Must-Sees in Lake Tahoe in Summer
Updated: May 31, 2020
We visited Tahoe in June of 2019 and fell in love with the beauty of the area. We stayed at The Ridge Tahoe: South Lake Tahoe Resort. This wonderful resort sits on top of the ridge by the Heavenly Ski Resort and it overlooks the gorgeous Carson Valley. The views from our room were spectacular! This trip was a super fun getaway for our family and it was a celebration of some major life accomplishments. My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage this summer and we bought a business so this trip was our last hurrah before we took over the ownership responsibilities of the business. If you are thinking Tahoe is only for winter skiing you need to check out all of the great things we found to do in Lake Tahoe during the summer.
Tahoe Budget Travel Tips:
First off you must know that we love to travel but we love to travel on a budget. I want to kick this blog off right with our best budget tips for Tahoe in the summer. Our biggest spot for savings on this trip was that my parents gifted us with a timeshare for the week that they couldn't use so our lodging was free. Groupon often runs deals for the Ridge Resort so check that out first but if you are looking for other budget lodging options for Tahoe we would suggest checking airbnb, VRBO or an online hotel site like priceline. Our second biggest savings on this trip was that we drove from Colorado instead of flying. We also stocked up on food to eat at the timeshare instead of eating out for most meals. We also tried to keep our activity and entertainment costs low by finding lots of great free things to do.
Best Free Activities:
One thing that was different about this trip as opposed to other trips we have taken was that we stayed at a resort that had lots of on-site entertainment activities. We enjoyed the pool, mini golf, a putting green, basketball, tennis and racquetball courts, a game room with pool and foosball and a couple of playgrounds. These on-site activities made it easy for our family to relax and enjoy each other and our time away without planning a lot of other entertainment. We also visited some free beaches around Lake Tahoe in the evenings. One of them wasn't supposed to be free but that's another story, LOL On our last day in Tahoe we walked the town and did some window shopping. Our favorite in-town activity was going to the top of the Harrah's Casino and looking out at the spectacular view of the city. My husband also did a great free hike from the top of the ridge where we were staying down to the town of South Tahoe. He said it was a great little hike with amazing views and after hiking down he was able to ride the hotel shuttle back to our hotel. We did a great little hike to the Vinkingsholm House a family that was also free.
Tips for Vikingsholm House:
If you are ever in Lake Tahoe the 1.7 mile hike down to Vikingsholm on Emrald Bay is totally worth it. We took our kids on the hike and our 4 year old needed a lift from Dad on the hike back out but our other kids ages 9, 12 and 16 did great.
Vikingsholm was built in the 1920's by a family who had visited the Scandinavian countries and wanted to bring that architecture into their summer home on Lake Tahoe. The home was designed by a swedish architect and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the USA. There is a little island that is a short boat ride away where the family who built the home in the 1920's had a tea room constructed. They would sail across the water to enjoy afternoon tea on the only island in Lake Tahoe. Today you can also take a short boat ride to see what remains of the tea room (for a fee of course). You can also tour the main house for a fee. We chose to visit after 5pm because when we drove by at 2pm there was no parking anywhere near the trailhead. By visiting after 5pm we found a parking spot, we avoided the crowds and we skipped paying for a tour and we just looked inside the windows instead.
Tips for Sugar Pine State Park:
Toward the middle of the week we took a tour of the Pine Lodge at Sugar Pine State Park. The entrance fee for Sugar Pine State Park was only $10 but we splurged on the tour of the Pine Lodge ($12 for adults, $10 for kids). Sometimes you have to splurge, right? We thought that the Pine Lodge tour was worth the extra $ but if you want to keep costs low you can visit the state park and enjoy the grounds without touring the house. The historic house (aka Pine Lodge) was restored to the original look that it would have had in the 1920's when the Ehrman family enjoyed it as a vacation home. It was neat to step back in time and see how a wealthy family at the time would have lived. Some of our favorite parts of the property were the ice house and the boat house. The family had an ice box (not a refrigerator) so they cut ice from the lake in the winter and kept it frozen in the icehouse to use all summer. The family also owned two boats, the Comet and Cherokee, that they took out on the lake in the summers. The Cherokee in the main boat house was our favorite! The family entertained many guests in their opulent summer home. The dining table seats more than 20. There were as many as 27 staff on the property to cook meals, make beds and take care of the guests. There are many bedrooms and bathrooms in the mansion where they could accommodate all of their guests comfortably.
We also enjoyed the trail that wound around the property where we could see the water and huge trees that reside there. There are camping spots at Sugar Point State Park in the summer as well so this is a state park you should put on your list to see if you are ever in the Tahoe area.
Tips for Lakeside Beach:
Earlier I mentioned a free beach that wasn't supposed to be free and it was Lakeside Beach. We found this beach after dinner in South Tahoe one night. We just drove to the closest beach we could find. We found Lakeside Beach right away and parked by an amazing triple trunk tree Then we headed through the gate and spent some time playing in the sand and taking a few photos. We stayed less than an hour and the headed back to our timeshare. The next night after dinner we wanted to go to the same beach so we drove over and parked near the same great tree. We headed to the gate and this time a lady was there charging admission. We were pretty surprised and disappointed that it wasn't free. The lady told us the admissions person the night before must have left their post and we somehow slipped in for free. Hey, what a deal, right? We politely asked where the closest free beach was and we went there instead the second night. So our tip for Lakeside Beach would be to go after dinner and you might get to visit it for free.
Tips for Nevada State Beach:
Nevada State Beach is free to visit but you have to pay for parking if you want to use the close parking lot. We opted to park a few blocks away for free and then walk to the beach entrance. Nevada State Beach is much different than Lakeside beach. Nevada Beach isn't commercial, it is natural and lovely. There is a large campground here with sites starting out at $35 per night. All sites are non-electric. The views are priceless and our kids wanted to go home real quick (14 hour drive) to get our RV and camp for the night. Maybe next time kids. Camping at a State Park would be a great way to experience Lake Tahoe for less. So if you live close enough to bring your RV and camp there we would highly recommend it.
Great Kid's Museum in Reno:
On the first Sunday of our visit to Tahoe we wanted to go to a church in Reno so while we were in Reno we visited the Nevada Discovery Museum. If you are ever in Reno, NV with kids we would definitely recommend going to the Nevada Discovery Museum. Our older kids enjoyed the Mindbender Mansion exhibit and the little guy loved the cloud climber, the water zone and the mechanic's station in the little discoveries exhibit. There was something for everyone and we had a great afternoon hanging out there. With our ASTC Passport membership we got 2 adults and 2 kids entry fees covered. Pretty sweet! To find our more about an ASTC membership you can check out our blog about this National Museum Membership that Can Save Money All Across the USA.
Wonderful Railroad Museum in Sacramento:
On one of our last days in Tahoe we were able to visit a wonderful museum in Sacramento. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Tahoe to Sacramento so it's not close but it was a fine distance for a day trip. My husband has family who live near Sacramento and we wanted to see them and have dinner together so we went a few hours early and made a stop at the California State Railroad Museum. We visited this museum a few years ago and it was so neat that we wanted to go again. It is in the historic Old Sacramento Waterfront District and the whole area is a treat to see. If you are traveling to the Sacrament area we recommend a stop at the Railroad Museum and historic district.
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