28 Fun & Unique Things to Do in Lake Tahoe | 2023 (with Photos)
Lake Tahoe is a breathtakingly beautiful freshwater lake located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range on the border between California and Nevada.
Tahoe City is a charming town situated on the northwest shore of the lake and is a popular destination for visitors to the area.
With its crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and stunning mountain views, Lake Tahoe is a must-visit for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you're into hiking, skiing, or water sports, there's something for everyone in the idyllic location of Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is around 3 hours from San Francisco by car, so if you are in the area, make a stop at this gorgeous lake.
Most Recommended Thing to Do
Top Choice Hotel
Harrah's Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino
Our Top Choice Restaurant
Evan's American Gourmet Café.
Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife
Opal Ultra Lounge
Best Time to Visit
Skiing, hiking, and scenery: Winter and early spring.
Chilly winter, hot summer, diverse temperatures throughout year.
Bus, taxi, car, bicycle, boat, walking, hiking, skiing.
Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)
My Top Recommendation
Lake Tahoe, located in the United States of America, offers an extraordinary escape into nature. With breathtaking vistas and crystal-clear waters, you can immerse yourself in the serenity of this majestic destination. Spend your days exploring hiking trails that reveal hidden waterfalls and panoramic views, or simply relax on the shores and soak up the sun while enjoying the magnificent scenery. Lake Tahoe truly has something for everyone, whether you're a nature enthusiast seeking adventure or simply looking to unwind in a picture-perfect setting.
For a truly unique experience in Lake Tahoe, indulge in a hot air balloon ride over the sparkling lake and surrounding mountains. As you effortlessly float above the treetops, you'll be treated to a bird's-eye view of the stunning landscape, creating memories that will last a lifetime. After your surreal adventure, relish in the charm of the local towns and indulge in delicious farm-to-table cuisine, as well as quaint boutique shopping. Whether you're seeking outdoor adventures or a tranquil escape, Lake Tahoe offers an unforgettable retreat that will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.
What You'll Need to Bring
Warm clothing - Lake Tahoe experiences cold temperatures, especially during the winter months. Make sure to bring plenty of warm clothing including jackets, sweaters, hats, and gloves.
Outdoor gear - Lake Tahoe is known for its outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. Don't forget to bring your hiking boots, ski/snowboard equipment, and any other gear you might need for these activities.
Sunscreen - The sun can be quite strong in Lake Tahoe, even during winter. It's important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, so bring sunscreen with a high SPF.
Swimwear - If you're visiting during the summer, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the beautiful beaches of Lake Tahoe. Don't forget to pack your swimwear.
Camera - Lake Tahoe offers breathtaking views and stunning landscapes. Make sure to bring a camera to capture these moments and take home beautiful memories.
Additional items that you may consider bringing include comfortable shoes for walking or hiking, a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, snacks for outdoor adventures, and a backpack to carry your belongings.
Table of Contents
1. A Gem in the Heart of Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park is a picturesque destination located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe in California.
Emerald Bay State Park is home to the stunning Emerald Bay, which is known for its crystal-clear waters and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Visitors to the park can explore the scenic hiking trails, take a dip in the cool waters of the bay, or enjoy a picnic with family and friends.
The park is also home to the historic Vikingsholm Castle, a unique example of Scandinavian architecture from the 1920s.
2. Emerald Bay: The Crown Jewel of Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay is often referred to as the crown jewel of Lake Tahoe due to its striking beauty and serene atmosphere.
The crystal-clear turquoise waters of Emerald Bay are surrounded by towering mountain peaks and dense forests, creating a breathtakingly scenic landscape that is truly awe-inspiring.
Emerald Bay State Park is one of the most popular summer spots for visitors – for good reason. Start off at the Emerald Bay Lookout where the views perfectly frame the stunning panorama of the waters of Lake Tahoe.
3. Discover the Historic Vikingsholm Castle
Vikingsholm Castle is a historic mansion located on the shore of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California.
The castle was built in 1929 by Lora Knight, a wealthy philanthropist and lover of the outdoors, who had a deep appreciation for Scandinavian architecture.
Vikingsholm Castle offers breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains, and visitors can explore the nearby trails and beaches.
