The kids are screaming in the backseat, asking you “Are we there yet?!”, or defending themselves with such lines as “I didn’t have to go then!”and you feel as if the road trip will never end. Then, suddenly, you drop down from the mountains and there it is, the deepest blues of South Lake Tahoe. You have arrived. And the kids quiet down to look out in awe over the landscape. What an incredible place to see! Your only other questions revolve around the interests of your family. What is there to do for families in South Lake Tahoe? We know of the casinos, the nightlife, and the entertainment, but most of what you’ve heard is primarily 21+ which definitely leaves out your kids, but sitting at a playground all day doesn’t feel like a Tahoe vacation in the slightest. Have no fear! The family friendly faces and place of South Lake Tahoe are here to help!
Whether you’re checking into a hotel or setting up camp somewhere along the water, you’re still wanting to work out an itinerary for the weekend. Here are some suggestions to help you through your visit. Some are very popular choices, and others are things that you may not have known you could do in South Lake Tahoe.
Introduce the Kids to Tessie!
Yes it’s true! Tahoe has it’s own special creature! Her name is Tessie, and she is the mythical mascot of Lake Tahoe. Her appearance is a much more friendly version of the Loch Ness monster – she is not a monster at all, but a gentle algea-eating creature who hangs out in the deep parts of the lake and helps fisherman and people in danger on the water.
The stories about Tessie are wide and varied, chronicling her heroic exploits and benevolent heart. Gift shops have a number of souvenirs that bear a likeness to her, and you can even take the kids out in search of her! That’s right, South Lake Tahoe cruise ship captains are happy to enlighten the kids with tales and little known “facts” about Tessie, and may even help them search for her! A popular cruise is the Tahoe Queen, a stellar cruise vessel complete with beautiful observation decks and a glass bottom boat that will keep your young ones occupied through the entire cruise. The Queen launches from Lakeside Marina, and you can find more information on bookings as well as other cruise lines at SouthLakeTahoe.com.
Experience Emerald Bay State Park
At 3 miles long and just over a mile wide, Emerald Bay is truly the natural jewel of Lake Tahoe. Carved millions of years ago by glaciers, the 3-mile long, 1-mile wide inlet resembles a gem stone in shape, and is a must-see view in your Tahoe experience.
A short and beautiful drive up Highway 89 North, Emerald Bay comes into view after a gorgeous preamble of natural wildlife and scenery pass you by en route to your destination. Park at the Emerald Bay Vista Point and be prepared to fill your camera’s memory card with pictures. It is a sight you will never forget.
Just up Highway 89 from Vista Point is the trailhead to Vikingsholm, an incredible 38-room estate constructed in 1929 by Lora Knight. Ms. Knight had her home constructed as a perfect duplicate of a 1,250 year old Viking castle, and employed artisans and decorators to fill it with Scandinavian antiques and replicas. Over 200 professional craftsmen were employed during the summer of 1929 and had it completed for Ms. Knight in just a few months.
From any point in Emerald Bay you can see Fannette, Lake Tahoe’s only island. Atop Fannette sits the ruins of what is known as the Tea House, where Ms. Knight would take guests for afternoon drinks following brief stints on the water. Vikingsholm Tours are available to the public seven days a week starting Memorial Day Weekend and ending late September. The tours are very cheap, $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children and $7.00 to park. Tours are roughly a half hour long, leaving plenty of time for you to enjoy the architecture and take in the scenery for the rest of the day.
It is a 1-mile hike down an incline to get to the estate, with a number of picnic areas on and around the estate property. Though the hike back uphill will be more arduous due to the elevation and steep incline, there are a number of benches and rest areas along the way, giving the whole family plenty of time to rest, relax, and take more photos. For more information on Emerald Bay State Park and Vikingsholm, please visit www.vikingsholm.com.
Hit a Hiking Trail
With hikes and bike rides for individuals and groups of all experience levels, there is enough here to keep the local enthusiast happy for decades, and the annual visitor coming back for more. For families with young children, there are quite a number of options as well.
