You probably know it as a ski destination, there’s so much more to a Lake Tahoe itinerary than a day on the slopes.
We’re covering all the basics for a visit to Lake Tahoe, regardless of when you chose to visit. In addition, there are special tips for both summer and winter travel.
Pick and choose from our favorite places to stay, top activities, and must-visit restaurants to create your perfect Lake Tahoe itinerary.
A ski vacation is one of the best trips to take with friends. If you’re planning a Lake Tahoe getaway with a group, head to Troupe and use the group trip planner to simplify everything that goes into planning a vacation.
North Shore vs. South Shore
Lake Tahoe is big. Straddling California and Nevada, it would take you about three hours to drive all the way around the lake. When people go to Tahoe, there’s usually a distinction made as to whether they’re going to South Lake Tahoe or North Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe is the closest you’ll get to a proper city surrounding the lake. In combination with the neighboring town of Stateline, Nevada, you’ll find plenty of hotels, restaurants, and casinos here. There are also breweries, spas, and shopping.
North Lake Tahoe is home to Tahoe City and Kings Beach, along with a handful of other small communities. Along with numerous restaurants and hotels, the area is full of options for outdoor activities year-round.
Lake Tahoe 2-3 day itinerary
A 2-3 day Lake Tahoe itinerary covers all the most beautiful things to see in the area along with the top activities and restaurants. Heading to Lake Tahoe is typically done over the weekend or a 2-3 day trip, whether you’re driving from your home in the Bay Area or visiting as part of a longer, northern California getaway. Lake Tahoe has become an increasingly popular destination for both summer and winter.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
If you’re staying in South Lake Tahoe, you have plenty of options for accommodations. If you want the party atmosphere of one of Stateline’s casinos, consider Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino. For a ski resort stay, you can’t beat the Lakeland Village Resort at Heavenly, just a mile from the mountain. In addition, there are loads of private rental cabins available in the Tahoe area on Vrbo or Airbnb.
Learn more about deciding between a hotel vs. Airbnb if you’re not sure which is right for you.
If you’d prefer to stay a few nights on the North Shore, the most preferred option is to rent a cabin. This is great for larger groups to be able to stay all in one place. However, if you prefer to stay in a hotel, the Firelite Lodge is a comfortable favorite just by the lakeshore.
What to do in Tahoe
No matter where you go around the lake or when you visit, there are plenty of options to stay active and have a good time. In the summer, there are loads of different bike trails by the lake and in the mountains. Looking for water activities to include as part of your Lake Tahoe itinerary? All the favorites are available here. Try paddleboarding, boating, jet skiing, kayaking, and swimming.
North Shore things to do
The North Shore of Lake Tahoe is our favorite place to see on foot. In the summer, that means hiking. There are enough options for hikes in the area that you could stay for months and still constantly discover new paths to explore.
Local favorite hikes on the north shore of Lake Tahoe include:
- Marlette Lake Hike
- Donner Peak Trail
- Tunnel Creek Trail
- Shirley Canyon Trail
Favorite restaurants in Truckee:
- Drunken Monkey for Japanese food.
- FiftyFifty Brewing Co for bar classics and good beer
- Squeeze In for breakfast
In the winter, on the other hand, the north shore is home to many of the area’s top ski resorts like Northstar, Palisades (formerly Squaw Valley), Diamond Peak, Sugarbowl, Boreal, and Homewood. Beyond skiing or snowboarding, loads of other winter activities are available. Snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, or snowmobiling are great additions to a Lake Tahoe itinerary.
South Shore things to do
Being the closest thing to a city around the lake, South Lake Tahoe is full of options for activities. Of course, you’ll find all the same options for hiking paths, ski resorts, bike trails, and water activities that you’d find on the North Shore. But you’ll find more off-the-beaten-track things to do down here, as well.
Activities to do in South Lake Tahoe:
- Ride the gondola at Heavenly during the summer
- Take a helicopter tour around the Lake
- Visit Vikingsholm Castle
- Follow the South Tahoe beer trail
- Hit the links on one of the area’s beautiful golf courses.
Favorite restaurants in South Lake Tahoe:
- Lake Tahoe Pizza Company for casual dining and delicious pizza
- Lake Side Beach House for barbecue and water views
- Freshies Restaurant and Bar for innovative vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options
- Edgewood Restaurant for luxury fine dining right by the lake
Other must see places
Visiting from out of state? Consider taking a road trip to the Napa Valley, just a 2-3 hour drive away, as part of your Tahoe trip. In addition, pay a visit to San Francisco, one of our favorite places to spend a 21st birthday. You also can’t miss Yosemite National Park while you’re in Northern California. Be sure to tackle the Young Lakes Trail, one of the best backpacking trails for beginners.
Thinking about heading out of the country? Check out this international travel inspiration.