Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Top 10 Things to do in Lake Tahoe in the SPRING & FALL

Lake Tahoe
View from Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive, Emerald Bay

The beautiful, stunningly clear water of Lake Tahoe, a freshwater lake, straddles the states of California and Nevada, and is an absolutely stunning destination. Most people visit Lake Tahoe as a winter ski destination visiting the areas of Heavenly, Northstar, Tahoe Donner, Homewood, etc. This is definitely on our list, and we are actually planning a Lake Tahoe skiing trip this December 2018 with my family!

However, we visited Lake Tahoe in the fall before all of the snow fell, and it was beautiful weather and such a lovely time for our 2 year old! These are our top 10 things to enjoy in Tahoe during fall that could also be enjoyed in the spring/summer months:

Travel: The closest airport is Reno and the drive will take you appx 1 hour to Heavenly Village, less or more depending on where you are staying along the lake. We usually rent a car to have our own transportation, but shuttle service is available from Reno to Lake Tahoe to 6 main resort areas (Lakeside Inn, Horizon, Harvey’s, Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, Harrah’s, and Mt. Bleu Resort) via South Tahoe Airporter.¬†If staying elsewhere you can then continue on via public transport.

1.) Emerald Bay Cruise: Emerald Bay is the most photographed place in Lake Tahoe and with good reason. It hosts gorgeous landscapes with peaks reaching 3000 feet starkly rising from the water and is a National Natural Landmark. Cruising Emerald Bay allows you to see the stunning scenery of Emerald Bay State Park from the water. You get a glimpse of Vikingsholm, the Scandinavian castle and Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. We cruised on the Tahoe Blue Wave which departs daily from the Tahoe Keys Marina and includes a buffet lunch. I researched lots of cruises beforehand, and we settled on this 70 foot yacht because the max passenger load is 49, and we wanted a more intimate feel especially with the 2 year old. We really LOVED this cruise. The crew was fantastic and offered lots of 1 on 1 attention. We really had wonderful views from aboard the yacht, and the cookies are pretty great too!

2.) Ice Skating: There are lots of opportunities for ice skating in Lake Tahoe. Heavenly and Northstar Villages both offer outdoor seasonal skating rinks in the villages. These ice skating rinks open seasonally usually at the beginning of November. And in March Northstar turns their ice skating rink into a roller rink in time for Spring! For year round ice skating; however, you can visit the South Lake Tahoe ice arena. There are daily public skate sessions, and lessons offered. My daughter loved this experience. There is also an outdoor playground located on the premises of the sports complex that we visited after skating which is wonderful!

South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena

3.) Heavenly Village: We love Heavenly Village. My daughter loved the fountain and throwing coins into it. Village Toy Store is a great stop off with little ones. We love Base Camp Pizza as well. They have outdoor seating with lawn games for kids plus the pizza is great and affordable. You can take the gondola up to the mountain from the village for a scenic tour at different times throughout the year.

4.) Lakeside Beach: Located in South Lake Tahoe this is a brilliant beach. There is playground equipment on the beach with stunning views of the lake and mountains. And the great thing about visiting Lakeside Beach in fall is that it is free and open to the public without a pass!

5.) Kings Beach: Located in North Lake Tahoe is Kings Beach which is a great destination for families. It offers a playground on the beach, a cute little strip of shops and eateries as well as paddle board rentals etc beach side. A visit to the Sweet Tahoe Time Ice Cream Shop is also a must with little ones!

6.) Visit the original & new Red Hut Restaurant: My favorite breakfast spot is the ORIGINAL Red Hut Waffle Shop! It is a small dinner with amazing food, and has preserved the intimate diner atmosphere, and they make Mickey pancakes for kids ūüôā We also enjoyed the new Red Hut location for the soda bar! We enjoyed the ice cream and little store inside.

7.) Drive the Lake, Hike, & Picnic: The Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive is stunning and makes a 68 mile loop around Lake Tahoe, CA and NV. The loop passes thru some lovely little Tahoe villages such as Incline Village, King’s Beach, Tahoe City, etc. Some sections of the road are closed during the winter months so visiting during other times of the year is a fantastic way to enjoy the full loop. There are several spots to pull off and admire the scenery as well as hiking trails and picnic spots! Sand Harbor in Incline Village is a great place to stop!

8.) Smores & Drinks at The Ritz Carlton Northstar: We decided to drive to Northstar and visit the Ritz Carlton for drinks and appetizers. They have an outdoor bar/dining/sitting area that is perfect for children. They have lots of lawn games and activities set up which our daughter enjoyed, and she made little friends playing. In addition they bring out the smores cart daily, and you can enjoy roasting smores in the open fire pits with little ones! This is a stunning property!

9.) A day trip to Virginia City: Virginia City is the United States’ largest National Historic Landmark, and visiting the city is like taking a step back in time. The drive from Lake Tahoe will take you appx 1 hour to Virginia City. Read my full review of Virginia City here!

10.) A weekend trip to Yosemite: Before winter, The Tioga Pass is usually open which is a great convenient way to visit Yosemite. The drive will take you appx 2.5 hours from Tahoe and will take you to the Eastern Entrance of the park. Yosemite is one of those places that is mostly indescribable unless you have been there to see its beauty, but still I have tried to catalog our experience with a toddler here!