A great hike for the whole family is the Eagle Falls Hike up Highway 89. Just passed Vista Point in Emerald Bay is a parking area for the Eagle Falls Hike trailhead. The hike itself isn’t too difficult, and should take only a couple of hours round trip, but the experience is exceptionally specific to the destination in that the Eagle Falls view is another Tahoe view for the ages. Majestic and powerful, the roaring water drowns out the sounds of anyone else around you and you are enveloped in natural majesty.
SouthLakeTahoe.com will continue to update categories daily and keep you looking forward to the next big adventure. Please check out our list of Biking and Hiking trails for more trip suggestions.
Snap Back in Time
Want something special to take back from Tahoe? How about posing in authentic old western apparel and gear and bringing back a portrait from Old Time Photo? Located in the Heavenly Village, Old Time Photo allows customers to step back into the old West with clothing, props and excellent photography to bring your nostalgia to life. The boys will love toting around Western six-shooter replicas while your girls can impress everyone with Sunday-best dresses and outfits. There’s something for everyone at Old Time Photo, and remembering your trip will never be easier.
Putt Around South Lake
No one visits Tahoe with the aspiration of playing mini-golf, but at Magic Carpet Golf, you’ll find that playing a fun and exciting game of miniature golf might just be the ticket to fun your family is looking for! Offering a wide variety of holes that are constructed with attention to detail and designed for fun, the kids will enjoy the game itself and you’ll enjoy some much needed relaxation walking through the course.
Kids can choose the color of their golf ball and start playing right away, as the course progresses through the property in an interesting fashion, making sure your family is never bored with it. It’s a hot spot for locals and a great way to fill time for tourists and vacationers.
The Casinos and Arcades
While it is true that individuals must be of legal gambling age to enter the casinos in South Lake Tahoe, that does not mean these great companies haven’t found a way to entertain the younger generations. State of the art arcades are sure to keep your kids entertained while you and your significant other try your hand on the tables and slots of Harrahs, Harveys, Bills, Horizon, MontBleu and Lakeside to name a few. Driving games, shooter games, sports games and fantasy games will give them more than enough to enjoy and the wide selection of gaming tables and formats gives you enough action to last through the whole trip!
Beaches, beaches, and more beaches!
Lake Tahoe did not become a world class destination without its natural beauty and raw resources. The beaches of South Lake Tahoe are the finest around, giving your family plenty of breathing room away from the world, and allowing you to fully relax in this incredible destination. Catch up on some reading while your kids play in the water, or fly kites and throw the frisbee around to pass the time. It doesn’t matter what you want to do on the beach, it is your time and you’ll be able to have fun no matter what.
A hot area to hang out is Zephyr Cove, located on the Nevada side of the area. A beautiful inlet of water with beaches to spare gives all visitors some much needed space and privacy from others and allows everyone to be comfortable in a pristine environment. Nevada Beach is a huge stretch of sand complete with picnic tables and sand to cater to your needs as well. Both are great options, but we at SouthLakeTahoe.com encourage you to not just take it from us – get out there and check it out yourself!
Rent a Boat
If the beach is great, but not all you’re looking for – try exploring the lake itself. South Lake Tahoe boasts a myriad of rental shops for everything from kayaks to jet skis and motor boats. They will get you out on the water in no time, and make you never want to come back in.
Check out Action Watersports in the Timber Cove Marina, or contact Ski Run Boat Co. to get information on your rental today! SouthLakeTahoe.com offers a complete listing of rental companies in the area, complete with contact information, physical address, hours of operation and their respective websites.
Tell Campfire Stories
You don’t have to be camping to enjoy some s’mores! Many lodging locations have private beaches that allow you to have a little bonfire on the beach. There’s a great magic that comes from being under the stars by the waters of Lake Tahoe with the smell of marshmallows and graham crackers permeating your senses! Best Western Inn located along Highway 50 is just one of those locations, but check out SouthLakeTahoe.com’s lodging listings for a complete guide.
You’re a family! And families need to eat! Even on vacation. So why not take advantage of all South Lake Tahoe has to offer by hitting up some top-notch restaurants? We have burger joints, Mexican, American, Thai, Chinise, Sushi, and just about any other style of cooking your family loves most. Check out our Restaurant section for a complete listing of all eateries in the area. Pick out some that you know you’ll like, or dare to be different and try something new! It’s all fair game in Tahoe!