4. For Sports Enthusiasts - South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is a vibrant and bustling city situated on the southern shores of Lake Tahoe, straddling the border between California and Nevada.
South Lake Tahoe is known for its stunning natural beauty and world-class outdoor recreation opportunities. In the winter, visitors can hit the slopes at one of the many nearby ski resorts, while in the summer, they can enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, and biking at Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe also boasts a lively nightlife scene, with plenty of entertainment options, from casinos to music venues.
5. Visit Heavenly Mountain Gondola and Take a Ride
Heavenly Mountain Resort is a premier ski resort located in South Lake Tahoe, California.
The Heavenly Resort also features the Heavenly Mountain Gondola, which provides guests with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains as they ascend to the summit of Heavenly.
At the top, visitors can take in panoramic views from the observation deck, or enjoy a meal at one of the on-site restaurants. During the summer, Heavenly ski resort transforms into a hub for outdoor adventure, with activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining.
The Heavenly Resort also offers scenic gondola rides, providing visitors with stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
6. Go Camping at Bliss State Park
Bliss State Park is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning views of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding mountains.
With hiking trails that lead to scenic vistas, picnic areas, and a campground for overnight stays, Bliss State Park is a gorgeous outdoor spot for nature lovers.
Moreover, Bliss State Park has a beach area, where visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water activities such as kayaking and paddleboarding.
One of the highlights of Bliss State Park is the Rubicon Trail, a hiking trail that leads to Emerald Bay, another popular destination on Lake Tahoe. The Rubicon trail offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe and its surroundings and is a great option for those looking for a more challenging hike.
As well as the Rubicon Trail, there are Lighthouse Trail, and the Balancing Rock Trail, to name a few.
7. Visit Sand Harbor and Explore the Hiking Options
Sand Harbor is a popular tourist destination known for its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches. The Sand Point Nature Trail is a popular destination for hikers, offering a peaceful and scenic route through the forests and along the lake.
The park features a large sandy beach area, as well as a rocky cove with beautiful turquoise waters that is popular for swimming and snorkeling.
One of the main attractions of Sand Harbor is its unique rock formations, which have been shaped by the wind and water over time.
8. Visit Sand Harbor State Park
Sand Harbor State Park is a gorgeous state park located on the northeastern shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. One of the main attractions at Sand Harbor State Park is its stunning rock formations.
These towering boulders and cliffs, which rise out of the water, provide a dramatic backdrop to the beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Visitors can explore the park's numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks, which offer breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding landscape.
9. Sunbathe on Kings Beach
Kings Beach is a popular tourist destination known for its sandy beach and perfect waters. Located on the North Shore of the lake, Kings Beach enjoys sunshine in the mornings and early afternoon.
Kings Beach is a mile long and features a boardwalk, as well as several picnic areas and restrooms. This is a great spot for sunbathing, swimming, and boating at Lake Tahoe.
10. Discovering the Hidden Gem of Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake is a hidden gem located just a few miles south of Lake Tahoe, in the Nevada Mountains.
This stunning alpine lake is known for its crystal-clear waters, surrounded by dense forests and towering mountain peaks, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere that is perfect for relaxation and outdoor recreation.
11. Explore Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
Donner Memorial State Park is a popular tourist destination known for its rich history and beautiful natural surroundings.
The Donner Memorial State Park is named after the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who were stranded in the Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846-47.
Visitors to the park can explore the Emigrant Trail Museum, which tells the story of the Donner Party and the pioneer experience in California.
The Emigrant Trail museum features exhibits and artifacts related to the Donner Party, as well as displays about the local Native American tribes and the history of the area.
Created in memory of the Donner Party, Donner Memorial State Park honors the victims of this legendary group of pioneers.
Donner Memorial State Park encompasses Donner Lake and eight miles of trails, including the Lakeside Interpretive Trail.
12. Visit the Tallac Historic Site
The Tallac Historic Site is a collection of historic buildings located on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe in California, USA.
The Tallac Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public for tours and events.
These estates were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s and were owned by some of the most prominent families of the time, including lumber barons, politicians, and businesspeople.
13. Hike the Trail to Eagle Falls
Eagle Falls is a stunning waterfall located in the Nevada Mountains of California. The falls are part of the Emerald Bay State Park and are a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers.
