There was no better way on our Californian road trip after the bright lights of San Francisco to relax and take stock of the natural beauty around us. Lake Tahoe was a place I had heard of, as a ski resort for the west coast urban population to head to the slopes, but as a summer retreat well that was a new one on me!
On paper it was my “American dream”, surrounded by mountains but with dazzling blue waters and white sandy beaches, a rugged Caribbean! My American dream became a reality and Tahoe now has a special place in my holiday top ten list. You see a place can have beauty but be soulless and empty, but Tahoe has a special vibe… a beautiful place to relax and enjoy in the day and at night that ski season low-key party vibe comes to life to create a heady mix of laid back glamour and authenticity.
No ones checking out what you are wearing , where you are eating, what you did that day, it’s all about celebrating the fact that you are relaxing and enjoying the best of life – outdoors, sun, music and family time. When I think of Tahoe now I remember three things – the beach, the firefits outside all the restaurants where you can sit and chill with a cool beer or wine and the many singers/bands set up along the road side restaurants just adding to the atmosphere. So, if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Tahoe’s summer then be sure to add these experiences and ideas to your list:)
1. Bag yourself a private beach
Believe me that’s easier than you think! With so many beaches around the lake you will be sure to be able to carve out your own section of beach without a person in sight. Perfect when you have a six-year-old lad who loves to kick a football around. The lake side beaches are set up to make a day of it with shaded picnic benches, plenty of restrooms and BBQs for that early eve feast as the sun goes down. The waters are crystal clear and calm which is ideal for little kids and you can also hire kayaks for a potter around near the shoreline.
A day pass gives you access to a number of beaches, we based ourselves around South Lake Tahoe the larger of the conurbations around the lake and fell in love with Pope Beach. It’s the sort of place that you can’t help just sitting and staring. Lake Tahoe itself is a revelation, a feat of nature, the largest Alpine lake in North America at a whopping 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, formed 2 million years ago. At at 6255ft high it sits in the Sierra Nevada and straddles the state line between California and Nevada.
2. Visit Emerald Bay State Park
A short drive from South Lake Tahoe takes you to the gem of a place, glacier carved Emerald Bay is a photographers dream. Be sure to pull over off the road to take in this beautiful view. The contrast of the blue waters and green forest are like something from a dream. You can also visit the Vikingsholm Castle a Scandi style mansion whilst you are in the area. On route to Emerald State Park there are also plenty of other beaches to visit along the way.
3. Find your mojo in Heavenly Village!
I am not a fan of staying in the thick of it, outside of large cities, preferring to retreat to somewhere where we need to drive in and out for evening meals and activities. This time however we based ourselves in South Lake Tahoe the main town around the lake.
Based here is Heavenly village (just love the name) which in winter is really the epicentre of the ski resort. There is even the Heavenly Gondola which runs through the summer and from the observation deck at the top you get amazing views of the whole of Tahoe at over 9000ft!
We stayed at the Lake Tahoe Resort hotel (literally on the state border to Nevada). Geared up for ski holidays but equally great as a summer choice with good-sized rooms and a great all-inclusive breakfast to set you up for the day. This hotel is also priced reasonably for a family. The hotel restaurant was also a great choice for meals in the evening.
The beauty of being central was we were able to venture straight out and enjoy the early evening entertainment. Often at restaurants we had dinner and then had a quick game of cards/kids did some activities around the fire pit – America is so geared up for kids having fun and adults having some chill time! We discovered new outdoor games like Cornhole (I had never heard of this game where people throw bean bags into a raised platform!) but such great fun and enables you as a family to stay out a little longer whilst mum/dad nurse a glass of wine or beer! The village also had shops, a great mini golf course and live low-key bands to add to the atmosphere. And for those that like something a bit more grown up a 2 minute walk takes you to the Casinos of Nevada (not my thing but very popular!).
So thank you Tahoe, you will always have a special place in my travel heart and you left me refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge on our Californian road trip – Yosemite we are coming to get you!