beautiful lake tahoe
If you are looking for a retreat from your busy daily life, no matter what the season, the astounding beauty of Lake Tahoe is a sure tonic for what ails you. As gorgeous in the summer as it is in winter, with so much to do in any season, the Tahoe region encompassing both Nevada and California, and sometimes both at the same time provides breathtaking views, engaging activities, delicious food and drink, and a definite shift of scenery that is welcome year-round.
Lake Tahoe itself is at an elevation of 6,229 feet and has 72 miles of shoreline. The purity of the water is 99.7% making it as pure as distilled water, and at its deepest point is 1645 feet deep. But the facts about the lake, which are interesting, are no match for the sheer beauty of it and its surrounding environment. Driving around the lake and stopping at various vistas and side tours along the way is the perfect way to spend a few days unwinding, refreshing and getting back your mojo.
South and West
Lake Tahoe is often defined by the directional areas. The South and East areas are primarily in Nevada and thus you will find casinos and some of the "action" associated with the not-too-distant town of Reno, known as the "Biggest Little City in the World." But what we love about the South shore are primarily the highlights abundant in the natural surroundings.
View from the Heavenly Gondola in Lake Tahoe
Heavenly is a great ski area on the south shore. It provides slopes in the winter as well as shopping, hiking and biking in the summer. The Heavenly Gondola goes all year, and a visit to the observation deck midway up gives you one of the most stunning views of the lake you will ever find. Take the Gondola all the way up to the top and you will be over 9,000 feet from sea level. There you can hike or ski, go tubing and other activities. Or, just sit back at the Tamarack Lodge, have a drink, listen to some music and enjoy the view.
The Shops at Heavenly in Heavenly Village at the base of the Gondola provide ample opportunity to get gifts and goodies for yourself. There's also a great microbrewery just down the street called the Stateline Brewery, offering great sandwiches, crunchy beer-battered fries, and an interesting variety of small batch beers made on the premises.
Sparkling Emerald Bay
Vikngsholm at Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay, so named because of the distinctive blue-green color of the water is one of those places that once you see, you never forget. The little Fannette Island, Lake Tahoe's only island, dots the middle of the bay. On the shoreline is the intriguing Vikingsholm, a mansion built in the early 1900s by a millionaires using Scandinavian architecture and committed to accenting, not destroying the incredible forest and shoreline area around it.
A little further to the west is the village of Squaw Valley, home to the VIII Olympic Games in 1960. Squaw contains many beautiful areas, great for skiing and snow sports in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer. There is a small but interesting museum dedicated to the games, which includes a video of the events as they occurred. The village contains many shops and restaurants, including the Blue Coyote Bar & Grill, which has a great view of the slopes as well as some pretty terrific fresh salads and quesadillas.
Tahoe City is the place to go if you want to pick up some kayaks or go river rafting along the Truckee River. The Truckee River Rafting company offers rides and rafts. Many folks in the summer take this as an opportunity to float along, sipping a beer or soft drink and enjoy the sun on their faces. Others actually paddle and get a work out, though on our recent trip, those seemed to be in the minority. Whatever your pleasure, Tahoe City, though crowded and a bit more bustling than we wanted this visit, is a good option if you have kids or want to do something on the river.
North and East
Incline Village is a small, charming, elegant cluster of homes, condos and small shops on the hills around the lake. There's a Hyatt there that offers various activities as well. The feeling of a gorgeous place to get away from it all pervades the village, and the scent of the trees is intoxicating. The views of the lake bring it all together. For skiing in the winter, Diamond Peak offers some great slopes without the crowds of some of the other larger ski areas.
One entertaining sidelight at the California-Nevada border is the Cal-Neva Resort, a vestige of days gone by. Owned by Frank Sinatra, and home to the famous "Rat Pack" as well as other celebrities and entertainers, the resort is now a shred of its former self, a rather ticky-tacky place to pop in and have a look, but not to linger. However, to go into the "Indian Room" and see the painted line, gold on the California side and Silver for Nevada go down the fireplace and then seen the state line extend through the swimming pool outside is quite fun. There are also plenty of old photos of the stars that once shined in performances at the resort.
Champagne in goblets? Why not?
If you are willing to take a little drive away from the lake, the small town of Truckee is a fun visit for shopping and lunch. With a main street full of cute shops and restaurants, there's plenty to see and do for a couple of hours. We stopped in and had lunch at the Squeeze In, noted for its amazing omelets and a throwdown with Bobby Flay. We, however, were there for lunch and so had a delicious grilled ham and cheese with french fries that we simply could not stop eating. We also enjoyed the bubbly buddy, two huge goblets of champagne for the price of one. Really hard not to smile at a place with great food and so much fun written and tacked to the walls you have to enjoy yourself.
The Triple-Decker Ham & Cheese at Squeeze In in Truckee
Once you've driven around the lake and sampled the activities, delicacies, sites and sounds of the various places around you, you'll just want to go back and relax during your stay. The beautiful Ritz-Carlton at Northstar, Resort at Squaw Creek, and the Embassy Suites at the South Shore California/Nevada stateline all provide beautiful and comfortable surroundings. The Embassy Suites is a bit of a bargain if you have kids or are looking for a built-in full breakfast and free "manager's reception" happy hour included with a suite. There are also numerous golf courses all around the Lake Tahoe region, wine tasting in the El Dorado area, and as we mentioned, plenty of casino action on the Nevada side of the area.
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe
No matter the season and your desire for a relaxing or active vacation, Lake Tahoe offers something to please you. Whether you want to roll the dice and enjoy the action, ride a bike, ski, hike, golf, take in the beach or just lay back and watch the trees grow, you'll not be disappointed. Enjoy some of the most beautiful scenic views you'll ever find, and make a vacation that will be at the perfect pace - the one you set for yourself.
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