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Things to Do in Lake Tahoe

Set high in the Sierra Nevada range, spanning the California/Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the US and one of the deepest in the world. Surrounded by pine forest and steep, alpine peaks, Tahoe is famous for its dazzlingly clear, blue-green water and epic winter snows. With easy access from the Bay Area and Sacramento, Lake Tahoe National Recreation Area attracts roughly three million visitors year-round. Lake Tahoe's many activities are divided by weather and season. In winter, powder-hounds flock to its numerous ski resorts and snowboarding trails. Summer season is great for watersports of all sorts—swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking—as well as hiking, camping, and mountain biking. With just one narrow, winding road along the 72-mile (116-kilometer) shoreline, a chauffeured "circle-the-lake" tour is the best way to take in the scenery. South Shore, home of Heavenly Mountain Resort, Emerald Bay State Park, and Eagle Falls, makes a popular base. Start in Zephyr Cove and capture those famous views from the deck of an old-fashioned paddleboat or even from the cockpit of a helicopter—the choice is yours. Many day trips begin in South Shore, from wine tasting in El Dorado to a Wild West adventure, complete with steam train ride. It also offers nightlife, casinos (on the Nevada side), and easy access from Reno airport. North Shore's Tahoe City and Squaw Valley are generally quieter and more upscale. A few good restaurants are found here, with many more options in nearby Truckee.
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Vikingsholm Castle
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Vikingsholm Castle is a historic mansion and architectural highlight of Lake Tahoe. Located in beautiful Emerald Bay State Park, the majestic home overlooks the lake’s scenic Emerald Bay and Fannette Island. Blending seamlessly with its surrounding natural environment, Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.
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South Lake Tahoe
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South Lake Tahoe, perched on the largest Alpine lake in North America on the California–Nevada border, is one of the region’s most popular hot spots. The city offers stellar water views and serviceable accommodations with easy access to the lake, plus casinos, great skiing, beaches, and bike trails.
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Heavenly Gondola
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The centerpiece of South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain Resorts, the Gondola at Heavenly provides riders with an impressive view of the cobalt-blue waters of Lake Tahoe. No matter if you’re a skier or not, you won’t fail to be awed by the vistas afforded on your way up and down.

The Gondola at Heavenly travels from the middle of the Heavenly Village 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) up the mountain in 15 minutes. When you reach the summit, you can take one of the three hikes that circle the mountaintop. After your hike and a reinvigorating lunch at Adventure Peak Grill, you can ride back down to the Village and spend some time in the pedestrian mall. Here, you can browse souvenir shops and boutiques; if you’re with kids, take them to the arcade or for a skate at the Heavenly Village Outdoor Ice Rink.

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Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 1,645 ft (501 m). It calls two states home. Two thirds of the lake is in California, the remaining third in Nevada.

Much of the world discovered Lake Tahoe and the neighborhoods that surround it when it hosted the 1960 winter Olympics. (That’s the same year hockey fans and non-hockey fans alike watched the United States Olympic hockey team defeat the Russians to win the Gold medal.) Snow and any activities you can do on it or with it is popular in Lake Tahoe. At the lake level, annual snowfall averages 125 inches, but at alpine skiing elevations, the snowfall averages 600 inches. Winter turns the area into a much loved snow covered playground with numerous ski resorts that cater to visitors’ every need. Spring, summer and fall is when the lake itself, really gets to shine.

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Emerald Bay State Park
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One of the must-see sights on a visit to Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park. Carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, the lake displays a stunning array of colors, especially just before the sun slips below the mountains, when the bay’s colors really peak. In the center of the bay sits Fannette Island, which gives the bay a jewel-like shape, best seen from Emerald Bay lookout – a view not to be missed. Emerald Bay is also one of the first underwater parks, protecting the various boats, barges, and other items on the bay's bottom.

Emerald Bay State Park is also home to Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. The roof of the mansion is made of sod and sprouts wildflowers in the spring. The mansion is just a short hike downhill from the lookout. Another highlight of the park is Eagle Falls, which is a short hike from the Eagle Falls picnic area.

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M.S. Dixie II
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To truly experience Lake Tahoe, take a trip aboard the M.S. Dixie II, a paddle-wheeled boat that plies the lake’s stunning, cobalt-blue waters. From its vantage point on the lake, you can take in breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Emerald Bay, charming Fannette Island, and Vikingsholm Castle.

While on board the M.S. Dixie II, you’ll learn about the history of the lake and how it was formed and some of its fascinating history. You will even get a look below Lake Tahoe's surface, with a special video presentation of "Sunken Treasures of Lake Tahoe." This is a video presentation showing what lies deep beneath the brilliant blue of Lake Tahoe's surface.

On your trip on the M.S. Dixie II, you’ll encounter underwater canyons and rocky bluffs that until now have never been seen by human eyes. The boat will cruise through recently discovered ancient forests of petrified trees, roam the bottom of Emerald Bay, and explore sea mounds.

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Sand Harbor
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With its pristine waters, long stretches of sandy beach, rocky coves with giant boulders, and stunning panoramic views, Sand Harbor is one of the most popular beaches at Lake Tahoe. It’s the ideal place for the whole family to enjoy a day of fun in the sun surrounded by some of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular scenery.
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El Dorado Wine Region
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California’s El Dorado wine-producing region is situated at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. With a low-alpine climate—warm days and cool nights are ideal for growing grapes for wine—the area is home to about 50 wineries, producing dozens of celebrated wine varietals.
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Virginia City
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Step back in time to the Wild West at the historical mining town of Virginia City, once called the “richest place on Earth.” Enjoy 100-mile (160-kilometer) views across the high desert, ride the V&T railroad, shop, have a bite to eat or drink in an old saloon, and tour museums, mines, and mansions in one of the country’s largest National Historic Landmarks.
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More Things to Do in Lake Tahoe

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley

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Virginia and Truckee Railroad

Virginia and Truckee Railroad

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Experience the frontier days of the Wild West and take in the beautiful scenery of the Nevada high desert on a ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. One of the most famous of all American short-line railroads, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad operates three routes using century-old steam engines and heritage diesel locomotives.
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Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake

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Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest

Stretching along the Sierra crest above Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest in an 800,000 acre (324,000 hectare) park, overflowing with outdoor recreational opportunities. In summer, the forest draws campers, picnickers, and hikers, while in winter, sledders, skiers, and snowshoes come to enjoy some of the deepest snowpack in the West.

Tahoe National Forest has many natural and man-made resources, including hundreds of lakes, snow-capped peaks, old-growth forests, reservoirs, and river canyons carved through granite bedrock, and many miles of trails including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. The forest also includes includes the 8,587 foot (2,617 meter) peak of Sierra Buttes, which has views of Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta.

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