The waterfall consists of two main drops, the upper and lower falls, which cascade down a granite cliff and into a rocky gorge below.
14. Go Rafting Along the Truckee River
The Truckee River is a beautiful and popular river that flows 121 miles (195 kilometers) through the Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada.
Rafting on the Truckee River is a thrilling and exciting experience that is suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters.
There are several rafting companies that offer guided trips on the Truckee River, providing visitors with all the necessary equipment, including rafts, paddles, and life jackets, as well as experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the river and its surroundings.
15. Brave the Tahoe Treetop Ropes Course
Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is an outdoor adventure park located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, USA.
The park offers a unique and exciting way to experience the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe through a series of ziplines, ropes courses, and other challenging obstacles.
16. Explore Carson Valley
Carson Valley is a scenic region located in Western Nevada. The valley is named after the Carson River, which flows through the region and provides water for the area's agriculture and ranching industries.
The valley is known for its beautiful scenery, outdoor recreation opportunities, and rich history. One of the most popular attractions in Carson Valley is the historic town of Genoa, which is considered to be Nevada's oldest settlement.
17. Visit Incline Village
Incline Village is a beautiful community located on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, in Western Nevada.
One of the most popular attractions in Incline Village is the nearby Diamond Peak Ski Resort, which offers a variety of skiing and snowboarding trails for all skill levels, as well as stunning views of Lake Tahoe.
The resort also offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails, as well as a cozy lodge with a fireplace and restaurant.
18. Zoom Down the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster
To all the adrenaline junkies out there, if there’s going to be anything that needs to appear on your list of things to do in Lake Tahoe, it’s the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster.
This gravity-powered mountain coaster is self-controlled, meaning that you choose the speed at which you rocket down the mountain.
Depending on your appetite for speed, it’s about a 6-minutes journey from the summit to the base.
19. Visit Lake Tahoe in Summer
Lake Tahoe is famous for being the largest alpine lake in North America. What better place to go in the hot summer months? Visitors can explore the lake's many bays and coves by boat, or take a leisurely drive around the lake's perimeter, which offers breathtaking views from every angle.
Lake Tahoe in the summer is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and vacationers looking to enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery. One popular activity during the summer months is taking a sunset dinner cruise on the lake.
Several companies offer cruises that provide a unique perspective of the lake while enjoying a delicious meal and drink. Your cruise will show you the North Shore, South Shore, West Shore, or Emerald Bay.
Another popular option when visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer is staying on the West Shore, which is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning views of the water. Visitors can swim, sunbathe, paddleboard, or kayak on the lake, or take a scenic hike in the nearby mountains.
For a truly unique summer experience, visitors can take a hot air balloon ride over Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe Balloons offers daily flights that provide stunning views of Lake Tahoe in the summer.
20. Visit the Zephyr Cove Marina
Zephyr Cove Marina is a popular destination on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, in Western Nevada.
The marina is known for its stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains, as well as its many recreational opportunities.
Visitors can swim, sunbathe, or enjoy a variety of water sports, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and parasailing.
21. Discovering Fannete Island in the Lake Tahoe Area
Fannette Island is a small island located in Emerald Bay, on the western shore of Lake Tahoe in California. The island is known for its natural beauty and intriguing history.
One of the most notable features of Fannette Island is the Tea House, which was built by Lora Knight, the owner of Vikingsholm, a nearby mansion that is now a state park. T
Visitors can reach Fannette Island by boat or kayak and can explore the island on foot.
22. Visit Lake Tahoe's Olympic Valley
Olympic Valley is a beautiful resort town located in the Nevada Mountains in Northern California, near the northern shore of Lake Tahoe.
The area is well-known for its skiing and snowboarding, with several popular ski resorts in the area, including Squaw Valley Ski Resort, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.
23. Visit Lake Tahoe Area - Desolation Wilderness
Desolation Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, USA.
The wilderness area covers approximately 63,000 acres and is managed by the United States Forest Service.
Desolation Wilderness is known for its stunning natural beauty, including granite peaks, alpine lakes, and pristine forests.
The area is a popular destination for hiking, backpacking, and camping, with over 100 miles of trails winding through the wilderness.
