Why Go To Lake Tahoe

Incredible, extraordinary, mind-boggling … try as you might, you'll have difficulty finding words that do justice to the sheer beauty of Lake Tahoe. Resting on the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe has long been a favorite vacation spot, welcoming upward of 2.7 million people a year. Visitors are drawn here by the steep granite cliff sides and towering mountaintops, as well as the crystal-clear waters that have earned Lake Tahoe the reputation of being one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the United States. While the stunning blue lake alone is worth a trip, the surrounding area, also known as Lake Tahoe, boasts miles of hiking trails, dozens of picture-perfect vistas and some of the best skiing in North America.

But wait – there's more. Lake Tahoe seems to have adopted the major traits of its neighbors. You'll find San Francisco-style high-end shopping and dining along the lake's north shore, while opportunities to test your luck reside in the south shore's Reno-esque casinos. You'll also find plenty of activities that Lake Tahoe is proud to take credit for, including mountain gondola rides, hot air balloon adventures and scenic cruises across the mirror-like water.


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Lake Tahoe Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best times to visit Lake Tahoe are from March to May and from September to November, but the area welcomes visitors throughout the year thanks to the wide variety of attractions and activities. With warmer weather comes beachcombers: In July and August, Tahoe's shores are lined with oversized umbrellas and sun-drenched kids. There's a small break in tourist activity during the fall, but as the temperatures decline, visitors re-emerge with skis in hand, ready to tackle the powder. Traveling in March or November specifically will allow you to experience the area at a fraction of the price.

Weather in Lake Tahoe

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Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • It's big This massive lake spans almost 200 square miles. To get the most out of your visit, choose an area and stay there – you can always come back for more.
  • It's cold Even in the middle of summer, Lake Tahoe's waters can feel like ice. If you're swimming, make sure to take frequent breaks to warm up.
  • It's expensive A Lake Tahoe vacation will put a rather hefty dent in your bank account; save accordingly and book as far in advance as possible to score a deal.

How to Save Money in Lake Tahoe

  • Head south South Lake Tahoe is jam-packed with budget-friendly hotels and restaurants. Sure, they're not as glitzy as the places you'll find in Tahoe City or Incline Village, but your wallet will thank you.
  • Stay and ski Lift tickets at Lake Tahoe's ski areas are expensive. However, many resorts offer combo packages, so check ahead when booking your room.
  • Visit during the week You're more likely to score deals on hotels and lift tickets if you avoid the weekend crowds. A post peak season spring visit will also save you a bundle.

What to Eat

Whichever side of the state line you're on, you'll have a variety of dining options at your fingertips. Of course, if you're vacationing at a resort, it's easy to stay put and enjoy the hotel's restaurants without having to set foot off the property, but it's definitely worth getting out and exploring. Without a doubt, dining lakeside is quite popular, and happily, there are a range of options from high-end to casual, to suit all budgets.

Jason's Beachside Grille, which sits on Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe, is a fun, casual spot on the water. Recent visitors raved about the large potions, reasonable prices and friendly staff. In the summer, there's outdoor seating and live music on the weekends. If it's fine dining you're after, head to Le Bistro in Incline Village. Offering a romantic setting with an ever-changing mutli-course prix fixe menu featuring classic French dishes like escargot and coq au vin. The chef sources local, seasonal and organic produce and meats. 

Before heading out for a day of skiing or other outdoor adventures, a hearty breakfast is essential. In South Lake Tahoe, a local favorite is the Getaway Cafe, which serves what it calls "alpine comfort cuisine." Almost everything is homemade and the restaurant is known for its large Mexican breakfast specialties, with dishes like chilaquiles, which are composed of fresh corn tortillas that are fried, topped with sour cream, avocado and red onion and served with refried beans and two eggs. The sweet n' sour French toast is another popular dish. Another mainstay to fuel up for the day is the Driftwood Café. Eggs benedict and potato pancakes are signature dishes.

The area also has its share of food, wine and beer festivals, including the Tahoe Brewfest in June, the Brews, Jazz & Funk Fest in August and the Lake Tahoe Food & Wine Festival in September. Craft beer lovers might also want to check out the North Tahoe Lake Ale Trail. The tourism board has a helpful online map, which features more than a dozen spots to quench your thirst and sample local beer and food. There's also a Tahoe South Beer Trail, with another handy map. Any of the recommended spots offer a great way to unwind after a day hitting the slopes.

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Getting Around Lake Tahoe

The best way to get around Lake Tahoe is by car. Because there are more than 70 miles of shoreline at just the lake alone, you'll find that having your own set of wheels will be most convenient. You can rent a car at the Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO) about 50 miles northeast of Tahoe City. To get from the airport to your accommodations in Tahoe, you can rent a car, take a cab (ride-hailing services, Uber and Lyft, also operate in the area) or hop on a shuttle. The South Tahoe Airporter offers frequent trips between the Reno airport and six resorts in South Lake Tahoe for less than $30 per person one way. Meanwhile, the North Lake Tahoe Express offers service between the Reno airport and the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee region for less than $50 per person one way. There is a city bus that connects the airport to downtown Reno, but it only operates Monday through Friday.

The Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit (TART) provides public bus services, but only around the north shore. In South Lake Tahoe there are free shuttles between the casinos and ski resorts.


Lake Tahoe1 of 41
Lake Tahoe2 of 41

Lake Tahoe is a popular summer destination thanks to its beaches and a popular winter vacation spot thanks to its slopes.

World of Raes Photography/Getty Images

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