Lake Tahoe with Kids: Toddler-Friendly Things to see & do, Where to Stay, & Places to Eat & Drink!
The best thing about Lake Tahoe is, unlike many ski towns, there are tons of activities that can be enjoyed All Year Round. In the Summer, you can hit the beach and go swimming, kayaking, and paddle-boarding on the lake. In the Winter there’s skiing, snowboarding, & snowshoeing. And in the shoulder seasons, there are loads of hiking & biking trails. Oh and, don’t forget the casinos if you’re feeling lucky! We recently visited Tahoe with our 1 and 2 year old and this was our first visit during the Summer/Shoulder Season. See below for lots of fun things to see & do in Lake Tahoe with kids. Plus awesome places to eat & drink, and where to stay!
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Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe with kids
For this visit, Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa hosted our stay in South Lake Tahoe. I simply can’t say enough good things about this place! The view from our balcony was breathtaking. Each morning we would walk out onto the private beach and sip coffee while the kids played in the clean, white sand and chased sea gulls. We had the 2 bedroom/2bath unit with it’s own kitchen and it was perfect for our family of 4. South Lake Tahoe is the hub around the lake with the most restaurants, bars, and casinos. Lakeshore Lodge is just minutes from all of this action, but still feels peaceful and secluded, because none of that scene is noticeable from Lakeshore. I highly recommend checking this place out if you’re looking for a family-friendly stay around Lake Tahoe. Click here to check out their website and calendar!
10 Awesome Things to Do in Lake Tahoe with Kids:
Sand Harbor State Park
Sand Harbor Beach is located on the Northeast shore of Lake Tahoe, about a 35 minute drive from South Lake Tahoe. It costs $10 to enter the park which included parking. In the summer you can rent paddle boards & kayaks and saddle up to one of the many picnic benches with barbecues. And in the winter you can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the beach. There is also a restaurant/bar onsite if you forget to pack a lunch!
Logan Shoals Vista
I admit stopping simply to take in a view is not exactly the most riveting activity for toddlers or any child for that matter. But I was determined to squeeze in a sunset at the vista based on other’s reviews. We lucked out and there was a small wedding going on right when we arrived so we got to watch their ceremony at sunset. A neat experience. It’s an easy stop, right off the main road just south of Sand Harbor Beach. There are restroom accommodations and there are benches to sit and enjoy the view.
Fallen Leaf Lake
Pack a picnic basket and spend the day at Fallen Leaf Lake. It’s a hidden gem in the shadow of Lake Tahoe. To get there, go to the far end of the Fallen Leaf Campground and park in the visitor parking. Get there early to get a spot, because it’s limited. A short walk up and over the hill, you will reach the lake. There are trails that go all around the lake, but if you are looking to just picnic on the beach, you don’t have to walk far at all…it’s right there. This was one of my favorite things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids!
Just off the main road about 2 miles south of Sand Harbor Beach is Bonsai Rock. It’s a large rock in with a few miniature trees growing from the middle. The trail leading to the small beach is a steep, but very short walk (5 minutes) down. The beach is mostly rock and has lots of big boulders for the kids to play on.
While it’s not the “locals-only” secret beach it used to be, Secret Cove still remains a relatively uncrowded cove. It was a steep hike down with the kids on our backs, but worth the trek to see this picturesque boulder-laden beach. There is a parking lot, but you MUST get there early because it fills up super quick. We ended up parking on the side of the road and having to go down a super steep trail. The trail from the parking lot is fairly easy.
P.S. There is a note posted at the beach that says “clothing optional beach.” While we were there, everyone was clothed except for one elderly man who was off to the side sun-bathing au natural.
Rent a Boat or take a Scenic Lake Tour Cruise
There are many places to rent your own ski boat or party barge (pontoon) around the lake. Currently, California law states that you do NOT need a boating license to rent a boat. Tahoe Blue Boat Rentals is located in Incline Village. Rent a boat for half a day and drive it down to Sand Harbor or Secret Cove.
