All I have been hearing about since I moved to San Francisco a year and a half ago is Lake Tahoe. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve asked my coworkers or friends what they were up to for the weekend, and the answer was Tahoe. Everybody goes, so there’s got to be a reason for it. Recently I decided it was finally time I check it out for myself. However, I didn’t realize until I visited that the two sides of Tahoe (South and North) would be so drastically different. So how do you know you’re staying on the right side?
Let’s start with some Tahoe basics…
How to Get There: If you are coming from out of state, the closest airport to fly into is Reno-Tahoe International Airport. It will take you around 50 minutes to get to North Lake Tahoe from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and around 1 h 15 min to get to South Lake Tahoe. If you’re coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, you can expect this drive to take 4+ hours with traffic.
When to Go: The interesting thing about Tahoe is that there really is no off-season. There’s a small break in tourist activity in the fall between summer and winter, but that’s basically it. Otherwise, the area welcomes tourists all year thanks to the wide variety of activities. If you are more of a warm weather person and enjoy water activities (kayaking, hiking, sailing, etc.) then the summer season may be best for you. If you like to ski or snowboard, Tahoe’s winter season will blow your mind.
How Long to Stay: You can do Tahoe in a long weekend by limiting your activities, or you can stay for a week or longer to leave time for everything you want to do. I will say that a weekend felt a bit too rushed for my first time there!
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (NEVADA SIDE)
If You’re Looking For: A fast-paced, fun weekend trip with friends or family
As soon as we arrived in South Lake Tahoe, we had a few instant observations:
#1 – Wow is that another bachelorette party?
#2 – Holy cow there’s a lot of casinos here!
#3 – “Watch out for that RV!”
South Lake Tahoe is known for having a carefree, fun and no worries kind of attitude. It is home to the Hard Rock, Harrah’s, Montbleu, etc. and you will always find something to do. With plenty of restaurants, bars, casinos, shows and more, South Lake Tahoe is perfect if you’re looking for a busy and active trip to Tahoe. Just because there’s a party vibe associated with South Lake Tahoe doesn’t mean it’s not great for young families. Many first timers find that the number of activities and accessible transportation make it easy to get to know Tahoe for the first time. So, if you’re looking for an active escape, South Lake Tahoe may be for you!
Note: This photo was taken on Cascade Falls Trail
WHERE TO STAY
I always prefer to stay in a hotel that has something special or unique to it. In my search for Tahoe accommodation, I stumbled upon Basecamp Tahoe South and noticed their particularly high ratings. After sifting through photos of bonfires, a biergarten, hot tub, twinkle lights and more I could certainly see why it would be so loved by its guests. If you’re not super into camping (or you are and just want to mix things up) Basecamp is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors in the comfort of quality accommodation. They even have a room called The Great Indoors where you can quite literally sleep in a tent with a campfire view while still getting to enjoy the amenities of a nice hotel. Pretty cool if you ask me! The whole place kind of had a cozy, hipster vibe to it which I loved.
NORTH LAKE TAHOE (CALIFORNIA SIDE)
If You’re Looking For: Relaxation and solitude
The North Shore, on the other hand, is all about taking in the fresh air, beautiful views and serenity. This side of Tahoe is more about recharging and getting away from your everyday life. You will not experience the overwhelming amount of activities that you’ll find in South Lake Tahoe. It is more frequented by locals and longtime vacationers. There is still plenty to explore, though, from stunning beaches to challenging hikes. Luckily, Basecamp has a location near North Lake Tahoe too! Check out Basecamp Tahoe City if this side sounds more like you.
Wherever you decide to stay, you may end up driving to the other side for a particular activity of interest anyway. For example, although we stayed in South Lake Tahoe, we went on a two-hour sail with Tahoe Sailing Charters on the North Shore. This was our favorite activity from our entire trip, so I highly recommend booking a cruise with them if you’re visiting. Summer or winter, you will find plenty to do no matter which side you land on.
So… which side do I recommend? Like I said, it totally depends on your travel preferences and what type of experience you are seeking. And just because you’re staying on one side doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the other, too! However, if I’m being honest, I prefer a more laid-back and quiet getaway. So North Lake Tahoe is my cup of tea! How about you? Which side will you be staying on when you visit Tahoe? Let me know in the comments below!