Our World Famous Lake-in-the-SkyBy Don and Ann Jackson
Lake Tahoe is truly one of our country's most beautiful natural treasures, and we are fortunate enough to live only a few short hours away. Unmatched vistas and a myriad of adventurous activities in both summer and winter await us all. Fun fact: If Lake Tahoe, our country's largest alpine lake, was completely drained it would cover our entire state with over 14 inches of water-that's a lot of H2O.
What to do and see:During the gold rush era and early 1900s, Tahoe was a playground for the famous and rich. South Shore Lake Tahoe is a glorious short getaway or vacation destination for all of us no matter what our budget. Winter sports enthusiasts know about Heavenly, the largest ski resort in California with challenging ski runs in both Nevada and California, and the longest mountain descent (5.5 miles) on the west coast (www.skiheavenly.com). Whenever it's open and the weather is clear, be sure to take the gondola ride from Heavenly Village to one of the most spectacular panoramic viewing decks anywhere.
So what can folks do on those majestic blue and green waters in the summertime? Unlike many lakes with limited space, Tahoe's expansive 22-mile length and 12-mile width adds to the enjoyment and safety of water activities. Water skiing, parasailing, power boating, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and other water sports are all available through Ski Run Boat Company (www.tahoesports.com). A day excursion or sunset dinner cruise on the Tahoe Queen, an authentic paddle wheeler, is another recommended lake outing (www.zephyrcove.com).
Hiking and biking in Tahoe are superb options with numerous bike trails. For bike rentals, we suggest Anderson's Bike Rental (www.andersonsbicyclerental.com). Tip: For free maps/directions to the best rides visit www.tahoebike.org. Whether you"re hiking, biking, or driving, be sure to visit these nearby spots: breathtaking Fallen Leaf Lake and the Glen Alpine waterfalls; stately Vikingsholm Castle, one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in North America (www.vikingsholm.org); and Tallac Historic Site, containing a number of well restored early Tahoe estates of the wealthy including our favorite, "Valhalla."
Golfers will find that Edgewood, home to the nationally televised annual celebrity golf tourney, is a magnificent lakefront championship course (www.edgewoodtahoe.com). For those interested in beach walks or sunning, we counted at least eight pristine beaches that should prove very inviting-our personal fave is Pope Beach.
Where to ShopThe shopping at the lake is rather minimalist, but the new and beautifully designed Heavenly Village and Village Center, next door, are both delightful improvements to the local shopping scene. Our favorite stores: Up Shirt Creek, a unique selection of gift items and much more than just shirts (and yes, we really liked the name), and the upscale Marcus Ashley Art Gallery (www.marcusashley.com).
Where to stay, dine and partyIf, like us, you love staying on the water, our number one choice is Lakeland Village Resort, managed by Aston, our favorite lodging company in Hawaii. Lakeland Village Resort's attractive condos offer a private beach with pier, two pools, full kitchens in all units, tennis, and kayaking-a perfect family getaway option (www.lakeland-village.com). Embassy Suites, at the California/Nevada border, is surprisingly the only 4-diamond lodging on the South Shore and provides excellent values when including those complimentary breakfasts and evening happy hours (www.embassytahoe.com). For visitors wishing to stay where they can do a little gambling, the MontBleu Resort and Casino on the Nevada side offers some of the best online lodging bargains. MontBleu's Ciera Steak and Chop House is the only 4-diamond dining in the immediate area and definitely lives up to its culinary reputation (www.montbleuresort.com).
The 150 acre wooded setting of Camp Richardson Historic Resort is a perfect choice for camping, RVs, and rustic cabins. Their Beacon Bar and Grill overlooking the lake and beach, an obvious locals' favorite, provided one of the most fun evenings we had on the trip and featured comfort grub and live music (www.camprichardson.com). If you"re into high-in-the-sky dining experiences, be sure to try Friday's Station on the top of Harrah's, where their award-winning cuisine is often matched by stunning sunsets (www.harrahstahoe.com).
Other dining/food/club picks: Latin Soul, a casual dining experience featuring a delectable fusion of Mexican and South American cuisine at the Lakeside Inn/Casino (www.lakesideinn.com); Stateline Brewery, a fun microbrewery for the sports junkies with tempting happy hour food and drink specials (www.statelinebrewery.com); Red Hut Café and Fountain, the newest sibling of a South Shore institution for breakfast/lunch since 1959 (www.redhutcafe.com); and Rude Brothers Bagels and Coffee for mouthwatering bagels with attitude. For nightlife, the Cabo Wabo Cantina at Harvey's has one of the most lively scenes on the casino strip: top-notch tequila, plenty of pub-table seating, and an expansive dance floor for groovin' to Cabo Wabo's live cover bands (www.harveystahoe.com).
The crystal clear waters and fresh air of Tahoe are the perfect antidote to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With South Shore's breathtaking natural beauty and casino nightlife, there should be something for every Tahoe visitor. For complete details on all things South Tahoe, visit www.tahoesouth.com. [SJM]