Of course the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe beckon in summer months, and we are by no means suggesting you forgo this pleasure entirely. But after a day or two in a beach chair with your favorite book, occasionally napping under your sun hat, you may have the motivation to be a little more active. Find out what else you can do in Lake Tahoe this summer.
Think Boating (with a twist)
By Matthew Bieker
It’s a very “summer” scene: You and a group of close friends taking the boat out for the first sunny day of the season, hitting the open water, pulling in to enjoy the gently lapping surf, then feeling the cool breeze as you zoom off to your next aquatic destination. The residents of Northern Nevada and California have this opportunity for maritime recreation at Lake Tahoe, where boat owners can cruise from harbor to harbor over the lake’s glassy blue surface. Fortunately, many restaurants around the lake prioritize aquatic access, so boaters don’t have to choose between the water and making it to dinner reservations on time.
Named for Garfield Woods, famed inventor and boating enthusiast of the 1920s, Gar Woods is located in Carnelian Bay in North Lake Tahoe. The place is all about celebrating the history of Tahoe and the legacy of wooden pleasure boats like Garwoods or the famed Chris-Craft, both of which were incredibly popular in their day at Tahoe. In the spirit of service to the boating community, Gar Woods will take care of your craft as soon as you disembark for dinner and drinks.
“Gar Woods employs boat valets throughout the entire summer,” says Christina Lennon, marketing director for Gar Woods. “We have a beautiful deck that overlooks the water right next to the pier, on both the bar side and the dining side of our restaurant. Unfortunately, because we’re in California, our liquor license is restricted to inside the building and on the deck. So, I (only) wish that we could sell our signature cocktail, ‘The Wet Woody,’ to go.”
Gar Woods’ biggest claim to fame is this variation of a rum runner—a classic Tahoe cocktail. With almost 3 million sold between Gar Woods and its sister restaurant, Riva Grill, the Wet Woody is a sassy cocktail meant to beat the heat on a summer’s day and keep you and your crew in high spirits.
“It’s 151 and light rum, cranberry, pineapple and orange juice, and then it’s floated with Bacardi black,” Lennon says. “We do have a variety of Wet Woodys, all of them have different rums…and very funny, very cheeky names.”
Aside from the drinks menu (which, if you plan on returning to the surf, should be enjoyed responsibly), Gar Woods is famous for its seafood and steaks, and will be offering a rotating menu of freshly caught Hawaiian fish all summer.
“I love the rib-eye,” Lennon says. “We have diver’s scallops that have been on the menu for years that everyone loves. Then we have ahi poke appetizers…and the crab cakes are a huge thing. Really all of our seafood items are a big hit.”
Jake’s On The Lake has been sharing its Hawaiian roots with the citizens of Tahoe City since 1978, through what it calls its “Mountain Aloha” hospitality. And don’t worry about leaving the boat unattended—at Jake’s, you’ll probably be able to see it from your table.
“We’re right at the water’s edge and we’re actually located right in front of the Tahoe City marina,” says Jeff Hill, Jake’s general manager. “We’ve got full, 270-degree panoramic views right here by the water, and there are lots of public docking stations around the entire perimeter of the marina.”
Jake’s is known for its fresh seafood, premium steaks and craft beer selection, as well as a host of tropical drinks. Mai Tais are a perennial favorite, but Hill says he’s found a new go-to on the seasonal cocktail menu.
“I personally really enjoy the Orange Turmeric Margarita,” Hill says. “It’s made with Mi Campo Reposado Tequila, which is actually aged in wine barrels. It has organic turmeric powder, fresh orange and lime juice and a salted rim.”
If the drinks and views aren’t enough, Jake’s hosts live music throughout the week and is also a destination for summer maritime fun around the Fourth of July. “The fireworks are basically shot off right in front of our deck, so we are front-and-center for the entire fireworks show for Tahoe City,” Hill says.
Decadent dinners and craft cocktails can make for a luxurious lake day, but if taking the boat out includes some serious swimming or water skiing, you and your companions might be looking for something a little more casual. Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Tahoe City offers a classic, lakeside setting for good food and enough space for even the extended family.
“We have about 200 seats in the restaurant and we also do catering for large parties, like rehearsal dinners or family reunions,” says Catering Manager Ginger Karl.
Docking at Moe’s means everyone can order Southern-style barbecue favorites like pulled pork sandwiches, smoked chicken wings and fried catfish, and adults in the group can enjoy a pick-me-up in the form of Moe’s homemade bloody mary mix with a barbecue base and seasoned rim. Moe’s is also one of the only restaurants to offer to-go service for boaters, and will wrap up pounds of different meats, along with side dishes, buns or corn bread.
