Heading to Lake Tahoe with a toddler sometime between May through November? You’re in the right place.
Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States, (second only to Crater Lake) and a lot of it is crystal-clear. With the granite rocks along the shoreline and snow-topped mountains in the background, the area is so beautiful, that you won’t be able to stop taking pictures – I can promise you that.
Going anywhere with a toddler can present unique challenges that aren’t typical to babies or older kids.
My family and I enjoyed a beautiful trip to Lake Tahoe including my 2-year old daughter. We were visiting a family member who has lived in Tahoe for a few years and knows a lot about the area, so we got a lot of insider info and tips from them.
If you’re going to be in Lake Tahoe with older kids as well, I have a lot of additional tips of things to do with kids in Lake Tahoe. You may have to separate some of the activities that the toddler is too young for, like we did.
If you’re heading to Lake Tahoe with a toddler, I have all the insider tips to share with you on things to do, and what you need to know. So, let’s jump in!
Is Lake Tahoe stroller friendly?
Many parts of Lake Tahoe are stroller friendly, such as most of Heavenly Village and the Impossible Trail. However, I would recommend bringing a lightweight baby carrier to Lake Tahoe with a toddler in addition to a stroller. It will make it easier to get around some of the areas that aren’t designed for a stroller, such as some of the hikes.
However, if you’re not planning on doing hikes or you don’t want to bring a baby carrier, I think Lake Tahoe is still easily survivable without one. We only used ours a few times, and for the activities we used it for, it would have been possible without one if we moved around differently.
I’ll go into specifics below about each attraction and whether or not you should bring a stroller or a carrier. So lets continue on to things to do in Lake Tahoe with a toddler!
Things to Do in Lake Tahoe with a Toddler
Here are some great things to do in Lake Tahoe that are fun for you, but will be easy to include your toddler in as well.
1. Take a stroller walk on the Impossible Trail
The Impossible Trail (also known as East Shore Trail) is about 3 miles (4.8km) long and fully paved, but you can park your car and only do sections of it. The locals call it the Impossible Trail because of how long it took to build. As the official name suggests, the trail runs along the east shoreline of Lake Tahoe, giving you beautiful views of the lake and scenery. Its a gorgeous walk, fully paved and highly recommended with a toddler.
You’ll find several parking lots along the trail, there are also some restrooms. Sometimes the parking lots can get pretty full, especially during peak months or during peak times. ( Sunset, for instance.)
2. Take a walk around Heavenly Village
Heavenly Village is a walkable village in South Lake Tahoe with restaurants and shops. There is a lot for your toddler to see and look at. There are so many cute stores selling locally sourced items, sit down restaurants, cafés and souvenir shops. You will definitely be visiting Heavenly Village while you’re in Lake Tahoe.
Most of the Heavenly Village, is stroller friendly; we walked around with a stroller. However, there are some stairs. Usually when there’s stairs, there’s a ramp nearby (you might have to go out of your way a little bit) to get up or down. There were also some shops that are located on upper levels. We had to carry our stroller up to visit those shops.
3. Ride the gondola
The Heavenly Gondola (located right in the heart of Heavenly Village) gives you breathtaking aerial views of the surrounding area as it takes you up 2.4 miles (3.8 km) up the mountain. The gondola is an easy and safe way to get a view of the surrounding lands, without having to do a strenuous hike, which would be challenging with a toddler.
Up at the top of the mountain where the gondola takes you, there’s an observation deck and a café to grab a drink before heading back down. The best part? Children under 4 are free of charge on the Heavenly Gondola.
4. Check out the Lake Tahoe Dam
The Lake Tahoe dam is in North Lake Tahoe right beside the Gatekeeper’s Museum. Both the museum and the dam are surrounded by a forested area with walking trails, some picnic benches, and beautiful view of the beach. Its not a busy place, and it was a peaceful place to spend time in nature, in an area thats relatively safe with our toddler. You could spend a couple hours learning about the history of North Lake Tahoe, and enjoying the nature.
There are walking trails and picnic tables in the forest area, as well as a bridge where you can watch the rapids and get a picturesque view. Along the bridge there are also some billboards with facts about Lake Tahoe and the dam that are quite interesting for adults.
Good to Know: If you want to visit the Gatekeeper’s Museum, its open from 10-4 every day except for Mondays and Tuesdays. Kids under 12 are free of charge.
5. Try an easy Lake Tahoe hike
The Impossible Trail mentioned above is ideal for toddlers because its flat, paved and safe. If you’re feeling more adventurous though, and you’re a somewhat experienced hiker, then you might want to look into some of the easy Lake Tahoe hikes that take you through nature and wilderness. There are some gorgeous trails in Lake Tahoe with incredible views.
With a toddler, you’ll want to go on some of the easier hikes where you can safely wear or carry your little one, or let them walk along beside you for parts of it. Here are some of the hikes that are considered ‘easy’ in Lake Tahoe:
- Angorra Lake Trail – 1.1 miles (1.9 km). This trail will you bring you down to a lake resort area where you can get sandwiches and freshly squeezed lemonade.
- Tahoe Keyes Loop Trail 1.4 miles (2.3 km) loop along the lake. Very easy, and plenty of shade.
- Lake of the Sky Trail 1.9 miles (3.1 km) takes about 30 minutes to complete, and takes you through the Tallac Historic Sight. Popular with dogs, some which may be off-leash
- Chimney Beach Walk Trail –more challenging 2.4 miles (3.9 km). This trail is a bit steep and rocky in some parts, so although this hike is very picturesque, its best for experienced hikers with appropriate hiking gear
6. Visit the KidZone Museum in Truckee
Kidzone is a children’s museum and indoor playground geared towards toddlers and young children. There are ‘pretend’ play areas, an indoor playground, and a fenced outdoor area to play in as well. Its a fantastic a great place to visit for toddlers and young kids, and if you’re in Lake Tahoe with a toddler, I’d highly recommend it.
