The Ultimate Lake Tahoe Escape Planner
With outdoor adventure, top-notch eats, and high-touch hotels, the South Shore of Lake Tahoe is the perfect bridge-season escape. Here are the five ways to make the most of this epic Western destination.
While Lake Tahoe has earned a deserved reputation for its world-class winter activities, savvy travelers know it offers unparalleled nature experiences all year round. Blissfully sunny more than 300 days a year, with mountain peaks over 10,000 feet and some 72 miles of spectacular shoreline, there are outdoor activities for every skill level of explorer. While indeed a mountain destination, if you pick your point of entry wisely, the region offers plenty of city-worthy experiences too. The South Shore of the lake hits the sweet spot: Here you’ll experience amazing hotels, top-notch dining, and culture and entertainment all within easy reach of epic outdoor adventure. And because the South Shore straddles the border between Nevada and California, there’s great nearby gaming at the casino resorts, too. Whether you’re looking for a morning of hiking and wildflower viewing or want to get out on the water for a crystal-clear kayak paddle, every traveler’s taste can be satisfied on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. Here’s how to make the most of this iconic destination in the West.
Timing is everything in travel, and the late winter and early spring is one of the best times to visit: It’s still snowy enough for alpine activities, but the days are warm enough to make outdoor exploring a sunny and comfortable pursuit. Dial in your timing even more precisely by planning your visit for mid-week, which is when you’ll find the best deals on hotels and fewer crowds to boot and get all the creature comforts of a city vacation with the serenity of being out in nature at an unbelievably fair price.
Nestled in Nature
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t all that the South Shore of the lake has to offer. From clear kayak tours with Clearly Tahoe and shipwreck scuba diving at Emerald Bay, the region has it all. Explore the backcountry along the Tahoe Rim Trail, where you’ll find out-and-back hikes that boast peaks and vistas overlooking the surrealistically blue waters and stunning waterfalls. During the spring, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the variety of wildflowers that flourish in the Tahoe Basin, especially after this year of heavy rain and snowfall. Be sure to pack a field guide and a camera while seeking out these stunning purple lupines in areas like Big Meadow or Ophir Creek. Or, better yet, splurge on having a proper photographer be your guide, like the folks at Tahoe Photography.
As always, it’s important to remember to keep a low-impact profile in these stunning destinations. Be sure to pack in and pack out your trash, bring reusable water bottles, and opt for eco-friendly transportation like bikes or going on foot when you can (but always stay on marked trails!). And if you see someone else’s trash, pick it up to leave the lake and surrounding area better than when you arrived. Being mindfully immersed in such an awe-inspiring natural destination is a win-win—for your next visit and for future generations.
Aside from the unparalleled access to nature, the South Shore of Lake Tahoe is also an adventurer’s paradise, with all the comforts of metropolitan living, including music festivals and top-notch hotels. From luxe casinos to high-design micro-hotels, and everything in between, you can unwind in style after a day of outdoor exploration.
At the newly opened Desolation Hotel, you’ll find a micro-resort with touches of Scandinavian and Japanese design. Stocked with eco-conscious conveniences, the property is inspired by the preservationist principles of John Muir, and makes a great home base for exploring and s’mores roasting. Scenic, serene, and completely cozy, the Black Bear Lodge is another great spot to stay, and it’s just a half a mile from the beach. For a polished, upscale experience, opt to stay at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort, or for a more rustic, modern mountain space book at The Coachman, which is within walking distance of Heavenly Village. Of course, there’s no shortage of amazing casinos in the area, but our favorite of the bunch is Hard Rock Casino Lake Tahoe, with excellent gaming, dining, and more. Be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar for concerts and tours, and regular events like burlesque shows and drag brunches with bottomless mimosas.
From upscale dining with sweeping lakeside views to authentic Mexican taquerias, the South Shore of Lake Tahoe’s food scene has something for everyone, including healthful, vegan, and gluten-free options, too. There’s nothing more satisfying after a day on the slopes than a great slice, so be sure to pop in for a pie at Base Camp Pizza Co. Or if tacos are more your speed, then the Taqueria Jalisco will hit the spot. For more of a formal, sit-down vibe with sweeping panoramic views of the lake, book in at Edgewood Restaurant. For those who are fans of Gordon Ramsay’s long-running reality cooking competition show, you can get a taste of his cooking (sans screaming) at Hell’s Kitchen, located inside Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino. Designed to look like the studio kitchen, there are even dishes on the menu inspired by the series, including Ramsay’s famous sticky toffee pudding.
After spending a day exploring all that the South Shore of the lake has to offer, unwind with a classic at one of the city’s craft cocktail joints, or keep it more casual at a microbrewery favored by locals. At the South of North Brewing Company, you’ll find some stellar craft brews befitting their mountain locale, as well as live music, fire pits, and food trucks on weekends. It’s a real scene for local ski patrol and visitors alike. The Loft is a live theater-meets-lounge that features world-class magicians from around the world. Enjoy tapas and wine while watching a fantastical magic show that’s equally suited for a date night or an outing for the family. Named after the classic Italian wooden race boats, the Riva Grill is an equally elegant spot to enjoy a cocktail at sunset. Their cheeky menu of drinks includes their signature Wet Woody, a tropical blend of rums and juices that’s a vacation in a glass. Get cozy in private dining alcoves—some with private fireplaces—at Jimmy’s Restaurant, where wood-fired, regional California cuisine sourced from local growers and producers is the name of the game. They also offer brunch and happy hour, too, so you can raise a glass and toast your good fortune for having picked the South Shore of Lake Tahoe as your ultimate bridge season escape.