the eagles fly, a different sort of view can be had via helicopter tours, which run from the nearby airport and can be booked anywhere from ten minutes to an hour.
With so much clear, pristine water to enjoy, it’s often said that the best way to see the lake is from the lake. Water activities are a top focus, with several wakeboard and water ski schools dotted along the shore, plus jet ski and kayak rentals in numerous locations. Sailing aficionados will enjoy the plentiful catamaran tours, many offering sunset cocktail cruises to perfectly combine relaxation with Lake Tahoe’s stunning visuals.
If you are here for the Fourth of July, South Lake Tahoe hosts the largest fireworks display west of the Mississippi. You can get away from any crowds and enjoy a delightful dinner, plus watch the fireworks aboard the famous paddleboats Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II. Or if you prefer to stay on land, some of the best spots to get a front row seat are Nevada, Regan and El Dorado Beaches. Go early to reserve a spot, celebrate a mellow day at the beach, and at dusk lie back and watch the glorious fireworks overhead. Happy Birthday, America!
Need to get out of all that sunshine and catch your breath? Indoor activities include lots of nightlife, shows, casinos and an abundance of restaurants. South Lake Tahoe is a lively place, and five 24-hour casinos means the doors never close and the lights never go off. In case of the rare afternoon shower, there are two multiplex movie theaters showing first-run films.
South Shore Attractions
With more than 72 miles of shoreline, you will travel in both California and Nevada, with each state’s borders dividing the lake. As you enjoy a drive around this jeweled wonder, you’ll find a unique Scandinavian structure: Vikingsholm Castle at Emerald Bay, built in 1929 by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight. You’ll also see her famous stone Tea House high atop Fannette Island, which is the only island in Lake Tahoe. Backing up to the hiking mecca of Desolation Wilderness, and offering a short paved walk down to the shore, there’s ample reason why Emerald Bay is a top attraction in the south shore. Guided tours of the castle are available every day in the summer for a small fee.
Nothing compares to the exhilaration you feel when you touch down at the Lake’s base of 6,225 feet. Everything else is up from there! Choose to ski, board, snowshoe, ride a snowmobile, take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, dog sled, or build a snowman. Travel the circumference of the Lake and surrounding areas, and enjoy a day at each of the ski resorts. Begin with Heavenly and choose to ski-in-ski-out from your hotel or condo. Or try your skis or board on for size at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood ski resorts. You can be sure that improvements and additions have been a part of each resort’s plans, to lure you and your lust for powder.
Need an escape from your daily routine? Tired of being stuck inside with cabin fever looming on the horizon?
Have a desire to connect with your family in a group activity?
Cross-country skiing is the perfect answer. All it takes is a pair of skis, boots, poles, some fluffy snow and the desire to become one with nature to make the blues drift away.
The sport can be relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. As you effortlessly glide down a trail, your eyes fill with scenic vistas, and routine problems and concerns simply drift away. With the fresh air caressing your face, and the majestic scenery flowing by, you feel like you’re on a magic carpet ride.
You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the outdoors when you pause in the middle of a trail with no one else around and listen to the beating of your own heart or watch the snowflakes fall.
You’re on the ground, but at the same time breaking free from its grip. It’s a floating sensation you will not experience any other way. It’s almost like ice skating through the woods on skis.
The sport provides a total body workout without stressing your joints. Because you can make your workout as easy or as intense as you want, anyone can do it. It is an intense way to burn calories, increase endurance and boost cardiovascular fitness, besides improving your balance, coordination and agility.
Cross-country skiing offers up different experiences to each participant: It is a silent stream swirling around boulders piled high with marshmallow puffs of snow, water gurgling under intricately designed ice. It is ripping turns through untracked powder, friends laughing as they glide through gently falling snow. It is going fast, pushing your body to its limit, or sliding slowly, quietly along at a pace of your own choosing—from breathing hard to hardly breathing. From Olympic dreams to fitness dreams, as a stress relief or as an escape from the everyday—cross-country skiing is anything and everything you want it to be.
Tahoe’s winter wonderland offers the area’s best snow, mild temperatures and a variety of cross-country courses mapped out at many local ski resorts, or you can always choose an open field or golf course.
And if these reasons weren’t enough to pursue the sport, cross-country skiing is not only a relaxing mode of exercise, it is also healthy, invigorating and a beautiful way to travel.
