Looking for thing to do in Truckee California? You’re in the right place. We just visited Truckee in 2023 and enjoyed our time in this historic town. It has a rich and interesting history dates back to the 1800s and it has a quaint downtown historic centre, and a few gems to explore in the area.
Truckee is apart of North Lake Tahoe, but its about a 20 minute drive from most of the other villages on the north side of the lake. Truckee has a population of just over 17,000 which makes it a mid-sized town.
You can stay in Truckee, but it also makes for is a good half day or full day trip from either Reno (“”little Vegas”) or anywhere in Lake Tahoe. If you’re in South Lake Tahoe, Truckee is about a 1 hour drive.
So lets jump in – 13 best things to do in Truckee, California.
Things to Do in Truckee, California
Here are the best things to do in Truckee California
1. Visit a ski resort (in winter or summer)
Truckee is a great place for skiing and snowboarding; in the winter this might be whats already bringing you to the area. You have your pick of 3-4 ski resorts in both winter and summer. In winter, skiing and snowboarding are both available, and in the summer, these resorts have activities like hiking, swimming. They also have nice ‘ski resort’ villages that you can visit any time of year.
- Northstar California Resort – 9 minutes from downtown Truckee. Rent a bike in the summer to explore the terrain
- Boreal Mountain Resort -14 minutes from downtown. In the summer, you can book a drop-in 2 hour session for biking (all ages).
- Palisades Tahoe – 16 minutes from downtown) *Home of the 1966 Winter Olympics.
- Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area (15 minutes) This is most suitable to beginners and kids who are learning to ski or snowboard. Fantastic for families, especially those with parents of kids who don’t ski
2. Eat mouthwatering sandwiches
The first thing we did when we got to Truckee was grab sandwiches at Full Belly Deli, and it didn’t disappoint. Fully Belly Deli also makes a good post-ski or snowboard meal after you finish off on the slopes in the winter months. (This is what my brother and his partner do!) They have a nice shaded area to sit outside in the warm months, and hot drinks to be enjoyed with your sandwich in the cold months.
As a vegetarian, I went with the veggie press sandwich (which was delicious) but there are lots of customization options for all their sandwiches. They’re open for both breakfast and lunch.
3. Walk along the main street (historic downtown)
Take some time just to walk up and down the main street of Truckee. There are some cute shops, restaurants, candy stores and cafés. Its a picturesque little town with the railroad tracks and the mountains off in the distance.
While the historic downtown of Truckee is very quaint, its also quite busy and heavily trafficked, especially in the summertime and on weekends. So just be careful when crossing the street and finding a parking spot.
4. Grab ice cream at and old-fashioned ice cream parlour
Bud’s Ice cream on the main street has a 50s diner style to the interior, and there are a variety of ice creams to choose from. You can get an old fashioned banana split with a variety of toppings,
Aside from Bud’s Icecream, there are a few ice cream food trucks open in Truckee in the summer months, Little Truckee Icecreamery Truck
5. Whitewater rafting on the Truckee River
The Truckee River is 121 miles (195 km) long and flows through California and Nevada. Its great for whitewater rafting because there are mainly Class II rapids (wide, clear channels which are easy to maneuver) with several Class III rapids (which are a bit more of a challenge) in the last mile. The best way to raft on the Truckee River is with a guided white water rafting professional.
You can book tours with a few local providers, Tributy Whitewater and Truckee River Raft Co.
I recommend this whitewater rafting tour on the Truckee River for ages 13 and over.
6. Museum of Truckee History
There’s a lot of interesting things to learn about Truckee history. Between the fall of the Donner party, the railroad construction, and the indigenous heritage – there’s a lot to uncover. In fact, Truckee is one of the view railroad towns that survived (most of the other railway towns that popped up in the 1800s are now ghost towns.)
You can do self-guided or private tours of the Museum of Truckee History; both of them (like the other two museums in town) have no fee, but donations are highly appreciated. A donation of $20 USD is suggested for a private tour. The museum is open from 10-4 from Friday through Sunday.
7. Railroad museum
The Truckee Railroad Museum is right beside the Museum of Truckee History. Its very small, with the whole thing being inside of an old train carrier. It’s a great place to learn about Truckee’s role in America’s first transcontinental railroad, and the construction of the railroad by Chinese workers.
You can see the whole thing in half an hour to an hour at the most. It is open on weekends only throughout the year from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is by donation. (Anywhere from $2-$5 USD would be appreciated.)
8. Try some local food
Truckee has a lot of small business restaurants serving classic American food. For breakfast or lunch, head to Squeeze In (its small, so you might literally have to ‘squeeze in’ to get a spot, but its a beautifully decorated interior.) Squeeze In serves pancakes, eggs, and great coffee.
