Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

USA  #4 in Best California Vacations

Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe

Skiing? Check. Swimming? Check. Golfing? Check. Shopping, dining and nightlife? Yup, those too. Lake Tahoe offers the best of all worlds rolled into one vacation destination. Spend your days hiking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, shredding powder along the slopes of Squaw Valley Ski Resort, getting the bird's-eye view of the lake from the Heavenly Gondola or kayaking in Emerald Bay. Then, as night falls, follow the bright lights to the southern shore's big-name casinos like Harrah's.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated July 23, 2018

  • #1
    Emerald Bay State Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in Lake Tahoe
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, this state park is a must-see for anyone looking to experience Lake Tahoe's beauty. Sheltered by towering trees, this inlet along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is known for its colorful granite cliffs and stunning panoramas. Follow Highway 89 south from Tahoe City (about 20 miles) or north from South Lake Tahoe (about 10 miles) and you'll come across the Emerald Bay Lookout, the park's crown jewel. And you should make sure you have a camera on hand – the scenery is breathtaking and travelers say there are photo opportunities everywhere you turn.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Squaw Valley
    View all Photos
    #2 in Lake Tahoe
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sprawling across six peaks on Lake Tahoe's western shore (about 10 miles northwest of Tahoe City), Squaw Valley has been dubbed one of the world's finest ski resorts thanks to its nearly 4,000 acres of ski-worthy terrain and its advanced lift system. It's no wonder this resort was chosen to host the 1960 Winter Olympics.

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  • #3
    Kings Beach State Recreation Area
    View all Photos
    #3 in Lake Tahoe
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stretching along Lake Tahoe's northern shore, this beach is one of the largest in the area. The nearly 13-acre park – which encompasses a fair amount of shoreline on the northern edge of Lake Tahoe – is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and boating; plus, there is also a picnic area and a playground, as well as restroom facilities.

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  • #4
    Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
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    #4 in Lake Tahoe
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Here, you'll find a great stone pedestal commemorating the Donner Party, the legendary pioneers who fell victim to the harsh Sierra Nevada winter of 1846 to 1847. The party (originally consisting of nearly 90 emigrants) was en route to California when their wagon train encountered a severe snow storm. Only half of the pioneers survived (many by resorting to cannibalism). The stone marker near the Emigrant Trail Museum stands 22 feet tall, marking the immense amount of snowfall from that winter.

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  • #5
    Homewood Mountain Resort
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    #5 in Lake Tahoe
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to skiers, this small resort on Lake Tahoe's west shore (about 7 miles south of Tahoe City) is far more manageable than nearby titans like Squaw Valley and Heavenly Resort. Sitting on 1,260 acres, Homewood features just 67 runs and eight lifts. But its laid-back atmosphere and spectacular scenery impress visitors time and again, who call it one of the most gorgeous resorts with amazing lake views and a great place to tree ski.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Northstar California Resort
    View all Photos
    #6 in Lake Tahoe
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Although it's significantly smaller than Squaw Valley or Heavenly Resort – boasting a mere 3,170 acres and almost 100 runs – Northstar California Resort is often rated among the top ski resorts in the West. In fact, Northstar had to construct an "express gondola" to accommodate the number of people who couldn't wait to hit the slopes. 

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    D. L. Bliss State Park
    View all Photos
    #7 in Lake Tahoe
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for 19th-century lumber titan Duane Leroy Bliss, this stunning 744-acre park is home to the deepest section of Lake Tahoe and some of the area's most breathtaking sites, including several pristine beaches, hiking trails and the Balancing Rock, a 250,000-pound boulder balancing on a mere fist of granite.

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Heavenly Ski Resort & Gondola
    View all Photos
    #8 in Lake Tahoe
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    With its summit soaring 10,067 feet above sea level (the highest peak in Lake Tahoe), this wildly popular resort truly is heavenly. And it's the only ski area located on the southern shores of Lake Tahoe. It offers more than 4,600 skiable acres – with runs appropriate for all levels – as well as two snowboard parks, nearly 30 lifts and a 50-passenger aerial tram. The Heavenly Resort also offers daycare programs and children's ski lessons, so feel free to bring the kids along.

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  • #9
    Harrah's Casino
    View all Photos
    #9 in Lake Tahoe
    Casinos
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Casinos
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting just over the border from South Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada, Harrah's Casino offers a lively counterpoint to Lake Tahoe's natural peacefulness. There are plenty of gambling options, including table games and slot machines, as well as in-house concert venues and nightclubs. Harrah's is also home to a spa and several upscale and casual dining options.

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  • #10
    Alpine Meadows
    View all Photos
    #10 in Lake Tahoe
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you want to avoid the crowds that flock to nearby Squaw Valley, consider visiting the lesser known Alpine Meadows. Often referred to as Lake Tahoe's hidden gem, this 2,400-acre ski facility features more than 100 runs, not to mention several snowboarding parks. Its diverse activities suit a variety of interests; recent visitors recommend a stop here, whether you're a novice skier looking to take your first stab at shredding powder or you're a double black diamond daredevil wanting to take a walk on the wild side. What's more, there are ski schools, play areas and special programs for kids. Note that 75 percent of the trails are designed for intermediate or advanced skiers.

    ...Read More »
  • Lake Tahoe Balloons
    View all Photos
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Lake Tahoe Cruises
    View all Photos
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Tahoe Adventure Company
    View all Photos
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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