While winter lures skiers to the surrounding slopes and summer brings vacationers out for beach time, Lake Tahoe offers far more opportunities to mingle with locals, especially in the shoulder season. The clarity of the lake was first made famous by Mark Twain in the 1880s, and it’s easy to spend hours mesmerized by the brilliant blue color. But when you’re ready to discover some great mealtime and leisure options away from the typical touristy hoards, here’s where you should go:
Blue Angel Café – South Lake Tahoe
A longtime local favorite, the Blue Angel Café has affordable and fresh entrees ranging from salads, sandwiches, and tacos to heartier entrees, like pizza and pasta. The outdoor seating in the front garden is ideal to enjoy the last warm days of the season, and don’t be surprised if you find some locals with their dogs. It’s the perfect place for pups to lounge in the sun while their owners eat. Inside, it’s a mix of wood tables, stone walls, and comfy chairs around the fireplace, to cozy up with your hot chocolate when the weather is cooler.
Baldwin Beach – South Lake Tahoe
Known for its beautiful half-mile of sand, Baldwin Beach has panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains. Most visitors swim and picnic here, but it’s also a great place to launch a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (rentals are available) for an Emerald Bay adventure. A popular spot with locals, this beach is best visited in the morning, when you can still get parking. As the fall progresses, water temperatures can get chilly, so consider trading the swimming for a kayak, and you’ll be fine.
Fire Sign Café – Tahoe City
Despite being featured on “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels” and garnering plenty of other positive press, the Fire Sign Café remains a huge local-favorite spot for breakfast and lunch. Simple, mountain-style decor with tons of wood and deep booths dominate the inside of the cafe, inspiring a casual atmosphere. Hearty breakfasts are most beloved, like huevos rancheros, eggs Benedict, or the ranch scramble.
Pope-Baldwin Bike Path – South Lake Tahoe
A 7.8-mile out-and-back trail, the Pope-Baldwin Bike Path is great for all skill levels and accessible from March until November. This paved path curves through Camp Richardson and allows side trips to Fallen Leaf Lake, the Lake Tahoe Visitor Center, the Tallac Historic Site, and Pope and Baldwin Beach. Didn’t bring your own bike? Rentals are available at South Shore Bikes. Rates start at $30 for a half day rental for adults.
Hidden Beach – East Shore
This scenic spot is right below Highway 28, a short distance from Reno over Mt. Rose, but unless you know to stop and peer over the guardrails, you’d never know such a beautiful secret beach exists here. The sandy shore is scattered with gigantic boulders that reach into the clear blue water. But keep in mind: there’s no convenient parking at Hidden Beach, so if you visit, you’re in for a hike from where you parked along the side of the highway.
Basecamp Hotel – South Lake Tahoe
Okay, so, locals don’t stay at hotels, but if they did, I imagine they’d spend a few nights at Basecamp Hotel. A funky spot in South Lake Tahoe, Basecamp feels like your own adventure home base. With deep leather sofas, a cozy indoor bar, an outside hot tub and fire pit, and an all-around outdoorsy vibe, this is the best way to experience a true taste of Tahoe. The best room in the house? The Great Outdoors room, complete with a tent (pictured). After Labor Day and before the ski season, rates start at $99 per night.
What’s your favorite place to go in Lake Tahoe?