From San Francisco Tahoe awaits at roughly 200 miles away, just across the Bay Bridge east on I-80. At Sacramento, take US-50 east for the second half of the journey to Tahoe. Popularity peaks in both winter and summer, so plan ahead for traffic and potentially snowy conditions at the height of the ski season. Think of Lake Tahoe as an oval where California and Nevada borders meet. Then, consider the north and south shores of the lake. It’s useful to decide in advance which quadrant you’re heading for.
The Tahoe Queen
Ski Run Marina
900 Ski Run Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Prices: $47 adults/from $10 children 3 to 11
Begin by seeing the lake from on the lake. Mark Twain just loved Lake Tahoe and he can easily be pictured aboard this authentic Mississippi paddlewheeler on cruises here. The Tahoe Queen cruises Lake Tahoe every day throughout the year. The dilemma is choosing between the lure of a glass-bottomed daylight trip with a narrated tour, or dancing to live music on an evening sunset dinner cruise. No matter your preference, enjoy a cruise gently splashing through crystal-clear waters on a lake carved by glaciers, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Olympic Ice Pavilion
Squaw Valley, NV
Adults $12/hour, Children $6, exclusive of aerial tram
Even those who haven’t perfected their double Salchow jump will feel Olympian arriving via gondola at this open-air ice skating rink atop a mountain. At an elevation of 8,200 feet, it is widely acknowledged as one of the best views of any rink anywhere. In summer, it’s a roller rink. At High Camp, activities include a free-form swimming lagoon, a 102-degree hot tub, 18-hole disc golf, high altitude tennis, and mountainside paintball. Rentals are available.
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
100 Lake Parkway
www.edgewoodtahoe.comAn oh-so-green course set against the gorgeous deep blues of Lake Tahoe makes for top-notch scenery with a demanding par as well. Edgewood has hosted the Celebrity Golf Championship and U.S.G.A. Seniors for 20 years. Twin Pines and The Beach House provide resort accommodation as well as lakeside dining in the club house. Brooks Bar & Deck is rated a top 19th hole for anyone seeking a good time, a great view and a sunset to remember. Check out the sandy beach for an all-around great day in the well-groomed outdoors.
Lodging in South Lake Tahoe
Harvey’s Lake Tahoe
18 Highway 50
Stateline, NV 89449
Price: from $89
Harvey’s has it all: top headliner outdoor summer concerts in the amphitheatre, funny improv nights at the cabaret, a wedding chapel, a steak house, Nevada’s only non-smoking race and sports book, and 52,000 square feet of non-stop action at Tahoe’s oldest casino. Atop the hotel on the 19th floor, 19-Kitchen Bar promises a great view of the lake, where the staff knows what time to suggest for a pre-sunset table reservation. Some stay and some just play, either way, Harvey’s is historic.
Heavenly Valley Lodge Bed & Breakfast
1261 Ski Run Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
www.heavenlyvalleylodge.comPrice: from $115, includes breakfast
If you like small, gracious, family owned and operated, even dog-friendly rooms, Heavenly Valley offers exactly that. Eleven rooms with fireplaces and kitchenettes in cabins on an acre in the woods sit just .5 miles from the lake. Under the stately pines, an open fire pit on the patio after dinner promises the perfect way to end a great day. Conveniences include an easy walk to restaurants and complimentary shuttle buses to both casinos and the slopes.
Dining in South Lake Tahoe
Evan’s American Gourmet Café
563 Emerald Bay Road
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Chef Jimi has a solid fan base following stints at Chez Panisse and Aqua, and the owners have been running Evan’s for 24 years. Ten tables ensure an intimate setting and attentive service. Its signature dish, a rack of lamb with pine nuts and herb butter alone is worth the drive to many die-hard foodies, but there isn’t a disappointing dish on this local gem’s menu. Enjoy a full bar and an extensive California wine list as well.
Lodging in North Lake Tahoe
Shore House at Lake Tahoe
7170 North Lake Blvd.
Tahoe Vista, CA 96148
Price: from $139 including breakfast
Awake to a cooked gourmet breakfast and plan the day’s activities while sitting on the hotel dock’s bench. Marty keeps a journal of his past guests’ recommendations for you to peruse over a plate of afternoon cookies, or just mingle with others at the complimentary evening wine reception. Take a swim, borrow the kayak, fish off the dock, or get out on the lake on the hotel’s own yacht. Book a massage or hit the lakefront hot tub under a starry sky. Shore House offers nine waterfront guest rooms with gas log fireplaces.
Dining in North Lake Tahoe
The Soule Domain
9983 Cove Street
Brockway, CA 96143
Don’t dine with a sidewalk view when you could dine in a log cabin in the woods. For 15 years running, this place has been voted by locals as best place to take a date. Enjoy a cozy favorite with fireplace away from the casino crowds. In its 27th year of operation by the Soule brothers, it receives high marks for both food and wine. Ahi tuna is a popular Asian fusion starter, and duck and filet mignon are favorite entrées. The signature flourless chocolate cake is an absolute must here as you enjoy an interesting and reasonably priced wine list.
Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. A transplanted New Yorker, she has traveled throughout the world as the Big Apple’s official tourism representative. She served as organizer for three Royal Visits to America. As an international relocation consultant, Laurie assisted more than 400 families with overseas moves and is a proud mother of two, thoroughly bi-cultural children. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.