The Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe, California

The 15 Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe

Ask any skier or snowboarder to list their favorite places to shred down the slopes in and around California, and you’re bound to find out that they love spending winters around Lake Tahoe. But there’s so much more to Lake Tahoe than incredible winter sports. 

As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is home to crystal-clear waters and all sorts of watersports activities. Beyond the beauty of the lake itself, the snowcapped mountains and lush forests create breathtaking vistas. From Scandinavian castles to gardens and houses that date back over a century, there’s much to explore and discover around Lake Tahoe.

With so many cool things to do in Lake Tahoe, it can be hard to know where to start. So, we put together a list of the very best things to do in Lake Tahoe. Add these activities and attractions to your Lake Tahoe bucket list, and you’re bound to have an incredible time exploring this gorgeous lakeside destination.

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Lake Tahoe

1. Ride the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster

Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster

Did you know that Lake Tahoe has its own coaster? The Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster is a gravity-powered alpine coaster, and riding it is one of the most fun things to do in Lake Tahoe. Located in the Heavenly Ski Resort, this one-of-a-kind ride sends you soaring around Lake Tahoe. You’ll take in scenic views as you glide around stunning rock formations and breathtaking forests. 

This family-friendly activity allows for either one or two riders per sled. All drivers must be over 16, but kids as young as three are invited to board the ride as passengers. 

Feel the wind in your hair as you and your fellow travelers scream and laugh while you glide through the trees. This ride is dependent upon the weather and conditions around Lake Tahoe, so be sure to check the Heavenly website to see when it’s open.


2. Take a Scenic Gondola Ride

Fun Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Gondola Ride

Think the only way to get an aerial view of Lake Tahoe is by going skiing and hopping on the chairlift? Think again! Heavenly Ski Resort offers a gondola ride that can’t be missed. It’s one of the best ways to do some Lake Tahoe sightseeing. 

Lift off into the sky for a 2.4-mile ride up the Heavenly Mountain Gondola for one of the most incredible panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Stop off at the Observations Deck to take some stunning shots of your surroundings, or grab a seat at Café Blue to enjoy a latte as you breathe in the fresh mountain air.

Like the alpine coaster, the gondola’s ability to run depends on the weather and conditions around Lake Tahoe. Be sure to check the Heavenly website to see when it’s running. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a Heavenly Donut at the end of your ride, which you can find at the base of the gondola!


3. Explore the Lake on a Boat Cruise

Lake Tahoe Bucket List: Boat Cruise

Taking a boat cruise offers you the chance to see all the best Lake Tahoe attractions. Thankfully, there are tons of boat cruises to choose from, whether you want a sunset dinner cruise or a more high-speed adventure. Enjoy the cool lake air as you take in the clear waters and snowcapped mountains beyond.

Lake Tahoe Bleu Wave provides three ways to explore the scenic Emerald Bay area. The Emerald Bay Sightseeing Cruise lasts for two hours and takes you seven miles across the lake to Emerald Bay, one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Take a seat outside or warm up indoors if the weather is too chilly. Along the way, your knowledgeable captain will provide narration to ensure you don’t miss any of the best Lake Tahoe sights. This cruise is also available for a special Happy Hour Cruise or for a Sunset Cruise.

For one of the most unique things to do in Lake Tahoe, check out Sail Tahoe Blue. Running from May to October, this tour company offers sailing charters throughout the day, whether you want to start your day with the breeze on your skin or end your day enjoying the sky changing color before your very eyes. Sip on complimentary beer and wine while you take in the sights from the boat’s intimate atmosphere.


4. Take a Scenic Sleigh Ride

Lake Tahoe Things to do: Sleigh Ride

One of the most unique ways to do some Lake Tahoe sightseeing in the winter is by hopping on a sleigh ride. This one-of-a-kind tour comes courtesy of the Borges family, who have been serving the Lake Tahoe area for over 50 years. 

Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides offers tours both around South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village. From November through March, you can glide through the snow on a 50-minute tour on a Sand Harbor Winter Scenic Sleigh Ride, located just south of Incline Village. You’ll live out your storybook fantasies as a beautiful blonde Belgian horse guides you around Lake Tahoe – it’s the most romantic way to spend an evening! 

Planning a Lake Tahoe vacation outside the winter months? No worries! This tour company also offers a different 50-minute tour option around South Lake Tahoe. During warming weather, you’ll hop on one of the company’s antique Victorian vis-a-vis sleighs or surreys. Your driver will tell you all about the area’s history and landmarks as you glide along the South Lake Tahoe shores. 


5. Drift through the Sky in a Hot Air Balloon

Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Hot Air Balloon

If you’re looking for adventurous Lake Tahoe activities, you can take to the sky on a one-of-a-kind hot air balloon tour. Operating from May to October, Lake Tahoe Balloons provides an unforgettable experience that’s one of the most unique things to do in Lake Tahoe.

A tour built for early risers, you’ll start your ballooning adventure just after sunrise when the weather conditions are best. And there’s nothing quite like Lake Tahoe at dawn, so you’re in for quite a treat. 

You’ll set sail aboard the Tahoe Flyer, the world’s only US Coast Guard-certified balloon launch and recovery vessel. Once the designated launching point is reached, you’ll watch as your balloon is readied for takeoff. And then you’re ready to soar!

You’ll take in bird’s-eye views of Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, and much more. Depending on the visibility, you may see all the way out to the peaks of Yosemite National Park. As your ride comes to an end, you’ll have a champagne toast as you cruise back to the marina.


6. Enjoy the Views from a Helicopter

Cool Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Helicopter Tour

For another way to do some aerial Lake Tahoe sightseeing, you can also book yourself a helicopter tour. Departing daily from the Lake Tahoe Airport, Tahoe Helicopters offers a variety of tour options all year round.

See a picture-perfect panorama of Lake Tahoe from the air as you soar around, admiring the pristine beauty of the area’s wilderness. Choose between 10-, 20-, 30-, 45-, and 60-minute tours when you book your flight. Throughout your tour, you’re bound to see some of the most beautiful parts of Lake Tahoe, including Emerald Bay, Desolation Wilderness, Crystal Bay, and Sand Harbor. 

Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Helicopter Tour

In addition to tours, this company also offers flying lessons. Learn primary and advanced flight training moves as you learn about how to navigate Lake Tahoe’s mountain and valley wind patterns. Soon enough, you’ll be taking to the sky all on your own!


7. Hit the Slopes

Fun Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Hit the Slopes

Well, we couldn’t write a list of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe without mentioning the area’s famous skiing. There are several ski resorts throughout the Lake Tahoe area, which gives you plenty of variety. Each resort offers something a little different.

It’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t tell you that Heavenly Ski Resort is the crème de la crème when it comes to skiing. It’s the highest and largest ski area in Lake Tahoe. Not only will you find great skiing here, but you’ll also find a fun party scene and plenty of entertainment off the slopes.

Unique Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Hit the Slopes

But Heavenly is often one of the most crowded and most expensive ski resorts in the area. If you’re looking for lower crowd levels, check out Kirkwood Mountain Resort. The mountains here are often uncrowded, but that’s mainly because the terrain is challenging and best left to those who are most advanced. 

If you’re looking for something for everyone, including activities for kids, check out Northstar California Resort or Sierra-at-Tahoe. Northstar is best for intermediate skiers, but this upscale ski resort has terrain that works for all levels, as well as kids’ activities like ice skating, tubing, and a ski school program. 

Sierra-at-Tahoe, a local favorite, offers some of the best skiing for beginners and intermediate levels. You’ll also find kid-friendly things to do, like tubing, sledding, and a snow play area.


