Are you headed to Lake Tahoe with kids?
When you drive west across the Utah and the Nevada deserts, you sort of start feeling like you’ve reached the end of the Earth — like you’ll never see another tree or lake or anything again. There’s nothing but sand, as far as the eye can see.
But then you drive higher and higher, up into the mountains and you hit Tahoe. And it feels like you’ve come back home to the Garden of Eden.
To get there, take I-80 to Truckee, where you’ll take the Highway 89 exit and head south. Follow Highway 89 South and you’ll reach the north shore of the lake. Stay on 89, and it winds down around the west side of the lake.
Lake Tahoe might be known as a winter ski destination, but we’ve only visited during the summer. Each time, we’ve been amazed at the gorgeous scenery, the immense trees and dense shade, the meadows full of mountain wildflowers, and of course the shimmering, crystal clear, blue lake.
This map is from Tahoe Activities.
Where to Stay at Lake Tahoe with Kids
As you drive down into Lake Tahoe from the freeway, you’ll see all kinds of private residences, from small cabins to palatial lodges. While all of them are tucked right into trees and gorgeous scenery, some of them are actually quite a ways from the lake and the activities around the lake.
There are many private residences right on the beach along the North shore, and you can rent several of them on airbnb and vrbo. Private residences are my favorite way to go, because with 8 kids we don’t even fit in the family suites. I also feel like having a kitchen (stocked with cooking utensils, pots and pans) helps us save a ton of money.
Many of those private residences were right on the sand, with their own private docks for all of your water fun.
As you drive a little farther into North Lake Tahoe, around Tahoe City, you’ll find myriad resorts. Tahoe City is located along the shore of Lake Tahoe at the junction of Highways 89 and 28.The benefit to these is that you’ll have all of the resort amenities to keep you busy.
You can camp, too, if that’s your style. Just google ‘campgrounds at Lake Tahoe’ for list after list of campgrounds.
What to Do at Lake Tahoe with Kids
You can find pretty much any outdoor, high-adventure activity you can dream of.
- Paddleboarding. You can even take a yoga class on paddleboards.
- Treetop adventure park
- Ride on the Tahoe Trailways bike path
- Sunbathe on the golden sand
- Rafting on the Truckee River
- Snowboarding and skiing
- Hunt crayfish in the shallow water on Lake Tahoe’s west shore
- tour Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay
- Kidzone Museum in Truckee
- Heavenly gondola rides
- Helicopter tours of Tahoe
Here are a few of our favorite places at Lake Tahoe:
Kings Beach is the first place you’ll encounter as you enter Lake Tahoe on Highway 89, along the north coastline. The long, golden beach creates a large shallow area, perfect for playing in. The water gets warm in July and August, but it’s pretty cold outside of those months.
My kiddos still played in the water in June, but their teeth were chattering after an hour in the water. Kings Beach has nice restrooms, a large pavillion with BBQ facilities and picnic tables, and private picnicking areas scattered through the trees.
Emerald Bay State Park
Vikingsholm Castle, a stunning 11th-century Scandinavian castle is located on the beach at Emerald bay. Eagle Falls is also in the bay, and a fun family hike. To locate the ~2 mile trail, all you have to do is look for the road that leads to Desolation Wilderness.
Located at Tahoe City, the golden sands, quaint cobble-stone pathways, huge playground and sprawling lawns are an ideal spot for family picnics and activities. There is also a small outdoor amphitheater for concerts.
The piers at Commons Beach are a fun place to spend an afternoon swimming in the cool, pristine lakewater. They extend over the water a ways and are fun to jump off.
Located at the southwest end of the lake, Pope Beach is much longer and more open than the other beaches at Lake Tahoe. It also has excellent restrooms, a paddleboard/kayak rental booth, and a small snack stand. There was an admission fee, I think it was $8.
The area around Pope Beach is perfect for kayaking, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore along the shore. This beach is usually packed, for good reason. But if you go earlier in the day, it’s not too bad. Pope Beach is one of the best beaches to visit at Lake Tahoe with kids.
Tallac Historic Site
Located in South Lake Tahoe, this historic site has three Tahoe Estates from the early 1900’s. Volunteers maintain and preserve these beautiful old estate homes. The site hosts costumed teas, tours of the mansions, artists in residence, free music on the lawn, and theatre performances.
The parking and access to the grounds are free. There are nice restrooms, a beautiful beach, and plentiful picnic facilities. It’s a great place to visit at Lake Tahoe with kids!
If you’re headed to Lake Tahoe with kids, I recommend spending more than 3 days. Both times we’ve gone, we’ve wished we had another day or two (or five!) to explore! The lake isn’t huge, so you can stay in one place and drive to explore the different areas each day.
I read that it’s 21 miles from North to South, and 12 miles from East to West. You can easily drive all the way around Lake Tahoe, with plentiful stops, in under 4 hours.
The South shore is definitely bigger and busier, with casinos, clubs and night life. My family prefers the North shore and the West shore, because we like things quieter.
Our trip to Lake Tahoe was part of a road trip around the Pacific Northwest. After Lake Tahoe, we visited San Francisco, drove up the coastal highway to the Redwoods, the Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Mount Saint Helens, and Seattle. If you want to read more about it, check out this post >>>Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary<<<
I hope you have a wonderful vacation! I’d love to hear about your experience at Lake Tahoe with kids in the comments below!