Here’s what you definitely do know about North Lake Tahoe: It’s one of the best places in the country to ski and snowboard. (Even better this year, thanks to Mother Nature dumping feet and feet of snow.) And while you probably already have your favorite mountain and après spots, there’s a bunch of other cool stuff to do in and around Tahoe City and Truckee that you may *not* know about.
That’s why we’ve put together this handy-dandy list of all our favorite spots to play, chill, eat, drink, shop, and stay when we’re skiing or riding at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, or Homewood.
(And be sure to read to the end for a couple of fun events you don’t want to miss this winter.)
Obvi the best way to play in Tahoe is to spend the day on the mountain. But if you’re looking to take your mountain experience to the next level or if the terrain is limited because of wind or safety concerns, check out this rad stuff, which will make sure you have a super fun snow day no matter what.
Get a guided tour of backcountry areas adjacent to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows from Alpenglow Expeditions… and with less hiking than a typical backcountry excursion (one to three hours max) since most of the terrain is relatively accessible from the lifts. This is a great opportunity for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders to learn more about avalanche safety and gain confidence to eventually conquer the backcountry with friends instead of a private guide.
Rates: $645 for one person
$895 for a group of two to four people
When the wind shuts the mountains down, but you’re still craving some outdoor adventure, head to the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park where there’s plenty of fun for the kid (and adult) in you. There’s a man-made sledding hill, snowshoe rentals, a brand new ice skating rink, and, if you’re feeling really adventurous, Fat Bikes you can “effortlessly” ride over snow-packed trails.
There’s also Café Zenon where you can sip on cocktails, wine, and beer in case you’re the friend who likes to hang out, but not actually participate (no shame in that game).
Rates: Sledding: $10 (includes disc)
Snowshoe rentals: $15
Ice skate package: $15
All day fun pass: $35
If you’re not into downhill skiing, don’t feel like battling the weekend crowds at the resorts, or the terrain is limited due to storms, cross-country skiing is an awesome option that is super fun and also gives you a crazy good workout.
Haven’t done it before? Tahoe XC offers one hour group lessons every day at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. After you’ve got the basics down, set out to explore the 65 kilometer trail system, which is groomed daily and has 21 separate trails—some that provide gorgeous views of the lake. And since some of the trails are dog friendly, you can even bring your puppers along for the adventure.
Rates: Trail passes: $20 to $29
Rentals: $22 to $26
Lessons (includes rentals and trail pass): $55 to $60
As much as we wish we could spend every day in Tahoe shredding, sometimes we need some downtime that’s a little more productive than just drinking by the fire, which, don’t worry, we always find time to do as well. We’re super productive like that. Here are a couple of ideas for when you just want to chill.
Whether you need a Peppermint Pedicure thanks to your ski boots or a deep tissue massage to soothe over-worked muscles, a visit to Trilogy Spa in the Village at Squaw Valley will take all of your worries (and sore muscles) away.
And while you would definitely never intentionally party too hard before a powder day, sometimes the altitude sneaks up on you. In which case, you should definitely get IV therapy to refuel and get back on track.
Rates: Massage: $80 to $230
Manicure/Pedicure: $60 to $85
IV Therapy: $80 to $195
While a massage is our favorite way to relax after a long day on the hill, they can get pricey. Yoga at The Yoga Room in Tahoe City, however, is much more affordable and the views of the lake alone are worth the price of admission. There are two to four classes every day (including “Après Ski Yoga” on Saturdays), so it shouldn’t be hard to find something that works with your busy vacation schedule.
Drop-in rate: $15
You might think that you’d have to drive all the way to Reno if you want to see a movie while you’re in Tahoe, but you’d be thinking wrong. Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema shows two movies a day and—our FAVORITE part—has a bar with seven beers on tap, a concession stand with locally baked goods (and the traditional candy, hot dogs, and pretzels), a popcorn spice bar (!!!), leather seats, and comfy couches (no canoodling allowed, although to be fair, that’s our rule, not theirs).
Check the schedule because the venue also hosts filmmakers, speakers, and live music.
If you’re familiar with Truckee and Tahoe City, we’ll assume you know about all of the hot spots, like the Bridgetender Tavern & Grill, Moody’s Bistro, PlumpJack Cafe, The Blue Agave, and all of the other spots Eater SF named the best places to eat in North Lake.