“We have…the Double Wide or the Triple Wide, it’s like a to-go pack for families,” Karl says. “It’s a big order. You can call from your boat and then pick it up.”
Moe’s also just opened its on-site brewery, and the first of its custom brews (Moe’s-aic IPA) will be alongside the rest of its draft menu this summer. As with the rest of California, however, the drinks have to stay on the dock.
By Kathleen Vivaldi
Wanderlust, July 18–21, is a one-of-a-kind weekend experience held at Squaw Valley on the north shore of the lake. Touted as one of the main highlights each summer in the Sierra, Wanderlust offers attendees panoramic views of mountain beauty, all while gaining a deeper appreciation for inner exploration. This popular event draws thousands of participants and brings renewal, rejuvenation and restoration.
Wanderlust attracts the world’s top yoga instructors and motivational speakers, as well as local chefs, winemakers and artisans. For example, you can attend The Speakeasy—where a series of speakers will enlighten, engage and transform your inner soul. You can also taste handcrafted food from vendors who offer farm-to-table, locally sourced menus. And of course you are free to explore Squaw Valley, with its hiking, rock climbing, trail runs, mountain biking, mountain meditation and outside yoga classes.
The weekend also includes DJs spinning good vibes during the day and nighttime concerts on the main stage. Thievery Corporation will perform Saturday evening, a duo that has been together since 1996, playing Jamaican-influenced music for their audiences, which include crowds at Coachella and Lollapalooza.
Throughout the weekend, you can visit various Wanderlust venues, including The Uncommons, which, just like the name implies, is an unconventional area where Wanderlusters can learn AcroYoga tricks, fly high in an aerial hammock or play on the large, grassy lawn. Also check out The Haven, a sanctuary area for bodywork fitness and massage—take a deep breath in and exhale to calmness. At The Lab, dig deep for self-discovery and anatomy/alignment to advance your yoga practices. And don’t miss The Kula Market, a hub for local artisans to share their handmade merchandise, a nice memento of the weekend.
Ticket packages include a four-day pass to the festival plus lodging (starting at $2,575), or buy general admission for one-to-three days ($116.08 and up). Immersion tickets for speakers and yoga practices, and music-only tickets for concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, are also available ($30–$180). 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA, wanderlust.com.
The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is held every summer, July–August, at Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, arguably one of the most beautiful settings in the world. The festival draws more than 31,000 patrons in a two-month performance period and has become one of the most well-known outdoor theatrical events in the United States. Its mission? “To enrich our community by providing the highest quality theatrical, cultural, educational experiences to the widest possible audience in the Lake Tahoe region.”
The festival’s on-site kitchen offers entrees, appetizers and snacks. There is also a full-service bar. Take advantage of pre-ordering your food, skip out on the line, and enjoy eating and drinking while gazing into iconic Lake Tahoe before the performance.
Audience members can bring their own picnic fixings to enjoy, but there are space restrictions: Coolers and bags need to fit at your feet in the seating area. Otherwise, enjoy your pre-show picnic and drop the items off at the car prior to the start.
Summer 2019 brings back, by popular demand, “The Taming of the Shrew”—Shakespeare’s tumultuous battle of the sexes. Also on stage is “Million Dollar Quartet,” a Tony-award-winning rock‘n’roll tribute to legends like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. There are visiting artists for the festival’s Showcase Series and Young Shakespeare Program too.
Tickets range from $15 (Upper Gallery Youth) to $396 (café table and chairs for four plus wait service). Parking is $15 per vehicle. Warren Edward Trepp Stage, 2005 Highway 28, Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Incline Village, NV, 800-747-4697, laketahoeshakespeare.com.
In 2012, the goal of Classical Tahoe was to be a destination for supporters of classical music, and after six successful seasons, more than 15,000 music-lovers have attended its summer season.
Classical Tahoe hosts a three-week festival with orchestra concerts, chamber music and family concerts. Under the leadership of Artistic Director and Conductor Joel Revzen, Classical Tahoe is also a popular gathering of musicians who return year after year.
The venue is the Sierra Nevada College campus in a state-of-the-art pavilion structure, like those used at major musical events around the world, which allows you to experience exceptional music in a unique setting.