For lunch or dinner, try Old Town Tap, which has Italian-inspired food, and local beers on tap. In the warm months, it has a nice outdoor patio looking onto main street.
9. Take a day trip
Depending on where you’re staying, there is a lot to see in this area. Consider Lake Tahoe (North or South) which is great for families, including those with babies and toddlers. North Lake Tahoe is only about 20 minutes from Truckee, while South Lake Tahoe is just over an hour.
Virginia City is about an hour from Truckee. Virginia City reminded me a little of Truckee, but it was even more historic and picturesque (I’d recommend it, if you have time!)
10. Donner Memorial State Park
The Donner Memorial State Park is open year-round, and is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Its a beautifully scenic area to go hiking on trails, paddle boarding, kayaking and camping in the warm months; snowshoeing, sledding and cross country skiing in cooler months.
There is also a museum and memorial about the Donner Party (who the park is named after), a group of about 87 people (mostly men, but also women and children) who migrated from the midwest. They were trapped by heavy snow, lacked resources and resorted to cannibalism to survive. The Donner State Park, Donner Lake and Donner road in the area are all named after these migrants who braved this journey, only half of which survived.
Good to Know: The Donner State Park is open from 10am – 5pm throughout the year, and you just need to pay $10/day per vehicle to park there.
11. Old Jail Museum
The Old Jail in downtown Truckee is one of the few remaining buildings from the 1800s when it was an old western town. You can see recreated rooms, photos, and artifacts from that time and learn about what life in the jail was like in those days, as well as more history about Truckee.
Like the railroad museum, the Ol Jail is typically only open on weekends from 10-4, and Thursday evenings. Dress warmly if you come in the winter, because there is no heating in the jail. There is no admission free, but the jail is volunteer-run and donations are highly appreciated so that this attraction can stay open for years to come.
12. KidZone Museum (if you’re in Truckee with kids!)
If you’re in Truckee with kids, KidZone is a must. I’ve never seen a kid’s indoor playground quite like this one. Its inside of a dome, and has both indoor and outdoor play areas. The indoor play areas are very much pretend-play based, and all the kids there seemed very engaged (including my two kids, 2 and 10.) There was a train station, a theatre, an art room, science room and a little playground. There was also an area specially for babies and toddlers under 2.
KidZone is probably most suited to kids who are 7 and under. However, we were visiting Lake Tahoe with our toddler, plus our older child, so we brought both of them to KidZone. There is less that would interest older children, so I wouldn’t bring a bunch of preteens here. But our older child enjoyed playing with her younger sibling.
Good to Know: KidZone closes at 3pm on the days its open (Tuesday through Saturday) so plan your visit accordingly. They open at 10:30, and admission is $10/person including adults.
13. Truckee River Winery
Truckee’s only winery is about 35 years old (established in 1989 by two locals) and gradually expanded over the years and decades since it opened. You can do a wine tour, a tasting and sit on their patio and enjoy with a view.
The winery is very small, and probably seats about 12 people inside in their tasting room, but has a beautiful outdoor seating area with lots of space. You can reserve a visit to the Truckee River Winery via their online booking system.
14. Coyote Moon Golf Course
Coyote Moon is the only golf course in the Truckee area, and its said to be one of the best golf courses in the state of California.
You can book a tee time online (they have daily slots open throughout the day.)
Things to Do in Truckee, California: FAQs
Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Truckee and things to do in the area
Is Truckee CA worth visiting?
Truckee is a great winter destination for winter sport enthusiasts. In the summer, you can enjoy walks in the historic downtown, whitewater rafting on the Truckee River, and outdoor activities in Donner State Park, or nearby in Lake Tahoe.
What is Truckee famous for?
Truckee is well known for the Emigrant Trail, as well as for the tragic journey of the Donner Party. It was also instrumental in the construction of America’s first transcontinental railway, which many Chinese workers assisted with. In the area, you can visit the museum of Truckee History, a Railway Museum and the Old Jail.
Is Truckee considered Lake Tahoe?
Truckee is considered apart of the North Lake Tahoe area, but its further west than the immediate Lake Tahoe area. It would take about 20 minutes to drive to Truckee from North Lake Tahoe, and vice versa.
Things to Do in Truckee, California: Conclusion
Whether you visit in winter or summer, Truckee makes for a nice place to visit while you’re in the Lake Tahoe and/or Reno area, on your own or as a family. Truckee has three museums, a cute downtown core, great restaurants and treats, outdoor activities (golf, skiing, tubing, hiking) and its not far from other places to see in the area as well.
We hope this guide has been helpful in planning your time in Truckee!