When the city gets to be too much, head west along the California coastline for a standard vacation, or go east up into the Sierra Nevada mountains and get lost in the tranquil beauty of Lake Tahoe while still enjoying more than 70 miles of shoreline. Lake Tahoe is located along the border of California and Nevada, offering two distinct getaway options – south Lake Tahoe and the north Lake Tahoe. The largest alpine lake in North America offers more than just ski resorts and wintertime activities. The lake is ideal for boating, sunbathing and camping out during the warm summer months, and the Nevada side boasts the year-round draw of casinos.
Driving to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento is a breeze, as long as you head out early to miss the masses of weekend traffic headed up to the Tahoe/Reno area. Depending on whether you choose to visit south or north Lake Tahoe, the highway routes are different. To visit north Lake Tahoe, take I-80 east for about 100 miles and take exit 185 to Highway 89 South, and follow signs to Tahoe City. If you are visiting south Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 east for roughly 100 miles and look for signs for Lake Tahoe Boulevard/Highway 50. If you are heading up to Tahoe during a peak weekend, leave early Friday morning before most people get on the road after work and head back early on Sunday to avoid sitting in traffic for three to four hours.
9881 Highway 89
Tahoma, CA 96142
Price: $8 adults/$5 children
Built in 1929, the historic castle is recognized as one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in North America. It is located on Emerald Bay, one of the most picturesque spots in the Lake Tahoe area. Vikingsholm was owned by Lora and Harry Knight and, while most remembered for the castle, she and Knight were the prime financial backers of Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic. Take 30-minute tours seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September. There is limited parking available, and arrangements can be made for non-docking boat tours from both the north and south shores.
Zephyr Cove Resort is one of the most beloved in the entire Tahoe area. It offers pristine mountain scenery with easy access to the lake itself. The Cabins at Zephyr Cove include 28 cabins that range from studios to two-story chalets that can sleep up to 10 guests. Try the Zephyr Cove Lodge, offering four guest rooms, as well. If you are hoping to bring your furry friend along for the weekend, Zephyr Cove is pet friendly. For those preferring to rough it a bit more, this area also offers an RV park and campground.
If it’s summer and you are looking to take a cruise on the lake, or explore Tahoe via other water activities, Zephyr Cove Marina is a must during your weekend getaway. It is part of the Zephyr Cove Resort, but you do not have to stay at the property to take advantage of its wealth of activities. Check out the scenic cruises available on the paddlewheelers – complete with complimentary pick-up and drop-off service. Other water activities include parasailing, water skiing and wakeboarding, or rent your own watercraft and explore Tahoe at your leisure.
Squaw Valley is the second largest ski resort in the Lake Tahoe area after Heavenly. If you are heading up to Tahoe during the winter, Squaw Valley is definitely worth a stop. It was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, offers 33 chairlifts and is the only ski resort with the funitel aerial lift system in the United States.
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
18 Highway 50
Stateline, NV 89449
Whether you are a gambler or not, a visit to one of Lake Tahoe’s casinos is a trip you won’t soon forget. Stop by Harrah’s for a unique dining experience: Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina. Though it was initially only open for dinner, Cabo Wabo now serves breakfast and lunch as well. The star of the show here is the lounge that opens daily at 4 p.m. and offers a chance to sample a number of signature drinks made with Sammy Hagar’s own brand, Cabo Wabo tequila. If you are looking to make a night of it at Harrah’s, be sure to check its event schedule, which includes a summer concert series and shows at The Improv.
Erin De Santiago is a freelance writer and photographer currently based in Taiwan. To date, she has traveled to over 40 countries on four continents in search of the best food and wine around the globe. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.