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November 22, 2022
This post is sponsored by Visit Lake Tahoe. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Another adventurous girls trip for the Babes that Wander! Traveling with this group is an absolute blast and I constantly find myself taking part in activities I never thought I’d have the chance to try. Typically when I travel with Ryan or we go with another couple, we don’t really schedule too many set tours or excursions. But when traveling with a group, you kind of have to schedule things ahead of time rather than hop on a tour last minute. It always makes for a great experience (like in Bend!) and Lake Tahoe was no exception. A Lake Tahoe summer is not to be missed. So if you’re looking for things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer, you’re in the right place.
What to Know
There’s no commercial airport in South Lake Tahoe, so you fly into Reno (RNO) which is about an hour away. There weren’t any direct flights from Atlanta, so I had a layover in LA both ways. Since Lake Tahoe is so far from the airport, you obviously need to think about getting a ride to town if you’re not renting a car. One option is the Lake Tahoe Airporter. It’s a shuttle that runs on a schedule to and from the airport. It picks up/drops off at various hotels in the South Lake Tahoe area. Tickets for the Lake Tahoe Airporter are about $35.
I ended up taking a Lyft because I would have had to wait almost an hour for the shuttle and my friends were already in town waiting for me. It was about $85 which is definitely higher than I’m used to. Then on the way back it was $130! So if you’re traveling within a budget, the Lake Tahoe Airporter might be the best choice.
Everything in South Lake Tahoe is pretty close. We were able to walk to a few things from the hotel we stayed at, but luckily Elise drove in from Napa, so she was able to drive us around. Pretty much everywhere we went was under a 10 minute drive. If you don’t have a car, there’s also Lake Link, which is another shuttle service with various stops around town. And it’s free! You can see a schedule and information about Lake Link by downloading the app.
What to Pack
I had the hardest time packing for this trip! And then when I was there, it was so hard to dress. One key tip I have for you if you’re planning a Lake Tahoe summer visit is to bring layers. It was very cold in the morning, hot in the daytime, and then cold again at night. Since you’re at an elevation, the weather and temperatures are different than what you may be used to – I know it was for me. It peaked at about 65 degrees during the day. In Atlanta, I’d be in a coat (ok fine, a heavy jacket) at 65 degrees. In South Lake Tahoe, I was hot in a tank top. It feels so much warmer than it is! Then at night it was straight up winter weather. So layers are absolutely key! You will need cozy coats and warm shoes, plus activewear for any South Lake Tahoe activities you plan to participate in.
Where to Stay
Both times I went to Lake Tahoe, I stayed in a hotel. A popular option is to get a cabin, especially if you are traveling with a group, but to be honest, that comes with certain limitations. The cabins available in the area aren’t the most stylish and chic which is admittedly important to me. I like feeling like I’m truly on vacation and where I stay should be an oasis – I’m not trying to be one with the wilderness.
I’m constantly seeking out those boutique hotels that embrace their location and amplify the overall travel experience. Those hotels that feel like luxury, but don’t necessarily break the bank. They perfectly combine a personal, local experience with the conveniences, amenities, and professionalism of a standard hotel. And I’m glad to say we found that in Lake Tahoe.
The Desolation Hotel was one of my top favorite hotels I’ve had the opportunity to visit and I’ve been to countless hotels over the years as a travel blogger. They really nailed it in so many areas. With just 21 rooms, it’s the perfect size to feel intimate, yet still have all needs on hand like a pool, bar/restaurant, gym, and even a sauna. One thing that really stood out to me as a big plus is that Desolation Hotel has 20 EV chargers on site. It was super convenient for us since Elise drives a Tesla.
We stayed in the Granite Suite, which was amazing. It’s incredibly spacious with a separate bedroom and living area, a full kitchen, two fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, a hot tub on one of the two balconies, and so much more. I would go back to South Lake Tahoe solely to stay here again. Everyone in the group absolutely loved it!
Where to Eat & Drink
When it comes to things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer, you can’t skip the food. In fact, sometimes the most important parts of planning a trip are centered around restaurants. For this trip, we were intentional about making sure we tried some great food and drink spots. Here’s where we ate.
Maggie’s is the rooftop bar and restaurant at Desolation Hotel. It was the first place I went to upon arrival for a quick glass of wine with the girls. We went again for dinner and had a wonderful experience. It was the best meal I had while in town and the service was awesome. The server was professional while making us feel like old friends. We could have hung out there for a hours; the atmosphere was perfect for a casual, yet elevated dinner & drinks experience.
We stopped by Toulouse for a quick lunch and sat outside, which I love. Toulouse is a New Orleans style restaurant, but I didn’t have any NOLA-inspired dishes, so if that’s not your thing, you can definitely still find something to eat here. The food was good and the owner even came over to say hello. We learned that they are having a renovation of the indoor space soon, so I’m sure it will be beautiful!
We grabbed Sprouts for a quick brunch after the Scenic Gondola at Heavenly. It was so good! Sprouts Cafe is a very casual spot where you order at the counter and they bring your food to you. The whole menu is vegetarian which means I had more options than I’m used to. Everything looked so good! And it is all made with health in mind so that is always a plus. We all really enjoyed our meals. I definitely recommend Sprouts for a casual lunch.
