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The 20 Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe for First Timers

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is a setting that some people consider one of the most beautiful in the United States. The lake straddles the border of California and Nevada, but it attracts tourists from right across the United States and from elsewhere in the world. The geography of the area means there are many outdoor activities to enjoy around Lake Tahoe, plus there are many other attractions that you should see during your visit. To make sure you do not miss out on anything the area has to offer while you are in this part of the world, the following are the 20 best things to do in Lake Tahoe for first-timers.

Valhalla Tahoe

20. Enjoy the Entertainment at Valhalla Tahoe

If you want to enjoy some music and entertainment while you are in Lake Tahoe, then one of the best options is Valhalla Tahoe. There is a jam-packed schedule of shows at this venue, ranging from live bands to comedy acts, musicals, and much more. This is a great place for a night out with your friends or any family members in your traveling party as there is a bar where you can enjoy drinks.

19. Have Fun on the Water

The lake itself provides the perfect playground for having lots of fun during your vacation at Lake Tahoe. There are multiple water-based activities you can enjoy, including paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, swimming, and much more. If you have your own gear, then these are free activities that you can enjoy during your stay. However, if you need to hire equipment there is usually a cost for a set time.


18. Take a Gondola Ride

Even if you do not want to try skiing or one of the many other activities on the slopes, it is still worth taking a trip up the mountainside to enjoy the views. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a trip in the gondolas. One of the best places to hop onto a gondola for a mountainside trip is from Heavenly Village. Once at the top, you can enjoy the panoramic views and take the opportunity to take some photographs of your surroundings.


17. Enjoy a Round of Golf

Lake Tahoe is a fantastic place to visit for golf enthusiasts as there are many outstanding golf courses in the surrounding area. Many people claim that Lake Tahoe is the top golfing destination in America during the summer months. According to Golf Advisor, some of the best golf courses are Edgewood Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Golf Course, and Old Greenwood. There are many other courses available, and each offers different challenges for avid golfers. One feature that most of the golf courses in this area share is that they are set against the magnificent backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Heavenly Village

16. Eat Out in Heavenly Village

It is likely that you will want to eat out during your time in Lake Tahoe, and the best place to do this is in Heavenly Village where you will find some superb cafes and restaurants. While you are grabbing a bite to eat, you can watch the gondolas traveling up the mountainsides. It is worth noting that there are also many shops in Heavenly Village if you want to take a break from the activities on the slopes to enjoy a spot of retail therapy.

Drive Lake Tahoe

15. Drive Around the Lake

Many people take a driving vacation to Lake Tahoe. If this is your plan, then make sure take the time to drive all the way around the lake, says Crazy Family Adventure. From different viewpoints, the lake and the surrounding scenery look completely different. You can stop off at various points along the way to see specific landmarks or simply to enjoy the views.


14. Take a Helicopter Tour

It is almost impossible to see every aspect of the lake and the surrounding landscape from ground level. The only way to fully appreciate the beauty of the area is to get a bird’s eye view over the lake and taking a helicopter tour is the best way to do so. Tickets for helicopter rides are relatively pricey, so you should budget for this activity when planning your vacation. Most helicopter tours last between 15 and 30 minutes.

Art Galleries

13. Tour the Art Galleries

If you are an art lover, there are plenty of places to visit while you are in this wonderful location. There are some amazing art galleries that you can visit, each of which has a unique exhibition. According to Trip Advisor, the best art gallery to visit in this area is Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery,, which has a fascinating exhibition of paintings, exposures, and sculptures. Some of the other art galleries that you can visit include Wyland Galleries, Sun Art Gallery, and Benko Contemporary Gallery.


12. Play the Slots at Harrah’s Casino

Although many of the activities and attractions at Lake Tahoe are based outdoors and are things that you will enjoy in the day, there are also indoor and nighttime attractions. One of the best options is Harrah’s Casino, says US News. This venue offers visitors something a little different to enjoy and has everything you would expect from a modern casino. There are table games, slots machines, concert venues, dining options, and a nightclub. Harrah’s Casino is located in Stateline, Nevada, and it overlooks South Lake Tahoe.

Homewood Mountain

11. Have Fun at Homewood Mountain Resort

Located about seven miles south of Tahoe City Homewood Mountain resort is one of the best places to have some fun on the slopes. There are 67 runs and eight lifts across this 1,260-acre resort. Visitors can enjoy skiing and a range of other outdoor activities, including snowboarding, sledding, and hiking. The slopes are varied, so there are options for both experienced skiers and for novices. There are instructors available that provide lessons and tours, so it is a fantastic opportunity to try out a new activity.

