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Lake Tahoe Family Activities

Where can an inquisitive child look a fish in the eye without getting wet; a young boy play real golf with his dad; a girl fulfill her dream of being a cowgirl; a family explore together a Scandinavian castle; a mom ride a giant water tricycle or watch her teenagers shred the lake on a jet ski; and an entire family enjoy a hot air balloon ride overlooking one of the most picturesque landmarks on earth? South Shore Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is a highly sought after location for vacationing families wanting to spend time together in a naturally beautiful and accessible outdoor playground any time of year, day or night. USA Today spotlighted Lake Tahoe as one of the top five “Domestic Destinations for Vacationers” in 2005, and Travelgirl Magazine named the South Shore number ten in its top 13 “Favorite Winter Wonderlands.”

The Lake’s 72-mile shoreline of sandy beaches and rugged cliffs makes for great sporting adventures in both cool and warm weather. Spring and summer months are packed with boating, swimming, jet skiing, parasailing, and kiteboarding; picnicking on one of Tahoe’s famous sandy beaches or mountaintops; and scenic bike riding. Winter months are reserved for snowshoeing, snow mobiling, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and dogsledding. And for anytime of year, nature walks; boat cruises on an authentic Mississippi paddle wheeler; educational programs at Tahoe landmarks; and a tour of historic Vikingsholm Castle are all available.

Events for the Younger Family

Families may tour the Tallac Historic Site, a 74-acre outdoor museum showcasing the Old Tahoe style and architecture complete with working forge and blacksmith while kids ages 6-12 can participate in the Living History for Kids program. For specific schedules, information, and summer concert series, please visit

For guests who would like to spend the day fishing but don’t have a license, young fishermen can cast a line at the trout stocked Tahoe Trout Farm, just west of the Y intersection of Highway 50 and Lake Tahoe Blvd. Or, for a different view of the fish, families can head for the Stream Profile Chamber at the Lake Tahoe Visitor Center - just four miles north of the Y on Highway 89. Visitors go underground to peer beneath the stream surface at the Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout or follow the interpretive Rainbow Trail to learn about the meadows and wildlife along the way. Parents and children can stay for the campfire program if visiting in August. All are free and open to the public.

For the equestrians in the family, horseback riding is available at Camp Richardson Resort and at Zephyr Cove Resort, as well as Kirkwood, about 35 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe. While at Kirkwood, families can play a round of disc golf at Discwood or jump on the lift with a mountain bike and spend the day riding on (and down) the mountain. For more mellow bikers, Camp Richardson Resort keeps a fleet of bicycles on hand for rent and is surrounded by a series of relatively flat paved and unpaved trails. Besides horseback riding, Zephyr Cove Resort is also home to the authentic M.S. Dixie II paddlewheeler, a sunny, sandy beach and children’s activities.

The Tahoe Queen, based at Ski Run Marina, brought back the Family Fun Cruise with Tahoe Tessie and her new friend, Baby Blue as well as MacAvoy Layne as the Ghost of Mark Twain. The three characters cater to families with educational insight about Lake Tahoe and the environment.

Two paved bike paths offer a leisurely ride well suited to families. The Pope-Baldwin Bike Path is relatively smooth and flat and meanders around Historic Camp Richardson, the Tallac Historic Site, and Fallen Leaf Lake. The South Lake Tahoe Bike Path runs through town, beginning at El Dorado Beach and crossing both Trout Creek and the Upper Truckee River.

Nightlife in South Shore Lake Tahoe abounds with 24-hour gaming, highly-energized headliner entertainment, live music, and wonderful restaurants. Tahoe Kids makes it possible for parents looking for a night out alone to do so and to know their children are safe and having fun. Kid’s camps are designed to provide kids with exciting Lake Tahoe adventures and activities such as going to the movies, bowling, laser-tag, miniature golf, arcades, and swimming and includes meals. No more than 15 kids ages 6-13 are fully supervised during the camp-style program. South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation also offers kid’s camps for supervised summer activities. Tahoe Gymnastics on Eloise Avenue sponsors a Saturday Kids’ Night Out where parents can leave their children for a night of games, trampoline time, movies, and more every third Saturday of each month.

