South Lake Tahoe

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California South Lake Tahoe

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Introduction

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

© Reece Sanford

South Lake Tahoe is a small city in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the central east of California with around 25,000 inhabitants. It is a popular tourist place, both in summer as well as in winter.

Located at the meeting point of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the world. South Lake Tahoe, the largest town around the lake, is situated on the south shore and offers beautiful views of mountains covered with fir and pine trees, deep blue water year-round, and a wealth of outdoor activities. A popular location for skiers and snowboarders during the snowy winter season, Lake Tahoe is also home to miles of beaches for sun-tanning, boating, water skiing, and swimming in the summer. Both the north and south shores offer plenty of hiking and biking trails and retreats for campers. On the Nevada side of the town (Stateline, NV), is a long stretch of more than ten casinos--a haven for those looking for a world-class gambling experience.

Originally a town of several smaller communities, South Lake Tahoe has developed into one large area consisting of approximately 21,000 permanent residents. The population fluctuates massively in the winter, and triples around New Years, as there is a massive influx of tourists visiting for the holiday season. There are two main parts of South Lake Tahoe: the Western part of town, centered around "The Y" - the X-shaped intersection of US Highway 50 and California state highway 89, and the Eastern part, centered around the CA-NV state border. The former is distinctly residential, and the latter is distinctly commercial - it is the home of all the casinos and larger hotels, and Heavenly's Gondola starts in this area.

Traveling from "The Y" toward Stateline, motels, hotels, resorts, and small businesses line Highway 50, before arriving at 'Heavenly Village' a town center created at the foot of the Heavenly ski resort's Gondola. Heavenly Village is comprised of shops, restaurants and two Marriott resort hotels. There is also a multi-story parking garage at Heavenly Village. Heavenly Village is the center of activity for the majority of visitors to the South Lake Tahoe region, and is bustling with activity year-round.

One block northeast of Heavenly Village is the official California-Nevada state line, and the unincorporated settlement of Stateline, Nevada, which is home to four major resort casinos, and two smaller local casinos.

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Sights and Activities

Take the Heavenly Gondola to see a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe (Winter and Summer).

During summer, a number of trails of varying difficulties will provide incredible views of the South Lake area as well. For a strenuous, but entirely worth it, day hike, hike to Star Lake from High Meadow Trail (roughly 6 miles uphill to 9000 ft) for an incredibly serene lake which is great for fishing and/or camping (be sure to get a fire/campstove permit from USFS!). If that hike doesn't tire you out, continue the extra two miles west on the Tahoe Rim Trail to the Freel Saddle, where you can begin the steep 1.2 mile ascent to the top of Freel Peak (10,886 ft) which is the tallest peak/best view in the Lake Tahoe basin. If you so choose, you can walk an easy few miles across the range to Job's Sister at 10,600 ft for impressive views of the Carson range.

Take a cruise on the lake on board the Tahoe Queen.

Drive to Emerald Bay, which features the only island on the lake.

In Summer, hike the Heavenly trails or take a day hike on a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail for some incredible views of the lake and surrounding areas. Find a bike rental and explore the town and the beaches, or head into a marina and take a boat out on the lake. DL Bliss state park offers some great swimming and cliff jumping; there are many other beautiful spots to take a break from boating at as well.

Lake Tahoe has a ton to offer mountain bikers of all skill levels. On the South side of the lake, Powerline, Gunmount, Incense Cedar and Sidewinder are good trails for intermediate riders. More advanced riders will enjoy Corral Trail, which starts at the same place as Sidewinder (3 miles up Fountain Place/Oneidas Rd). Ride the extra mile past Corral Trailhead on the paved road for a fun, technical downhill called Armstrong Connector, or keep going on the singletrack uphill for Armstrong Pass/Tahoe Rim Trail. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the most technical downhill trail in South Lake, located on Highway 89 near Luther Pass.