What you may not know about are these spots and awesome deals:
The food at River Grill (which, yes, sits right on the river downstream from the dam) is delish. But it’s also a little pricey (entrees hover around $30). Which is why we like to go there during their daily happy hour (5 to 6 p.m.), when a bunch of the appetizers are half-off, the burger with Caesar salad and fries is only $12, draft beer is four bucks, and house wines are $5. Happy hour deals are only offered in the bar, so get there early if you want a seat.
No offense weekend warriors, but the best time to be in Tahoe is mid-week when the crowds mellow out and the food deals are much easier to find. One of our go-tos is Fish Taco Night at Sunnyside. Enjoy half-price fish tacos, draft beer specials, and enter a raffle with all ticket sales benefiting one of our favorite charities, High Five Foundation. This isn’t just one of our go-tos though, so expect it to be crowded. In a good way.
Pro Tip: If you can’t make it up during the week, head to Sunnyside when you get in on Friday for “Martinis & Music,” when you can dip discounted specialty martinis while listening to live music. It’s the perfect way to unwind after the drive.
Okay, there’s no special deal here, but if you haven’t eaten breakfast at Fire Sign Café, you need to change that immediately. We almost didn’t want to say anything because the wait on the weekends can already be brutal, but we’re givers (and it’s one wait we think is totally worth it). The cabin vibe is super cozy, and almost everything is made from scratch (including the pastries, sausage, soups, and salad dressings). We don’t want to tell you what to order, but we pretty much die for the Bakers Benedict (sausage instead of Canadian bacon) and the biscuits and gravy are probably the best we’ve ever had. We’ll just leave it at that.
Nothing is tastier than a hot toddy or a cold beer after your final run of the day. But resort booze can get pricey super fast and, be honest: the lodge smells so bad. Here are a couple of other not-so-obvious options we love for a tasty cocktail or a legit glass of wine.
If you’re driving up from SF mid-week, a stop at River Ranch for their killer winter happy hour (Monday through Thursday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.) is a must. Get $2 Coors Light, $3 featured draft beer, ½ price wines by the glass, $5 drink specials, and on Thursdays 1/2 price bottles of wine. If you’re up mid-week, head to the Ranch for Wild Winter Wednesdays, when you can enter a raffle for charity and win awesome prizes, like snowboards and growlers.
Pro Tip: The River Ranch is also a super yummy spot for dinner (or lunch on the weekends) and one of our favorite places to stay in both winter and summer. The rooms are right on the river and it doesn’t get much better than that.
A lot of places in Tahoe shut down early, but Fat Cat stays open later, which is why it’s one of our favorite spots (besides the Bridgetender) for a stiff drink and a good meal (the kitchen is open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on the weekends). Plus, unlike the BT, Fat Cat has live music from 9 p.m. to midnight on the weekends.
As far as those drinks go, the cocktail menu offers tasty “cat-tails” and “cat-tinis,” like The Cat’s Meow (Templeton Rye Whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and a bit of sugar) or an Alley Cat (Tito’s with a splash of olive brine and blue cheese stuffed olives), but there’s also plenty of beer on tap and a surprisingly decent wine list.
If you’re up mid-week, you’ll definitely want to head to Fat Cat on a Thursday ‘cause: KARAOKE!!! There’s also has a great happy hour (Sunday through Friday, 4 to 6:30 p.m.) and it’s a fun spot for lunch if you’re not on the mountain.
Pro Tip: The cheeseburger is legit, as are the lettuce wraps and Fat Cat style fries. Also, suddenly this is just as much about food as it is about drinks, but whatever, you shouldn’t indulge in one without the other unless you want a hangover.
If you want to grab a bottle that’s a little more unusual that what you’ll find at Savemart or Safeway, head to Uncorked, a sexy little wine bar and shop located in the back of the Cobblestone Center. There you’ll find a great selection of curated wines to buy and take home, but also a stylish bar you’ll be compelled to sidle up to so you can enjoy a flight or a glass.
If you’re looking for winter gear, then we can’t say enough about Tahoe Dave’s and Alpenglow Sports. If you just want to shop for shopping’s sake, however, then you have to check out these local stores, all of which sell the cutest stuff.
