Y’all, these pictures from Tahoe. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to completely do the massive beauty of the lake and the mountains justice – you can’t totally capture the wonder of being in a location like this on camera, particularly since I’m not an outdoors or nature photographer. But I feel like I’ve come pretty darn close to bringing you the feeling of being in Tahoe and looking out on that clear blue water. What you hear about the deep, deep sapphire blue water is no joke. It’s incredible.
FOUR DAYS AT LAKE TAHOE
To be honest, I had never done a mountain vacation in the summer, but Adam’s family typically goes to Colorado to escape Texas in the worst of the August heat, and this year, when they decided to go to Tahoe instead, it worked out conveniently with our California trip that we already had planned. Extend our vacation for a few days? Sure, why not?
We arrived first thing Wednesday morning and were in North Tahoe until Saturday night when we took the redeye back to DC at 11:15 PM. While I did have to work remotely while I was there, I was on East Coast hours waking up at 6 AM every day and working until 2 PM (though, in reality, it ended up being much later). So, this left plenty of time for exploring both North and South Tahoe and enjoying the mountain air.
WHEN TO GO AND HOW TO GET THERE
I’m a winter person. I love snow. I love skiing on some easy greens before an afternoon of après ski. I love bundling up. All of it. And I definitely need to go back to Tahoe in the winter. BUT, you cannot beat 80 degrees and low humidity in August. If you’re looking for hiking, paddleboarding, boating, and just enjoying being in the outdoors, Tahoe in the summer is definitely the spot for you.
So, how to get there from the East Coast…you’re going to fly into Tahoe-Reno airport and then you’re going to have to rent a car. Sorry, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but the airport is a good hour from Tahoe, more or less depending on whether you’re heading to North (a bit shorter) or South (a bit longer). Plus, once you’re there, you’re still going to need the car to get around. That’s the reality of a mountain vacation. A note here: we were coming from San Francisco and actually found it was easier and cheaper to book a $60 flight on Southwest than to rent a car in San Fran, drive 4 hours, and end up returning it in Tahoe.
On the plus side, if you arrive in Reno too hungry to wait to eat until you get to Tahoe, we did discover two great places to eat in Reno! When we arrived, we stopped at The Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery, where I got the most delicious kimchi short ribs, and, on the way out, we stopped at the West Street Market, where we found scrumptious pizza at The Pizza Collective and a great wine list at Esoteric.
WHAT TO DO
If you’re into the outdoors, you’ll never run out of things to do in Tahoe. And, even if you’re not, you’ll still enjoy slowing down, being out on the lake, and taking in the stunning vistas. When you’re in Tahoe, you definitely have to focus on relaxing – you aren’t near a major city, there aren’t tons of cultural activities, or shopping to do. But, hey, that’s nice every once in a while, right?
- Truckee Thursdays: Every Thursday evening, downtown Truckee turns into a street fair with local artisans, food trucks, beer, and live music. And, even if it’s not Thursday, Truckee is a fun place to explore. There’s shopping (I particularly loved Tahoe University, a well curated home and clothing boutique just across the train tracks), restaurants, and breweries.
- Boating: Hands down, my favorite activity of our entire time in Tahoe was renting a boat on going out on South Lake Tahoe. We spent four hours exploring the lake, stopping by Emerald Bay, and enjoying a few cocktails and some snacks out on the water. You definitely won’t want to miss seeing the area from the water.
- Casinos: I’m not a gambler, but, if you are, you’ll find a few casinos to get your fix. There’s the Hard Rock Casino, MontBlue, Harrah’s, and quite a few more – all on the Nevada side of the lake, of course. Here’s a list of all 16 casinos in the area.
- Summer Concert Series: One of the other highlights of our trip was seeing Peter Frampton and Steve Miller Band at the Harvey’s Summer Concert Series. The Concert Series is one of those line-ups that brings in grandparents, parents, and kids (that’s us) alike. We had a blast – you can’t go wrong with classic rock and an outdoor concert.
- Tahoe City: While we didn’t spend much time in Tahoe City, we did drive through this adorable mountain town en route from North to South Tahoe. We stopped in a boutique called Fine N Funky which, despite the name, had a great selection of women’s brands.
