Filled with resorts, beaches, and outdoor fun, Lake Tahoe’s North and West Shores are also home to some great sights; here we’ve collected an overview of the top six. Between sightseeing, make sure you hit Tahoe City, one of the larger towns on the West Shore, a lively happening place with good restaurants, bars, and entertainment and a sparkling waterfront. The smaller communities of Lake Forest, Sunnyside, Tahoe Pines, Homewood, and Tahoma are close by and easy to access.
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
The Tahoe area has more than its share of outstanding state parks, and Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park (Hwy. 89, Tahoma, 530/525-7982, $10) is one of the greats. Located on the West Shore, north of Emerald Bay and a few miles south of the town of Homewood, the park features tours of the historical Ehrman Mansion, ski trails from the 1960 Winter Olympics, and great camping, among other attractions.
The park is split into two sections. Sugar Pine Point includes the General Creek Campground, the Ehrman Mansion, and the visitors center and gift shop. The smaller Edwin L. Z’berg Natural Preserve features the Sugar Pine Point Lighthouse. You can camp in both sections for just the day-use fee. Note that if you can’t find “Sugar Pine Point” on the state park website, try a search for “Ed Z’berg.”
A fine example of a former home of the wealthy turned tourist attraction, the Ehrman Mansion (Hwy. 89, 1 mile south of Tahoma, 530/525-7232) is located within the day-use area of Sugar Pine Point State Park. This beautifully preserved 12,000-square foot house was built in 1903 and is now owned by the State of California. You can take a tour (530/583-9911, on the hour 11:30am-3:30pm daily late May-late Sept., adults $10, ages 7-17 $8, under age 7 free).
Tahoe Maritime Museum
The Tahoe Maritime Museum (5205 W. Lake Blvd., Homewood, 530/525-9253, 10am-4:30pm Thurs.-Tues. late May-Oct., 10am-4:30pm Fri.-Sun. Oct.-late May, adults $5, children under 13 free) seeks to illuminate the significant marine history of Lake Tahoe. Located on the West Shore, the museum resembles a big old boathouse and has a great collection of historical boats that share the history of the lake; some of them still run on the lake each summer. It also has photos and artifacts related to the lake’s history. You’ll learn about “gentlemen’s racing”; steam ferries, like the 1896 Tahoe, which used to take people around the lake in the days before roads circumnavigated it; and fishing, which has been part of the lake’s culture for more than a century. Young visitors will enjoy a children’s learning area with exhibits about small and midsize boats and activities designed just for them.
Gatekeeper’s Museum and Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
Together, the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum (130 West Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, 530/583-1762, 10am-5pm daily early June-Sept., noon-4pm Wed.-Sun. Oct.-late May, adults $5, seniors $4, under age 13 free accompanied by an adult) offer an in-depth history of society around the lake. You’ll find transcribed oral histories, photographs, dolls, costumes, and many other artifacts displayed in attractive and unusual pine-and-glass cases that match the wooden floors of the galleries. The authentic Native American artifacts include a large collection of baskets and caps made of willow, tule, and pine needles, among other things.
Visit an authentic early-20th-century log cabin at Watson Cabin (560 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, 530/583-8717, noon-4pm Thurs.-Sun. mid-June-mid-Sept., donation). Built by Robert Watson as a private family residence for his son and daughter-in-law, the cabin opened for use in 1909 and became a museum in the early 1970s, still on the original site. Inside, you’ll find diorama displays of pioneer life in early modern Lake Tahoe.
The Village at Squaw Valley
You might think of The Village at Squaw Valley (1750 Village East Rd., Olympic Valley, 530/584-1000) as a ski area, but it’s actually a small upscale town designed to mimic a European Alpine village. There’s no need to hit the slopes to enjoy what the village has to offer. Spend hours rambling around the colorfully painted clusters of buildings or strolling the cute exclusive boutiques and galleries. Souvenir seekers can go straight to Squaw One Logo Company (530/584-6250, 9am-6pm daily). Those craving more outdoor gear and clothing can stop in at North Face (530/452-4365, 9am-5pm Mon.-Fri., 8am-6pm Sat.-Sun.). For something local, visit the aromatic Lather & Fizz Bath Boutique (530/584-6001, 10am-6pm daily) for soaps, lotions, and face products made in nearby Truckee as well as luxurious signature pajamas, among other great gifts.
More than half a dozen restaurants, snack bars, and coffee shops offer sushi, pizza, high-end wine, and more. Entertainment options include skiing and ice-skating in the winter, hiking in summer, and the Aerial Tram (hours vary, daily winter and summer, Sat.-Sun. spring and fall, adults $39, youth and seniors $25, children under 13 $10) up to High Camp (1960 Squaw Valley Rd., Olympic Valley, 530/584-1000) at 8,200 feet elevation. At High Camp, you can play tennis or paintball, roller-skate, soak in a hot tub, browse the Olympic Museum (free with Aerial Tram ride), or just stand outside and enjoy the tremendous views. In summer there’s often live music at the base of the mountain; various other special events offer year-round fun for adults and kids.