Meandering In: Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe
Credit: Alexandria Wyckoff

Straddling the border to Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is known for its clear waters, long stretches of beach, and its ski resorts. Come during all times of the year and explore the beauty of this western lake, surrounded by large craggy mountains. 

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Best Time to Visit

Summer and winter both attract tourists, for the beaches and slopes, respectively. But the best month would probably be September, as there are not as many crowds, and you can still enjoy warm weather. 

Places to Go and See

Heavenly Mountain

lake tahoe

If you’re looking for a place to hang out with your friends and race across 34 miles of groomed trails, then book a vacation at Heavenly Mountain. Or, if you’re not a winter person, head over in the summer and ride the gondola up to the top of the mountain and take in the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

  • Hours: Gondola is open Mon-Sun 9-4; retail/ticket booth varies
  • Best Time: Summer or winter
  • Price: Gondola Ride $69, other packages are additional costs

Emerald Bay State Park

Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1969, Emerald Bay is accessed from either trails or a mile walk from the parking lot, making it remote enough to enjoy the glacier carved granite around you. Later named an underwater state park in 1994, you can snorkel or dive under the water and take in historic boats and docks from times past.

  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: Warm sunny day
  • Price: $10 for a day parking spot


Credit: Laloer

Completed in 1929, Vikingsholm is considered one of the best examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States, located on the western part of Emerald Bay State Park. Tour the house during the summer months, or just enjoy the views that attracted many visitors to this area centuries before.

  • Hours: June-September, sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: Warm, sunny day
  • Price: $10 for parking spot

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Tallac Historic Site

Credit: Chris Mansker

A century ago, the Tallac Historic Site was known as the “Grandest Resort in the World,” being the site where three of San Francisco Bay Area’s socially elite families vacationed. In the present, the remains are now visited by thousands, exploring the buildings themselves or the grounds surrounding them.

  • Hours: Memorial Day-September, Sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: June-September
  • Price: Possible parking cost

Donner Memorial State Park

lake tahoe
Credit: Joe Parks

Take a moment to visit the Donner Memorial State Park, where you can learn about the tragic history of the Donner Party. Or read about the other groups that traveled through the Sierra Mountains in the same area, including Native Americans, and builders of the transcontinental railroad.

  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: June-September
  • Price: Parking May-Sept $10, Oct-Apr $5

M.S. Dixie II Paddlewheeler

Credit: Ken Meaders

Departing from Zephyr Cove, the M.Sl Dixie is a 500 passenger vessel that coasts along Tahoe’s waters all year long. You can choose from either a daytime cruise, dinner cruise, or private charter with options for sitting inside or outside.

  • Hours: Depends on cruise you book
  • Best Time: Anytime of year, on a clear day
  • Price: Daytime cruise $99, Nighttime winter $130/summer $140

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Hidden Gems

Pope Beach

Credit: Fernando Gomez

If you’re looking for a beach day, then consider traveling over to Pope Beach which is only 3 miles from the city of South Lake Tahoe. The picturesque views of the mountain complete this beautiful scene, and is a perfect way to enjoy nature on a sunny day.

  • Hours: Memorial Day-mid-October, Sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: June-September, early in the day
  • Price: Parking fee

Eagle Falls

Credit: Sam Goodgame

Half a mile from the trailhead sits Eagle Falls, a picturesque site that can be accessed by even beginner hikers. If you want to keep going, follow the trail higher up into the mountains and take a look at Eagle Lake, which perfectly reflects the mountains above on its surface.

  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Best Time: Warm sunny day
  • Price: May be a parking fee

Sand Harbor

Credit: Roland Schumann

Right on the border between California and Nevada is Sand Harbor, complete with sloping beaches, clear water, and rock formations great for photos. Launch your boat from one of two ramps in the park, or if you want to spend more time on land, hang out in the trees and have a barbecue at one of the picnic tables.

  • Hours: 7am-1 hour after sunset
  • Best Time: June-September
  • Price: $15 for parking

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Monkey Rock Hiking Trail

Credit: Carlos Nino

If you want to see a rock formation that looks like a monkey, take a trip up the 2.6 mile trail near Crystal Bay, Nevada. Listed as a “moderately challenging route,” it should take around an hour and a half to complete, and you’ll also be rewarded with landscape views of the lake below.

  • Hours: Sunrise-sunset
  • Best Time: April-October
  • Price: Entrance fee required

Sail Tahoe Blue

lake tahoe
Credit: Sail Tahoe Blue

Hop on Blue for a cruise at any time of day along with seventeen other people. Enjoy a drink on the water, or just watch as the blue waters lap against the forty foot hull of the sailboat and feel the wind on your face. Created by Sean and Isabella in 2018, this trip aims to calm the nerves and provide stunning sights at the same time.