8. Spend a Day at the Beach

Must do things in Lake Tahoe: Spend a Day at the Beach

It’s hard to imagine that a place that’s so known for its skiing could have such incredible beaches, but Lake Tahoe really does provide the best of both worlds. Although you should come prepared to brave some especially cold waters, there’s nothing quite like a refreshing dip in Lake Tahoe. And there are several alpine beaches here that allow you to enjoy a summer day by the water.

Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe is one of Lake Tahoe’s main beaches, and it’s a relaxing, family-friendly place to visit. The white sand beach gives way to water that’s warmer than many of the other beaches along Lake Tahoe, making it an ideal place to take a dip.

If you’re looking for activities beyond swimming and sunbathing, check out Sand Harbor Beach, which is known for having clear aquamarine waters and intriguing rock formations. With the area’s terrain, it’s a top spot for not only swimming but kayaking and scuba diving. 

To enjoy one of the best South Lake Tahoe attractions, head to Emerald Bay Beach. Here the waters take on an emerald color in the sunlight, which is absolutely breathtaking. If you’re interested in snorkeling and scuba diving, check out the Maritime Heritage Underwater Trail. 

Because these beaches can get a bit crowded, you may want to go to a beach slightly off the beaten path. Although it has become less of a secret over the years, and you’ll still want to arrive early to beat the crowds in the summer, Hidden Beach is a great place to go for some seclusion. Located in Incline Village, this beach offers crystal-clear turquoise waters and opportunities for swimming, kayaking, and boating. 


9. Go Horseback Riding

Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Horseback Riding

Find serenity when you ride on horseback through the picturesque beauty of Lake Tahoe. Horseback riding is one of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe, and Zephyr Cove Stables can help you navigate the trails for one incredible ride.

Take in vistas of the clear blue lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains as you trot through the forested trails with your knowledgeable guide. Choose between two tours atop your trusty steed, lasting either 60 or 90 minutes.

Lake Tahoe Things to do: Horseback Riding

Or extend the day and opt for a Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner Ride. In addition to a one-hour tour, you’ll also ride in a hay trailer to a picnic area for a hearty meal filled with BBQ favorites.

Trail rides are available throughout the year, except during winter. Available hours are also reduced during the spring and fall. 


10. Hike the Picturesque Trails

Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Hike the Picturesque Trails

Hiking is one of the best Lake Tahoe activities if you want to do some sightseeing. There are tons of trails around Lake Tahoe, and each offers something a little different. But they all offer incredible views. 

One of the most iconic is the Emerald Point Trail, which offers an amazing vista of the beloved Emerald Bay. Enjoy the view of the crystal clear water glowing emerald in the sunlight, as well as a look at Fannette Island.

If you’re hiking in the spring or early summer, head to the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop, where you’ll see tons of wildlife and wildflowers. And to see a breathtaking waterfall, take the Cascade Falls Trail. 

In addition to visiting the roaring falls, you’ll also get scenic views of both Lake Tahoe and Cascade Lake. Or you can take the Five Lakes Trail for more water, as the trail takes you through a series of five lakes. 

If you want to get in the water, take the Rubicon Trail. This beloved path hugs the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, providing you with views of the blue water for a great deal of your journey. You’ll also find some little swimming holes along your walk.


11. Visit the Castle

Fun Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Vikingsholm Castle

Over in Emerald Bay, you’ll find a hidden treasure that belongs on any Lake Tahoe bucket list. The Vikingsholm Castle dates back to the early 1900s and remains one of the most incredible examples of Scandinavian architecture in the US, despite the fact that its commissioner, Lora Josephine Knight, was actually of English origin. When she came to Emerald Bay, she felt it reminded her of the fjords she’d seen across her travels to Scandinavia.

What was once her summer home is now a part of the Emerald Bay State Park and is available for public tours in the summer. The inside is just as stunning as the exterior, with intricate touches that make it a must-see on a Lake Tahoe vacation. 

Inside, you’ll find Norse fireplaces, paintings across the walls and ceilings, and two delicately-carved dragon beams hanging from the living room ceiling. You’ll also find a number of striking antiques decorating the estate. 

