An adventure lover’s paradise, downtown South Lake Tahoe is a great place to base yourself for lakeside exploring. For things to do in Lake Tahoe over spring break, go skiing or snowboarding at Northstar California Resort or Heavenly Ski Resort. Taking to the mountain is also one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids, along with visiting Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks.
As for unusual things to do in Lake Tahoe, why not visit Vikingsholm, the country’s finest example of Scandinavian architecture? If you’re looking for things to do in North Lake Tahoe instead, choose from beautiful beaches like Speedboat Beach, King’s Beach, and North Tahoe Beach. Keep reading for more downtown Lake Tahoe inspiration and for an extensive list of things to do in Lake Tahoe this weekend.
1. Emerald Bay
Centered on the lake’s biggest bay (coincidentally named Emerald Bay) and backdropped by mountains, Emerald Bay State Park is known as the area’s crown jewel. It’s as well-known for its breathtaking views as it is for being home to Vikingsholm Castle, one of the country’s finest examples of Scandinavian architecture. Other popular places to visit in Emerald Bay State Park include Eagle Falls, Mrs. Knight’s Teahouse on Fannette Island, Sand Harbor, and Emerald Bay Beach.
2. Eagle Falls
Eagle Falls is located within Emerald Bay State Park. From the Eagle Falls Trailhead, it’s only an easy two-mile round-trip to reach the falls and its panoramic lake views. Along the way, take time to soak up the surrounding natural landscape, which includes cascading waterfalls, lush mountain scenery, looming evergreens, and large granite peaks. From Eagle Falls, locals recommend continuing onto Eagle Lake. This is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe.
3. Squaw Valley Resort
Squaw Valley Ski Resort boasts one of the country’s largest ski areas. Besides skiing, other winter activities to enjoy on the mountainside include snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snow tubing, and panoramic aerial tram rides to High Camp. Sitting 8200 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains, High Camp is undoubtedly home to one of the world’s most scenic pools and hot tubs. As for summertime adventures, turn your attention towards Squaw Valley’s hiking trails.
Nicknamed Tahoe’s “hidden castle,” Vikingsholm is a 38-room mansion nestled on Emerald Bay’s shoreline. With a striking Scandinavian design and stone facade, Vikingsholm was built primarily from local materials and completed in 1929. It was the summer residence for heiress Lora Knight, who gathered inspiration for the design from Emerald Bay’s fjord-like setting. Today, visitors can join 30-minute guided tours of the property from May to September. Keep your eyes peeled for rare Scandinavian antiques.
5. Truckee River Rafting
One of the most adventurous things to do in Lake Tahoe is to raft down Truckee River, which has rapids ranging from easy to heart-pounding. The Truckee River begins near Carson Pass and flows into the lake. The most popular and scenic floating trip takes you from Tahoe City to River Ranch Pond. Local family-owned company Truckee River Rafting offers commercial-grade rafts for this self-guided raft trip, with a return shuttle service to Tahoe City.
6. Fannette Island
Another highlight of the spectacular Emerald Bay State Park is Fannette Island. The lake’s only island, the uninhabited granite isle is home to the remains of Mrs. Knight’s Teahouse from the 1920s – the heiress behind Vikingsholm. Fannette Island can be accessed by boat or kayak and there are rental companies available at both Meeks Bay or South Lake Tahoe. Alternatively, get up close to Fannette Island on a narrated sightseeing cruise or speedboat tour.
7. Cave Rock
Created over three million years ago, Cave Rock is a craggy rock formation nestled on the lake’s southeastern shore. Arguably the lake’s most significant geological feature, to the local Washoe Indian Tribe, Cave Rock is a sacred site filled with a spiritual energy that was once used for religious ceremonies. When you view Cave Rock from the lake, it looks like the profile of a woman’s face. You can visit Cave Rock via a short 15-minute hike.
8. Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa
Montbleu Resort, Casino, and Spa is a one-stop entertainment destination. It’s home to a 45,000 square-foot casino; both the city’s hottest nightclub and its largest indoor entertainment venue that hosts international artists; a 12th-floor wedding chapel with lake views; and seven onsite bars and restaurants, including the award-winning Ciera steakhouse. Then there is the resort section, with over 400 guest rooms and suites alongside an indoor lagoon-style pool and a full-service salon and spa.
9. Sand Harbor State Park
Sitting on the lake’s eastern shore, Sand Harbor State Park features crystal-clear water, a welcoming beach, and submerged rock formations. Popular activities at the park include swimming, kayaking, scuba diving, and boating as there are two boat launches. Fortunately, there are watersport rental facilities available along the beachfront. Outside of the water, Sand Harbor State Park has plenty of shaded picnic tables under pine trees and it hosts the city’s annual Shakespeare Festival every summer.
10. Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks
Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks features three different aerial adventure parks, but each one is “uniquely Tahoe”. Tahoe City Treetop is one option, with 10 courses in total that suit all experience levels. Combined, they feature 97 tree platforms connected by 60 events/bridges and 27 zip lines. Next is the Squaw Valley Treetop with a 50-ft Alpine Tower, vertical climbing events, and the Leap of Faith. Finally, the Tahoe Vista Treetop coincidentally features lake views.
