Lake Tahoe is a world-famous tourist destination, and for good reason. With its stunning mountain scenery, crystal-clear lakes, and an array of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder people come from all over the world to visit.
But what many people don’t know is that Lake Tahoe is just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. In fact, some might say it’s even more spectacular when the Sierra Nevada Mountains are covered in snow! If you’re looking for an unforgettable family vacation this winter, look no further than Lake Tahoe.
Even if skiing isn’t your thing, Lake Tahoe offers plenty of other winter activities the active outdoor family will love.
Here are 10 of the best winter and snow activities that you can do during the winter in Lake Tahoe:
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1. Go Skiing in Lake Tahoe
Because Lake Tahoe is home to some of the world’s best and most famous ski resorts, it comes as no surprise that skiing should be at the top of your list. Skiing enthusiasts can glimpse some of the area’s greatest vistas of the mountains and snow-covered regions around them as they go down the slopes.
Even if you’re a beginner, there are several ski slopes and lodges where you can try out your skills. Many provide specialized lessons based on your skill level, ensuring that you can develop your skills.
A few of the best family ski resorts around Lake Tahoe are:
- Northstar California Resort (North Lake Tahoe) – can teach children from as young as 3 years old and have class sizes of no more than four, along with the popular Kids Adventure Zone. Northstar offers childcare for parents who want to hit the slopes alone for their 2 to 6-year-olds (Part of the Epic Pass program)
- Palisades Tahoe (previously Squaw Valley Ski Resort – North Lake Tahoe) – One of the best all-rounder resorts – and most luxurious – with 6,000 acres of skiable area, they have a highly acclaimed ski school on offer and plenty of winter activities off the slopes too. Acclaimed for having hosted the 1960s Winter Olympics, even if not skiing the slopes, a visit is a must! (Ikon Pass – covers Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows)
- Diamond Peak Ski Resort (North Lake Tahoe) – A great choice for beginners, the ski school here is considerably cheaper than some of the larger resorts starting from 3-year-olds, plus they offer “kids ski free” packages for under 6’s and interchangeable parent passes.
- Heavenly Mountain Resort (South Lake Tahoe) – Lots of intermediate runs make the slopes here great for families that want to ski together. If you still require daycare, Heavenly’s can take your bub from as young as 2 months! For 3 to 4-year-olds they also offer a ski-play program whilst proper ski lessons start from 4 years old, snowboarding from 5 years old. (Also part of Epic Pass program)
- Sierra-at-Tahoe (North Lake Tahoe) – if its fewer crowds and more affordable accommodation you want, this could be your best choice. Enjoy 11 acres of beginners’ terrain with lessons from 4 years+ or cubbies as part of their daycare program from 3+. Daycare starts at 18 months old.
Those who want to try their hand at cross-country skiing will not be disappointed either. Try Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center (who offers youth programs) or Royal Gorge with 27 beginner trails.
2. Slip on Your Ice Skates in Lake Tahoe
You can go ice skating in Lake Tahoe in a few different places. Some good places for family fun are the resorts with ice skating rinks. You can learn to skate or show off your moves at several locations. Some top family-friendly choices include:
- Palisades Tahoe – take the aerial tram up to High Camp and go for a stroll around the Olympic Ice Pavilion. You’ll be able to skate on one of California’s most well-known ice rinks, as well as enjoy one of California’s most beautiful mountain vistas.
- Northstar California Resort also offers a skating rink during the winter months. The ice-skating rink is free, so bring your own skates or take advantage of their reasonably priced rental service.
Ice skating on Lake Tahoe? Not quite, Lake Tahoe does NOT freeze over, but several smaller lakes in the are DO! So if you’re an avid ice skater and are well equipped, pop over to the Truckee Tahoe ice skating Facebook page for some insider tips on the best FREE locations!
3. Take a Snowmobile Tour in Lake Tahoe
Take to the snow on a snowmobile for an experience of a lifetime. Many snowmobile excursions pass through Nevada’s National Forest, allowing you to enjoy some of Lake Tahoe’s finest sights.
From November to April, this is one of the most exhilarating ways to explore Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountains. Why not try:
- Zephyr Cove Resort – home to over 45 miles of snowmobile trails, this is one of the most popular locations for snowmobile excursions. You can go on the picturesque lake cruise or do an expedition through the backcountry after renting your snowmobile and putting on your ski gear. Both routes will provide you with a variety of impressive scenery.
- Lake Tahoe Adventures – a Summit Tour is perfect for your beginners to intermediates. They offer “kids ride free” with an adult on Wednesdays!
- Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours – offering a good variety of group and private sessions, 2 or 4 hour tours around North Lake Tahoe.
4. Go Fat Tire Snow Biking
Fat tire biking is similar to riding an ordinary bike, simply with wider snow tires allowing you to go through almost any amount of snow. It may not appear like much fun, but it can be an excellent out-of-the-box experience that is well worth attempting.
- Tahoe Jack’s Adventures – great for first-timers, they can help you with all the gear and guided fat bike tours.
- South Shore Bikes – family owned and operated they can help you with hourly, half-day, and full-day rentals of all types of bikes at all times of the year!