Teen-Friendly Family Activities

Lake Tahoe is surrounded by some of the most scenic hiking trails in the country, many of which lead to pristine swimming spots. The lake is so clear that objects can be seen up to depths of 125 feet. From Emerald Bay, it’s a relatively easy mile down to Vikingsholm Beach. At the bay, hikers can tour the Scandinavian castle and go for a dip in one of the most beautiful inland harbors in the world. Or, they can head out to Angora Lakes – another easy hike out to a great swimming spot. The most intrepid hikers head up Mt. Tallac, the highest peak on the rim of Lake Tahoe. The views from the top of the South Shore and Desolation Wilderness are unparalleled – and it’s only a four-mile hike to the peak.

The Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile natural wonder open to hikers encompasses the ridge tops of the Lake Tahoe Basin and is fairly level, making it ideal for families with young children. Elevation on the trail ranges from 6,300 to 10,333 feet and is accessible from 12 different trailheads around the lake. For more information, call 775-298-0012 or log onto

Many families who enjoy a friendly, but competitive, game of miniature golf can head for Magic Carpet Golf on Highway 50 to play 18 holes. For families who would rather throw a disc than put, the Bijou disc golf course, located at the Bijou Community Park, has 27 holes winding through pine forests and meadows with incredible views of Freel Peak.

Also located in the Bijou Community Park is the Bijou Skate Park. The free skate park is rated one of the top five public skate parks in California and draws local and visiting talent alike. The Kahle Community Center in Stateline, Nev. sponsors a year-round Friday Night Teen Scene where local and visiting teens, grades six through twelve, gather to shoot hoops, play volleyball or arcade games, watch movies, and work out from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Tahoe Bowl is another fun place teens can spend time with their friends or family members.

Other Venues For the Family

The Heavenly Village, with laser tag, an arcade, Cold Stone Creamery, Nestle Toll House Café, and multiple shops and restaurants is a fun, unique place for families with teenagers to hang out. Dessert and shopping as well as outdoor gas fireplaces and live music offer an abundance of safe après dinner options.

There are several arcades in the downtown area where kids can check out the latest games and play against one another in virtual realities. Harrah’s, Harveys, MontBleu, Horizon, and Lakeside host arcades, allowing parents to drop the kids off while they tempt Lady Luck at the slots and table games. The Heavenly Village also has an arcade featuring air hockey, foos-ball, ping-pong, pinball and more.

Two theaters in the downtown area, the 8-plex theater at the Heavenly Village and the Horizon Stadium Cinema, bring the latest Hollywood blockbusters to families ready to relax after an adventurous day.

A day at Ski Run Marina, one mile from Stateline at Ski Run Boulevard, is an ideal family activity. Children can slip on the trapeze harness and fly high on a giant trampoline. Or, families can rent jet skis and get first hand knowledge of the renowned clarity of Tahoe. Those who crave heights can parasail from the marina and see the entire Tahoe Basin from the center of the lake. Or, for a real trip to the sky, visitors can take a sunrise hot air balloon ride. The balloons take off from a boat in the center of the lake. Balloonists see the entire Tahoe Basin and surrounding landscape from above the lake and are then treated to breakfast as they cruise back to shore aboard the boat.

For those who want the view without the flight, the Heavenly Gondola, rated the most scenic gondola in the nation by Ski Magazine in summer 2004, cruises up to a dramatic observation deck at 9000 feet. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and spend a few hours relaxing on the deck.

Lake Tahoe also boasts a variety of beaches – all with their own character. Nevada Beach is a wide, sunny and sandy shore with on-site picnic areas and a campground. Beachgoers spend the day swimming in Tahoe’s deep, clear waters and looking across the lake at Mt. Tallac. Camp Richardson Beach boasts The Beacon Bar and Grill as well as a beach volleyball net and a marina. Kiva Beach, located right at the Tallac Historic site, is shady and shallow and welcomes friendly dogs. Baldwin Beach is a little further down Highway 89 from Camp Richardson and Kiva Beach and also has plenty of picnic areas.

In winter, for those interested in learning to ski or ride, Kirkwood, Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe all provide comfortable places for novices to take up the sport with exceptionally well-designed and well-groomed beginner slopes. Ranked by USA Today as one of the top 10 places in North America to Learn to Ski, Timber Creek at Kirkwood features a variety of fall-line runs that create a natural progression on which to learn.

For golfing that truly takes visitors to a different world, visit Magic Carpet Golf Lake Tahoe. Located on 2455 Lake Tahoe Blvd., this miniature golfing facility allows both children and teens to tee off and play 28 holes for under $10.

For more information on any of these kid-friendly activities or for a full listing of special and annual events in South Shore Lake Tahoe, log onto

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