Travel Guide: South Lake Tahoe

in , by The Classic Brunette, 4:00:00 AM

Hang in there friends, this is going to be a long one. So after asking you all if you would be interested in a post all about South Lake Tahoe, many of you responded saying yes! Lake Tahoe has practically been my second home for as long as I can remember, so I wanted to take some time to write out a pretty detailed guide. The majority of my family's vacations are to Tahoe, mostly because we have a timeshare. As I said, South Lake Tahoe has acted like a second home for me for many, many years. I've grown up at the Stardust Lodge (where my family has a timeshare) and used to be best friends with the hotel's cat (sadly gone now) and I will constantly be walking around the property in my pajamas. I love the city so much, and know that it will be a place I will continue to travel to for the rest of my life. Without further ado, here is a guide to all things South Lake Tahoe.

Where To Stay

So I might be a little biased here because this is where I've stayed for the majority of my trips, however I think the Stardust is amazing! I've stayed in all the types of rooms they have available and they're all pretty cozy. Each room is nature-themed and has a lot of great amenities, with most having some form of a kitchen in the room. The hotel also has free movie rentals, two pools/hot tubs, free donut breakfast every morning, and a variety of activities including dinners, bingo, and crafts. 

The two major hotels in South Lake Tahoe (outside of the ski lodge) are also one of the main focal points of the city. I'm grouping them together as they are very similar and are actually connected via an underground tunnel. They each have casinos on their main floor (what many people visit the city for) and each has a good variety of dining options as well. And once again, I have many childhood memories here, since this was normally where my grandma stayed when she came up to visit. Overall a classic hotel with basic amenities. The rooms are pretty basic, however they are normally at a decent price!

Note: I'm only featuring these hotels because these are the only ones I've stayed in and have an opinion on! I have also heard great things about the newly renovated Fireside Lodge B&B, and the Heavenly Ski Resorts.

What To Do

I used to take this boat around the lake a lot when I was younger! I love the views of the lake that you get, and it's a nice way to see the whole lake while relaxing. You can take it for day cruises, dinner cruises, and more. 

Mini Golf:
I absolutely love mini golf, especially if there's a cool theme to it. There's a mini golf place in Tahoe that is one of my favorite places to go in the summer (It's closed during the winter!) since it has a few different themes. It's called Magic Carpet Golf and my personal favorite is the dinosaur themed one where you play with huge dinosaur replicas as your holes! I have a photo somewhere here on the blog, although I can't seem to find it anywhere! However if you're staying in the downtown area there's also a smaller mini golf course in the Heavenly Village!

It's no secret that Tahoe has a lot of casinos! Since I grew up going to Tahoe I feel weirdly nostalgic at the casinos. My parents and grandparents would frequent the casinos when I was younger, and walking around with all the lights and sounds of the machines was pretty fun for me! Now that it's legal for me to gamble, I like to go with my parents and sister when we're there and have a little fun.

There is an insane amount of hiking in Tahoe! Although I personally haven't done that many hikes, I can still tell you that the views are absolutely stunning wherever you decide to go. The forests and bodies of water are gorgeous, and offer a great number of trails to see them!

I did this once when I was in high school and it was so fun. (And yes a little bit scary, haha!) Basically you head out to the lake on one of the boats, sit in a chair either alone or with a friend and a big parachute takes you above the lake while the boat drives around beneath you. It's pretty incredible. There are a number of parasailing companies in Lake Tahoe, so it's a simple process of picking one that fits your location, price, and other needs!

Go To The Beach:
Tahoe has a beautiful beach! If you can't tell from the name of the town, there's a great big lake! The beach is a nice place to spend time if you want fantastic views and super clear water. You can see the lake area (duh!) as well as the mountains surrounding it. It's absolutely beautiful. Just be aware, the water is normally pretty cold due to the snow runoff!

                               Where To Eat

The Sage Room:

This is the place to go if you'd like to have a fancy sit down dinner. The Sage Room is a steak house that is actually in the Harvey's hotel on the same floor as the casino. It is definitely more pricey, so if you want a place to splurge on a great meal then this would be it. I highly recommend the prime rib and for dessert the cherries jubilee!

Ernie's Coffee Shop:
This is my favorite place to eat in South Lake Tahoe. My family has been coming here for years, and the food has always been delicious. They're only open for breakfast and lunch, so make sure you plan accordingly. You'll want to get there early if you choose to dine there on the weekends as it tends to get crowded! I recommend the bacon cheeseburger, and the rest of my family recommends the Huevos Ernesto, the patty melt, and the incredible cornbread. P.S. I don't need souvenirs since I come up here every year, but my love for this place is so real that I've bought three of the t-shirts they sell. P.P.S. Those shirts are really comfy.

Macduff's Pub:
Macduff's Pub is one of those places that you would not realize existed until you stumbled upon it. It's off the main road (whereas most other restaurants are all along it) and is located in the second story of what I believe is another restaurant. I'm actually not too sure if there's another restaurant beneath, if it's catering for Macduff's, or something else entirely. However, all I know is that while downstairs is usually extremely empty the upstairs is crowded and full of people eating amazing food. The menu is a mix of American and traditional English fare, so my mom particularly enjoys this spot for some authentic British food. (If you didn't know, my mom is from England!) Prices are a little bit more than average here, although the food is exceptional.

Forest Buffet at Harrahs:
Want some great views and a lot of options, the Forest buffet is the place for you! My family loves to go here for an easy meal where we don't have to think. Everyone can find something they like, and if you're a rewards card holder with Harrahs/Harveys you can earn pretty nice discounts or even free meals here.