In Winter, ski or snowboard at one of the resorts nearby. Heavenly is located on the stateline of California and Nevada (right by the casinos); Sierra is located about 20 minutes away just west of Meyers, CA; Kirkwood is roughly 45 minutes south of the lake located on Highway 88.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

The most common route into South Lake Tahoe is via the nearest major city, Reno, Nevada. Reno International Airport provides transit to and from the Tahoe basin for a minimal fee.

International and transcontinental travelers typically fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO IATA), and make the journey via Sacramento on I-80 and US-50, though Sacramento International Airport and Reno International airport are also viable hubs for shorter-distance travelers.

US Route 50 accesses Lake Tahoe via Echo Summit, a windy mountain grade that descends nearly 1,000 feet before entering the unincorporated community of Meyers, California. Alternately, Highway 89 enters the Lake Tahoe Basin via Nevada, winding over Luther Pass. SR-89 and US-50 intersect in Meyers. Highway 50 continues through Carson City, NV, ascending over Daggett Pass, before merging with Nevada Highway 395.

Entering from the Northern side of the Lake is Interstate-80, which provides access from both Sacramento and Reno.

During Tahoe's cold, snowy winters, road closures and traffic are not uncommon, as ice poses a hazard, as does the risk of avalanche, particularly on Highway 89, which wraps around the Western shore of the lake. Inexperienced winter drivers, coupled with mandatory chain-installation stops create highway backups during inclement weather. As snow has been reported 12 months a year, vehicles with four-wheel drive are a necessity for locals, and an important option for visitors to have on their vehicles.

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Getting Around

Bus service around the South Lake Tahoe area is provided by BlueGo, which operates a fleet of environmentally-friendly buses, and in the winter, both the Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resorts have their own bus services, which are free and meant to shuttle skiers to and from their hotels and motels. There are also several taxi services, however these are in very high demand in the winter, and waits of 30-60 minutes are not uncommon in peak times.

During summer months, BlueGo offers transportation around the South Shore both by their bus service, but also by several streetcar-like trolleys under the name "Nifty Fifty Trolley", in reference to US Route 50, South Tahoe's main road, and the route upon which they travel.

All major locations around the Heavenly Village area such as the stateline casinos, are within walking distance (one quarter mile) of each other. There are underground walkways between the major casinos.

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Eat

  • The Beacon. In Camp Richardson provides a beautiful waterfront view, live music, their famous rum runners, and good food for less than the casinos.
  • Blue Dog Pizza. It's just next to Raleys, near the Heavenly Gondola. Good pizza, informal atmosphere (read: loud), and friendly service.
  • Base Camp Pizza Co. A new pasta/pizza restaurant located in the village near the gondola (next to Coldstone Creamery and the parking garage).
  • Cabo Wabo Cantina. In the basement of Harveys Casino, it's owned by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame.
  • Fire and Ice. Below the Marriott. Great if you want a sports bar with a BBQ pit.
  • Freshies, 3330 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530-542-3630. Hawaiian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Their outside seating is on the roof, with a marvelous view of the lake across the street. Friendly and informal atmosphere. Go during sunset for great views. Moderate prices. Reservations not acceptededit
  • Sprouts Cafe, 3125 Harrison Ave (Cross-street Lake Tahoe Blvd), ☎ +1 530 541-6969. Organic food including sandwiches, vegetarian or meat burritos, nachos, and salads. Smoothies and coffees. Order at the counter. Friendly service.

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Drink

There are plenty of bars in the Casinos. This is where most of the night life is situated.
Just outside the casinos is the Heavenly village, home to Base Camp Pizza Company, Fire & Ice, Stateline Brewery and Peppers-- all serving various drinks and great happy hour specials.
The Dory's Oar and Tudor Pub, Fremont Ave (just off Highway 50) offers dishes inspired by Bay Area bistros and cuisine. Using only the freshest ingredients and simple presentation, Dory's Oar serves tapas, salads, steak and seafood, and classic pub fare.
Of all the Heavenly Base Lodges, make sure you take a look at Boulder on the Nevada side, up Kingsbury Grade. It has one of the friendliest bars on the mountain.

