America’s Lake Tahoe straddles the border of California and Nevada. It is the largest alpine lake in the US and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range which is dotted with world-class ski resorts, including Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
The largest Lake Tahoe town is South Lake Tahoe (in California), which adjoins the town of Stateline (in Nevada). Vegas-style gambling is available on the Nevada side of the border but the pleasures of this holiday destination go well beyond the roulette wheel, pokie machines and skiing.
Boating, water sport, hiking, cycling and golf are popular in summer. Lake Tahoe has a wilderness ambience and a sunny outlook, with the sun shining on an average of 274 days a year.
Despite its sunny reputation, Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts are known for their good snow conditions. Heavenly Mountain is handy to South Lake Tahoe and considered one of America’s premier resorts. You can be carving up powder snow high on the mountain while looking down on the stunning lake vista of blue water.
Other major snow resorts include Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood and Northstar. There are six 24-hour casinos in the South Lake Tahoe area and a lively after-dark scene that includes nightclubs with go-go dancers.
The MS Dixie II paddle-wheeled boat moves at a more sedate pace. It is the largest vessel on the lake, carrying 520 passengers, and offers sightseeing as well as dinner-dance cruises.
Emerald Bay is one of the lake’s most popular and beautiful destinations. You can hike and camp there in summer, or stay at the 38-room castle-like Vikingsholm mansion.
Eat and Drink
When you are next to the lake it has to be all about waterfront dining. The Boathouse (only open in summer) is a casual place on a pier at the Tahoe Beach Retreat Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. It has American favourites like New England clam chowder, caesar salad and burgers. The Riva Grill, Beacon Bar and Grill, and Jakes on the Lake (at Tahoe City) are others that take in the best of the lake.
If you’re not dining beachside, the choice is mind boggling – choose from sushi to family-friendly restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffets, Mexican, Italian and much more. There are many decent smaller restaurants, too, such as Spoon in Tahoe City, and Artemis and the organic place Sprouts, both in South Lake Tahoe. And don’t forget to peek inside some of the big casinos and the ski resort hotels, many of them have excellent restaurants.
Where to Stay
There’s plenty of choice and it varies from casino hotels to ski in-ski out apartments, cabins, hotels and bed and breakfasts. A lot of the accommodation is in lively South Lake Tahoe, but other popular places to stay include the quieter Tahoe City and Truckee. Then, of course, the snow resorts have their share of upmarket hotels.
The Lake Tahoe retail scene is particularly strong, with outdoor shops selling gear and equipment for pursuits such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking and cycling. There’s also a good range of galleries, items for sale by local artists, as well as souvenirs and T-shirts. Head to Tahoe City for boutiques and stylish shops.
Tahoe Like a Local
In summer, hike from Squaw Valley to Shirley Canyon. This is a moderate day hike and you will be rewarded with mountain streams, waterfalls and Shirley Lake, which sits in a natural amphitheatre of mountains.