Winter visitors to the South Lake Tahoe area need not be dedicated downhill skiers to enjoy a sojourn here. For those who would rather spend a day in the woods, there are cross-country ski areas and limitless opportunities to ski into the back country just minutes from downtown South Lake Tahoe. Snowmobile tours, sleigh rides or sledding hills are just some of the winter fun for the whole family. You can try any of these activities by renting the appropriate equipment. Many rental shops offer packages that include lessons or guided tours.
In the heart of South Lake Tahoe, at the base of the Heavenly Gondola, lies an entire village dedicated to your entertainment. The Heavenly Village is the perfect place to spend a day sightseeing, shopping, eating and relaxing – a definite “must do” on your Lake Tahoe vacation list.
The Shops at Heavenly Village is THE shopping center of South Lake Tahoe. Enjoy the traditional mountain atmosphere with a Lake Tahoe twist…meandering cobblestone sidewalks, wooden archways, covered walkways, open bonfire pits, clock tower, stone fountain, and more. The village features an intriguingly eclectic mix of upscale lifestyle apparel and accessories, sporting goods, fine arts, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts. Heavenly Sports rents out the most recent high-performance mountain bikes that have been meticulously maintained and tuned. Enjoy an afternoon of shopping before relaxing with a latte.
The village has a wide variety of food and drink options. You will undoubtedly find exactly what you are looking for. Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of Heavenly’s tantalizing eateries, or take in the view from the Tamarack Lodge, Heavenly’s brand new 15,000-square-foot structure. A large food court, Smokehouse Grill, Artisan Pizzas, a full salad bar, a chili station, and Bar 1950 are available at the lodge. Heavenly supports the Appetite for Life healthy food initiative by removing trans fats from cooking oils and providing hormone-free beef, poultry, and organic dairy products at all on-mountain eateries. Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the enticing restaurants, or take in the scenery from a mountaintop bistro.
The Heavenly Gondola, located in the heart of it all, allows visitors to see Lake Tahoe in all its glory. With a ride up the Gondola for a panoramic view of the lake that is only found in magazines and art studios, you can capture an aerial view of the lake and mountains while adding your own artistic flair. The journey begins in Heavenly Village, where the Gondola travels 2.4 miles up the mountain to 9,123 feet, nearly 3,000 feet above the lake. The ride itself is breathtaking, with unrivaled views of the desolate wilderness and, of course, the sparkling waters of Lake Tahoe.
The Deck, located two-thirds of the way up the mountainside, is an ideal spot for sightseeing. The 14,000-square-foot Deck, nestled among massive granite boulders, features high-powered viewing telescopes that provide visitors with a close-up view of some of the destination’s most well-known landmarks, including Emerald Bay, Mount Tallac, and Cascade Falls.
From enjoying the music, lights, and winter ambience of the South Shore’s only outdoor ice rink to relaxing by the fireside with a glass of Merlot, to “shop-til-you-drop” stores and galleries, the village has it all. The Shops at Heavenly Village have something for everyone.
South Lake Tahoe Cruises
In South Lake Tahoe, take the family on a cruise aboard the Bleu Wave, Tahoe Queen or the M.S. Dixie II for unforgettable views of the lake. Take an exhilarating Borges sleigh ride over the meadows and through the woods for some of the most spectacular views of the lake. The South Shore is where you’ll find most of the large hotel-casinos, including Harrah’s, Harveys and MontBleu in the town of Stateline. Within walking distance of the hotels are many dining and shopping establishments to visit. Twenty-four hour gaming, cabaret shows, live music and dancing…the Blue World has it all.
South Lake Tahoe Restaurants
At South Lake Tahoe you can be within minutes of both California and Nevada. Breakfast in California, lunch in Nevada? There is no downtime in the South Lake Tahoe region. Play hard in the day and party hard at night. Whether you are ready to gamble, or gaze and drink in the alpenglow on the mountaintops at sunset, this is definitely a perfect place to enjoy. Absolutely perfect. Whether you choose to explore just a smidgen of the area’s more than 63,000 acres of wilderness, or drive around the lake with more than 72 miles of snowy shoreline, you will not soon forget this vision. In fact, I predict you will be planning when you can next return. You will enjoy your visit, whether it’s for a weekend, a week or a lifetime!