For those craving a magical, snow-filled holiday, Lake Tahoe delivers a picturesque winter wonderland worthy of your precious vacation time. From fun-filled family excursions to romantic wine sipping or cuddling by the fireside getaways, the destination glistens with opportunities to make it your most memorable winter trip yet. Enjoy scenic vistas, snow sports, five-star spa resorts and more. Here are the top reasons to visit Lake Tahoe now.
First, A Quick Primer
Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, straddling the Nevada-California state line. It’s about an eight-hour drive from Los Angeles and four-hour drive from San Francisco. To get to Tahoe by air, you’ll most likely fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), then take a 45-minute scenic trek by car to Lake Tahoe. It’s about an hour to fly to RNO from San Francisco and an hour and a half from LA. Note that North Lake Tahoe (the California side) is mellower, with more backcountry to explore, while South Tahoe (the Nevada side) has more of a nightlife/bachelorette party/casino vibe.
Be mindful of best practices for winter driving. Even with a four-wheel drive, you may want to invest in snow chains. You don’t want the big snowstorm that’s delivering all that sweet powder for your ski runs and snowboarding to sideline you before you even make it there. Did I mention how beautiful it is? To repeat: It’s so beautiful. Make time to savor the scenic overlooks and ridge vistas. Breathe in the crisp, cold air. Relax. You’re on “mountain time” now.
How to Live It Up, Tahoe Style
Tonier options in North Lake Tahoe include The Village At Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley with slope-side lodging. Many rooms include fully stocked kitchens, fireplaces and heated bathroom/kitchen floors. Here you’ll also find Trilogy Spa at Squaw Valley and Wanderlust Yoga Studio. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, The Cedar House Sport Hotel and Resort at Squaw Creek are also good options. South Lake Tahoe choices include Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, The Landing Resort & Spa, Grand Residences by Marriott, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino and Marriott’s Timber Lodge.
There are also fantastic AirBnb opportunities with A-frame, two-story, multi-bedroom homes, fully furnished with fireplaces and enough pots and pans for a holiday feast. Ask if you can haul in an actual Christmas tree and snuggle up through New Year’s.
To optimize your overall mountain experience, be smart with your spa choices. Opt for massages to ease you into a sports-filled week free of injury. You may also want to seek out oxygen therapy, amenities that help with altitude sickness, seasonal treatments (you must try the Ritz Carlton Cinnamon Maple Mani-Pedi) and facials that hydrate parched, wind-burned winter skin.
For food, you have options: après ski, fine dining, dining with a lake and/or mountain views. PlumpJack Café in Squaw Valley offers some seriously soul-satisfying poutine, the Quebecois classic of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. Haute versions are made with duck confit and other high-end ingredients.
Play and Be Merry on the Mountain
Of course you’re here to play in the snow! World-renowned ski resort Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. The resort has 3,600 acres of skiable terrain, 29 lifts, and terrific and affordable beginner ski packages. There’s also snow boarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snow tubing (see disco tubing!), dog sledding, snowmobile riding, ice skating and more. Skiers and snowboarders also have options at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar Ski Resort and Kirkwood Ski Resort.
So many of the resorts offer rich holiday-themed experiences. At Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, for example, the Merry Days and Holly Nights include special dining and entertainment events like The Twisted Nutcracker, an irreverent take on the classic. There’s also a brunch with Santa, a visit to the Toccata Tahoe Symphony, an Ice Garden and Sleigh rides, a Christmas Eve dinner at High Camp, farm to table dinners, the “World’s Largest Torchlight Parade” on New Year’s Eve (register in advance) and more.
In South Lake Tahoe the Heavenly Holidays family festival runs Dec. 8-31; the SnowGlobe electronic music festival returns Dec. 29-31; and the casinos are hosting a variety of musical acts to keep you reveling through New Year’s Eve.