5. Try out a Snow Tube!
Snow tubing is a fabulously fun activity for all the family. Grab your inner tube (available for rent if you don’t have your own) and ride down the snowy slopes in some of the country’s best snow tubing areas:
- Adventure Mountain – Echo Summit – one of the most extensive in South Lake Tahoe, with 16 machine-groomed sledding runs for sledding and tubing
- Blizzard Mountain – Sierra-at-Tahoe – Situated in North Lake Tahoe, includes 2 rope-tow tubing lanes so you can fit more runs in!
- Tube Tahoe – Tahoe Paradise Golf Course, Meyers – one of the newest but aiming to be the best with the longest resort-quality runs in South Lake Tahoe
- Heavenly – Take the Heavenly Gondola to the Heavenly tubing hill and enjoy four lanes 500 feet long!
6. Visit A Brewery in Lake Tahoe
Many of the local breweries in Lake Tahoe thrive in the winter months, offering not just beer tastings but tasty food and family-friendly amenities. Some favorites to try that welcome all the family:
- Cold Water Brewery & Grill (South)
- South of North Brewing Co (South)
- FiftyFifty Brewing (North)
7. Head to the Spa in Lake Tahoe
Whether you want to relax and work out those aches and strains after a full day of outdoor fun or just want to enjoy a bit of well-earned pampering, Lake Tahoe offers a good variety of spas. Each has its own unique menu of experiences, from simple treatments to full-day experiences. Why not try:
- The Lighthouse Spa and Massage – with two different locations in Lake Tahoe (Tahoe City and Granlibakken Resort) they offer an impressive selection of massages and healing treatments.
- Massage on the Lake Day Spa – offers some of the finest therapeutic massages in the North Lake Tahoe area.
- Stillwater Spa – found within Hyatt Regency Resort in Incline Village, the focus here is on promoting wellness using Lake Tahoe’s detoxifying mountain resources.
8. Ride the Aerial Tram in Lake Tahoe
The Aerial Tram is one of the most popular activities when it comes to visiting Lake Tahoe. If you ask any Lake Tahoe lover what you should do while you’re there, it’s on everyone’s list! This is especially true for those who aren’t familiar with Lake Tahoe or haven’t been there before.
The Aerial Tram trip takes you over 2,000 feet above Lake Tahoe and offers some of the region’s most stunning vistas. It’s only a 10-minute journey to Palisades Tahoe’s High Camp but the mountain views and skyline are certainly worth it.
9. Take a Sleigh Ride at Lake Tahoe
Looking for one of the most unique things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter? A memorable Lake Tahoe experience is taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Tahoe. Some companies that specialize in winter sleigh rides include:
- Sleighrides.com – Highly reputable Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides, operating from both South lake Tahoe and Incline Village.
- WildSierra.com – for Sierra Adventures, who offer complimentary hotel pick ups for your Sierra Nevada winter wonderland tour.
10. Play in the Snow
A winter vacation need not be complicated when it comes to traveling with kids. Most children experiencing snow for the first time will be delighted with building a snowman, making snow angels, and simply finding their feet in the icy conditions.
Make time in your Lake Tahoe winter itinerary to enjoy these simple pleasures, and why not finish your day off in the hot tub!
Pro Tip – Remember to dress the part when visiting Lake Tahoe in winter with kids. Layers, layers, and more layers! A good thermal layer and a waterproof outer layer with as many in-between layers as you need, plus gloves, scarves, beanies, and appropriate snow boots or footwear.
Lake Tahoe is a winter wonderland, and there are plenty of fun activities to enjoy with your family. From skiing and snowboarding in the mountains to sledding and ice skating on the lake, Lake Tahoe has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a family-friendly winter vacation destination, look no further than Lake Tahoe for a destination that has it all.
Getting to Lake Tahoe
You will find access to Lake Tahoe from the nearest major cities and airports including:
- Reno – Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), Nevada – North & South lake Tahoe – 45 minutes
- Sacramento Airport, California (SMF) – best for North Lake Tahoe – 2 hours
- San Francisco/Bay Area (SFO, SKC, OAK) – best for South Lake Tahoe – 3.5 hours
If you are picking up a rental car at any of these airports, make sure to familiarize yourself with winter driving. We have this great guide for winter driving advice.
- Starting your journey from Yosemite? Check out all these incredible scenic stopping points on the drive from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe
- Alternatively, setting out from Las Vegas, here’s our favorite road trip itinerary through Nevada
Where To Stay Lake Tahoe in Winter
Check out all the current hotel and rental property options at South Lake Tahoe, or head to the northern shores for something a little more serene.
More Beautiful Destinations In California & Nevada
If visiting Lake Tahoe in winter has you inspired, you won’t want to miss these incredible drives and destinations in California & Nevada:
- Best Day Trips from Las Vegas – yup, you can reach Lake Tahoe on a (long!) day trip from Las Vegas!
- 6 Beauty spots in Nevada for Nature-Lovers – beyond the mountains, you won’t want to miss these incredible hidden gems of Nevada
- Most Beautiful Scenic Drives in California –
- Unmissable Scenic Drives in Northern California
- Beautiful Places in California – of course we feature Lake Tahoe, but there are plenty more beauty spots in the Golden State you won’t want to miss
- Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary – arguably one of the most beautiful roads in the road, you must drive this section of the PCH at least once in your life!
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