The July 7 Summer Gala event is Classical Tahoe’s annual kick-off and benefit concert. The concert features pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, with a “Night in Havana” theme, a silent and live auction, and Cuban-inspired food. Tickets range from $300 to $3,000.
From July 26 to August 11, Classical Tahoe presents 10 performances, ranging from “A Night at the Opera” to “Brahms and Brass with Winston Sprott.” Tickets are $14.50–$129. 999 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village, NV. 775-298-0245, classicaltahoe.org.
By Tim Hauserman
Fortunately, there is a silver lining underneath all that snow-shoveling Tahoe folks did this past winter: When the snow finally melts, it delivers off-the-chart, glorious waterfalls. Rushing white water flying through the air is always a great gift from nature, but even more so when the sources of those falls are brimming to capacity. Here are three of my favorite waterfalls around the Tahoe region.
Eagle Falls, Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay is a crowded place in the summer, but Eagle Falls makes up for it. The falls are wide and steep and—well into the summer—the mist from the crashing water will cool you off at the viewing platform. While the falls might be your destination, this 2.5-mile round-trip hike also takes you past Vikingsholm and the shore of Emerald Bay.
To get there: Take Highway 89 South from Tahoe City 17 miles to Emerald Bay. Park at the Vikingsholm or Eagle Falls trailhead. Pay a fee. Then take the trail 1 mile down to Vikingsholm, and an additional 1/4 mile uphill to the base of the falls. Get there early to find a parking spot and beat the crowds.
Fontanillis Falls, Desolation Wilderness
In the middle of the Desolation Wilderness near Dicks Lake sits Fontanillis Lake, a true gem of the Tahoe Sierra. It’s a crystal-clear mountain lake sitting in a basin of granite near the base of Dicks Peak (9,974 feet).
Unbeknownst to many who just walk right by, Fontanillis’ little outlet creek pours out of the lake and sets off down a steep granite slope toward Upper Velma Lake. What makes this unique and such a cool place to visit is that it is a waterfall that you can actually walk next to. While the water swiftly cascades down a narrow channel atop the smooth granite surface, the dry slope next to the falls is easily walkable. You can hike down on either side of the creek, but I like to stay on the south side because near the bottom, you can bushwhack along the base of the granite knob to work your way up to a pond, which is an excellent swimming hole, and completes a loop back to the trail to Dicks Lake that brought you here in the first place.
To get there: Take Highway 89 south 18 miles from Tahoe City to the Bayview Trailhead. Here, fill out a permit to enter the Desolation Wilderness and hike the Bayview Trail to Dicks Lake. It’s about 5 miles, with quite a bit of elevation gain to be conquered. Just past Dicks Lake, follow the Tahoe Rim Trail to Fontanillis Lake, then to the falls at the outlet. Near the bottom of the falls, follow the drainage to the south up to the unnamed pond where you meet the Dicks Lake Trail. Head back to Emerald Bay. It’s about a 12-mile round-trip hike, but well worth the effort.
Galena Falls, Mount Rose Trail
About 10 years ago, a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail was rerouted off a dirt road and onto a new trail from the top of the Mount Rose Highway, along the flank of Tamarack Peak, to connect to the old Mount Rose Trail.
In so doing, the trail builders created access to Galena Falls, which before the new trail, most hikers using the TRT or Mount Rose Trail didn’t even know was there. Now the section of the TRT to Galena Falls is considered the busiest forest service trail in the state of Nevada. In 2.5 miles of fairly easy hiking, you reach the falls. Along the way you are treated to awesome views of Lake Tahoe and Mount Rose. The falls are about 60-feet high, and the TRT not only passes by the base but then switchbacks up to the top.
To get there: The Tahoe Rim Trail/Mount Rose Trailhead is right at the top of the Mount Rose Highway (Highway 431), about 8 miles from Incline Village. It’s 2.5 easy miles to the falls. From there you can turn around, make a 6-mile loop hike by continuing on the TRT past the falls, and then take the alternative TRT for mountain bikers back to the trailhead. Or the truly energized can climb to the top of Mount Rose itself, the Tahoe area’s third-highest peak.
By Katrina Paz
The term Old Tahoe is common among architects and designers, and for good reason. It was an unhurried time of grandeur and decadence—the stuff Tahoe dreams stemmed from. While upscale developments and resorts lay claim to today’s Tahoe, there are a number of treasures still standing tall, allowing you to step back in time and glam it up on warm summer evenings.
South Shore’s Tallac Historic Site may be the best place to step back in time in the summer months. Two grand gatherings bring the Roaring ‘20s to life.