Grocery Shopping at Raleys:
I wanted to include the local grocery store as well, because a lot of the time my family ends up cooking while we're there. If you stay somewhere that has a kitchen and want to save some money, eating at your hotel is a great way to do that. Plus, Raleys always has the best desserts in their bakery section! (Also, many locals that I've talked to over the years say that the grocery store also has the best Chinese food selection, go figure!)

Day Trips

Virginia City
As a history nerd, Virginia City is the ultimate day trip for me. I've been coming here since I was little and enjoy it every time. To reach the town you have to have a car, and be willing to drive some somewhat terrifying streets. The roads to the city are steep, windy, and at times narrow. But it's completely worth the trek! The city itself is relatively small and definitely touristy, but boasts some beautiful victorian buildings, museums, and some good old fashioned fun (quite literally). You can pan for gold, check out the old mines, explore some of Mark Twain's stomping grounds, and check out the many antique shops. But don't forget to stop for some ice cream at Grandma's Fudge Factory!

Carson City
Carson City is the capitol of Nevada, and a nice place to stop if you have a free day! You can check out the government buildings, as well as the many antique shops in the area. Nevada has a lot of history, and you can be surprised what you can find in these stores! Although the city itself isn't incredibly exciting, it's still a great place to stop if you need a break! 

The biggest little city in the world! Reno is like the toned down version of Las Vegas. It's not as flashy, but there's still a lot of fun to be had here. There's gambling, antique and pawn shops, and for the kids (or any person at any age, really) there's a huge arcade/circus area called, you guessed it, Circus-Circus. When I traveled to Reno with my family this would always be the most exciting part of the trip. Circus-Circus was my heaven, and quite honestly is a large reason why it's listed as an excursion on this post!

If you're headed to South Lake Tahoe or just thinking about a possible trip, I hope this helps! I'm always available to answer more questions or provide more recommendations if need be, so don't hesitate to email me! 

P.S. WOW it has been a long time since posting! If you've noticed I've taken almost 2 weeks off from blogging and about 3 weeks off from Instagram. I just decided that I needed to clear my head and get everything in my life back on track, and it's finally there. Thank you all so much for understanding!

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  1. I've aways heard great things about lake tahoe but have never made it out. Hopefully, I will soon!
    with southern grace,

  2. Great tips! I'm pinning in case I get to go back someday! I've only been there twice briefly, once for skiing. The other time we did swim in the water, and you're so right--it was COLD but worth it for the stunning views!

  3. This is awesome! Since I live in California, Lake Tahoe is on my bucket list of places to visit. I had no idea there were so many activities to do there. I always thought it was just the lake boating/swimming activities. Thanks for the tips!

  4. This is an amazing blog. Your writing is making me want to add this to my bucket list. Great ideas and tips

  5. That looks like a fantastic place to visit. And now I want ice cream!

  6. I lived near Reno for years and love, love love Tahoe! Is it weird that i have never been to the beach though? Lol. Just so pretty there.

  7. This looks like such a fun trip! I've actually never been to any part of California. I definitely want to make a trip out there some time.

  8. I love these pictures! this looks like a great trip and awesome place to visit!

  9. I've heard so many great things about Tahoe but have yet to make it out there. Hopefully soon!

  10. My husband plays baseball in Reno and wants to get me out to Tahoe! So this is helpful!

  11. Oh, Tahoe has been on one of my places to visit for awhile!! Totally love how you broke this down :)

  12. I've always wanted to go there! This will be helpful when I plan my try there!

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  14. Tahoe looks gorgeous! I can see why its known for its hiking- such spectacular views!

  15. I have heard so much about Lake Tahoe! It's on my list of places to visit!

  16. Lake Tahoe looks like such a fun place to visit! If I ever go, I'll be sure to do some of your suggestions!

  17. I've never actually been to the Lake Tahoe area, but it looks like a great vacation spot! I'll remember this list if I ever go!

  18. I haven't been up to Tahoe since I was a kid but I've been really want to go there for a long weekend. So keeping your post in mind for things to do and places to stay when we head up- great post!

  19. I LOVE Lake Tahoe! I've been skiing at Heavenly, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Mt. Rose, etc. since I was a kid. My parents used to live in Reno so we visit Tahoe quite often. When I visited most recently, we stayed at Mont Bleu, but I know exactly where Stardust is. Great picks for things to do, places to eat, and things to see! Your post makes me wish that I was out in Tahoe right now! :)

  20. I have never been here but I want to go now! Sounds like a great trip!

  21. That beach is beautiful OMG. I love going up to the mountains for vacation and being in peace and quiet. Such a great to vacation from life!

    - xo, Azanique |

  22. I went to Lake Tahoe as a kid, but I have wanted to go back SO badly with my husband!

  23. I have got to visit this place some day! So many awesome pictures!!

  24. Another place to go on my bucket list! I am hoping to go to California next year so maybe we can take a special trip to Lake Tahoe from San Diego!

  25. The scenery there is so gorgeous! I can imagine, I would spend all of my time exploring the trails and the beach!

  26. Sounds like a fun trip filled with pretty scenery.

  27. If you are intending to spend your vacation days on the beach, an ocean view may not be necessary and that extra money could be spent towards something else.

  28. This is really good guide that you shared here with us. I like this kind of place and I think my next vacation will only be there. Thanks for sharing.


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