While the road-snack offerings on the way to Tahoe are some of the best around, sometimes the whole traffic, ice, and chains situation tips the scale into not-worth-it territory.
We West Coasters aren't conditioned to think of the rails when planning our expeditions, but train travel is still one of the best modes around, especially when you can ride on what is basically The Polar Express for a scenic trip from the Bay Area up to Tahoe.
Amtrak's California Zephyr train will take you from Emeryville to Truckee (or on to Reno, if that's your jam) via a winding, snow-swept route through the pristine Sierra. The trip takes just under five hours and will set you back just $50 each way (and $39 for pets); all you have to do is sit back and read a book or have a drink while you stare smugly across the valley at all those cars lined up over the pass.
Of course, driving up to Tahoe on a clear, traffic-free day is more time effective, but for those times (hi, holiday weekend) that threaten a seven-hour car ride, this train's the way to go. Book Friday train rides a few weeks in advance as seats for the weekend can fill up quickly. Book tickets at amtrak.com.