Weekender Series: 24 Hours in Lake Tahoe
One of the (many) selling points of living in the Bay Area is that it's only a three-hour drive from one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the West: Lake Tahoe. Its remarkably crystal clear blue waters, surrounded by gorgeous mountains on all sides, makes it a sight you don't want to miss. Don't have any time off for a getaway? No need to wait for a three-day weekend to enjoy this gem. Consider this a mini guide to your first mini weekender in Tahoe. All you need is 24 hours and a can-do attitude!
Plan to leave the Bay Area by about 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. at the latest. This should give you enough time to arrive in Tahoe just before lunchtime. Set your GPS for the Village at Northstar in Truckee, one of the most scenic little mountain villages this side of the Sierras. In addition to the nearby world-class slopes, you'll find cafes, restaurants and a year-round skating rink.
Stroll around the village and see if you can ask for a free ride in the gondola. I'm pretty sure you normally have to pay for a lift up to the mountain, but on our most recent Truckee/Tahoe trip, the guy working the gondola saw that we were in street clothes and obviously not going to snowboard/ski, so he just waved us through. Be sure to bring your camera because it's a gorgeous ascent. Once you reach the top, you'll find snow sport enthusiasts of all ages sliding down the slopes or slogging around in their snow pants. It's fun for the whole family. There's also a lodge with a restaurant that looked pretty appetizing.
Once you take and post enough pictures to make it look like you're outdoorsy, head back down to the village and grab some lunch. We recommend Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar for delicious sushi and fast and friendly service at a reasonable price. You really can't go wrong with anything on Mikuni's menu, but make sure you save room for dessert. The green tea cheesecake is sublime. The perfect amount of sweetness to finish and it's rich enough to share.
After lunch, you can head to historic downtown Truckee and walk around the shops there or you can drive straight down the eastern shore to South Lake Tahoe. The drive will take about an hour, but there will be plenty of spots to pull over and take in the gorgeous views.
Once you arrive on the south shore, check into the 7 Seas Inn. The Seven Seas motto is "a boutique inn with a B&B attitude." Owners Bill and Debbie Hirsch bought the property about a year and a half ago, and have since then turned the old motel into a bona fide charming B&B. On our recent trip, we made our reservations the week before our visit and were lucky enough to snag the last room.
That said, we highly recommend booking your stay in advance because this place is popular for a reason. Bill and Debbie are the sweetest and most welcoming hosts you could ever hope to meet. As Bill told us at the end of our stay, "It's like staying with your parents, right?" That's what it felt like. Staying with family.
Our room was clean, spacious and very welcoming. I'd describe the decor as modern cabin or contemporary rustic-- a room you'd see on HGTV. And speaking of TV, our room came with a very nice flat screen mounted above a cute seating area for two. If you're looking for a mountain retreat with all the comforts of home, 7 Seas is the place for you.
Pro tip: After you check in and before you head out for the evening, stop in for the innkeeper's reception. Wine and beer are served with delicious appetizers. It's the perfect way to get ready for a night on the town.
No matter what you're in the mood for, South Lake Tahoe has you covered for dinner. One of our favorite spots is Basecamp Hotel, which also runs an onsite gastropub and beer garden with fire pits and porch swings. Expect several great beers on tap and pretty decent food. I usually order the spinach salad ($8), which comes with dried cranberries, goat cheese, walnuts and a nice vinaigrette. Grant loves the lamb wurst ($11), which comes with tzatziki sauce, bell peppers and feta cheese. Basecamp also offers live music in the evenings. It's a great place to enjoy a good meal and just kick back for a couple of hours. If you're with friends, bring a deck of cards and hang out for a while.
After dinner, head out and walk around the corner to Heavenly Village, where you'll find even more bars, restaurants and shops. Heavenly also offers an 8-plex cinema, summer mini golf and a winter ice-skating rink. Bill and Debbie recommended we try Cold Water Brewery & Grill, which is less than 4 miles west. It's on our list for next time. If you get a chance to try it before we do, let us know what you think!
By the way, if testing Lady Luck is your thing, there are plenty of nearby casinos where you can try your hand.
The Next Morning
After the great sleep you'll undoubtedly have (the mountain air will do that for you!), wake up and head over to the breakfast room for the famous 7 Seas Inn breakfast. The breakfast room is cute, cozy and the perfect place to chat up your fellow guests. During our visit, Bill was behind the counter serving up his delicious berry strata. There were also breakfast pastries, Pop Tarts, fruit, coffee, tea and juice.
After you check out of your room, grab your camera and head on down to the beach because you can't leave Tahoe without taking an obligatory shoreline panorama.
From there, you can be back in the Bay Area by lunchtime or you can take the long way home with a bonus side trip hike to Emerald Bay, about 12 miles north.
And there you have it. A mini guide to a mini weekender in Tahoe. Enjoy!
[Hold on a minute! Skiiers and snowboarders, we didn't forget about you. Feel free to make this weekend your own by building in more time at Northstar or Heavenly.]