Many of you followed along on Instagram our recent four day getaway to Lake Tahoe, and liked the photos, so I thought I’d post about our first real family getaway in the time of COVID. It was wonderful to finally leave the house for a few days after months of staying put. We squeezed it in just before the youngest son left to began his freshman year at University of Utah.
We are living in such unprecedented times, who knows what is safe and what is risky right now? Each family needs to decide for themselves. A road trip to Tahoe and staying in a rental seemed fairly safe to us. The challenge was avoiding the summer crowds of Tahoe, so we did takeout, cooked in our rental and ate at outdoor restaurants with good safety protocols. We wore our masks all the times we were out among others, did an extra cleaning of the rental upon arrival and left the windows wide open for a full day after we arrived.
As a girl, my family took us to Lake Tahoe for vacations and I have the best memories of those simple summers. My parents would rent little cabins or A- frames often at a beach area called Chamber’s Landing. I have a special affinity for the West Shore of Lake Tahoe thanks to those times. It has a lot of history, many charming old cabins and homes and the most beautiful beaches. I love the gorgeous trees and pine smell that hits you as soon as you arrive and the incomparably blue lake never fails to stun me with it’s beauty.
On this trip we started our days with a morning activity and then hung out afternoons at the lake, swimming, reading, paddle boarding and some sunbathing. We cooked some dinners in and also went out two nights. The highlight of this trip was renting a speed boat the last day and letting the guys try waterskiing. It was a slow and relaxing vacation with a lot of downtime, beautiful sunsets and just what we needed before taking the youngest off to college. I even brought my watercolors to work on. I’m just a beginner still, and I need a lot of help, but it was fun to try painting in the open air.
A few snaps of the trip…
Our rental was in a group of houses with a private beach and shared pier.
Our lawn and beach area. I love the Adirondack chairs that everyone has in Tahoe!
Our coffee spot in the morning. The rental was pretty worn, but it did have a great location.
I loved walking down this beach to see all the lovely lakefront homes. The rocks on this side of the lake beautiful, but very deep and hard to walk in!
We enjoyed a few happy hours on the end of our dock and watching the pretty boats go by..
Some of my favorite musts when on Tahoe’s West Shore..
Tahoe House– a combo of a Swiss Bakery, Deli and gourmet food shop, this treasure has been a mandatory stop on a Tahoe trip for years. I always buy a souvenir for the kitchen or one of their wonderful jams or sauces to bring home as gifts for house or pet sitters. Their lattes I dream about!! We were fortunate to get coffee there a few morning on this trip.
Fire Sign Cafe has outstanding breakfast and also lunch on an expansive lawn that has distancing while you eat under the pines. You can get food to go at their window here too.
Chamber’s Landing is an iconic Tahoe institution. Situated on a beautiful beach, the bar here was the first boat house built on Tahoe in 1865. The beach is used by the many who have vacation homes in the adjoining development. There is now a grill to have the most delicious (best of our trip) outside dinner- socially distanced, with a fantastic lake view. Many people like to come before dinner and take photos with boat house and sunset in the background. Save this for your last night and you won’t regret it!
Next to our rental was the SWA Watersports which rents speedboats, jet skis, paddle boards, private charters, fishing boats and lessons. They have a great protocols during cover- everyone wearing masks, sanitizing and keeping groups separate. We felt good about renting there and recommend doing this or chartering a boat if you don’t want to drive one yourself while you stay in Tahoe! There is no better way to see or experience the lake!
My Apolis market bag was perfect for this car trip and boating!
West Shore Sports Carries bikes and SUP or stand up paddle boards to rent right in Homewood, also with locations in Sunnyside and Sugar Pine Point. They are open every day weather permitting.
West Shore Cafe & Hotel is located right next to the SWA Watersports and has a great deck to grab dinner or a cocktail over the water, located right across from Homewood Ski Resort. The cute red umbrellas are busy all day with boaters coming in, but they are very good with masks and well spaced tables.
