We are incredibly lucky to live about 90 minutes away from Lake Tahoe. It is a gorgeous place to visit in both winter for skiing and in summer for the beautiful hiking and water activities.
I wanted to put together some suggestions of activities and restaurants in Tahoe that we have loved. If you have never been to Lake Tahoe this is a place to add to your travel list because it really is so spectacular!
Many people think of Tahoe as a snow destination but in summer it is simply breathtaking and there is so much to do!
Lake Tahoe is actually located right on the border of Nevada and California and is usually divided up between South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe.
We prefer to visit North Lake Tahoe and most of the things I will be mentioning are located right there at the top of the map.
Tahoe reminds me a lot of Seattle- it is a beautiful place with fresh, clean air and gorgeous glistening water. There are tons of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, climbing, sailing and overall very casual and welcoming.
Even though Tahoe is just a short drive away, it tends to be significantly cooler than Sacramento (where we live) so it is a very pleasant place to escape the heat.
Here are a few things that we have enjoyed doing with our kids:
With my 7 year old on the lake
Kayaking: We recently went kayaking for the first time with our children (aged 6 and 7) and it was such a fantastic activity. The kid’s were able to paddle and the Lake is extremely shallow (knee high in some spots) which really helped to alleviate my worries. The lake is so clear and clean, the children were nervous at first but since you can literally see the rocks right below the kayak, they felt pretty comfortable. We rented for one hour from Tahoe City Kayak right on Lake Blvd in Tahoe City. There are tons of places to rent kayaks but this one was friendly, in a great location and we had a wonderful experience.
Note: If you haven’t been kayaking before don’t worry at all. I have never rowed in my life and we picked it up very quickly. If you are unsure about what to wear kayaking, I suggest flip flops or water shoes. My girls had on sneakers and they were totally soaked. I wore a bathing suit, tank top and running shorts and that was perfect. The weather was mild and breezy and I was completely comfortable. Some people wear just bathing suits to kayak but I found a few pools of semi- dirty water in the kayak and I wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting in that in a bathing suit so the extra protection of shorts was really nice.
Crystal Clear Water // Beautiful Lake Views from the water
There are some other options as well including boat rental, parasailing and paddle boards. We for sure want to try parasailing on our next Tahoe vacation as the kids were amazed with the beautiful parachutes we could see on the water.
My husband and 6 year old climbing the ropes
Tree Top Adventure Park:
Oh my goodness this was fun! This is located in Tahoe City and it is a great spot for little adventurers. Tree Top is a little park that offers zip lining and a ropes adventure course. There is a second location that has trampolines, miniature golf and a climbing wall.
The location we visited has a few courses, you can choose to do the ropes course with all sorts of obstacles- bridges and things to climb over and you advance to the courses that just feature ziplining. My children really loved this and you can do this as a family. My husband spent the entire afternoon going on the courses with them and I spent about 90 minutes on them and then the harness started to annoy me and I took a break ;).
You will go at your own pace and they recommend this park for children aged 5+. I did see a group of pre-teen girls there as a birthday party and also a few smaller children (around 6-7) that were there with adults not participating in the climbing. The one issue with the park is that only two people can be on a stretch of the course at a time. (As you see above my little girl on the ropes and one person on the platform.) So if the person ahead of you gets hurt or stuck or simply frightened and refuses to go on, no one behind them can go either.
We did have a little girl in front of us that repeatedly stopped at stations because she was afraid to move forward. The staff will come to help with ropes and such from the ground and her Mother was trying to talk her into moving forward from the ground below but honestly I would encourage this as a family activity and not just the kids by themselves. Especially if they are really little or children that might be a bit timid. It broke my heart to see the little girl frightened ahead of me and no one there to give her a hug or even a squeezed hand to help her move forward. Since one of my children was ahead of me and one behind me it was always one of my girls that was on the stretches of the course with her and not an adult to provide reassurance.
My 7 year old ziplining
My girls had no issues at all but I will say I wore Converse sneakers on the course and at one point I slipped a bit so for sure wear good shoes with a nice grippy sole. Our adventure was three hours which was a tiny bit too long in my opinion although the day we went was extremely hot so that did make the experience mildly uncomfortable. This was a fun afternoon and I would recommend it if you are looking for something a bit different to do as a family. You can see a video clip of the park on the website here.
PS: I am absolutely terrified of heights and I was OK on all the courses.
Commons Beach and Playground: This is a really pretty beach area that you can walk along, grab large stones to make sculptures and you will end up at a pretty little playground area for kids. There is a small grassy area perfect for picnics or games or even sunbathing. The kids can play on the playground and it is absolutely gorgeous with views of the water. This is a great free spot to stop and let the kids run around and play. Check the website here for a list of events- in summer they have free concerts and movies. The concert schedule is listed here.
Sand Harbor Beach: This is our favorite beach and it is just past Incline Village on the Nevada side of Tahoe. You will need to pay parking and the lot gets really full at peak hours. (If the lot is full drive past and try back in a few minutes and see if you get lucky and they open up the lot again. Roadside parking is precarious and we saw policeman going car to car giving out tickets one day.
Once you are there though, it is breathtaking. This is where you get the spectacular ombre water that is light blue, turquoise, and navy and it is so clear and clean. The photo above and below are straight from my camera with no editing whatsoever.
If you can make it at dusk or first thing in the morning, this is a stunning place to take family photos. You can pack a picnic for the beach or there is a little cafe right there that sells drinks and ice cream and such.
