Lake Tahoe is California’s winter getaway. The movie stars jet up to its 5-star resorts to get away from the hustle and bustle of L.A. and it’s an outdoor wonderland offering great adventures. These are the top things to do in Lake Tahoe during the winter months.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe – The Winter Guide
Table of Contents
Starting in the North we explore the quieter side of the region before heading off to the South where casinos, nightlife, and pure energy waited for our arrival.
1. Ski Lake Tahoe
Everyone knows Lake Tahoe is a great place to ski. It hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and it has never slowed down since! Out of all the things to do in Lake Tahoe this one is a must. Lake Tahoe is home to 12 ski resorts with six main resorts offering world-class skiing and snowboarding.
You’ll find terrain and mountains to suit your skills and preferences.
Where to Ski in Lake Tahoe in Winter
Heavenly is the most popular and highest vertical drop in California. Located on South Lake Tahoe, it sees a lot of crowds, but because it is so massive, you can get away from it all.
Sugarbowl is the closest to San Francisco and Sacramento making it a favorite among locals. It has that old school feel with the highest amount of snowfall in the region.
North Star has some of the best views of Lake Tahoe and is a complete family resort with a village and our personal favorite the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Wherever you choose to ski in Tahoe you won’t be disappointed.
Other ski resorts to check out:
Northstar, Alpine Meadows, and Homewood Mountain and Squaw Valley – 2nd largest in the area and home to the 1960 Winter Olympics,
2. Snowshoeing Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay is a gorgeous scenic stop that is worth seeing from above, but getting out to hike is even better!
You can rent snowshoes from Camp Richardson Mountain Sports Center and get all the information you need. Camp Richardson is also a winter cross-country ski resort with cabins for rent, a historic hotel and vacation rentals. If you don’t want to stay in Tahoe City in the south, this is a good option.
3. Tahoe City Winter Sports Park
If you want to go fat biking, snowshoeing, ice skating or cross-country skiing, the Winter Sports Park is the place to be. What makes it unique is that it is an all-inclusive park where you pay one price for admission and get the chance to try all the activities. There Cafe Zenon located on the golf course for parents to relax while the kids have some fun.
4. Olympic Museum
Take the Arial Tram up to High Camp for panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras. And while you are there, visit the Olympic Museum showcasing memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Each February or March (see details at their website) hosts 10 days of winter fun in various locations. There’s parties, the polar plunge, live music and outdoor fun just waiting to be had.
6. Lighthouse Spa
After snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding, your body takes a beating. Unwind and relax at the Lighthouse Spa and have a massage, get a facial or take on a full body treatment like a warm aromatherapy body wrap.
7. Heavenly Gondola
If you are not a skier, you can still go up the mountain of Heavenly. Taking the gondola is an adventure unto itself (for those who don’t ski much). The 2.5-mile gondola ride will take you to an observation deck for a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe.
Note: Weather didn’t cooperate when we were there, so we don’t have a view from the top of the Gondola. But we have seen photos, it’s stunning!
8. Casinos Tahoe South
We aren’t much into gambling, but from the looks of everyone crossing the border to the casinos on the Nevada side of Tahoe South, people love it.
There’s Bally’s and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to name a few. Of all the things to do in Lake Tahoe South this is probably one of the most popular. South Lake Tahoe is filled with excitement and nightlife and lots of dining choices.
9. Scenic Views of Lake Tahoe
Simply driving around the area of Tahoe is worth it for the views and these are some of our favorite spots that we stopped to photograph.
10. Donner Lake
It has an excellent lookout on the way up to Sugar Bowl. Stop at one of the pullouts for a magnificent view of the lake.
11. Emerald Bay
Driving from North to South Tahoe offers many stops to take in the scene. Make sure to stop at all the cut-offs for Emerald Bay and take in the many views.
12. Zephyr Cove
This is on the Nevada Side of Lake Tahoe, but it is a lovely scenic view of islands, beaches and a famous lone tree that has become popular on Instagram.
Where to Stay Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe North
Cedar Crest Cottages – Great for large families or couples. It has its own kitchen and outdoor firepit. It’s a little far away from everything, but that is exactly what most people are looking for when coming to Lake Tahoe.
Sunnyside Resort – We only ate here, but the dinner was fabulous and the owner was super friendly. It has a more central location and you feel that you are in more of a ski village feel when in this area.
Lake Tahoe South
Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel – This is the most convenient location right next to the Heavenly Gondola. It’s a busy hotel with lots of families and I think it could definitely use an upgrade. But you can’t go wrong with the location or price. Search Booking.com for Accommodation in Lake Tahoe
Where to Eat Lake Tahoe South
There is no shortage of places to eat in Lake Tahoe South. All you have to do is go for a walk down the street and find the place you are looking for.
But a few places we sampled and can recommend are:
- Riva Grill – is a lakefront eatery that is a local favorite. It offers contemporary American food and there’s plenty of parking.
- Outpost Brewing Company – is a great apres ski location offering handcrafted brews.
- Azul Latin Kitchen – located near the gondola this restaurant offers a delicious Mexican inspired menu.
- Off the Hook Sushi – Another local favorite, this hot spot is located in the middle of town and will satisfy your seafood cravings.
- See full recommendations on where to eat at Tahoe South Food Guide
Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination offering activities for families, couples and even bachelors and bachelorettes.
We enjoyed North Lake Tahoe’s laid-back pace and quiet atmosphere, but families and younger single travelers will definitely love the excitement and energy of South Tahoes nightlife and casinos.
Have you been to Lake Tahoe in the winter?
What are your favorite things to do?
Read More California Travel Guides:
- San Francisco Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Francisco – A Guide To The Best Areas
- Things to do: 72 Hours in San Francisco – A Local’s Guide to the City
- Beaches in California: 10 of the Best Beaches in California
- Camping in California: Best Places to Camp in California
- Big Sur: Big Sur Road Trip; the Best Viewpoints
- San Diego Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Diego a Guide to the Best Accommodation
- Hiking in California: 15 Best Hikes In California – Inspiration To Get Outdoors
Our trip to California was in partnership with Visit California. For more information on California travel and itineraries, visit their website. To see our full itinerary through California check out Follow ThePlanetD from Oceans to Mountains on Visit California. And see our full California Road Trip Itinerary. As usual, all opinions are our own.