For a hike with a view, Ellis Peak is easily reached from the West Shore and is of moderate difficulty, but has panoramic views. Griffin and Max did this hike and took a few beautiful photos. More on the hike details on the All Trails link.
Sunnyside is another don’t miss Tahoe stop with an enormous deck to have one of their famous drinks or Hula Pie! During winter months there are cozy spots to have a hot drink by the fire inside. Reservations are helpful as it is one of the most popular places.
Rafting down the Truckee River is a tradition that families have done forever. It’s an easy five mile float down the river where at the end you can have a lunch at River Ranch Lodge on a patio over the river. We chose not to do this as the river was choked with people when we drove in and we thought it wasn’t smart during COVID. Hopefully when the summer crowds thin or this pandemic is over, you can do this more safely. (photo via Truckee River Rafting.)
There is much more to see on the West Shore by driving south on highway 89. There are parks like The Hellman Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park, (also a fun place to kayak and picnic) and historic Camp Richardson. Vikingsholm is a particular favorite of mine, a Scandinavian style home built in the 1920’s with materials from Tahoe using old world craftsmanship.
Vikingsholm is built in a medieval style home and if you take the tour you learn more about the style, furnishings and its owner Mrs Knight. It’s set at the bottom of a steep one mile hike on beautiful Emerald Bay. Mrs Knight, built another small house on an island in the middle of Emerald Bay to take her friends for tea. The home fronts a public beach that has a view of this island and is a nice place for a picnic before you do the hike back up to the parking lot. This is something to do very early in the day on warm parts of the year as the hike back up can be strenuous. Tours may be closed during the pandemic, so check the website for Vikingsholm.
One day we went into Tahoe City to shop for souvenirs and get lunch. The Granlibakken Taco Truck has awesome street tacos and authentic Mexican and we took our lunch across the street to Commons Beach. This beach is great for families as it is very shallow for a very long way out. It also has a playground (closed during COVID) but can be crowded. There is a great little local artist co-op fronting the beach there called ARTIsan Shop. It’s a non-profit for local artists and a great place to pick up art, photography, glass woven things, ceramics and so much more – many Tahoe themed.
Also in Tahoe City the Pineapple shop is a go-to for cute Tahoe tote bags, jewelry and home decor things in the Cobblestone Center. I also LOVE Kalifornia Jean Bar which has locations in Truckee, (a charming nearby village if you have time), and in Squaw Valley Village. They sell this sweatshirt with the cool Tahoe spots and many adorable Tahoe shirts.
Where to Stay on Tahoe’s West Shore..
Airbnb in Tahoma/Homewood and the West Shore.
These VRBO rentals are the ten closest to Chamber’s Landing of their listings.
Granlibakken Resort is another place that I hold dear in my heart. I learned to ski on their crazy steep Olympic training hill back in late 70’s and my kids spent many winters sledding here and having hot chocolate at the hut at their sled hill. All the condos here are independently owned and nestled in the prettiest forest locations. There is also a lodge, restaurant and bar as well as a conference center. It has a super location just off 89 in Tahoe City. When renting here ask for an updated condominium. The breakfast buffet cannot be beat before a day of boating or skiing.
West Shore Cafe & Hotel, as mentioned above also has a great lakefront suites and rooms and a hopping restaurant and bar, located just across from Homewood ski resort.
The Cottage Inn is on a fantastic stretch of beach and looks funky and charming. I’ve never been, but their video makes me want to go for a weekend!
Sunnyside is also great lodge with a restaurant right on the lakefront.
On the way into Tahoe you will pass the Olympic Village from the 1960 games. There is a lovely resort- Squaw Creek near the entrance which has all the resort amenities and a huge pool, shops and places to eat and a lot of beautiful hiking as well as proximity to Squaw Valley Village. Plump Jack Inn is also near the village here and is a luxury boutique hotel. (Note: It is currently closed until winter due to the pandemic.)
Please leave any Tahoe favorites of your own in the comments! I’d love to hear what memories you might have of this magical spot.
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Photos property of NorthernCalStyle unless noted.