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Winter in Lake Tahoe has so much to offer. World-famous for its winter sports, skiers and snowboarders from all around gather here in the snow season, for good reason.
Here’s a little secret for you though: You don’t need to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy winter in Lake Tahoe!
My Story in South Lake Tahoe
A blizzard in February, a stranded traveler, and a lake in the mountains. After getting stuck in a snowstorm in South Lake Tahoe, I found myself in a hotel with nothing but what was squeezed into the back of my car.
I had been on the road for two months, car camping across the US. I fell in love with Tahoe’s beauty after just a few days of exploring and made the leap to settle there. Working as a hotel concierge and exploring on my own, I learned everything to do in South Lake Tahoe.
Without skis, I found other ways to spend my free time. Let me assure you, there is plenty to do! From outdoor adventures to excellent dining, you’ll find a great time whether you plan to hit the slopes or not. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this town just like I did.
See the Sights
If you don’t plan on riding a ski lift on your trip, you should at least take a turn on the Heavenly Gondola. Though it’s only a twenty-minute ride, the views you will have on your way up will be incredible. The mountains, the vast lake, the town. You’ll want to go up again and again.
If you want an experience from lake level, you’ll want to hop on a Lake Tahoe cruise. Tahoe cruises run year-round from Ski Run Boulevard, the Tahoe Keys Marina, and Zephyr Cove. The winter season is the prime time: the water is glassy and blue, and all the mountains are snow-capped. These cruises take you to Emerald Bay, one of the most photographed places in the US. You’ll understand the name once you visit!
Embrace the Winter
You can still get outside and get moving withing skiing or snowboarding. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing are great alternatives.
Snowmobiling around Tahoe is an awesome experience. Take a backcountry tour through the woods on the mountains and see the lake from a view! Lake Tahoe Adventures, Zephyr Cove’s Snowmobiling Experience, and Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours are the most popular options. All are often fully booked even a week in advance, so make sure to reserve before your trip. If you would rather stay in a controlled space and snowmobile on a track, you can stay downtown in Stateline, NV, and visit Tahoe Snowmobiles.
Snowshoeing in the mountains is my personal favorite. With hundreds of miles of trails surrounding the area, Lake Tahoe is great for hiking in all seasons. Bring your own or rent snowshoes at most of the local ski and snowboard shops like Tahoe Dave’s or Snowshoe Thompson’s.
For a flat snowshoe walk, go to Fallen Leaf Lake. It is free to park and will have beautiful snowshoe tracks along the water or in the wooded trail system. This is a great option for kids and dogs, as you can reach the lake in under a mile or extend your snowshoe walk for as long as you like. Bald Eagles are often spotted near this lake, so keep an eye out!
When you want a more intense snowshoe hike, the Maggie’s Peaks trail is a fantastic choice. This is a workout at 2,000 ft elevation gain, but the views are incredible. Secret tip: Maggie’s Peaks are one of the best spots for sunrise. If you’re up for a cold morning, go watch Lake Tahoe light up! Just be prepared.
Grab a Bite
Cold winter days require warm delicious food to recharge you for the next adventures. No matter how you spent your day, end it with a visit to one of these restaurant gems.
For a hearty German meal, go to the Himmel Haus. Situated next to Heavenly Ski Resort, it is a haven for skiers, snowboarders, and anyone wanting to cozy up with a Belgian brew and some unique comfort food. There, you can enjoy traditional German dishes like schnitzel, spaetzle, delicious hand-made pretzels, and more.
Macduff’s Pub, another local favorite, is a stop you won’t want to miss. Eat inside and enjoy the traditional Irish pub aesthetic or sit outside within one of their private heated huts. Have a seat with friends or family, and choose yourself a special from one of the local breweries. Most importantly, try Macduff’s signature truffle mac n cheese! It’s plenty large enough to split between two or three.
For a nice dinner that won’t break the bank, try the Bear Moon Bar and Grill. This restaurant is right in town but hidden inside a local hotel, Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort. The resort guests shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy these chef-crafted creations. The dining room has a view of the lake, which is gorgeous when snow lies on the beach. My personal favorite dishes are the ahi wonton tacos and their delicious Atlantic salmon.
If you like to gamble, the Hard Rock Casino has three fantastic restaurants. Park Prime is a classy steak and seafood grill, with great cocktails and amazing steak options. The Oyster Bar has incredible gumbo, jambalaya, oysters (of course!), and chowders. Get there early- the Oyster Bar doesn’t take reservations and it fills up fast. The Alpine Union is a less pricy option inside the casino, with that family-restaurant feel (and great burgers).
Experience Lake Tahoe
You don’t have to ski to love Lake Tahoe. You can still have an outdoor adventure and see the lake, and regardless of what you do, there are cozy restaurants to grab a hot meal in.
Start planning your trip for this winter!
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