Would you rather have a captain? Another great option is the Safari Rose. They offer guided tours and special evening cruises with cocktails and snacks.
The Rubicon trail is a popular, fairly flat, 5-mile trail from D.L. Bliss State Park to Emerald Bay. It hugs the shoreline along the crystal clear Lake Tahoe with stunning views the whole way. But if you aren’t down for a 10 mile hike, there and back, you can simply walk as far as you like and turn around. Or, park at one end and UBER/taxi back. You can also access the trail from Lester Beach or from Emerald Bay. Note: It costs $10 to park at the D.L. Bliss Trailhead parking lot.
You’d be remiss to go to Lake Tahoe and not spend some time around Emerald Bay State Park. The park offers several hiking trails, including the popular Eagle Falls trail with a stunning waterfall overlooking the bay. If you aren’t up for hiking, there are several overlooks and pull-offs along Highway 89 to peak down at the dramatic landscape with Fannette Island in the center of the inlet. Or check out the Vikingsholm Castle, which is a 38 room mansion rich in history and beautiful Scandinavian architecture.
Day Trip to Travertine Hot Springs
The drive from South Lake Tahoe to Travertine Hot Springs is about 2 hours. It’s a scenic drive through the Sierra Nevada mountain range the whole way. The springs lie on California state park lands just south of the town of Bridgeport. And when you arrive, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. I was a bit skeptical but the springs were nice and clean, tidy and well maintained. There are about 4 small natural pools among the rocks, that hold maybe 10-12 people total. When we got there, they were all full, but after about 30 minutes of roaming the area and letting the kids play and explore the surrounding trails, we ended up having the whole place to ourselves.
The view from these natural pools was incredible. At the very top, where the source of the naturally hot water comes out of the ground, it is boiling hot. But it trickles down rock formations to the pools below. In this picture, Will is pointing to where the water is flowing down the rock from the spring above it. The top pool was way too hot for the kids, but the lower pools felt about bath water temp and were very relaxing. The outside temp was about 58 degrees F with the wind, so it was a bit chilly running back to the car. It’s a great day trip if you are seeking a unique experience. And you’ll still be home in time to enjoy the sunset over Lake Tahoe!
Favorite Eats & Drinks in South Lake Tahoe with Kids:
The Loft: Family-friendly restaurant, lounge & bar, with live performances and theatrical acts. Located in Heavenly Village.
My Thai Cuisine: Our home town lacks in the Thai food department, so we always try to find some good Thai cuisine when we’re on the road. This one hit the spot!
Tahoe Pourhouse: Restaurant where you pour-your-own-glass! Tapas style dinner & cheese plates with a 20-tap self-pour WINE Wall. Large outdoor patio for the kids to run and they have lawn games!
Heavenly Donuts: A small stand in Heavenly Village opened only in the morning time. Offer a variety of specialty flavored donuts.
Lake Tahoe Pizza Company: Voted the best pizza in South Lake Tahoe for the past 15 years! Located on Emerald Bay Road, the restaurant has a fun atmosphere, but if you don’t feel like dining out with littles, you can always take it to-go.
Tip: Rent a Car if traveling to Lake Tahoe with Kids
I highly recommend renting a car for your time in Lake Tahoe with kids. Especially if you are traveling with a baby or a toddler. There are tons of things to do all around the lake with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, or swim at one of the watering holes, or take a hike. Without stopping, it takes about 3 hours to drive around the whole lake. You will want your own car to go at your own pace and explore further than just the surroundings of your hotel.
Whether traveling to Lake Tahoe with kids, or toddlers, or it’s simply a romantic trip with the spouse, there definitely is no shortage of food or entertainment or outdoor activities. But even if you are looking to do nothing but lounge on a beach and take in the crystal clear blue waters and mountain views, that’s a great option too.
Happy & Safe Travels!