If it came down to visiting Tahoe in the winter or the summer, I’m not sure I could pick one over the other. While Tahoe is commonly praised for its impressive winters, I’d argue that the summers are just as breathtaking.
Wintertime in Tahoe is all about hitting the slopes. Tahoe’s a great snow sport destination because even in the dead of winter, its peaks are immersed in California sunshine. There are many ski resorts to choose from:
For a classic resort with an impressive history, visit Squaw Valley. This resort was home to the VIII Olympic Winter Games back in 1959. Northstar-at-Tahoe has been renovating over the last few years and now boasts an impressive assortment of shops and restaurants, an ice skating rink and even a Ritz-Carlton. For more snow and less crowd, visit Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village, where amenities are basic but the slopes are astounding. The best place to grab a drink after a long day of skiing is the Fire & Ice Grill and Bar, at the base of Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Tahoe’s most celebrated wintertime holiday is New Year’s Eve. Your best bet is to attend a New Year’s party celebration at Harvey’s, Harrah’s or another casino on the strip, then duck out before midnight onto the packed boulevard and count down the new year with the party-going masses. If a romantic dinner is your idea of the perfect New Year’s celebration, head up to The Summit restaurant at the top of Harrah’s. It’s the perfect place to wine and dine from above the madness.
Summertime in Tahoe is just as remarkable as the winter. Snow skis are replaced by water skis, and New Year’s parties get bumped by Fourth of July celebrations. The best places to stay in the summer are Squaw Valley Resort or the Hyatt in Incline Village. Come summer, Squaw Valley’s snow-capped peaks melt only to reveal a landscape of glittering emerald mountains. Located in the valley basin of these mountains, Squaw Valley is a golfer’s paradise in the summer.
The Hyatt, on Lake Tahoe’s shores in Incline Village, is the perfect lodging for beach lovers. The beaches in Incline Village are clean and much less crowded than those elsewhere on the lake. Guests at the Hyatt get to use the beach for free, while non-guests can purchase beach access passes.
Besides hitting the beach, other favorite summer activities include boating around Lake Tahoe. Renting a boat during your stay is a wise investment – boating on the lake offers you an array of activities including waterskiing and boarding, tubing, access to secluded swim areas and diving rocks, and dockside restaurants and bars. Gar Woods is a boaters’ favorite thanks to its famous “Wet Woody” frozen cocktail. Pull up to the Gar Woods dock, walk up to the restaurant or bar, and grab one of these dangerously good frozen elixirs.
Another summertime Tahoe favorite is rafting down the Truckee River. No worries – there’s no serious whitewater involved in this trip. All you need are inner tubes, rafts, squirt guns and a cooler full of beverages (beer is the most popular choice by far). If you don’t have your own raft, rent one at Truckee River Raft Company (located on River Road/ Highway 89 in the heart of Tahoe City).
The Truckee River Raft Co. is where you’ll begin your five-mile journey down Tahoe’s own lazy river. You’ll know your trip is over when you go through some minor turbulence at the end, which dumps you out at the River Ranch Lodge where you can grab a drink or catch a shuttle back to your car.
Of course, there are some things in Tahoe that are season-less. T’s Mesquite Rotisserie in Incline Village is the best place to grab midday Mexican cuisine anytime of the year. The Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt is an elegant dining option in winter, spring, summer or fall. Beachside cabanas outside the Grille will keep you cool in summer, and a roaring fireplace make the Grille a perfect snowstorm sanctuary in the winter. For slightly more casual dining, try Caliente Lake Tahoe Southwest Restaurant and Full Bar, which has the best southwestern food in Tahoe along with the best ambiance.
Some nightlife sanctuaries in Tahoe never know what season it is. These include Cabo Wabo Cantina at Harvey’s and Vex at Harrah’s. Vex is more on the posh side, while Cabo Wabo is more on the, well, Mexican cantina side. Multi-seasonal bars and pubs in Tahoe include Rookies, Tahoe’s favorite sports bar, and The Village Pub, Tahoe’s best hole-in-the-wall pub.
Picking one season over another is a hard thing to do in Tahoe. If you get a chance to visit, try coming back during another season to better understand how beautiful this place really is.