Lake Tahoe with a Toddler: Boat Rides & “Bear” Burgers
By Barbara Mascareno
We would have never guessed it was spring in Lake Tahoe as we climbed out of the car one May weekend. While the ski lifts were closed, plenty of winter snow lingered. Nevertheless, with attractions like the Olympic Village at Squaw Valley, boat rides on the lake and opportunities to learn about the area in small doses, Lake Tahoe is an easy and fun family weekend getaway.
Here are some ideas for what to where to stay and what to do and eat:
What To Do
We used our first full day for a drive over to Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
The Olympic Village was still full of snow and was in a lull between its winter and summer seasons. We were primarily there to scope it out for future ski trips, but hiking and bike trails open up once the snow melts. There’s also an aerial tram to the High Camp, a large free-form pool (open in June) and roller skating, and zip lining and geocaching for bigger kids and teens.
The 38-mile trip took more than an an hour with several breaks. Our toddler napped in the backseat for much of the way, allowing us to stop and admire the views of Emerald Bay, Meeks Bay and Cascade Lake. Vikingsholm Castle seemed like a miniature doll’s house as we approached it from above. The castle, built in 1929 to complement the natural surroundings, is open for tours roughly between June and September and is probably best for kids at least 6 and up.
On another day, we took 71-mile steamboat cruise around the lake aboard the M. S. Dixie II. We learned how the Lake was formed and about the marine life that lives in its blue water. It was a longish ride for our 2-year-old, but exploring the boat and looking for wildlife over the side kept her reasonably happy for most of the way. And my husband and I enjoyed close-up views of Emerald Bay. I think the trip is fine for kids 3 and up but there are other, shorter boats rides to choose, too.
We spent an afternoon walking around Heavenly Village, exploring the souvenir stores and the Wyland art Galleries. There’s also a visitors center, where we found information about kid-friendly walking trails. You can plan tours or educational activities and even see short documentaries about the history of the lake and preservation efforts.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Marriott Grand Residence (valet parking only) because we could book a fully equipped villa and also have the variety of shops and restaurants that Heavenly offers. On our first afternoon we found a grocery store nearby and stocked up on breakfast essentials, fruit and yogurt.
The Marriott turned out to be a good pick for a family. It had a wonderful selection of books, CDs and DVDs that you can borrow for free. There are also kids activities and a playroom with toys, the latest video games, a coloring area and game arcade. The whirlpool and pool are outside but they’re heated, making a swim possible even on a chilly spring day (though I admit, we weren’t brave enough to try it).
Visit the FG Hotel Guide to Lake Tahoe
What To Eat
We went to the Fire + Ice Grill + Bar at the Timber Lodge for dinner one night because we could walk there from the Marriott. This place, which specializes in Mongolian Barbecue, is a fantastic choice for a family dinner. Each person picks his or her own protein, veggies, carbs and sauce. Then, voila! Bandanna-clad grill masters cook up your meal at a large grill in the center of the restaurant. It’s an awesome display of dicing, flipping and mixing that my daughter enjoyed watching. The system also lets you decide on your portions, which is handy with small children.
On the way back from Squaw Valley we stopped at the Bear Beach Cafe, a wonderful treat. Walking in, you’re greeted by different size bears and friendly staff. This diner has salads, burgers and sandwiches as well as an eclectic range of entrees, all under $20. They also make awesome hot chocolate, the perfect ending to a fun, somewhat wintery spring day in Lake Tahoe.
Barbara Mascareno has degrees in Biochemistry and Chemistry. She taught under the NCLB program and now teaches Spanish, science, and math. Visit her blog, Spanish4Kiddos or connect with her on on Twitter .