Why Lake Tahoe is the Best Place for Your Next Vacation

July 5, 2019

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous freshwater lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, known for its skiing and beaches. Surrounded by state parks and plenty of places to stay, this vacation hotspot has grown in popularity over the years. If you’re thinking about visiting, here are a few of the things you need to do there.

Tubing at Heavenly

Heavenly boasts the mother of all tubing hills. With five 500-foot-long lanes and a stomach-reeling 65-foot vertical drop, this is the biggest tubing setup on the West Coast. You’ll find it at Adventure Peak, where there’s also sledding and ski-bike rentals along with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe during the gondola ride up. Heavenly’s base village lies in the heart of South Lake Tahoe, with shopping and restaurants aplenty. When you’re ready to take a break from all the down-on-the-ground action, head to the South Lake Tahoe Airport, about a 10-minute drive, for a scenic tour with Reno Tahoe Helicopters. Your kids will be thrilled to don headsets and hover in the air; and everyone will enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the lake and the Sierra peaks.

Fly Through the Sky at Kirkwood

The newest member of the Vail Resorts family, Kirkwood is a great place for kids to go fast and furious. Open weekends and holidays, the Kids’ Adventure Zone at the Timber Creek base area combines tubing, sledding and—extra cool—a place for kids to drive mini-snowmobiles around a track (as long as they’re under 100 pounds). But how about zooming through the air? The recently built Zip Tahoe, for ages 8 and up, has eight ziplines and three sky bridges that run above the forest along the ski area slopes. Taking zippers as high as 75 feet above ground and as fast as 35 miles per hour is thrilling and most certainly not for the faint of heart. 

The Ultimate Après-Ski Hangout at Northstar

The Village at Northstar is the most happening place for kids to hang out in Tahoe when the lifts shut down. A 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink anchors the scene, surrounded by cabanas and fire pits that families stake out starting in the mid-afternoon. If you notice an alien elbowing aside your s’mores stick, don’t panic—it’s just Northstar’s mascot Marty the Martian, who entertains daily during après-ski. Kiosks in the plaza sell crepes, waffles and other tasty snacks, and the Rubicon Pizza Company is often packed with youngsters when it’s time for something more substantial. Northstar offers tubing for on-snow family fun, but if your kids don’t mind propelling themselves by their own power, check out the mid-mountain Nordic center. Guided family snowshoe tours run along the center’s trails once a month and end with hot chocolate and cookies. Or for something different, you can test your family collaboration and treasure-hunting skills by geocaching on snowshoes or cross-country skis; several caches are hidden just off the Nordic trails, and the center rents GPS units.

Snowmobiles and Swimming at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows

Last year’s merger between these two adjacent resorts was big news, but for now Squaw remains the top draw for off-slope kids’ activities. At the base area SnoVentures zone, kids ages 6 to 12 can ride their own mini snowmobile around a track to get a taste of big mountain adventure. It’s a blast for parents too, as they’ll no doubt watch the video of their burgeoning motorhead for years to come. Kids may not believe it when they hear they can swim on the mountain, but it’s true: Squaw’s legendary mid-mountain High Camp complex has a large free-form pool and a hot tub, as well as a skating rink that’s open all winter. Because High Camp can be accessed via Squaw’s aerial tram, it’s a good place to hang out on a non-ski day while still being in the mountain environment. Several restaurants and cafes offer breakfast and lunch here as well.

The Star Wars Experience at Sierra-at-Tahoe

At this laid-back resort just south of the lake, kids ages 3 to 6 don’t have to be huge fans of Luke Skywalker, or even know what a Jedi is, to love the Burton Star Wars Experience. They just need a snowboard and a sense of adventure. Opened last January, this collaboration between Burton Snowboards and Lucasfilm is designed specifically for peewee shredders. They’ll start indoors on a special balance board, then quickly progress to the mini-terrain park outside, with decorated Star Wars characters and interactive features that help kids learn to maneuver and control their snowboards. And the boards have retractable leashes so instructors can tow toddlers who haven’t quite mastered the art of sliding on their own. Sierra also has Blizzard Mountain, a great option for young kids who aren’t ready to ski or board. Located next to the base, it has a gentle tubing hill and a snow play area.