The historic buildings and train depot of downtown Truckee, Calif., glow in the purples of a Lake Tahoe sunset.
Once a way station for wagon travelers crossing Donner Summit, Truckee first flourished when the railroad came through in 1868 (Amtrak still stops here). Now the town thrives again: With its two-story, brick-fronted buildings and burgeoning foodie scene, it’s been called the next Vail. Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce: 10065 Donner Pass Rd., (530) 587-8808, truckee.com.
Area code is 530.
To Do and see
Tahoe Dave's has all the snow sports equipment you might need, along with tips on great skiing and snowshoeing spots; you'll find stores Truckee (10200 Donner Pass Rd., 582-0900), Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, and King’s Beach. tahoedaves.com. The cross-country skiing at Tahoe Donner comes with a side of soup: A couple miles into the Euer Valley backcountry you come to the Euer Valley Cookhouse, a warming hut that serves soup, sandwiches, and baked goodies on weekends and holidays. 15275 Alder Creek Rd., 587-9484; tahoedonner.com.
Truckee’s shops boast a wide variety of art, from the practical (such as the vivid earrings of inlaid turquoise at White Buffalo) to the whimsical (glass works by Frank Rossbach, who’ll let you create your own Christmas ornaments at Glasforms) to the delicious (cream caramel from Sweets). White Buffalo 10116 Donner Pass Rd., 587-4446, whitebuffalotruckee.com. Glasforms 10065 Donner Pass Rd., 587-8460. Sweets Handmade Candies 10118 Donner Pass Rd., No. 1, 587-6556, sweetshandmadecandies.com.
You’ll want to return often to Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats. Its eclectic menu—from house-made charcuterie to a vegetarian sandwich of eggplant and portobello mushroom to pork saltimbocca—highlights locally sourced specials that change daily. The bar in front has a Cheers-style friendliness, and its windows overlook quaint downtown Truckee. Thursday through Saturday nights there’s live music so good that Paul McCartney asked to sit in with the band—twice. 10007 Bridge St., 587-8688, moodysbistro.com. Rumor has it the best burger in town can be found at Pacific Crest Grill at Bar of America, the local happy-hour hangout. Bonus: Get either the bar menu or the fancier menu of the original Pacific Crest Grill in both locations. 10040 Donner Pass Rd., 587-2626, pacificcrestgrill.com. The draw of the family-run Thai Nakorn isn’t its atmosphere; it’s the flames-coming-out-your-ears spicy, authentic fare. 10770 Donner Pass Rd., Ste. 101, 550-0503, thainakorntruckee.com.
To find a place to stay, visit AAA.com/hotels. The Five Diamond Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is just a few miles outside of downtown Truckee, but it feels like a world away. The ski-in, ski-out lodge has a “mountain concierge” who can help you map out trails. When you’re done exploring them, ease achy muscles at the slope-side spa. 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Ct., 562-3000, ritzcarlton.com. The dog-friendly Cedar House Sport Hotel features a cozy lobby and contemporary suites and rooms. 10918 Brockway Rd., (866) 582-5655, cedarhousesporthotel.com. Truckee Donner Lodge offers clean, comfy rooms, a fireplace in the lobby, and a hot tub under the stars. 10527 Cold Stream Rd., 582-9999, truckeedonnerlodge.com.
Check out the rest of our Lake Tahoe Area package:
Carson City: History tours and a lively restaurant scene
Incline Village and Crystal Bay: Twain meets Sinatra
Reno: A booming scene just 30 miles from the lake
South Lake Tahoe: Mountain recreation and lake access
Tahoe City: Squaw Valley skiing and the Truckee River
Photography by Jeff Dow
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.