The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe boasts the Thunderbird Lodge (5000 Hwy. 28, Incline Village, NV, 775/832-8750, www.thunderbirdlodge.org). Once again, if you’re seeking Native Americana, you’re in for a surprise. The Thunderbird Lodge was built in 1936 by a Tahoe resident locally called The Captain, who intended to create a luxury hotel and casino on his vast lakeside acreage.
It was one of the last great posh residential mansions constructed alongside the lake. The property includes several outbuildings and a 600-foot underground tunnel from the mansion proper to the boathouse and card house.
When you visit the Thunderbird Lodge, you won’t be able to drive to the property. Instead, park at the Crystal Bay Visitors Center in Incline Village and meet your tour guide and bus for the land tour (adults $39, children 6–11 $19). You’ll be driven out to the lodge and take an hour-and-change walking tour through several of the buildings and the landscape.
The tunnel is one of the tour highlights, especially for kids. Another highlight is the unbelievable 1930s-era mahogany yacht, The Thunderbird, which still floats in the boathouse.
If you’re staying on the west side of the lake, you can book a boat tour (Tahoe Keys Marina, 775/588-1881, www.tahoeboatcruises.com/tbirdlodgetours.htm, adults $110, children 6–11 $55) on a historic wooden powerboat that will take you across the lake and along the eastern shore. The boat docks at the Thunderbird Lodge, and you’ll take the walking tour from there.
Snacks and a cold lunch spread are included with this tour package. Children under six years old are not permitted on any tour of the Thunderbird Lodge. Both tours operate in the summertime only.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition