Travel - November 11, 2016

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

lake tahoe city guide, lake tahoe travel guide what to do what to eat where to stay

Lake Tahoe is one of those spots I’ve seen on Pinterest a million times and have always wanted to go – it’s legit one of the most beautiful places to ever be photographed. And let me tell you, the photographs aren’t lying! I recently went for about 5 days (and true story, we ended up pushing our flights back a whole day because we had a hard time leaving) and loved every minute. My dad flew out to join me and we had so much fun exploring, eating – like all day every day, drinking, and just having solid bonding time – it was too much fun!

I loved how unique this area was. It’s the largest alpine lake in all of North America, and it straddles California and Nevada – so just depends which part of the lake you’re at. The lake is HUGE – it takes hours to drive around the whole thing and people don’t really suggest that unless you have a lot of time there. I could easily have spent another week here. We thought it was best to explore the areas around us, but basically each area of the lake has a different vibe and a lot to see. I’ll get more into that below!

When to Visit

This is one of those places that’s great in literally every season. Since it’s a lake, it’s a popular destination in the summer and has thousands of houses on and around the lake. Winter is also super popular because there are a handful of ski resorts in the surrounding areas around the lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains, and then there are a lot of flat areas for other winter activities, too! I was there in fall obviously and it was gorgeous. It was mild during the day (lower 60s and such a nice break from Dallas) and then it got to the 30s at night – perfect mountain weather if you ask me! The leaves were changing when I was there, but since a lot of the area is redwoods – which don’t change color – the changing of the leaves isn’t as distinct as the East Coast – more pops of color here and there. There was a little snow and I guess late October is usually when the snowfall starts. Spring is probably also really pretty with the leaves coming back, and supposedly there’s snow until deep spring a lot of the time.

I did hear that winter and summer can get packed – and NYE is really popular in the area – so I’d definitely plan ahead if you’re wanting to go then. If you’re looking to budget, I’d suggest fall or spring since it’s “off-season.”

The entire area is HUGE because the lake is so big, so it’s split up into several different areas, many of which have ski resorts. I’ll try to breakup the areas a bit as I talk about them below, but let me know if you have any other questions!

The Different Areas + Ski Resorts

North side – Incline Village and Northstar (ski resort) are popular north side areas, and both are very nice. The north side is known to be a bit fancier. Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose are also considered north side ski resorts. Tahoe City and Kings Beach are popular north side (and a bit west) areas to eat and hangout.

West side – Homewood is the main ski resort here and the west side is pretty residential.

South side – This is the party zone. This is where most of the casinos/clubs are, and apparently it’s a big bachelorette/bachelor party destination. Tahoe Keys are a cool place to rent a house and Heavenly Ski Resort and Kirkwood (resort) are on the south side.

East side – This whole area is Nevada and there are some little towns on the way. Carson City is the closest big city and Zephyr Cove is a gorgeous area to stay or for a beach in the summer.

How to Get There

Tahoe is pretty secluded – which adds to its beauty – so the closest airport is in Reno, Nevada. From Reno to the north side of the lake, it’s about 45 minutes. From Reno to the south side would be closer to an hour and a half-2 hours depending on where you’re going. I took a Lyft from the airport and it was $70, but I’d suggest renting a car or getting a shuttle. My dad rented a car luckily, so we were able to use it to explore – I’d definitely suggest renting a car (or SUV with chains if it’s snowing) if you want to get out and about! If you’re going in the winter just to ski or snowboard and don’t want to leave your resort, a hotel shuttle would be fine.

airport outfit, lake tahoe, comfy chic, oversized cardigan, plaid scarf

This was what I wore – I like to keep things pretty comfy yet still polished and put together when I travel! //

Outfit Details: Halogen Open Front Cardigan// Rag & Bone ‘Classic Newbury Boot’//BP. Check Square Scarf//Paige ‘Transcend’ High Rise Skinny Jeans// Leith V-Neck Sweater// Ray-Ban ‘Original Aviator’ 58mm Sunglasses

Where To Stay

There are a ton of places to stay since the area is so large, but I’ll cover some of the places I saw or heard were great.


We stayed here and LOVED it. I feel like I say that about a lot of hotels, but this one was special. It’s nestled on its own (which is good and bad I guess), so you’re definitely secluded up in the mountains. There’s a huge lobby and common area, which were my favorite. There were a ton of little fireplaces, nooks, and big chairs and couches on to just hangout in – and this is where I did a lot of work. We weren’t skiing when we were there, but you can ski in and out right from the resort’s backyard. This would be amazing for families or anyone trying to have an easy, relaxing experience when it comes to skiing. There’s even a restaurant outside! The spa is amazing, and so was the food and staff. Like I said, we ended up staying an entire extra day!


This is in Incline Village on the north side of the lake and a great option. They even have a casino inside, so if you like to gamble, it’s a nice but classy place to stay. It’s really close to the water too!

The Landing

This is on the south side and it’s right across from the beach/water but also close to the hotels. It’s a nice place, and a great mix of being near entertainment but also beautiful and relaxing! Love the mix of fun and luxury.


We heard that this was the way to go unless you want to stay in a hotel. There are tons of vacation rentals that range in all different price values and sizes, and you can find a house that’s just what you want. I’d love to rent a place right on the lake next time!

brighton keller at ritz carlton at lake tahoe wearing grey jeans and bp pullover

Outfit Details: BP. Drop Pullover Sweater//Rag & Bone ‘Classic Newbury’Boot//Citizens of Humanity Rocket High Rise Jeans//Nixon ‘Ragnar’ Square Leather Watch// Madewell Awning Stripe Scarf

Grey on grey outfit, groutfit, dinner at christy hill in Lake Tahoe

On the dock before having dinner at Christy Hill //

Outfit Details: Citizens of Humanity Rocket High Rise Jeans// Rebecca Minkoff ‘Regan’ Satchel// BP. Cowl Neck Pullover//Dee Keller ‘Portia Pumps’

Where To Eat

Since it was off-season, we spent a LOT of time hanging out…and eating. Luckily, I have a lot to report for y’all!

Manzanita restaurant in Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Manzanita restaurant in Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Manzanita @The Ritz Carlton: We loved this spot and not just because it was in our hotel. I’d say that it was good enough to make the trip to the Ritz for. The food was epic, it’s a gorg setting, and the people working were the nicest! We had dinner there…twice. The first time we went there, I got the Cauliflower soup, Twin peaks persimmon salad, Organic rotisserie chicken. SO. YUM. And then for the second time I got cauliflower soup (again!), steak with sides of bacon-covered brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes. YUM AGAIN.

Lake Tahoe City Guide - Bridgewater Tavern

BridgeTender Tavern: We got a wedge salad and chili. They’re voted to have the best hamburger in town but we had just had one the night before. We’ll have to try it next time!

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide - Christy Hill Restaurant View from Table

Christy Hill Lakeside: Modern, American dining, locally sourced, and delish. It sits above the lake so the views are incredible too. Try it at sunset!

Lone Eagle Grill: Omg omg omg I love this place. We had lunch here and the caesar salad was to die for, and we almost drove 45 minutes out of our way the next day JUST to get it again. And then we split the bison burger for our entree and it was (as the waiter said) beyond compare! So, so good. This is right by the Hyatt, FYI.

Other spots we didn’t get to go to but were recommended:

  • Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge
  • Jake’s on the lake
  • Dockside 700 Bar & Grill – located at Tahoe city dockside marina w/ view of marina and lake.
  • Chambers Landing Bar & Grill
  • Gar Woods – famous for their drink the Wet Woody and apparently a lot of fun right on the lake.

brighton the day hiking outfit in lake tahoe

Taking in the view at Emerald’s Bay //

Outfit Details: BP. Long Sleeve Pullover // Beyond Yoga High Waisted Leggings // Caslon Striped Triangle Scarf // Nike ‘Air Zoom’ Shoe

What To Do

Since Tahoe is so big, the possibilities of what to do are pretty endless. If you want to gamble and party, you can, if you want to eat, you can, if you want to be outdoorsy, the sky is the limit! Here’s a bit of what we did and what you can do (outside of skiing/snowboarding and the resorts listed above):

Lake Tahoe City Guide - Emerald Bay

Views at Emerald Bay, which is about an hour drive from North Tahoe-ish area (where the Ritz is located!).

Emerald Bay State Park – This is listed on all the travel sites as the #1 thing to do/see in Tahoe, so it’s a must. It was carved millions of years ago by glaciers, and there are huge colorful granite cliffs. It’s alone the southwest short and definitely worth a trip down – even if you’re staying on the north side. Bring all the cameras.

Inspiration Point – This is in Tahoe City and is a bit touristy, but it’s a perfect overlook spot to explore/snap.

Bayview Trail – Located across from Inspiration Point, and a great spot to walk around to take photos of Emerald Bay.

Cascade Falls Hiking Trail –  A nice little hike! 1 mile, moderate difficulty, and there’s parking (more crowded in the summer so get there early!). It takes about 45 minutes and is a great mix of easy and challenge, in my opinion. Just don’t forget your water and to take breaks when necessary if you aren’t used to the altitude change!

Gondola at Heavenly  or your can ride the Aerial Tram or the tram at Northstar for some pretty views.

Eagle Falls near Emerald Bay and Rubicon Trail were also raved about by locals. Oh! And there are “underwater parks” if you’re into scuba driving – probably a bit better in summer when the lake isn’t really cold, but these are supposedly incredible in Lake Tahoe.

You can also swim, chill at the beach in the summer, rent snow mobiles in the winter, snow shoe, basically Tahoe has alllll the outdoor activities you could ever dream of.

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide - Sand Harbour Beach's White Granite Rocks

Sand Harbor – This. Pretty much the most unique area of the lake, in my opinion, and so beautiful. There are big white granite boulders on the beach, but then the backdrop are huge snowy mountains. It’s the perfect mix of beachy + mountain vibes and I couldn’t stop snapping photos. Climbing the rocks was so much fun too, was like an adult playground. I’ll be dreaming of this place.

brighton the day styling lake tahoe, jeans, green sweater, stripe scarf, booties

Exploring Northstar Village //

Outfit Details: BP. Drop Pullover Sweater//Rag & Bone ‘Classic Newbury’Boot//Citizens of Humanity Rocket High Rise Jeans//Nixon ‘Ragnar’ Square Leather Watch// Madewell Awning Stripe Scarf

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide - Tahoe City


Incline Village – Incline has a bunch of cute restaurants, shops, coffee shops, etc. and is a great little stroll. You could easily spend a whole afternoon just walking around here.

Tahoe City – Again, a cute little area of the lake that’s great for bopping around.

Northstar Village – This was close to the Ritz and unfortunately pretty dead when we were there, but during the winter they have an outside skating rink and there are a bunch of places to eat, drink, and shop. It was super cute – I just wish it wasn’t off-season. Great for families because you can also rent a hotel/condo right there. I heard they have live music when it’s busy too.

Vikingsholm – Built in 1920’s, and a former summer house that people refer to as “Tahoe’s Hidden Castle,” you can tour this if you want to see some cool architecture!

There are a bunch of casinos on the south side like Harrah’s, Hard Rock, and Montbleu if you want to gamble or watch games (and a few on the north side – the Hyatt, Crystal Bay, Biltmore).

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide - Tahoe City