You can purchase tickets for a tour at the Vikingsholm Visitor Center, found at the bottom of the Vikingsholm Trail. The castle itself can be reached by hiking the trail or taking a boat.


12. Step Back in Time at the Tallac Historic Site

Lake Tahoe Bucket List: Tallac Historic Site

You can uncover more history of the Lake Tahoe area at the Tallac Historic Site. This historic location maintains relics of a bygone era. A part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Tallac Historic Site has preserved the summer homes and gardens of some of Lake Tahoe’s earliest vacationers. 

Just as Knight called Vikingsholm Castle her home during her summers in Lake Tahoe, many of the wealthiest of the late 19th and early 20th century summered by the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. You can tour the preserved houses at the historic site, as well as stroll through several scenic gardens throughout the summer months.

The Tallac Historic Site also offers opportunities for recreation around the preserved homes. You’ll find an easy trail system connecting the estates, as well as designated paths for biking and beach access.


13. Climb around in the Trees

Must do things in Lake Tahoe: Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park

In the mood for an adventure? Then, Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park should be added to your list of things to do in Lake Tahoe. Channel your inner Tarzan and learn to hop from tree to tree in a unique treetop adventure course.

This company has three locations in the Lake Tahoe area: Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, and Olympic Valley. In Tahoe City, you’ll find a treetop park nestled in a secluded forest with 27 ziplines and 60 bridges, with something for everyone from beginners to more advanced climbers. 

What to do in Lake Tahoe: Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park

Over in Tahoe Vista, you’ll play on nine different courses designed for beginners, intermediate, and advanced climbers, with some routes featuring Lake Tahoe views. Meanwhile, Olympic Valley boasts six ziplines, 10 bridges, a 50-foot Alpine Tower, and a Leap of Faith event.

This family-friendly activity is for anyone over the age of six. But if every family member doesn’t want to go swinging from the trees, there are also trails for others to take on the ground where they can watch the action.


14. Play in the Water

Cool Things to do in Lake Tahoe: Play in the Water

You can take a boat cruise around Lake Tahoe and let someone else steer, or you can opt to get out on the water yourself. Plenty of companies around Lake Tahoe help you with everything you need for a Tahoe watersports adventure.

If you’re in North Lake Tahoe, check out North Tahoe Watersports by Kings Beach. Here, you can rent everything from kayaks to Aqua-Cycle water trikes to jet skis to pedal boats. You can also take to the sky on a parasailing flight. 

Meanwhile, Action Watersports has four locations around South Lake Tahoe, offering jet ski, boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals. You can also hop on a parasailing flight.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, head to North Lake Tahoe’s Truckee River for some whitewater rafting. Tributary Whitewater offers guided tours from May to September, making for a day filled with excitement and stunning views.


15. See a Show at the Shakespeare Festival

Running each summer at Sand Harbor, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe if you’re a lover of the arts. But even those who don’t typically see live theater will fall in love with spending an evening here with the Lake Tahoe sunset illuminating the sky and creating a perfect, romantic night.

While seeing a show at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which puts on everything from Shakespeare to more contemporary musicals and plays, is perfect for a date night, the festival is also great for family bonding. The D. G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program puts on interactive, family-friendly one-hour performances of Shakespeare plays, making the Bard accessible for even the youngest of little ones.

In addition to the season’s plays and musicals, the festival also features the Showcase Series, where musicians from all over serenade you in the moonlight with the blue waters of Lake Tahoe behind them. If you’re planning on spending time at Lake Tahoe in the summer, you can spend many nights enjoying the performances by the Shakespeare Festival.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Lake Tahoe. What’s your favorite thing to do in Lake Tahoe? Let us know in the comments!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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1 thought on “The 15 Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe”

  1. Your list of “The 15 Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe” is an excellent compilation of activities and attractions in this stunning region. It’s a great resource for travelers seeking adventure and natural beauty. Thanks for sharing these top-notch recommendations for exploring Lake Tahoe! 🏞️🚣‍♀️

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