The Expat Woman

13 Top Things to do in South Lake Tahoe: What to See and Where to Eat Travel Guide

As someone hailing from a tropical country like India, where skiing isn’t a popular pastime, I long avoided visiting Tahoe, mistakenly believing it to be a haven solely for winter sports enthusiasts.

However, my first visit to Lake Tahoe several years ago dispelled that myth, revealing a paradise brimming with beauty, history, and culinary delights year-round.

Living just a couple of hours away in the San Francisco Bay Area, I feel blessed to be able to frequent its stunning landscapes regardless of the season.

In this post, I’ll show you how you can have a fantastic time in South Lake Tahoe without hitting the slopes.

Get ready to explore some of the area’s most beautiful hidden gems, delve into its rich history, and savor its culinary delights.

Must-Visit Spots in South Lake Tahoe

1. Emerald Bay State Park

The spectacular views everytime we drive to Emerald Bay State Park always take my breath away. It is supposed to be one of the most photographed locations in the world. There are two beaches located down on the water’s edge. One is directly in front of the historic Vikingsholm castle, and the other is 1 mile north at the boat-in only campground.  You can only get to the beaches on foot. The trail down to the beach and back is steep and harder on the way back as it’s all uphill. But if an asthmatic like me can do it, so can you. Also the parking lot at the start of the trail is really small and we always have had to wait to get a parking spot.  But it’s so worth it. Explore Emerald Bay State Park

2. Vikingsholm

Some folks refer to it as Tahoe’s Hidden Castle Hidden along the shores of Emerald Bay is Vikingsholm, a stunning 38-room mansion. It is  considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. The house is open for tours during the summer months. Unfortunately I have never been inside because every time I visit, it’s closed but it’s striking to look at from the outside and the views of the water and the scenic hike to get there are quite stunning. Visit Vikingsholm

3. Rainbow Trail

I didn’t know about the existence of this trail and discovered it by chance this year. The half-mile paved walk offers a delightful stroll through forested areas, with the marsh and water on either side, treating you to captivating vistas of Taylor Marsh and Taylor Cree. Discover Rainbow Trail. There is also a Stream Profile Chamber that gives you an opportunity to view fish up close in their natural habitat. Check the website for dates as it isn’t open right through the year. Check out the Rainbow Trail

4. Tallac Historic Site

A century ago, what is now the Tallac Historic Site was promoted as “The Grandest Resort in the World.” The Resort which no longer exists was filled with more than 40 acres and offered all the amenities a guest could want. I feel like I am stepping back in time when I visit the Tallac Historic Site, where you can explore restored estates from the 1920s like Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate, and the Valhalla Estate.The entire site is open each day during the summer season and parking is free. Tour Tallac Historic Site

5. Heavenly Village Shopping Center

This is at the foot of the Heavenly gondolas. Over 40 unique shops and eateries, offering a blend of local and national brands. I always find some little treasure to purchase or some goodies to feast on. It also has a theater, a cinema and an ice rink in the winter. Shop at Heavenly Village

Hidden Culinary Treasures

South Lake Tahoe is a foodie’s dream, offering a variety of California and other cuisines that will delight your taste buds.

6. Rocket Fizz

A cute candy store with a nostalgic twist, Rocket Fizz is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. My kids love stocking up on candy here. Visit Rocket Fizz

7. Champagne & Chocolate

I love the name. It’s a very pretty shop with decadent chocolates, a champagne bar and yummy candy apples. Try Champagne & Chocolate

8. MacDuff's Pub

A pub with a Scottish twist. The waitresses were really welcoming and friendly, the decor was cute and the food was plentiful, delicious and was served in no time. Their shepherd’s pie and bread pudding is to die for. Although I don’t drink beer, it was still so worth eating here because of the food and the ambience. Dine at MacDuff’s Pub

9. Sprouts Cafe

If you are health-conscious you will love Sprouts Cafe, offering a variety of fresh, organic, and vegetarian options. The smoothies, sandwiches and salads were excellent and I didn’t feel stuffed like I sometimes do after a big meal. Eat at Sprouts Cafe

10. TV Donuts

Looks like this is the only place in South Lake Tahoe selling donuts. They were pricey but quite delicious. This is a no frills store. Get Donuts at TV Donuts

11. Heidi's Pancake House

 This place was packed and we visited as my husband wanted an American breakfast. The decor was very swiss which was interesting but the food and service were just okay. Breakfast at Heidi’s Pancake House

12. Crazy Good Bakery and Cafe

We went there because we were curious to try the apple pie croissants and were not disappointed. It’s a really cute place with friendly staff and lots of yummy freshly baked goods to try. Visit Crazy Good Bakery

13. Lakeside Marina

Rent a boat, go for a swim, or simply relax by the water at Lakeside Marina, a tranquil spot perfect for unwinding, having a picnic and enjoying the beauty of Lake Tahoe. They also have a cute playground that my kids loved to play on when they were younger.  Relax at Lakeside Marina

As you can see South Lake Tahoe is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered, far beyond the ski slopes.

Whether you’re a tourist traveling to Northern California for the first time, a newbie to the SF Bay Area or a local, South Lake Tahoe there’s something for everyone in this year-round paradise, from exploring historic sites, hiking one of its scenic trails, indulging in local cuisine, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views,

Have you visited South Lake Tahoe? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!

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Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

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