This was a fun outdoorsy, almost camp-like happy hour spot. They have outdoor fire pits, a food truck, and live music. Lakeview Social has perfect beer vibes atmosphere, though they also have a great selection of wines. We had planned to eat dinner here but honestly, I’d recommend it as an in-between stop, which is why I called it a happy hour spot. It’s great for afternoon to before dinner. The food selection is very limited and is served in to-go containers so not really ideal for an actual meal.
Bistro at Edgewood
We loved this restaurant! Bistro at Edgewood definitely one of the more high-end options but so worth it. The food is outstanding and the drinks are great, but most of all, that view! We got lucky with one of the best tables outside. There was even some live music that wasn’t too overwhelming or loud. All of us commented on how great the vibes were. Without a doubt I’ll be back next time I’m in town!
Jimmy’s at the Landing
We stopped by Jimmy’s at the Landing for brunch on our last day and it was delicious. The entrance to The Landing is super cute with an old truck and white bikes for guests to use. We were treated to the chef’s section of dishes served family style for us all the share. We all agreed it was fabulous and a great brunch!
I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for a good speakeasy! I love the secretive part of it and the surprise of not knowing what you’re in for. Community Speakeasy, located inside Social House Craft Sandwiches did not disappoint! There are two sides to Social House, and you need to go to the bar on the left side of the restaurant to get on the list for Community Speakeasy. We had to wait about 30 minutes before it was our turn. Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait!! We were escorted through a huge metal door, then led through another door inside. The speakeasy bar was so small, intimate, and cozy. The lighting is very dim with a red hue. All of our drinks were served in beautiful glassware and were very tasty. This is what all speakeasies—and even all bars—should be like in my opinion! I can’t wait to go back.
What to Do in South Lake Tahoe
There are many South Lake Tahoe activities you can participate in, but there are things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer that you can’t do as comfortably year-round. We definitely took advantage of that with a lot of outdoors time. I was worried that it would be a little chilly, but it was pretty nice every day while the sun was out.
Clear Kayaking with Clearly Tahoe
I’ve wanted to go clear kayaking since the first time I heard about it a few years ago. This is one of my favorite things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer and an absolute must for a destination with such a beautiful, clear lake. The tour starts off with an hour long boat ride to the kayaking spot. It felt like we were on the boat longer than we were kayaking. Plus, the boat ride is absolutely freezing! They do provide blankets, but it wasn’t enough for me. BUT when you finally do get to the destination, the kayaking part is truly incredible. It’s definitely a more casual tour without much paddling at all which makes it very relaxing. We learned that the water in Lake Tahoe is so clear, you can see up to 60ft deep! Since the kayaks are clear, it made for a really beautiful activity. This would probably be my top recommendation for a Lake Tahoe summer trip.
Tahoe Tastings Wine Cruise
Another Lake Tahoe summer staple is a wine cruise on the lake. This is the second time I’ve done this. Last time, we were on a much bigger boat with a bigger crowd of people. This time, we had a much more quiet and intimate experience with Tahoe Tastings. We actually learned a lot about wine throughout the tasting and had fun with each other and the crew. The captain also shared some information about the Emerald Bay castle that was super interesting. It was built by a woman – the richest woman in Nevada. Talk about an inspiration!
Beach Yoga with Bliss Experiences
If you’re someone who likes to continue your yoga practice while on vacation, beach yoga is perfect for you! Bliss Experiences provides just that. You can soak in the Lake Tahoe summer sun and connect with nature for a truly zen start to your day, setting you off on the right foot for all the other fun South Lake Tahoe activities.
Scenic Gondola at Heavenly Village
We actually kicked our trip off with a scenic gondola ride and I think it was the perfect start to our Lake Tahoe summer girls trip. The views are so beautiful and you really get an appreciation for the area you are in. You can keep this in mind as you continue on to other South Lake Tahoe activities. In fact, you may be inspired like we were. We saw a hot air balloon when we were up at the lookout point and contacted them right away for a ride. Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t right for the rest of our trip, but next time for sure!
Hike Emerald Bay
One of the most popular things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer is go hiking. One trail I did last time is the Van Sickle trail where you can hike across the state line from Nevada to California. Since a few of us had already done that, we opted for Emerald Bay. A word of warning: this is a longer hike and it is jam packed on the weekends, so if you have a weekday available, I would recommend going that day. Here, you can tour the castle, go kayaking (with more paddling this time!), and take in the beauty of the Lake Tahoe summer. It’s a great way to end the trip!
All in all it was a successful Lake Tahoe summer girls trip, complete with tons of activities, wine, cozy dinners, and some much-needed girl time. It’s a great destination for girl groups as well as guy groups no matter the season. But personally, I find the things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer to be much more my speed. Maybe one day I’ll learn to ski, but until then, I’ll stick with the warmer months!
Have you ever been to South Lake Tahoe in the summer?
Photos by the Babes that Wander.