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After experiencing Lake Tahoe in the summer years ago I finally got to experience Lake Tahoe in the winter.
While summer in Lake Tahoe was amazing my recent experience of Lake Tahoe in the winter leads me to believe it’s the best time to visit Lake Tahoe. Here’s everything you need to know about experiencing Lake Tahoe in the winter.
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North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe For Winter?
Before you can start planning your winter getaway you have an important decision to make – North or South?
The section of Lake Tahoe that is located in California is divided up into two regions, North and South. Both are great, don’t get me wrong but I have to say I am a Northerner in this case.
And I should mention that the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe is more adult-oriented with a knock-off vegas vibe. The California side gives off a more calm, tranquil vibe that outdoor lovers tend to prefer. If you want to gamble then the Nevada side will be right up your alley.
So keep in mind when reading this post we are focusing on the CA side. Alright, back to North and South Tahoe! They are only an hours drive apart so you can visit both if you decide to rent a car (and the roads are drivable). Really, there isn’t much difference between the two in regards to amenities… it’s all about what resort you prefer the most.
Northstar has been my favorite resort in North Tahoe so far and all the activities and restaurants I talk about in this post are located on the Northside of the lake.
That’s not to say that South Tahoe doesn’t have some great resorts to visit during the winter, it’s just like anything else in life when you choose a solid side to lean into.
The Best Airport to Fly into When Visiting Lake Tahoe in the Winter
When looking for flights to Lake Tahoe most people fly into Reno/Tahoe Airport, Sacramento, Oakland, or SFO. When flying to Reno or Sacramento you will most likely have a layover. Mine was in St. Louis and I was so happy I have a Priority Pass membership that came with my credit card so I was able to eat in the airport for free.
While in the summer you can’t go wrong with either choice when visiting Lake Tahoe in the winter you’ll want to be more careful with your choice. This is because flights to Lake Tahoe in the winter are more likely to be delayed or canceled due to weather. SFO and Oakland are pretty much out of the snow zone but the road to get to them from Lake Tahoe are not. If there is fresh snow, which is very likely in the winter these roads may be closed due to weather conditions. There was a winter storm the day I left Lake Tahoe and my driver said departing out of Reno/Tahoe is always the best choice. This is because the road to Reno is least likely to be shut down due to weather as the city is more prepared to salt roads and have them cleared of snow for drivers.
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The Best Cars to Rent When Visiting Lake Tahoe in the Winter
When visiting Lake Tahoe in the winter you’ll need to worry about the Tahoe snow. Whether a storm rolls in or the streets haven’t been plowed you need to be prepared. To be prepared you will need to rent a 4wd. Be aware that if you are flying into Reno/Tahoe Airport there are limited 4wd vehicles as it’s not a large airport. Make sure you make your car rental reservation early.
If you don’t rent a 4wd you’ll need to plan on renting snow chains. . This also means you’ll need to know how to put on snow chains. If you aren’t comfortable with that option or not comfortable with driving in the snow at all consider taking a shuttle to Lake Tahoe. This of course means you wouldn’t have a car in Tahoe and would need to rely on taxis. Depending on your decision on where to stay in Lake Tahoe and what your plans are you might not need a car anyway. When I stayed at Northstar Ski Resort I didn’t need a car at all.
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Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
When deciding where to stay in Lake Tahoe in the Winter you’ll need to decide between hotels with views of Lake Tahoe or one of the ski resorts in. During my trip to I stayed at both the Sunnyside Inn and Northstar Ski Resort. Here is a breakdown of each place to help you choose where to stay in Lake Tahoe.
Sunnyside Tahoe: Best Hotel with Views of Lake Tahoe
If you want to experience Lake Tahoe in the winter but don’t plan on skiing or snowboarding everyday staying at Sunnyside Inn might be the best place for you. Sunnyside Tahoe has an epic view of Lake Tahoe as it sits right on the shore of the lake. The rooms are traditional hotel rooms with one or two beds but with a cozy cottage feel. Some rooms have fireplaces and most rooms in Sunnyside come with a view of the lake. You will love this so you can enjoy the beautiful sunrises right from your room.
Northstar Ski Resort: Best Lake Tahoe Ski Resort
Northstar Ski Resort is one of the best family ski resorts. Sitting in North Lake Tahoe, Northstar Ski Resort is home to Burton Academy, the Northstar ski school. Kids are able to learn to ski at the Northstar ski school starting at 3 years old. Northstar Ski Resort literally has everything you could possibly need so if you don’t want to leave the resort you never have to. If you plan to ski or snowboard daily this is the place for you. Read my full review of Northstar Ski Resort here.
North Lake Tahoe Restaurants
Looking for the best North Lake Tahoe Restaurants? I had the pleasure of dining at these restaurants and enjoyed the food and views.