Virginia City, Nevada



Virginia City V & T Gold Hill Train

We visited Virginia City¬†with our 2 1/2 year old in October (or as she calls it Jimminnie City), and it was a fantastic day with our little one! With 2 million visitors a year, Virginia City is the United State’s largest National Historic Landmark. Most remember Virginia City from the iconic film series “Bonanza.” ¬†Virginia City was founded in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock Lode which produced over 400 million (equivalent to billions today) in silver and gold. Mark Twain got his start here as a reporter for the newspaper. San Francisco was built from Comstock silver, and this city helped finance the Civil War. To say this city is steeped in rich American history is an understatement, this city IS US History. The town is built into the side of a mountain with wooden sidewalks, sprawling views, and an underground network of tunnels and shafts remaining from this authentic Wild West Town during the mining glory days! This town is a must see, and a great destination with children!

Travel: Virginia City is located in Western Nevada, and can accessed via car or train. From Reno, the drive is appx 40 mins. From Lake Tahoe, the drive will take you appx 1 hour. Carson City is an appx 30 minute drive, or can be accessed via the train from May thru October via the V & T (Virginia and Truckee) Railroad. This train ride takes you along the original route thru old towns, tunnels, mines, and alongside beautiful scenery. This is a 3.5 hour trip with a stop over in Virginia City available on Fridays РSundays from May thru October. The best time to visit with kiddies in tow really is from May РOctober as after this period many attractions close due to the weather.

Hotel: We chose to visit Virginia City as a day trip from Lake Tahoe. However, if you wish to spend more time in the area there are a few local inns/ hotels to choose from. A great list of accommodations can be found here:


Comstock Train: This is a steam powered¬†train with century old, wooden open air and closed passenger cars that operates from May¬†thru October. You can take a 35 minute/ 4 mile roundtrip ride from the original V & T 1870’s depot located on “F” Street to Gold Hill. As many as¬†45 trains a day used to depart from Virginia City for Gold Hill. Today, 7 trains run daily on the hour between 10:30 am – 4:00 pm. The tour is fully narrated (and quite funny)¬†and will take you thru old tunnels and Comstock mines and mills. This is a beautiful ride, and our 2 year old daughter loved the train. This is a great adventure for old and young children alike. There is also a cute little general store beside the train departure where we bought ice cream! The price is $12 per person, and children under 5 are free. ($5 for children 5-12 yrs.)


Barrels O Candy: A candy store filled with huge barrels of old fashioned candies, ice cream and a truffles and nut bar. What’s not to love? Our 2 year old daughter enjoyed getting her basket, and filling it with a few candies from all of the different barrels. This is a great shop to visit! There is so much candy in this store it is amazing. Some of these candies I never even knew existed!


Bernadine the Donkey: Outside the Virginia City Antique Mall was Bernadine the donkey and her owner, “Stinky”. Our daughter enjoyed meeting Bernadine, and feeding Bernadine carrots which we donated funds for! ūüôā

Virginia City Mining Company: Pan for Gold!!! Allow your kids to find their own fortune. Located in the center of town next to the Territorial Enterprise Building (seasonal) you can pan for gold.

Dancin Crystals Mining Company: This is a neat little shop on “C” Street where you can pan for precious gems.

Virginia City Antique Mall – This is a great store full of treasures. They sell mystery goodie bags for $1 which was a big hit with our 2 year old.

Fourth Ward School: Located on “C” Street, this is an iconic historical landmark. This school was ahead of its time with indoor plumbing and heating,¬†and was home to 1000 students. You can visit the vintage classrooms, and ring the school bell!

Territorial Enterprise Building: Mark Twain got his start by working as a¬†reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City from 1862¬†– 1864. It was during this time that Samuel Clemens began to use the penmanship name, Mark Twain which he had dreamt up from his previous work on river boats where he would¬†mark twain¬†when measuring 2 fathoms. There isn’t much to see at the Enterprise Building, but it is still standing in the center of Virginia City. You can view¬†Twain’s old desk, and view the commemorative placards street side.


Miner’s Park: Located on “E” Street this little park is cute with picnic tables and a playground to enjoy!

Chollar Mine: Older children will certainly enjoy the Chollar Mine tour. Chollar Mine is one of the original Comstock mines. The tour takes about 30 mins. The tunnel is narrow and low, and you will experience total darkness once they extinguish the light so prepare younger kids for this beforehand.

Ponderosa Mine Tour: Another mine tour located in the back of the Ponderosa Saloon. Guided 25 minute tour of the Best & Belcher Mine.

Old Time Photos: If you want old timey western photos which would certainly be a kick for kids then visit this store on “C” Street.

Comstock Adventure Pass: Of note, is the Comstock Adventure Pass which can be purchased from May – October. This pass allows you to enjoy several local attractions at a discounted price. This pass can be purchased at the Visitor Center on “C” Street. The “Silver and Gold Adventure Pass” includes V & T Truckee Railroad, Virginia City Trolley Tour, and Ponderosa Mine Tour. The “Wild West Adventure Pass” includes the Wild West Comedy Show, Comstock Gold Mill, and Shooting Gallery. There are several other pass options including a combination of various attractions.

Virginia City Jerky Co: This place really is just very good. They make homemade jerky in house, and serve up tasty BBQ. We had the pulled pork and mac & cheese which was fantastic! I ended up eating my toddler’s mac & cheese because it was really that good. I also¬†purchased all types of¬†jerky for tasting, and it was great. The spicy¬†chili jerky was¬†very hot!¬†Be advised they DO NOT serve fries. This is mentioned about 10 times inside the restaurant on their signage! ūüôā Obviously many have asked which I find very humorous. ūüôā