  • Hours: Provide a morning, high noon, afternoon, and sunset cruise
  • Best Time: Sunny, not windy day
  • Price: $135

Clearly Tahoe

Credit: Clearly Tahoe

Choose from four different locations around the lake and go on an unforgettable guided kayak tour in Tahoe. Try paddling through the clear water while the sun shines to the bottom, or head out at night and stargaze with an LED lit kayak keeping you afloat. If you enjoy colder weather, they even have the option to paddle around the lake during the winter – but make sure to bring long johns!

  • Hours: Depends on the tour you choose
  • Best Time: Anytime of year, clear day
  • Price: $119/$129/$219 depending on which tour you choose

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Top Restaurants

Stateline Brewery

Try a plethora of hand-crafted cocktails made from all different flavors of whiskey, or sip on a nice cold beer from Stateline Brewery’s collection. If you’re not into drinking, eat their delicious food in a warm inviting atmosphere not that far off the shores of Lake Tahoe.

  • Hours: Sun-Thurs 11-9, Fri & Sat 11-10
  • Featured Food: Stateline Prime Rib / The Bacon Jam Burger
  • Featured Drink: Maggie’s Mule / Vikingsholm Smash


Opened in 2004, Kalani’s aims to bring the delicious flavors and dishes of Hawaii to Lake Tahoe, blending Pacific flavors with European and Asian techniques. Visit their raw bar, or Puka lounge to get a different type of experience, or just sit down at one of their many tables and have a great meal.

  • Hours: Mon-Fri 5-close / Sat & Sun brunch 11-2:30, dinner 5-close
  • Featured Food: Kalani’s Roll / Hawaiian Mahi Mahi
  • Featured Drink: Painkiller / The Maui Sunset

Jimmy’s at The Landing

If you’re looking for a restaurant right on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, head over to Jimmy’s at The Landing. Crafting their food from locally sourced ingredients, and presenting a regionally inspired menu, you really will be getting the full experience of Tahoe. Enjoy your meal either in the dining room, or on the patio complete with a firepit.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 7am-9pm, Breakfast & Lunch 7-2, Lunch only 12-2, Happy Hour 2:30-4:30, Dinner 5-9
  • Featured Food: Verlasso Salmon / Maine Lobster Pappardelle
  • Featured Drink: My Pear Lady / Papa’s Hot Buttered Rum

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Boathouse on the Pier

If dining on the shoreline isn’t close enough to the lake, enjoy Boathouse on the Pier, where you will be right over the crystal clear waters of Tahoe. With locally sourced ingredients and an eclectic menu, you will join locals in craving this relaxed experience. 

  • Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30-9, Fri-Sun 11:30-10
  • Featured Food: Chilean Seabass / Cajun Chicken Sandwich

Cafe Fiore

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Having an Italian craving? Head out to Cafe Fiore, a small cabin that serves only the freshest ingredients, including their spices. Enjoy famous Italian dishes alongside an extensive wine selection that will complement anything you order.

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 5:15-9:15
  • Featured Food: Bistecca alla Veneziana / Spaghetti con Salsiccia

Beacon Bar & Grill

Known as an “old Tahoe” venue, Beacon Bar & Grill is right next to the waterfront. Taste award-winning food and the signature cocktail called the Rum Runner while taking in the mountainous view. You can either choose to hang out outside on the deck, or inside the restaurant. 

  • Hours: Mon-Sun 10:30am-8pm
  • Featured Food: Clam Chowder / Mahi Mahi Tacos
  • Featured Drink: Rum Runner

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Top Hotels

Bally’s Lake Tahoe

  • ~$100/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Casino, Indoor Pool, Hot Tub, Fitness Center, Pet-friendly
  • Hotel Information: Check in 4pm, Check out 11am, Parking

Hilton Vacation Club Lake Tahoe Resort

  • ~$150/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Game Room, In-house Bar, Hot Tub, Fitness Center, Massage
  • Hotel Information: Check in 4pm, Check out 10am, Free Parking

Hampton Inn & Suites South Lake Tahoe

  • ~$230/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, Free Breakfast, Indoor Pool, Fitness Center, Connecting Rooms, Streaming TV
  • Hotel Information: Check in 4pm, Check out 11am, Free Parking

Marriott Grand Residence Club

  • ~$400/night
  • Featured Amenities: Free WiFi, In-house Restaurant, Golf, Outdoor Pool, Hot Tub, Fitness Center
  • Hotel Information: Check in 4pm, Check out 11am, Parking

If you’re looking for a stunning lake nestled high up in the mountains, then Lake Tahoe is for you. Whether you want to hang out at the beach or climb up the craggy mountain side, there is something for the loungers and explorers alike.