Straddling the border between California and Nevada, the area boasts hopping mountain recreation and easy lake access.
The many chances for fun on Lake Tahoe’s south shore have everything to do with the duality of the region’s character. Separated by the California/Nevada border, South Lake Tahoe gets casino gaming, big hotels, headliner shows, and part of Heavenly Ski Resort on the Nevada side, and broad sand beaches, historical sites, and the other half of Heavenly on the California side. Both sides offer an array of mountain recreation, eclectic dining, and—the best feature of all—access to the sparkling blue lake. Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority: 3066 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, (530) 544-5050, tahoesouth.com.
Except as noted, area code is 530 and locations are in California.
To Do and see
At Borges Sleigh Rides, skim across snowy meadows in horse-drawn style. 55 Hwy. 50 on the Nevada side, (800) 726-7433, sleighride.com. From Camp Richardson Corral, ride horses into the Eldorado National Forest to Fallen Leaf Lake. 4 Emerald Bay Rd. (Hwy. 89), 541-3113, camprichardsoncorral.com. The south shore has some of Lake Tahoe’s most exciting mountain bike trails, including the famous Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Hiking paths lead to hidden mirror lakes and ridgetops with Sierra Crest views. On one side of the mountains, Heavenly Mountain Resort’s long, forested trails seem to pitch right into the lake; on the other side they ribbon toward moody high-desert terrain. 3860 Saddle Rd., (775) 586-7000, skiheavenly.com. Cruise the lake from Ski Run Marina aboard the Tahoe Queen paddle wheel boat. 900 Ski Run Blvd., (800) 238-2463, skirunmarina.com. When it’s open (Memorial Day weekend through October), the U.S. Forest Service’s Taylor Creek Visitor Center is the perfect place to watch kokanee salmon spawn. Where Highways 50 and 89 meet, 543-2674, fs.fed.us.
While the casinos have their steakhouses and surf-and-turf, locally owned restaurants draw loyal crowds. Fine dining is intimate and delicious at Cafe Fiore’s seven linen-topped tables. The popular lamb chop is offered as a special. 1169 Ski Run Blvd., 541-2908, cafefiore.com. The Red Hut Cafe has four locations, but the 53-year-old original gets high ratings for its snazzy red vinyl barstools, sweetly old-fashioned atmosphere, and waffles in every flavor, from bacon to coconut to pecan. 2723 Lake Tahoe Blvd., 541-9024, redhutcafe.com. The lunch offerings couldn’t be more eclectic at Wildman Cafe. Gyros, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, and Japanese curry grace the self-proclaimed “world wild” menu. 900 Ski Run Blvd., 543-1210, wildmancoffee.com.
To find a place to stay, visit AAA.com/hotels. Towering pines, sandy beaches, and grand views characterize the historic Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina, which offers 75 cabins and hotel rooms and 200 campsites. 1900 Jameson Beach Rd., (800) 544-1801, camprichardson.com. With 89 rooms and suites, plus an outdoor pool and spa and an indoor sauna and hot tub, the Holiday Inn Express is conveniently located near casinos and Heavenly’s gondola. 3961 Lake Tahoe Blvd., 544-5900, hiexpress.com. Stay in one of Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa's 437 sleek rooms and you’ll have access to its heated indoor grotto pool and spa with a fitness center, whirlpools, and steam rooms. 55 Hwy. 50, (775) 588-3515, montbleuresort.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
Tahoe City: Squaw Valley skiing and the Truckee River
Truckee: Handsome historic buildings and tasty eats
Photography courtesy Carrie Reiter/Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.