The 12 Most Incredible Things to Do in Lake Tahoe (Besides Skiing)

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Lake Tahoe may be known as one of the best ski destinations in the world with a staggering 15 ski resorts dotted around the lake, but spring, summer and fall at the “Jewel of the Sierras” actually offer even more things to do than during snow season. Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in all of California and the area attracts travelers year-round both from Northern California and all around the country, thanks to stunning scenery, an abundance of outdoor and water activities, luxe hotels and a great dining scene. Here, the best things to do in Lake Tahoe (besides skiing).

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1. Kayak Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay is a National Natural Landmark and one of the can’t-miss spots in Lake Tahoe. The shimmering turquoise bay is part of Emerald Bay State Park, which is home to other notable landmarks like Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, the Scandi-style 38-room mansion that you’ll definitely want to show off on the ‘Gram. There are quite a few ways to experience this natural beauty, but kayaking takes you on an intimate journey where you can enjoy the scenery at your own pace. There are a few kayak rental companies around the lake to choose from, including Kayak Tahoe which has a location right by the bay.

best things to do in lake tahoe go climbing with tahoe via ferrata
Tahoe Via Ferrata

2. Go Climbing With Tahoe Via Ferrata

Although via ferrata dates back to the 19th century, it is the latest trend in outdoor adventuring and a great way for beginners to experience the thrill of climbing. Via ferrata is a protected climbing route that makes it easy for people to go climbing (yep, even for first timers), with ladder rungs and steps installed in a predetermined route. The Lake Tahoe Via Ferrata is located in Olympic Valley and offers two-hour, three-hour and four-hour tours that climb up a granite peak known as Tram Face and they’re all doable for people with no prior climbing experience.

best things to do in lake tahoe go stargazing with tahoe star tours
Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

3. Go Stargazing With Tahoe Star Tours

With 300 clear nights a year and low light pollution, Lake Tahoe is an excellent place to go stargazing. And sure, you can just look up at the sky on one of those clear nights, but a stargazing tour would teach you much more about the cosmos. Tahoe Star Tours offers these tours with a Celestron telescope so you can take a closer look at our galaxy (and beyond). Note: While public tours are usually offered at Northstar, the tours are currently not running for the season due to construction, but they are still offering private tours and the public tours will resume once construction is finished.

best things to do in lake tahoe ritz carlton lake tahoe
Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

4. Stay Mid-mountain At The Ritz-carlton, Lake Tahoe

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is uniquely situated mid-mountain at Northstar Ski Resort, making it a popular ski-in/ski-out lodging option, but it is an equally great place to stay in the summer thanks to its proximity to one of the best mountain towns in the country, Truckee. The mid-mountain location offers guests a serene getaway among the trees, and a shuttle service conveniently takes guests down to their exclusive Lake Club with beach access. Of course, as it is a Ritz-Carlton, guests can expect luxurious amenities at both the resort and the Lake Club, including a plush spa (hey, you deserve a massage after all that kayaking and climbing). Plus, the hotel arguably has the deepest bathtubs in all of Lake Tahoe.

5. Spend The Day At Sand Harbor Beach

There are over 40 beaches on the shores of Lake Tahoe, so make sure a beach day is on your itinerary when you visit during the summer months. On the Northeast part of the lake, over on the Nevada side, is one of the most beautiful beaches, Sand Harbor Beach. Sand Harbor Beach offers a long sandy beach, with calm and crystal clear waters and interesting boulder formations that make for fun jumps. Sand Harbor is popular for a reason, but be warned parking fills up quickly and remember to prep and take all you need for the perfect beach day.

best things to do in lake tahoe treetop adventure parks
Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks

6. Trek Among The Trees With Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks

Enjoy a day of outdoor adventure among the trees at an aerial adventure park with tree platforms, zip lines, swinging bridges, and even rope swings. Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks currently have three locations, though we recommend the one in Tahoe City as it’s one of the largest and features ten different courses from beginner to advanced, making it a family-friendly activity for all.

best things to do in lake tahoe manzanita
Fiona Chandra

7. Book The Chef’s Table Tasting Menu At Manzanita

Manzanita, the fine dining restaurant at Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, is known as one of the best restaurants in Lake Tahoe with its California-inspired seasonal cuisine and inventive dishes. The restaurant is open all day to serve hotel guests and is more casual at breakfast and lunch but pulls out the stops for dinnertime. To make the night even more special, though, book the chef’s table next to the kitchen, where the chef can prepare a custom tasting menu for up to eight diners. So fancy.

best things to do in lake tahoe elevation surf charters
Elevation Surf Charters

8. Learn Wakesurfing With Elevation Surf Charters

It just makes sense to spend as much time on or in the water as possible while at Lake Tahoe, and learning how to wakesurf is a great way to do just that. Elevation Surf Charters offers private wakesurfing sessions or a hybrid charter that combines wakesurfing and a luxury cruise of the lake. They use the MasterCraft X26 boats that are specifically designed for wakesurfing, with a Switchback Ballast Tank that creates large wakes perfect for the activity. Elevation also operates the exclusive MasterCraft boats that are reserved for guests of Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

best things to do in lake tahoe hike the rubicon trail
Courtesy of California State Parks

9. Hike The Rubicon Trail

There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails with stunning views in Lake Tahoe, from shorter easy hikes to the rim trail that takes multiple days to complete. For one of the best moderate day hikes, we recommend the Rubicon Trail at D.L. Bliss State Park which offers beautiful views of both the lake and the mountains. Although the trail is 16.4 miles out and back, you can start in either north or south direction and there are a couple of access points in between, so those who don’t have the time or stamina to do the entire hike can turn it into a shorter hike.

best things to do in lake tahoe m s dixie ii
Courtesy Aramark Destinations

10. Take A Scenic Cruise On M.s. Dixie Ii

The M.S. Dixie II is a 500-passenger paddle boat that is not only the biggest cruising vessel on Lake Tahoe, but perhaps also the most popular (which might explain why the ticket price has gone up significantly through the years). The paddlewheeler was transported up from the Mississippi River and is now used for both daytime scenic cruises and sunset dinner cruises from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay and back. Guests on the boat tour can take in the views of Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm castle while hearing about the history of the area.

best things to do in lake tahoe lake tahoe balloons
Lake Tahoe Balloons

11. Get A Bird’s Eye View With Lake Tahoe Balloons

Lake Tahoe is about 191 square miles so a bird’s eye view from the sky is certainly one of the best ways to see the majestic landscape, but that’s not the only reason to take a hot air balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons. This is the only place in the world where the balloon takes off and lands on the deck of a ship, right in the middle of the lake. The unique experience in itself is a reason to do this balloon ride, and it takes place on the Tahoe Flyer, the world’s only certified balloon launch and recovery vessel. Balloon rides take place just after sunrise, weather permitting.

best things to do in lake tahoe heavenly mountain resort
Vail Resorts Photography

12. Ride A Roller Coaster Through The Mountain At Heavenly Mountain Resort

Combine the thrill of a roller coaster ride with beautiful mountain views with the Ridge Ride Coaster at Heavenly Ski Resort. This coaster is a gravity-powered alpine roller coaster that is 3400 feet long and can go up to 27 mph. The ride itself takes five minutes to complete with plenty of fun twists and loops. You need to ride the gondola up to the top of Heavenly mountain in order to ride the coaster, and the ticket price includes the gondola ride.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Fiona Chandra is a freelance food and travel writer born in Indonesia and currently based in Los Angeles. She loves to explore different food and cultures in California and...