- Farmer’s Market: Unfortunately, Adam and I were working while his parents went to the Farmer’s Market, but you can find it every Wednesday morning, 8 AM – 1 PM in Tahoe City. Though I didn’t get to experience the actual market, I did sample the fruit that my future in-laws brought back from it, so I can vouch for the offerings there.
- Paddle board: I didn’t get to either of these last activities, but they’re classic Tahoe adventures. If we’d had our mornings free, I definitely would have gotten out on the lake on a paddle board. And, a note here to anyone looking to paddle board anywhere – it’s SO easy. Seriously, you won’t fall. Trust me.
- Hiking: Of course, there’s always hiking. When you’re driving along Lake Tahoe, there are cars parked everywhere where people have just pulled over, gotten out, and started walking the scenic trails. There are so many unbelievable views from up above the lake.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
While I wouldn’t call Tahoe a foodie capital or somewhere that has a great food scene, we did have some solid meals while in the area.
- The Log Cabin Cafe: I’ll admit, I assumed this place was going to be kind of hokey. There was a sign touting Rachel Ray’s visit – that didn’t impress me much (in the words of Shania Twain). Then I saw a note on the menu about Bon Appetit’s recommendation…okay, now I’m starting to get curious Then I took my first bite of the Cajun Benedict. Oh.my.god. A bite of the Lobster Benedict. This is better than any lobster benedict I’ve had on the East Coast! Seriously, this might have been my best meal of the Tahoe leg of trip.
- Food trucks in Truckee: You’ll rarely go wrong with food trucks and, while I only went to the ice cream truck, I was tempted by every food truck at Truckee Thursdays. There was one truck touting a naan hot dog – a naan hot dog!! Why hadn’t anyone thought of this already?!
- Manzanita: If you’re looking for a more upscale meal, Manzanita at the Ritz is one of the few options around Tahoe. You’ll definitely want to get the seafood pasta, with its lobster, clams, and mussels, and the potato leak rolls accompanied by honey butter, seasonal jam, and pimento cheese.
- Alibi Ale Works: We stopped in Alibi Ale Works for lunch before an afternoon of exploring Truckee, and I was into this Asian-Latin American fusion bar food menu. I got the bahn mi sandwich and we ordered a whole slew of different sorts of nachos.
- Beach House: Looking for a casual beachside drink in South Tahoe? This is your place. The vibe was chill (there’s no better way to describe it) at Beach House, the live music provided a nice background without being too loud, and the views of the lake can’ t be beat.
- Jimmy’s at the Lake: After a drink at Beach House, we headed over to Jimmy’s for a few drinks. I can only vouch for the mezze platter, which was fine, but go for the wine list. You’ll find great wines at great prices during happy hour and a lovely patio with breezes right off the lake.
WHERE TO STAY
Okay, so should you head to North or South Tahoe? South Tahoe, in Nevada, is definitely a bit more of a party vibe. This is where we saw the bachelorette parties, the people ready to spend a weekend gambling and drinking, and the large groups looking for a rowdy day out on the lake. North Tahoe, in California, is more relaxed, a little more secluded, and much quieter. Go to North Tahoe if you’re looking for a calm retreat.
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in North Tahoe, which was convenient to Truckee and Tahoe City, and about 45 minutes from South Tahoe. It wasn’t on the lake, but if I came back to Tahoe to ski, I can imagine it’s in the perfect location. Going with a big group? I’d pick your side of the lake, check out an Airbnb or VRBO rental, and go from there.
Just in case you’re curious, my hat in the lake pictures is the best ever. It’s a packable hat from Tuckernuck, and I’m seriously contemplating getting it in every color. The cover up is a lightweight linen with colorful tassels from Antiochia in Eastern Market. I obsessed over their cover ups all summer before finally picking one up before this trip. My swimsuit is Trina Turk from last year and the sunglasses are Elizabeth and James.
UPCOMING CALIFORNIA TRAVEL GUIDES
Of course, if you follow me on Instagram, you know there’s lots of California content headed your way. I’ll have posts on Healdsburg, Sonoma, and San Francisco. Where to eat, where to drink, where to stay, what to do, how to tackle wine country, everything. Stay tuned!