Paddle boarding excersises on the Tahoe Lake, USA

Things to do in  Lake Tahoe

Boating by day, gambling by night

As one of the deepest lakes in North America, Lake Tahoe offers travelers plenty of opportunities for water-sport activities like boating, water skiing, and jet skiing, as well as beachside serenity and a whole lot of beautiful views. From Emerald Bay State Park to Zephyr Cove and the Tahoe National Forest, the list of best things to do in Lake Tahoe for outdoor lovers seems endless. Plus, the city also gives visitors access to world-class performers, casino-inspired nightlife, top-rated ski resorts, and lakefront eateries.

Top 15 attractions in Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park

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Emerald Bay is the jewel of Lake Tahoe’s natural sights—and not just because of its name. Its waters are a bright turquoise color, owing both to the clarity of the lake and the shallowness of the bay. Emerald Bay is also home to the lake’s only islet, Fannette Island. This scenic patch of land surrounded by water is what gives the bay its jewel-like shape and name. Visitors flock to the area in summer for boating, swimming, and hiking opportunities.More

Lake Tahoe

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The largest alpine lake in North America, and the second-deepest lake in the United States, Lake Tahoe is Northern California's winter playground. known for its several ski resorts, and a summer getaway. The lake straddles the California-Nevada border, with roughly two-thirds of its mass in California.More

Sand Harbor

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With its pristine waters, long stretches of sandy beach, rocky coves with giant boulders, and stunning panoramic views, Sand Harbor is one of the most popular beaches at Lake Tahoe. It’s the ideal place for the whole family to enjoy a day of fun in the sun surrounded by some of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular scenery.More

Vikingsholm Castle

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Vikingsholm Castle is a historic mansion and architectural highlight of Lake Tahoe. Located in beautiful Emerald Bay State Park, the majestic home overlooks the lake’s scenic Emerald Bay and Fannette Island. Blending seamlessly with its surrounding natural environment, Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.More
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Heavenly Gondola

Heavenly Gondola

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Whether you're into adventure travel or are looking for a spot of relaxation, Heavenly Gondola—at the Heavenly Ski Resort—is a must-visit Lake Tahoe attraction. Ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, then gaze out over panoramic shore-to-shore views of turquoise Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains from up high or take to the hiking trails.More

Virginia City

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Step back in time to the Wild West at the historical mining town of Virginia City, once called the “richest place on Earth.” Enjoy 100-mile (160-kilometer) views across the high desert, ride the V&T railroad, shop, have a bite to eat or drink in an old saloon, and tour museums, mines, and mansions in one of the country’s largest National Historic Landmarks.More

Squaw Valley

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One of the top ski resorts on the West Coast, Squaw Valley was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. With 3,600 acres (1,457 hectares) of terrain, over 170 trails, and a village boasting over 50 restaurants and 40 shops, as well as a multitude of activities and festivals in the summer, there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied year-round.More

Virginia and Truckee Railroad

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Experience the frontier days of the Wild West and take in the beautiful scenery of the Nevada high desert on a ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. One of the most famous of all American short-line railroads, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad operates three routes using century-old steam engines and heritage diesel locomotives.More

Eagle Falls

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One of the most popular hikes in the Lake Tahoe area, the Eagle Falls Trail is an easy to moderate hike featuring cascading waterfalls, lush forest scenery, and breathtaking views of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra high country. Experience the best that Tahoe has to offer in this short but rewarding hike.More
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M.S. Dixie II

M.S. Dixie II

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To truly experience Lake Tahoe, take a trip aboard theM.S. Dixie II, a paddle-wheel boat that plies the lake’s stunning, cobalt-blue waters. From its vantage point on the lake, take in views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Emerald Bay, charming Fannette Island, and Vikingsholm Castle.More
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South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe

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South Lake Tahoe, perched on the largest Alpine lake in North America on the California–Nevada border, is one of the region’s most popular hot spots. The city offers stellar water views and serviceable accommodations with easy access to the lake, plus casinos, great skiing, beaches, and bike trails.More
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Northstar

Northstar

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Located north of beautiful Lake Tahoe, ski resort Northstar has 3,170 acres (1,283 hectares) of terrain, 100 trails, and a base village with 35 shops and restaurants, a giant ice-skating rink, and a movie theater. With lift-accessed mountain biking and more in the summer, Northstar offers year-round fun for all ages.More
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Tahoe City

Tahoe City

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Tahoe City is situated on the shores of Lake Tahoe and serves as a fantastic base for wider exploration of the popular all-weather region, including both North and South Lake. Here, visitors enjoy warm-weather activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing. In winter, skiing at nearby resorts is a favorite, followed by warming drinks and dinner in Tahoe City.More
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Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest

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Located in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, Tahoe National Forest encompasses more than 800,000 acres (324,000 hectares) of dense forest, rivers, snowcapped mountains, canyons, and lakes, providing you ample opportunity for outdoor recreation in Northern California.More
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Emigrant Trail Museum