24. Sleep at Firelite Lodge
The Firelite Lodge is a cozy, family-owned hotel located in Tahoe Vista, California, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
The hotel offers comfortable accommodations and a range of amenities, including a hot tub.
The hot tub at the Firelite Lodge is a popular feature among guests, particularly after a long day of skiing or hiking in the nearby mountains.
The hot tub is located outdoors and offers stunning views of the surrounding area, including the nearby forest and mountains.
25. Explore Lake Tahoe's Sugar Bowl Resort
Sugar Bowl Resort is a ski and snowboarding resort located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, USA, near the summit of Donner Pass.
The resort is known for its beautiful alpine scenery, challenging terrain, and historic charm. The resort has a reputation for its steep runs, glades, and terrain parks that are popular among advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Sugar Bowl Resort also has a range of family-friendly activities and beginner slopes, making it a great destination for ice skating, skiers, and snowboarders of all skill levels.
26. Explore the North Lake Tahoe Area
North Lake Tahoe is a beautiful region located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
North Lake Tahoe offers a wide range of activities in California, including skiing and snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, water sports, and fishing.
27. Discover Tahoe National Forest and Enjoy Lake Tahoe
Tahoe Forest is a vast wilderness area covering over 800,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, near the Nevada border.
The forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife and natural features, including alpine lakes, mountain peaks, and dense forests. One popular activity in Tahoe National Forest is kayaking, particularly in the area around Tahoe City. There are several rental companies in the area that offer Tahoe City kayak rentals, allowing visitors to explore the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe at their own pace.
Another popular activity is taking a boat cruise on Lake Tahoe, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and crystal-clear waters. Visitors can choose from a variety of cruises, like sunset dinner cruises, or just set and have dinner on picnic tables in the forest.
The forest is home to several picnic areas, including Memorial Point Trail, where visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by beautiful scenery. For those looking to enjoy Lake Tahoe's waters, Timber Cove Marina is a popular destination for boating and water sports.
Overall, Tahoe National Forest offers a wealth of recreational opportunities for visitors to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of the California and Nevada border region.
28. Jump to El Dorado Wine Region and Nevada Beach
The El Dorado wine region is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, near the city of Placerville.
One unique feature of the wine region is its observation deck, which offers stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and towering pine trees.
Visitors can enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the beautiful scenery from the deck, making for a truly memorable experience.
In addition to the wine region, the area is also home to Nevada Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and crystal-clear water located on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe.
FAQs Regarding Things to Do in Lake Tahoe
Let's look at the most frequently asked questions relating to things to do in Lake Tahoe and around the region.
How can I spend 2 days in Lake Tahoe?
If you have 2 days to spend in Lake Tahoe, you could head to Squaw Valley, one of Lake Tahoe's most popular ski resorts, and spend the day exploring Squaw Valley ski runs. Or, visit one of the beaches at Emerald Bay. End the day by finding free parking near Heavenly Ski Resort and taking a gondola ride to the top for a stunning sunset view.
Start the second day by driving to Northstar California Resort. After lunch, head to one of the nearby marinas and rent scuba diving gear to explore the waters of Lake Tahoe.Spend the rest of the afternoon scuba diving and swimming in the lake.
What is there to do in Lake Tahoe besides gambling?
There are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe besides gambling. Lake Tahoe is a popular vacation destination that offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Try your hand at water sports, book some scenic cruises, and sunbathe on gorgeous beaches. Check out Dollar Point on Lake Tahoe's west shore.
What can you do in South Lake Tahoe with kids?
There are plenty of options for things to do in South Lake Tahoe with children. You can take them for a hike from Bliss State Park to Emerald Bay State Park, culminating in a picnic at the Emerald Bay Lookout. This is a long walk, so if you have younger kids, just a portion of the hike will be sufficient. South Lake Tahoe is also a great spot for fishing.
Summing Up: Fun & Unique Things to Do in Lake Tahoe
Whether you visit Lake Tahoe in the summer or during a more quiet season, there are endless ways to experience Lake Tahoe in style.
Whether you're looking for outdoor recreation, cultural experiences, or simply a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature, a visit to Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
With its crystal-clear waters, breathtaking landscapes, and endless opportunities for adventure, Lake Tahoe is a destination that truly has something for everyone.