Lake Tahoe, CA, is home to professional skiers, water sport enthusiasts, and lovers of fresh air and hot summers. When you first think of Tahoe, you envision snow-covered peaks and pristine ski trails for the professional ski and snowboarders. While that might be true, there is another whole world of Tahoe to explore in the summer months.  Being a Northern California girl myself, a long weekend getaway at the lake in the summer tops them all.

Weekend Itinerary 

First things first, to set yourself up for a successful weekend is to plan your drive in and out. Cali traffic is horrible on the best of days, but a 3 day weekend can be brutal.  The roads get packed up to the lake on a Friday, and returning South toward California on a Sunday can be a much longer drive than you would expect. Plan for road snacks and a small cooler in the backseat for hydration.  Don’t let road rage be your co-pilot. Instead, let the cool wind of the mountain breeze blow in your hair. 

Plan ahead.  We all like to just go with the flow and let things happen, but a little planning will make the experience all the better.  Uber and Lyft are scarce, especially on weekend nights in Tahoe City, so location is everything. Choose a hotel or Airbnb where you and your friends can walk to restaurants, shops, bars, and, of course, the lake. Staying at the Basecamp Hotel, which is perfectly situated on North Lake Blvd, exceeded all my expectations and is highly recommended by this frequent Tahoe traveler. It is a small, one-level boutique hotel with an adventure/explorer theme. The front desk lobby staff were kind, courteous, and gave great advice about the area. A basic breakfast is provided in the morning and a S’mores kit in the evening where two different fire pits are open every night. Even an outdoor lookout area is located slightly above the hotel with a great view of the lake or to catch a romantic sunset with that special partner.  Now, if only the hotel provided that special partner, that would be full service.  But I digress and will save my dating life for another article… The lobby has a bar with a happy hour every night from 5-7pm, meaning whether you’re coming with your family, friends, or on a couples retreat, there is something for everyone. 

Nightlife in Lake Tahoe

Friday night is all about Pete ‘n Peter’s, located right in downtown Tahoe City. It’s an easy walk from the hotel, but we were greeted by a line out the door when we got there, so we knew we were at the right place.  While nobody likes a line, the 30-minute wait flew by, and once we entered, the place lived up to its billing. Pete ‘n Peter’s is the perfect place to be for a mix of locals and tourists. There are tons of pub games such as pool, darts, and shuffleboard, so the crowd had various ages. It even has a pool tournament on Sundas with a $10 buy-in! If being a spectator is more your speed, this is the spot for easy access to TVs and some competitive sports camaraderie.

Having survived the Friday traffic and the alcoholic beverages of Pete ‘n Peter’s on Saturday, you deserve an outdoor adventure. Grab a raft or tube for you and your crew, and if you don’t have one, they are sold at every Tahoe gas station and throw on your hats and swimsuits for a float down the Truckee River. There’s a perfect drop-in spot near the hotel near the Front Street Station pizza shack. With the sun beating down on your back and the cold mountain water underneath you, you will float for 2-4 hours (depending on how hard you want to paddle), and you will end your lazy river float at the River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant. This is a family-friendly float with some minor rapids to make it fun, but nothing too big to scare off the little ones. The River Ranch destination point makes for an easy spot to get off the river with all your gear, and many other fellow floaters will join you with the same idea. Coming off your blissful float, you will want to order the renowned Rum Punch for a chilled slushie drink.  

After a long day in the sun, Saturday night allows you to treat yourself at the Sunnyside Restaurant. If you know North Lake Tahoe, then you know Sunnyside. This place is always packed, and it’s rare to get in on the waitlist, especially during a holiday weekend, or any hot summer weekend for that matter, so make that reservation in advance. This is a great spot for families looking for a nice dinner (with a kids menu!) with plentiful drink options. It’s best to arrive before sunset so you can enjoy watching the sunset over the marina.  The Sunnyside Refresh is the go-to drink, and if you’re looking for a dessert for a chocolate lover like myself, then the Hula Pie is to die for. 

picture of the sunset over the Sunnyside marina with people sitting around eating in Lake Tahoe

On Sunday, a trip to Truckee in the afternoon to escape the crowds is a perfect mini excursion. Truckee is a small mountain town with a big personality. If you’re looking to do some boutique shopping, this is a great place to spend the afternoon. When the afternoon heat has you looking for a cool refreshment, make your way to 5050 Brewing Co. This place has a relaxed atmosphere and an older crowd with world-class beer. They also have some cool merch if you’re looking to buy a gift to take back to a spouse or friend. 

After spending some time in Truckee, venture a little further north of Tahoe City, to King’s Beach, where The Grid Bar serves up some karaoke for the singers in your group. There was no line, but this place was packed! Tons of locals and cheap cocktails. With a small dive bar quality, the karaoke was fun, light-hearted, and not intimidating for those of us who aren’t singers! This place is open past 2am and great if you’re looking for a more rowdy night out with a young crowd. 

With scenic views, outdoor adventures, and lively nightlife, there truly is something for everyone. Comment below and let me know where your favorite Tahoe watering holes are.

Lily Gack

Add me on:  Instagram: @lilygack !

Lily Gack female writer with a glass of wine

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