Lake Tahoe Historical Site

10. Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

Emigrant Trail Museum is set in the picturesque surroundings of the Donner Memorial State Park. The museum honors the darkest moments of American pioneering. One of the features of the park is the stone pedestal that commemorates the Donner Party, who were a group of pioneers who died in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846 to 1847. The monument is almost 22 feet tall. The museum also covers the railroad development in the Sierra Nevada region. This is one of the best attractions in Lake Tahoe to learn about the history of the area.

Squaw Valley

9. Enjoy Winter Sports at Squaw Valley

Skiing and other winter sports are some of the most popular activities among those who are visiting Lake Tahoe, and this is the sole reason why many people choose this destination for their vacation. If you plan to have some fun on the slopes while you are in the area, US News recommends going to Squaw Valley. This is widely regarded as one of the finest ski resorts in the world, and it was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Although many of the slopes are geared towards those who are experienced skiers, there are also slopes that are perfect for novices.

Sand Harbor

8. Spend Time at Sand Harbor State Park

The main features of this park are its sandy beaches, the pine forests and the hidden coves. Visitors to this park enjoy hiking, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, boating, and kayaking. It is possible to hire equipment to enjoy water-based activities. There are picnic areas, a visitor center, a gift shop, and a casual eatery. There are various festivals and events held throughout the year within the park, so you should check out what is on during your visit.

DL Bliss State Park

7. Visit D.L. Bliss State Park

D.L. Bliss State Park was once the property of the Bliss family, but they donated it to the California State Park system in 1929. The public park has some nice spots along the lake, such as Lester Beach and Calawee Cove. Visitors can wander around the park and enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables. There are also several hiking trails that run through this park. Some of the sights you may see along the way include the Balancing Rock and a historic lighthouse. There is a campsite within the park that is only open during the summer months.

KIng's Beach

6. Kings Beach

It is important not to overlook the stunning beaches around the lake when you are planning things to do during your visit. One of the best beaches is Kings Beach, which has a stunning stretch of sand where you can relax enjoy a picnic, and paddle in the shallow waters. The beach has picnic tables, a barbecue pit, and a children’s playground. From this beach, you can hire boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. If you have the appropriate license, you can also go fishing. Kings Beach is a nice spot to visit if you are visiting the area with children as there are plenty of things for them to enjoy.

Sugar Pine

5. Go to Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

This state park extends along two miles of the edge of the lake and is predominantly a densely forested area. It is part of the estate that was originally owned by Isaias W. Hellman, a wealthy financier. The estate includes the family’s former vacation residence Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, which is now open to the public for some parts of the year. The estate also has a nature center that has exhibits relating to the estate’s birds ecology, wildflowers, and trees, along with other environmental topics.

Tallac State Park

4. Visit the Tallac Historic Site

Tallac Historic Site is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Visitors can enjoy guided walks through the estate, take tours of the buildings, and watch art demonstrations. This attraction is also used as a venue for festivals and events throughout the year. It is open to the public from Memorial Day until the end of September.

Boat Cruise Lake Tahoe

3. Take a Lake Tahoe Boat Cruise

You cannot visit Lake Tahoe without taking a boat cruise across the lake. There are many boating companies offering these tours that start at various points around the lake. Taking a boat ride is a relaxing activity that allows you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings from a different perspective than from around the lake. You can fully appreciate the beauty of the lake and the backdrop of pine forests and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.

Lake Tahoe Hiking

2. Hike Lake Tahoe Hiking Trails

One of the most popular activities at Lake Tahoe is hiking, as this is a fantastic way of exploring this breathtaking area. There are multiple hiking trails from which you can choose, and some of the best are around South Like Tahoe. If you only want to enjoy short hikes, then two of the best trails are Cascade Falls Trail and Fallen Leaf Lake Trail. Another popular trail is the Rubicon Trail which has a slight incline that offers panoramic vistas across the lake.

Emerald Bay

1. Emerald Bay State Park

According to Planetware, the best thing to do in Lake Tahoe is to spend time at Emerald Bay State Park. This is one of the most popular spots because the bay is slightly shallower than in other parts of the lake and also because it has a dramatic landscape of glacier-carved granite and forested hillsides. One of the most interesting features of this state park is Vikingsholm, which is a castle on the shores of Emerald Bay. As there are two campsites in Emerald Bay State Park, many people use this as a base during their visit to Lake Tahoe.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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