11. Granlibakken Ski & Sled Hill
A visit to Granlibakken Ski and Sled Hill is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Lake Tahoe. Kids will love sledding down the hill in plastic saucers or learning to ski and snowboard on the intimate ski hill that’s perfect for beginners. Granlibakken also offers easy access to miles of the city’s best cross country skiing and snowshoeing terrain. Visitors will also find cozy lodging onsite, as well as a rental shop.
12. Inspiration Point
For inspiring views over the lake, head directly to Inspiration Point. Located along Highway 89 (ensure you park in the designated parking lot) and nestled between towering pine trees, the viewpoint towers 600 feet above the lake and overlooks Emerald Bay. From Inspiration Point and its connected paved trails, capture amazing photos of the surrounding landscape and Emerald Bay State Park’s most popular attractions, including Fannette Island and Vikingsholm Castle. Locals recommend visiting for sunset.
13. Northstar California Resort
Northstar California Resort is home to more than 100 trails and eight terrain parks across 3000 acres of skiable terrain. Geared towards intermediate skiers and snowboarders, the resort also offers snow tubing and cross country skiing in winter. Come summer, the ski runs transform into 100 miles of mountain biking trails. Northstar California Resort is also home to the area’s only five-star ski lodge and a village that contains upscale shops, a luxurious spa, and restaurants.
14. Truckee River Bike Trail
If you don’t want to take to the Truckee River on a self-guided rafting trip, why not ride beside the river and follow the Truckee River Bike Trail instead? The five-mile paved walk and bike path follows the river from Squaw Valley to Tahoe City. With iconic riverfront views and surrounded by pine trees, walking or riding along the Truckee River Bike Trail is one of the top outdoorsy things to do in Lake Tahoe.
15. Lake Tahoe Boat Cruise
One of the best ways to take in the lake’s incredible crystal-clear water and surrounding lush mountainous backdrop is to go on a boat cruise. Fortunately, several local tour companies offer a variety of boat cruise options. Action Watersports of Tahoe offer scenic Emerald Bay cruises and the Tahoe Thunder High-Speed Boat Ride. Alternatively, Tahoe Cruises hosts several guided cruises onboard the Safari Rose, which is known as the lake’s largest and most luxurious yacht.
16. Tahoe Adventure Company
Tahoe Adventure Company offers high-quality trips and tours that allow visitors to experience the area’s surrounding natural landscape – from the lakeside to the mountaintop – alongside experienced and friendly guides. On the water, they offer kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding tours, rentals, and lessons. Land-based adventures include mountain bike tours, hiking and backpacking trips, and rock climbing excursions. Along with guided snowshoe tours and custom and multisport adventures, the company covers all bases and seasons.
17. Tahoe Maritime Museum
Established in 1988, Tahoe Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving the lake’s maritime history, through a permanent collection that includes historic vessels alongside inboard and outboard engines, a steamer room, photographs, memorabilia, and other artifacts. Its Watercraft Collection includes 30 different vessels that combine to tell diverse stories of the lake’s past. The collection includes Shanghai, a 1980s steam launch salvaged from the lake bed; Miss Lakeside, a 1925 Hickman Sea Sled; and 1960s powerboats.
18. D.L. Bliss State Park
D.L. Bliss State Park is located on the lake’s pristine western shore, just north of the aforementioned Emerald Bay State Park. Its most notable feature is Rubicon Point Light, which is the country’s highest-elevation lighthouse. Follow the short nature trail to Balancing Rock or dip into the lake’s turquoise water from the state park’s two popular beaches: Lester Beach and Calawee Cove. D.L. Bliss State Park is also home to a 165-site campground.
19. Tallac Historic Site
Over 100 years ago, the Tallac Historic Site was known as the world’s grandest resort. The summer retreat for three elite Bay Area families, today people can visit the restored estates – Baldwin, Pope, and Valhalla Estates – to remember this illustrious era in the area’s history. Open from Memorial Day weekend to September, it’s free to visit the site and the Baldwin Museum, but there are also a selection of paid guided tours available.
20. Eagle Rock Hiking Trail
Not to be confused with the previously mentioned Eagle Falls, Eagle Rock is an eroded dormant volcano and granite rock formation located on the lake’s western shoreline. Beginning from an outcrop off Highway 89, the Eagle Rock Hiking Trail is an easy 1.5-mile out and back route. Visitors will be rewarded with epic lake, valley, and surrounding mountain views after only 15 to 20 minutes of hiking and climbing over rocks and logs.
21. Heavenly Valley Gondola
Another place to visit for amazing views is Heavenly Ski Resort. Take the 2.4-mile ride up the mountainside in the Heavenly Mountain Gondola for panoramic vistas from the Observation Deck. The summit is also home to a cozy cafe and The Gondola Sports store, which even sells Heavenly souvenirs. In summer, adventurous visitors can then take the Tamarack Express chairlift once at the top to access a series of easy and challenging hiking trails.