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Sleep

  • Peaks Resort and Beach Club, 931 Park Ave, toll-free: +1-866-500-4886. Pet friendly, comfortable and well priced. Pool, and year round, multi-level hot tub. 3 1/2 wings of rooms available with or without, kitchenettes and full size kitchens. Fireplace in some rooms.
  • Best Western Timber Cove Lodge, 3411 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 541-6722, fax: +1 530 541-7959. Sports equipment for hire on the beach (kayaks, SeaDoo, water trikes, etc). Clean rooms, well-kept grounds with flower beds, etc. Some rooms have a lake view, but be aware that some of the rooms with lake view are 'partial' views, and they won't guarantee particular rooms—any room closer than the pool is considered lake view/lake front (more $$$). Top floor rooms are much quieter - the rooms are poorly sound insulated between floors. Friendly, if inexperienced staff. Includes simple continental breakfast (coffee, juice, toast, etc). Pool. Two casual restaurants, a Safeway right across the street, nearby coin-operated laundry, and walking distance to Long's Drugs and Heidi's, for breakfast. In summer, frequently hosts weddings, so you should expect wedding dance music until 10PM, and starting again at 9:30AM.
  • Forest Suites Resort, One Lake Parkway, ☎ +1 530 541-6655.
  • Lakeland Village Beach and Mountain Resort, 3535 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 544-1685, fax: +1 530 544-0193. Each room has a deck or balcony, fireplace, fully equipped kitchen/kitchenette, complimentary shuttle service for the south lake area, as well as exclusive private beach access on Lakeland's quarter mile beach. Some town-homes are available with lake-view or lakefront. 2 swimming pools and a children's wadding pool heated to 82 degrees, and 2 hot tubs heated to 102 degrees (only 1 pool and both hot tubs available in winter). Tennis courts, ping pong, volleyball, kayaks, and paddle boats, all available seasonally. Two saunas and fitness center available year round. Complimentary access to dock and buoys. Children's activities available during the summer. During the winter months you may rent all your ski or snowboard equipment at Lakeland's on site rental shop, pick up a discounted lift ticket from the front desk to any of Tahoe's premier ski resorts, and if you're headed to Heavenly use Lakeland Village's free shuttle to get there. During ski season there is a complimentary continental breakfast available. Lakeland Village welcomes groups and has two conference centers available for rent.
  • Motel 6, 2375 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 542-1400, fax: +1 530 542-2801. This is a very large Motel 6.
  • Royal Valhalla on the Lake, 4104 Lakeshore Blvd, toll-free: +1-800-999-4104. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM.
  • Park Tahoe Inn, 4011 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 544-6000. The Park Tahoe Inn is a pet friendly hotel located right across from the Heavenly Gondola Resort.
  • Tahoe Keys Resort, 599 Tahoe Keys Blvd, toll-free: +1-800-698-2463.
  • The Avalon Lodge, 4075 Manzanita Ave, toll-free: +1-888-544-STAY (7829). New beds, in room fireplaces, flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations, free WiFi, complimentary continental breakfast, outdoor pool, and whirlpool. Pets welcome, too.
  • Heavenly Valley Lodge Bed & Breakfast (previously Inn at Heavenly), 1261 Ski Run Blvd (1/2 mile up from the Lake, off the 50, or Lake Tahoe Blvd), ☎ +1 530 564-1500. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon. Newly renovated, new beds, linens, furniture, decorations and amenities. In-room fireplaces, ceiling fans, flatscreen TV, with DVD player and library of 400+ complimentary movies, iPod docking stations, kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast. 4 outdoor patios, with a large open park with outdoor games, and the property is off the beaten track, set back amongst tall Pines. Dogs welcome. The Heavenly shuttle bus stops right outside the property offering Ski-In/Ski-Out convenience for skiiers and snowboarders. $89-$275.
  • Vagabond Inn South Lake Tahoe, 3892 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 544-3642, fax: +1 530 544-2738. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM.
  • Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe, 3961 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☎ +1 530 544-5900, toll-free: +1-877-834-3613. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12PM.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in South Lake Tahoe

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This is version 10. Last edited at 9:42 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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