Celestial views from the top of Heavenly's gondola. (Rachid Dahnoun/Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority)

Tale of Two Shores: Reasons to Visit Both North and South Lake Tahoe


With so much snow to play in, a trip to Tahoe this winter is an obvious choice. But it's a big lake—and the surrounding mountains are vast—so choosing exactly where to stay presents a slew of options.

Regulars to Tahoe have their go-to resorts and favorite places to hang, but for newbies—or anyone looking to shake up the usual escape up north—we're here to help you navigate the differences between North and South Lake Tahoe, and all the spots that encompass both. The north and south shores each have their own distinct styles, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and sleep.

South Lake Tahoe: What to Know + Why to Visit

(Rachid Dahnoun / Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority)

The South Shore includes South Lake Tahoe, Meyers, Stateline, Zephyr Cove, Emerald Bay, Homewood, Kirkwood, Tahoma and the Heavenly ski area.

Here are the top reasons to visit.

You want to party.

South Tahoe is known for its nightlife scene with casinos, restaurants, and bars that can take you into the morning hours. Nightclubs such as Opal Ultra Lounge at the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa and Vinyl at the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe both have live DJs, tribute bands, and drink specials. The party is set to heat up even more when Gordon Ramsay's restaurant Hell's Kitchen opens at Harvey's Lake Tahoe.

You like to hang with the locals.
If you want to steer clear of larger crowds and meet some friendly Tahoe citizens, head to the smaller breweries and taverns of the South Shore. Cozy up with a Brewocracy IPA at Sidellis Brewery and Restaurant. Lake Tahoe AleWorx has two locations in South Tahoe and serves craft cocktails and pizzas.

All the winter sports

Skiers and snowboarders will have their pick of several resorts including Sierra-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood (known for its deep powder), and the activity-packed Heavenly Lake Tahoe. For winter activities off the slopes, check out Heavenly's 500-foot-long tubing hill and the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster. Go deep into backcountry with Lake Tahoe Adventure's Ultimate Snowmobile Ride through Hope Valley.

The best views

It's time to get high—South Tahoe has some of the best views in the area, from the Scenic Gondola Ride at Heavenly (with a cocoa stop at the Cafe Blue and lunch at Tamarack Lodge) to uncrowded views of Emerald Bay covered in snow. The Ridge Resorts has views of both South Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley from its guest rooms and the outdoor hot tub. If you don't mind having pink cheeks, jump out of a plane with Skydive Lake Tahoe. You'll see not just the South Shore, but the entire Lake Tahoe Basin in one fell swoop. Enhance it all with a pre-viewing trip to Tahoe's first locally owned cannabis dispensary.

North Lake Tahoe: What to Know + Why to Visit

Escape the crowds at Mount Rose Wilderness.

(Chris Bartkowski/North Lake Tahoe)

The North Shore includes Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, Incline Village, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Diamond Peak, the Mount Rose ski area, and Truckee and Donner Lake.

Here are the top reasons to visit.

You want peace and quiet.

While the North Shore has the majority of the ski resorts, you can still get away from the crowds by strapping on cross country skis or snowshoes instead. Tahoe has the most concentrated region of groomed cross country ski and snowshoe terrain in North America, and the North Shore features some of the best views. Pick up a map and a pass for Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center's 62 miles of groomed trails or The Resort at Squaw Creek's 11 miles of trails.

You need to relax.

After all the outdoor exertion, it's time to relax. Head to the beautiful The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe's spa for one of their magical treatments (and a warm outdoor pool). Choose from thermal masks, a CBD pedicure, or the 90-minute Journey Through the Forest massage that utilizes native essential oils. To really get away from it all, head to the Rainbow Tavern & Lodge, a former speakeasy in Soda Springs, or to Brockway Springs Resort with its half-mile of beach and lakefront condominiums.

You're a foodie.

North Tahoe has a plethora of interesting places to eat. Savor spicy Korean Wagyu tacos, apple cabbage slaw, and a Peppercorn Mule at celebrity chef Michael Mina's new Bourbon Pub at Northstar California. Truckee Food Shop features Guanajuato gastronomy to go, and Cafe Zenon serves a Vietnamese French dip with pho broth. For dessert, order the warm zeppole doughnuts with dipping sauces at The Lodge Restaurant & Pub, or the s'mores chocolate crème brûlée with candied bacon at Lone Eagle Grille.

You like to shop.

Get all your holiday shopping done in two cute towns. Historic Downtown Truckee has dozens of stores that feature jewelry and art, clothing, and decor. California 89 sells apparel celebrating Highway 89, while Bespoke stocks one-of-a-kind goods from independent artists. In the walkable Tahoe City, North Tahoe Arts sells works by local sculptors and painters. Cabin Fever has vintage-inspired Tahoe and mountain wall art. After shopping, don't forget to stop for lunch at Old Town Tap in Truckee or Za's Lakefront in Tahoe City.

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