Whether you live in California or Nevada, or are planning a family trip from somewhere far away, Lake Tahoe should be the destination at the top of your list. It is the perfect place to go for all ages and interests: the area is big enough that there is lots to explore outdoors, but many indoor activities (like shopping and visiting the spa) that will suit even the pickiest traveler. You can choose from many spacious and comfortable Lake Tahoe vacation rentals on different parts of the lake that will help you to relax and unwind. Once you arrive, here are the ten best activities in Lake Tahoe to enjoy with your family.


1. Boating

No matter which part of Lake Tahoe you choose to stay in, you’ll always be close to a marina. Try renting a motorboat and spending an afternoon on the clear blue water with your family. For extra fun, try tubing — you won’t believe how much everyone will be smiling and laughing! Hang out on the lake in the sun and jump in the water to cool off before heading back to shore.

2. Swimming

Brace yourself, this water is going to be a bit chilly! Lake Tahoe’s water is known to be incredibly pure, and that’s because it’s all snowmelt from the mountains. Nothing feels better than a dip in the water on a hot day, and you’ll be surprised — after a few minutes, you’ll get used to it. On day three of your vacation, it won’t even seem as cold. If you really don’t like cold water, head to the Nevada side of the lake. The beaches there get a little more late afternoon sun, so the water tends to be slightly warmer.

3. Skiing

No matter which part of the lake you’re staying at, you’re never more than half an hour away from a ski mountain. Choose Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe for the most spectacular views of the lake — though you’ll also find great lake views at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Northstar-at-Tahoe, and Mount Rose, just to name a few places. If you or your kids are learning how to ski, try Sierra-at-Tahoe or Homewood for two friendly and affordable mountains. You’ll have the biggest ski rental selection in South Lake Tahoe and Truckee. Make sure to buy your lift tickets in advance to avoid long lines and high prices!

4. Snowmobiling

In the winter months, you and your family can enjoy riding along the mountain terrain on snowmobiles. Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours offers two tours each day. While taking the tour, you will cover more than 100 miles with some of the best views of the lake that you can possibly see. Warm up with some hot cocoa back at your vacation rental once your adventure is done!

5. Ice Skating

Take the family over to Squaw Valley for the chance to skate where Olympic champions skated in 1960. At Squaw, you can also go on an exciting gondola ride up to Base Camp to visit the Olympic Ice Pavilion. Another fantastic place to ice skate is at the village at Northstar-at-Tahoe, which is an area that was specifically designed for family fun. In the winter, you can skate, and in the summer, you can roller skate. Rentals are available in both places.

6. Air Tour

If you and your family want a little adventure during your vacation, it’s time to take a helicopter tour of the Lake Tahoe area. Emerald Bay Helicopter Tours offers your family the chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the Emerald Bay and the surrounding area. You also fly over Vikingsholm Castle and Fallen Leaf Lake, and everyone gets a window seat.

7. Hiking

Grab your boots, backpack, and some bottled water for a day of hiking. The Lake Tahoe area has more hiking trails than you could possibly cover in a day (or even a month), so you won’t run out of places to explore. One of the most popular places to go for a day hike is Mount Tallac. At 9,738 feet, it is very noticeable from South Lake Tahoe, and gives you an incredible view of Lake Tahoe. This is a very popular hike, so you won’t be alone on the trail, and you can stop at several beautiful lakes along the way. Shakespeare Rock near Glenbrook, Nevada, is another popular day hike with a view, while the Velma Lakes in the Desolation Wilderness will make you feel like you are in a completely different world just a few miles away from the trailhead.

8. Visit Vikingsholm

While visiting Emerald Bay State Park (which you have to do!), make a stop at Vikingsholm. This was once the summer home of Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, who gained inspiration for her building project while in Scandinavia. Over 200 workers created one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. Take a kayak on the lake to get a picture of the castle from the water, or stop in to tour the house and imagine what it must have been like to live there.

9. Learn About Local History

Take the family to Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum to learn a little more about the area’s history. This memorial tells the tragic story of the Donner Party and the choices made during one of the Sierra Nevada’s harsh winters. Although this is a dark period in American history, it helps to remind your family of the challenges faced by Americans as they moved westward. Cheer up a little afterwards by exploring beautiful Donner Lake and visiting the beach at its western end to take a swim. In the winter, this lake often freezes and is a beautiful place to take pictures.

10. Experience the Nightlife

You’ll want to leave the kids at home for this one! While you’re in Tahoe, you have to visit the casinos, because they’re fun. Take the adults in your group to Harrah’s Casino on the Nevada side of the lake for a few games of chance. You can drop your quarters in a slot machine, or enjoy one of the table games. Depending on when you visit, this casino offers live music events, especially in the summer. Treat yourself to a fancy dinner and a nice cocktail or two, and dance the night away!