Ritz Carlton Hotel: This is a bit off the beaten path and about a 15 minute drive away from Tahoe City and toward Truckee. We always love to check out the Ritz hotels because I find such fun things to do at the outdoor restaurants.
The inside tends to be a bit more formal but the outdoor areas usually have all sorts of activities that even non-guests can enjoy. The Ritz is very family friendly in my experience and this hotel is no different. We planned to check out one of the outdoor concerts at Commons Beach on our last trip but the Women’s World Cup game was on and we wanted to find a restaurant that might let us catch the game. So we went to the outdoor dining area at the Ritz and I am so happy we did! You will pay $20 for valet parking or just buy something at the hotel and the parking is validated and you will pay $5.00 instead.
We bought iced coffee and my husband had a beer and we sat outside in the dining area watching the game. For hotel guests, the pool is lovely and adjacent to the bar/dining area. They also have a really cool tram that leads directly to skiing in the winter. You can see it in the very top of the photo above. How amazing is that? Skiing is so convenient and easy from this hotel.
In the summer there were numerous games set up in the courtyard area for children- Corn Hole, life size Jenga, Ping Pong, life size Connect 4, Bocce and tons more. Basically there is a large courtyard set with fire pits, sofas, Adirondack chairs and even a large fireplace. The games are sprinkled around this Courtyard area. In the center is a dining area with hamburgers and a wood fired pizza oven and picnic tables. The food is reasonably priced ($12-18 burgers) and what I saw others eating looked really delicious! There is a small bar that divides the Courtyard from the gated pool area.
The kids happily ran around playing games for over an hour and we were so pleased to find a musician came and sang in the Courtyard. At 5pm daily, the Ritz has the most adorable Smore’s bar. There is a giant firepit and we had graham crackers, Hershey bars and homemade marshmallows that were delicious! (We were there on 4th of July weekend so the marshmallows were dyed red and blue). I may or may not have had two of these because homemade marshmallows are… well my recipe for homemade marshmallows is here. Please treat yourself to these delicious things.
My husband was still watching the game and the kids were getting a little restless so I took them inside which is so peaceful and pretty. Not to mention the Ritz just smells heavenly- they filter fragrance into the air that makes you feel like you are right in a fancy spa. And speaking of spa- it looked amazing! I did a quick walk through and would have absolutely stopped for a treatment if we had a bit more time on our trip. Next time for sure. Oh and the concierge had a whole credenza filled with board games and there are tables to sit at or sofas or lovely chairs next to fireplaces. You really don’t even need to leave the hotel during your visit.
The entire experience was very fun and relaxing and makes me love the Ritz even more. Oh and in the evening they have a video game arcade for the kids to play Air Hockey and Pac Man etc… The Ritz is definitely a splurge for accommodations but in the off season the rates drop considerably so something to consider for your trip for sure.
Here are a few restaurants that we have loved in the Tahoe area- there are tons and tons of choices so something for every taste for sure.
Fire Sign Cafe: This is a great spot for a big, hearty breakfast. Seriously the portions are massive so our family of 4 could have probably shared one meal and been happy 😉 I got the gouda scramble which is smoked gouda cheese on scrambled eggs (heavenly) and the Fire sign potatoes which are melted cheese on top of grilled veggies and home fried potatoes. Goodness that was so good! There was some sort of blueberry coffee cake included as well but my children dove upon it like vultures and I didn’t even taste a crumb.
Dockside 700 Lakefront Grill: This grill was right where our kayaking excursion was located and it looked so charming we just had to stop for lunch. The view is lovely and the restaurant is clean. The food was pretty good- my husband had a massive sandwich and the girls split a pizza and I had these amazing homemade potato chips with feta cheese, carmelized onions and balsamic drizzle. Yolo right? They were totally unique and pretty darn good!
Just up the hill from Dockside 700 is Christy Hill which looked really lovely for dinner if you’d like something a bit nicer.
Sunnyside Resort and Restaurant: We stopped off at this spot one afternoon just to grab drinks and rest after Tree Top. There is an outdoor restaurant that overlooks the water and is quite pretty. We had fun drinks- cucumber sodas, blueberry lemonade etc… I had heard such great things about this spot and I will say it is lovely. The downside is that I am a semi fussy person about cleanliness at restaurants and I didn’t find this place to be especially clean. Also there are giant trees that literally sprout up through the deck. It is very pretty and fun for the kids but we were seated directly under one of the trees and I had bugs crawling on me and on the table the entire time. It didn’t bother my husband or the kids at all. I would not go back to this restaurant personally but there is a very pretty strip of beach to walk along right after your meal.
AND one last little tip… If you are in North Lake Tahoe, a quick drive to the small town of Truckee is a great idea. The downtown area is absolutely darling with lovely little shops and more restaurants than you can count. I hadn’t been to Truckee since I was a small child and I was shocked at how charming the little city is and plan to go back one of these days to explore with my girls. Unfortunately I had a serious Hangry situation by the time we got to Truckee and couldn’t muster the energy to get the camera out and wander a bit. We ate at Burger Me! which was just delicious for a good burger, fries and shakes. We went at a peak time and the wait was sooo incredibly long. There are only a few indoor and outdoor tables available so look alive if you want to grab a seat.
So there are a few of the places we love to visit in North Lake Tahoe. If you have visited recently I would love to hear some of your favorite spots!
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