We don’t go to Tahoe to shop, but a rainy day recently found us wandering in Tipsy Gypsy and walking out with some of our favorite new pieces. The clothing and accessories are whimsical and flirty, and the price points are amazing. We walked out with a top, a sweater, and a sweatshirt for $130.
A few doors down from Tispy Gypsy is Pinapple, a shop so adorable we have to keep ourselves from going in lest we buy more home goods and gifts we probably don’t need (but totally want). Pillows, candles, hats, jewelry, bags, throws, soaps, lotions… If you need a hostess gift (or just want to find something amazing for your home), this is a must-visit.
It’s super rude to shop for yourself and not buy your best furry friend something as well, which is why we always find ourselves in Scraps, the cutest little dog boutique with toys, collars, leashes, food, treats, and pretty much everything your little fluffer nutter could ever want or need. (Oh, and they have stuff for cats too, if cats are your thing.
SAVE THE DATE
Take your ski weekend to the next level with these fun events!
We love Truckee Tavern in the heart of downtown Truckee for its killer cocktails and delicious food (the ricotta ravioli, pork chop with bourbon apple puree, and Yukon gold and sweet potato mash are all to die for), but if you’re looking to take your drinking to the next level, then check out their “BluePrint of the Cocktail” class.
During the class, you’ll make (and drink) six cocktails to learn about ratios and ingredients and the art of simple modifications, and hopefully gain a little knowledge that makes you more secure the next time you order a cocktail at a swanky bar. We consider ourselves fairly sophisticated drinkers, but we learned a ton when we took the class. And remembered it despite all of the cocktails! (But only because we took notes.)
Dates: This winter’s classes take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on February 11, 18, and 25, but don’t worry if you miss those because it will back in the summer. Reservations can be made by calling 530-587-3766.
Price: $75 includes cocktails, cheese and charcuterie, and gratuity.
Snowshoeing is so much more fun when you do it under the light of the winter moon and when there’s a dinner involved. For four nights in February and March, you can snowshoe to the mid-mountain chalet at Alpine Meadows and enjoy a seated dinner with an Alps-inspired menu. (Think: potato cheese soup, chicken cordon bleu, apple strudel… but don’t worry, you’re earning those calories!) Only 50 people get to experience this each night, so if it sounds like fun, you’ll want to make your reservation now.
Dates: February 18, 19, 20, and March 18. Book by calling 1-800-403-0206.
If you like bluegrass and beer, you do not want to miss this super fun three-day concert at Squaw Valley with bluegrass and acoustic roots music on four stages and tons of California craft brews to taste in heated beer tents.
This year’s bands include Leftover Salmon, The Infamous String Dusters, Dead Winter Carpenters, Hot Buttered Rum, and tons more. This will for sure sell out so get your tickets now.
Dates: March 31-April 2
Price: $149 for a three-day pass or $79-$89 for single day tix.
You probably have a bunch of friends in ski leases who will let you crash at their place for a nominal fee. But if you want to be guaranteed a bed and a hot shower, may we kindly suggest these hotels instead?
Whether you need a bedroom for one or a townhouse for eight, Granlibakken has you covered. The 74-acre property is beautiful and offers sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, a beginner ski hill, a year-round zip lining and ropes course park, an outdoor heated pool, hot tub, and sauna, and an on-site spa. There’s also a complimentary breakfast that is way more legit than any other complimentary breakfast you’ve ever had at a hotel (French toast, bacon, sausage, quiche, bagels, fruit, etc.), and, if not for the fact that they don’t serve dinner, you may never leave at all!
Rates: Start at $153/night
This newly-renovated boutique hotel is right in downtown Tahoe City, so you can walk to bars and restaurants. It’s very stylish, but also fairly no-frills because the point is to be out doing stuff, not lounging around in your room. Don’t get us wrong though: you’ll Instagram the hell out of your room and lobby bar where you get free breakfast, can hang out and drink micro-brews, or make s’mores over the fire pit. And there are rooms that are pet friendly, which is key.
Rates: Start at $127/night
If you can afford to splurge, then this classic lodge on the West Shore is the place to stay. Most of the rooms have lake views, private balconies or patios, and fireplaces. They’re so cozy that you may have a tough time convincing yourself to stop snuggling under the goose down comforter and actually get up and hit the slopes. But we have faith in you.
Rates: $175/night to $470/night