Jake’s on the Lake
If you’d like an upscale option for dining with lake views Jake’s on the Lake is your best option. During the summer it’s always packed and reservations are required but during the winter you can have the whole restaurant nearly to yourself. They are known for their seafood so you can’t go wrong with any of those options.
Looking for a little wine tasting? Stop by one of Uncorked Tahoe’s 5 locations and hang out at this wine bar or get a little more involved. Uncorked Tahoe offers wine classes teaching you the history of various wines and how to pair them with the perfect cheese plate.
Sunnyside Tahoe Restaurant and Lodge
I enjoyed a lake view lunch at Sunnyside Tahoe Restaurant and Lodge. Do yourself a favor and get the cajun fish tacos, they were so good! Sunnyside Tahoe Restaurant and Lodge has Taco Night every Wednesday starting at 4pm and boy does it get packed! I understand though, I’ll show up every time for $4 tacos. They also have Martini Nights so be sure to check their events calendar.
The Pioneer Cocktail Club
If you’re looking for casual fare Lake Tahoe restaurants, The Pioneer Cocktail Club is a great option. With menu items such as Savren’s Pimp Hand and cocktails named I Make Bloody Moves you’re sure to find entertainment deciphering the meaning behind each name. They offer everything from pizza to brussels sprouts to popcorn.
Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter
Experiencing Lake Tahoe in the winter is truly magical and there are endless things to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter. It’s not sunny California anymore so make sure to be well prepared with the perfect ski trip packing list.
Snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe
Snowshoeing is when you put on special “shoes” that make it easier to walk in snow. You can take tours during the day or experience snowshoeing at night for some epic stargazing in Tahoe. I took my tour with Tahoe Adventure Company and my guide was so informative!
Lake Tahoe Snow Tubing
When visiting Lake Tahoe in the winter Lake Tahoe tubing is the perfect winter activity for those not into skiing and snowboarding or if you just get tired of it. Most if not all of the ski resorts in Lake Tahoe offer snow tubing. If you’re traveling with younger children Northstar Resort offers kiddie tubing for children 42″ and smaller.
Another awesome thing to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter is snowmobiling. There are many snowmobiling companies to choose from and most offer the same tours. Snowmobiling can be fun for the whole family with kids as young as 4 or 5 being able to be passengers with an driver over 18.
Lake Tahoe Skiing and Lake Tahoe Snowboarding
Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to ski and snowboard. Your options are endless with 6 ski resorts in the area. If you are staying in South Lake Tahoe you can ski or snowboard at Heavenly, Kirkwood, or Sierra at Tahoe. If you are visiting North Lake Tahoe in the winter you can ski or snowboard at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Northstar, or Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows.
If you live in a place where ice skating rinks aren’t the norm it’s definitely one activity you want to put on your to-do list while staying on Tahoe during the winter months. There are indoor ice skating rinks and outdoor options as well. In fact, if you stay at Northstar they have an outdoor rink right in the center of their village.
Pamper Yourself With A Spa Day
After spending a long day outside in the thick of winter what better way to warm up your muscles than with a relaxing full body massage? The Spas in North Lake Tahoe are some of the best!
December in Lake Tahoe Brings All The Feels
If you’re able to visit North Lake Tahoe during December get ready to feel like you’re a part of Santa’s Winter Wonderland!
Is December a good time to visit Lake Tahoe?
Like with any wintery destination December is a big month for people looking to experience the magic of the holidays. You should expect a larger crowd compared to January and February. The holiday festivities tend to offset the influx of people and make the trip worth it!
Average Temperature in North Lake Tahoe in December
December is really the start of winter on Lake Tahoe. November does bring some snow and lower temperatures but it doesn’t really start to drop until December. Even so, the temperature is pretty mild compared to other ski destinations averaging lows in the ’20s and highs in the ’40s.
How much snow does Lake Tahoe get in December?
While snowfall varies from year to year North Lake Tahoe tends to get around 30in December. Snowfall can start as early as September and continue on until early May which means, if you aren’t able to visit in December don’t fret! There will still be plenty of snow waiting for you!
Christmas on the Lake
One reason December is a popular month to visit Lake Tahoe is the Christmas festivities. The resorts hold nothing back when it comes to holiday cheer! You can expect giant Christmas trees, Sleigh Rides, Entertainment, Dining experiences, and more!
Experiencing Lake Tahoe in the winter was amazing and while summer in Tahoe is great I really think winter is the best time to visit Lake Tahoe. Since I now live in Miami I never get to see snow or partake in winter activities. I hope to return to Lake Tahoe in the winter with the whole family. I know the girls would love to take ski lessons at the Northstar Ski School. Until then I’ll show them pictures! Did you find this post helpful? Please share it!
I was invited to Lake Tahoe as a member of the 2019 Digital Influencer Advisory Board for Visit California. As always all opinions are my own and true!