Emigrant Trail Museum

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Part of Donner Memorial State Park, the Emigrant Trail Museum recounts stories of the pioneers who traveled through this part of the sierra Nevada in the mid-1800s, including the infamous Donner Party. The small museum, also known as the park’s Visitor Center, also features historical artifacts related to the native people of this land as well as the later railroad construction.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe
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Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Lakes and Waterfalls
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2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
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Zephyr Cove Helicopter Tour
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Zephyr Cove Helicopter Tour

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Lake Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Circle the Lake
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Private Boat Charter Emerald Bay
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Private Boat Charter Emerald Bay

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Private Boat Charter on Lake Tahoe with Captain Half Day
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Emerald Bay Sunset Boat tour in the Grateful Red
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Tahoe's Sand Harbor Helicopter Tour
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All about Lake Tahoe

When to visit

This popular outdoorsy destination, with beaches and slopes, entices visitors in summer and winter. Whether you’re packing a swimsuit or ski gear, these are the best times to visit. Summer hosts a bevy of festivals, including the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, the Brews, Jazz, and Funk Fest, and the Lake Tahoe Music Festival—all in July and August. To avoid crowds, plan months in advance, snag beach spots and ski lifts early, and skip holiday weekends.

Getting around

Straddling the Nevada-California border some 6,245 feet (1,900 meters) above sea level, Lake Tahoe is well-connected transportation wise. Public buses move travelers (and their bikes) between North and South Lake Tahoe. Seasonal resort shuttles, rideshares, and bike lanes round out transport options. Travelers with cars may have to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic, but a car is a good way to see destinations such as the Emerald Cove lookout and take in the entire Lake Tahoe Loop scenic drive.

Traveler tips

California Sno-Parks, operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, offer affordable access to snow play areas (think sledding and snow angels) and cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails. Permits are easily obtained online for a small fee—much less than the hundreds of dollars spent on downhill skiing. Blackwood Canyon, Taylor Creek, and Echo Lake sites are on the lake’s west side; 15 other sites are farther out as far as Sierra City and Pinecrest.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PST (UTC -8)
Country Code
+1
Language(s)
English
Attractions
17
Tours
89
Reviews
2,909

A local’s pocket guide to Lake Tahoe

Kristin Dorsett

Kristin and her husband made the move to the Lake Tahoe area after visiting for their honeymoon and they head to the lake whenever they get a chance—summer or winter.

The first thing you should do in Lake Tahoe is...

take a cruise on the MS Dixie II paddleboat. The 2-hour tour gives you an overview of the area and feel for the scale of the lake.

A perfect Saturday in Lake Tahoe...

involves bikes and ice cream. Rent a bike from Anderson's Bicycle Rental, cruise along the bike path, and finish with an ice cream from the Camp Richardson Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Virginia City. Travel back in time to the Wild West, ride the steam train, and get a bloody mary from the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

To discover the "real" Lake Tahoe...

head to the north and west side of the lake. The towns there have a more local feel. I always like to stop at the Spoon in Tahoe City.

For the best view of the city...

go to Inspiration Point. You’ll get a clear shot of Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm Castle, but get there early as parking can be a bit difficult later in the day.

One thing people get wrong...

is thinking Lake Tahoe is just a winter skiing destination. I actually think summer is the best season to visit—the weather is perfect and there’s lots to do, from hiking to water sports.

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People Also Ask

What is Lake Tahoe famous for?

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and is famous for its beauty: Located on the Nevada-California border high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, its azure waters are ringed with snow-capped mountains. The area is also renowned for its ski resorts, and it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

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What can you do in Lake Tahoe during the summer?

There are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer months including dozens of warm-weather activities for outdoorsy types, from kayaking, parasailing, paddleboarding, and fishing to hiking and biking. Once the sun sets, South Lake Tahoe's bars, restaurants, and craft breweries are a popular destination for visitors looking to kick back and relax.

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What can you do in Lake Tahoe during the winter?

As one of the country's most popular ski destinations, Lake Tahoe is host to 15 different resorts, each of which promises thrilling slopes, alternative winter sports like snowboarding, snowshoeing and ice skating, and a lively après-ski scene. One of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe this time of year is taking in the soaring views from the Heavenly Gondola.

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What part of Lake Tahoe is best to visit?

To make the most of your time here, head to the lively Tahoe South, where the bulk of the lake's casinos, restaurants, bars, and other attractions are found. The resort city of South Lake Tahoe is near many in-demand resorts and beaches, so it is a convenient base.

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Does Lake Tahoe have nightlife?

Yes, There’s a bustling nightlife scene, much of which is concentrated along the southern half of the lake. The city of South Lake Tahoe offers a lively array of bars, restaurants, casinos, shops, and resorts, and during the winter season, the après-ski scene is its own attraction.

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What should you not miss in Lake Tahoe?

Don't miss Emerald Bay State Park, which is known for its unspoiled beauty and the historical Vikingsholm mansion. Summer boat trips are essential, and in winter, its ski resorts are a must. Visit Palisades Tahoe, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, and ascend the famed Heavenly Gondola.

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