Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

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
    Things to do in Lake Tahoe
    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.

    But staring off into the sunset isn't the only thing to do here. Emerald Bay State Park is also home to several attractions. Budding geologists can hop a boat out to Fannette Island (the only island on Lake Tahoe) where evidence of glacial activity abounds. If you're into history, a stop at Vikingsholm is a must: Built in the 1920s, this former summer home is one of the best examples of Scandinavian architecture in the country. Plus, many of the materials used to construct Vikingsholm came from the Lake Tahoe area, making this mansion an authentic part of the landscape. Adults can tour the home for $10 (children ages 7 to 17 and college student pay $8). Getting to the house takes a bit of doing. After parking in the Vikingshom parking lot by Highway 89 at Emerald Bay, visitors must hike via a steep 1-mile trail that drops 500 feet in elevation. Those with medical conditions or mobility issues are advised not to attempt this hike. 

  • #2
    Squaw Valley
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    #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.

    Recent visitors were impressed by the sheer size of the resort and said it offers a wide range of exciting runs – when the weather cooperates. Squaw is a smart choice for first-time skiers too; about 70 percent of its slopes are geared toward those at the beginner and intermediate level.