Puttin’ on the Glitz, a sunset soiree at the peak of summer (July 20) is an elegant lakeside gathering at the historic Pope House. The evening is full of old-world glamour, as well as plenty of bubbly and live music.
The 35th annual Gatsby Festival, August 10 & 11, pulls out all the stops with a speakeasy, vintage market and automobiles, an afternoon tea and a fashion show on the grounds of the historic estates. Guests are encouraged to dress in 1920s attire. Suitable for the entire family, the event is free, with some fees for tours and specific events.
Built between 1894 and 1923, the Tallac Historic Site includes the Pope, Baldwin and Heller estates. The compounds were the ultimate playgrounds for the wealthy in their heyday and hosted such prominent guests as Rudolph Valentino. The Vahalla/Heller Estate includes the Boathouse Theatre, with floor-to-ceiling windows and amazing acoustics. It’s the site of numerous concerts throughout the summer (July 19 is the first). The Grand Hall is a popular site for intimate weddings with vaulted ceilings, a horseshoe balcony and a 40-foot stone fireplace.
The grounds are open throughout the year but tours are only offered from Memorial Day through September. There’s no charge for the Tallac Museum, but the Pope House tour is $10 for adults/$6 for children. An open artists’ studio and blacksmith shop are also located on the grounds, tahoeheritage.org.
Eccentricity on the East Shore
The Thunderbird Lodge is the origin of some of Lake Tahoe’s most outlandish legends. The elaborate compound was built by George Whittell in 1936 and was the site of high-stake card games and drinking soirees with the likes of Ty Cobb. Whittell’s initial plans included a casino and ski resort, but as time passed his dreams waned. His love of animals and privacy instead made him the Howard Hughes of the Sierra. Hughes, coincidentally, was a frequent guest to the Thunderbird.
What Whittell did create was just as impressive and intriguing as any casino resort: an estate replete with a private zoo and an elephant house for his pal Mingo, the infamous card room, old lodge, servants’ quarters and a 600-foot underground tunnel leading to a cavernous boathouse (housing the legendary wooden speedboat Thunderbird). The grounds are equally captivating with gardens, lagoons, waterfalls and a serpentine dragon tail path.
Today, the estate is a popular location for weddings, which take place on the lakeside lawn or in the Lighthouse Room. An added bonus is that a portion of the fees are tax-deductible (the property is now held by a nonprofit group).
A number of events allow visitors to get an authentic experience of life at the estate. Epicurean winemaker dinners take place July 14 and September 8 overlooking the lake. The Thunderfaire Food and Wine Festival is set for August 11 and allows guests to wander the grounds during the silent auction, raffle and live entertainment. There are also wine and cheese tours Tuesday and Friday afternoons, July 9 through October 18.
The exact address of the lodge is not made public until tour reservations are made. Tours depart from the Incline Village-Crystal Bay Visitors Center through mid-October. Tickets are $45 for adults/$19 for children (children under 6 are not allowed). Tours by water, the quintessential Tahoe experience, are also available, thunderbirdtahoe.org.
Nestled into Emerald Bay on the quiet banks of the West Shore is Vikingsholm. This grand Scandinavian castle was built in the 1920s, but its pristine location has been attracting those looking to spend quiet summers on the lake since the 1860s. The original owner, stagecoach magnate Ben Holiday, built one of the first vacation homes on the lake. The land passed through several hands before being purchased by Lora Josephine Knight.
Though not of Scandinavian descent, Knight was enamored with the architecture and built a home worthy of its majestic surroundings. She also owned the famous Teahouse on Emerald Bay’s Fannette Island (which the castle overlooks). Unfortunately the teahouse was rarely used, but Knight did a fair amount of entertaining at Vikingsholm itself. She commissioned her nephew, a Swedish architect, to design the home, which today is still considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the U.S. The exterior features granite boulders embedded in mortar, similar to that seen in Swedish stone churches and castles, while the sod roof is adorned with wildflowers.
The castle opens its doors for a trivia night with murder mystery author Todd Borg on June 22. A 90th anniversary celebration takes place August 24 and includes a tour and catered reception.
The castle is accessed by a steep 1-mile trail from the parking lot off Highway 89 or a less steep 1.5 mile trail from Eagle Point Campground. Guests can call the park directly for ADA accessibility. Tours are offered daily from Memorial Day through late summer and cost $15 for adults and $12 for students. Tours by boat are also available from Camp Richardson, vikingsholm.com.