We went with our 2-year old and 10 year old. While Kidzone is probably more suitable for younger children (7 and under I’d say) my older child enjoyed playing with her younger sister there.
Located in Truckee, California, KidZone is about a 20 minute drive from North Lake Tahoe, and about an hour from South Lake Tahoe – but you can make a day of it by exploring the historic town of Truckee while you’re there.
Truckee is also a very picturesque little town, and worth spending a morning or afternoon walking around, visiting shops and taking photos. Read my post on things to do in Truckee, for more ideas of ways to spend a day in Truckee as a family.
Good to Know: Kidzone closes at 3pm, so just keep that in mind when planning your day out!
7. Get breathtaking views from Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay is one of the most scenic areas in the area, and its just a short drive from South Tahoe. There are many places to stop along the road in the Emerald Bay State Park to get photos along highway # 89.
If you’re just going to be getting in and out of the car to view the lookouts along the road, I would use a baby carrier, because some of the platforms have stairs. (We decided to just carry our toddler in our arms)
If you want to visit inside the park, there are beaches, hiking trails and even camping areas. The cost to park is $10 per vehicle per day. Personally, we found it easier to just do a drive through. But if you want to enter the park, click here for information on the park website.
7. Go swimming in crystal clear water
Lake Tahoe has a number of beautiful beaches, many with sandy shorelines that are ideal for a toddler. If you’re there in the summer, keep in mind that the sand is very hot -put some water shoes on your toddler, and bring sandles or flip-flops for yourself. Some of the main beaches to check out with a toddler in Lake Tahoe are:
- Sand Harbour Beach (North Lake Tahoe) -very popular with families! Very busy during the summer – has a visitor centre and gift shop, restrooms and picnic tables. Parking lot generally fills up by 9am in the summer, so take advantage of your toddler’s early wake times and get here early. Parking fee is $10/vehicle
- Commons Beach (South Lake Tahoe) – picnic areas, restrooms on site and children’s playground
- Pope Beach (South Lake Tahoe) picnic areas, food concessions and restrooms on-site
- Chimney Beach (South Lake Tahoe) very picturesque, but mostly natural – doesn’t have as many amenities on site as the others do. There are restrooms at the parking area, and from the parking there is a short hike to the beach
9. Take a boat ride
Lake Tahoe’s water is extremely clear, and being able to go out on a boat allows you to look down and almost see the bottom in most parts. Toddlers may not fully understand, but they may enjoy being on a boat. There are a lot of chartered boat tours you can take in Lake Tahoe, but not all of them allow children under a certain age.
Chartered boat tours in Tahoe aren’t cheap, but the price is per boat (and include your entire party up to 6 people) so it isn’t so bad. Its certainly a great way to spend 2 hours in Tahoe.
Check out this all-ages private chartered boat tour in Lake Tahoe here
10. Take a day trip to Virginia City
Virginia City was one of the coolest towns I’ve ever visited. It has a long history with the mining, and it was once the fastest growing city, until the money ran out. Right now, its primarily a tourist town but it has about 900 residents.It s about a 1 hour drive from Lake Tahoe.
You could spend a few hours here, if you plan to eat lunch and do some of the activities. Read my post about family-friendly things to do in Virginia City here.
Walking down the streets in Virginia City is very stroller friendly, and there are a lot of incredible views of the old-fashioned 1800s style streets, and the surrounding land which is very mountainous and picturesque.
There are many things to do in Virginia City as well, some of which are toddler friendly. We visited The Way It Was Museum – we did this with our toddler in a stroller, and a historic steam train and a trolley.
Is Lake Tahoe safe?
Lake Tahoe is considered very safe, with a low crime rate. Be careful when driving around, as its a very touristy and busy area, especially in the summer. Exercise caution when visiting some of the nature attractions as there are sometimes rocks you can climb to get better views. Its tempting to do so, but be extra careful with a toddler in a carrier.
How long to spend in Lake Tahoe with a toddler?
If you want to do a wide combination of things (almost everything that we suggested above) – then you will need about one week in Lake Tahoe.
If you just want to do some of the highlights (Heavenly Village, a beach day, the Impossible Trail, and a few 1/2 day trips to Kidzone in Truckee and/or Virginia City for instance) then you could do all that in 3-4 days.
Personally, I’d say to give yourself as much time as you can in Lake Tahoe. We didn’t feel like we had enough time for everything, especially with a little one in tow who needed some down time rather than racing in between attractions . We’ll definitely have to go back again!
What to Bring to Lake Tahoe with a Toddler
- Don’t forget sunscreen, at any time of year. Lake Tahoe sits at a higher elevation, so the UV rays are very strong. We like this reef-friendly and toddler safe sunscreen.
- You’re going to want water shoes for the beach if you’re there in summer, the sand gets surprisingly hot!
- Bring decent walking shoes for any hiking trails or walking that you toddler will be doing
- Bring warm clothes for the evenings; even in the summer, Lake Tahoe can get pretty cool at night
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe with a Toddler
Here are some kid and toddler friendly places to stay in Lake Tahoe
- Budget: Tahoe Hacienda Inn – located centrally in South Lake Tahoe, and has a swimming pool
- Mid-range: Bluelake Inn @ Heavenly Village – located right in Heavenly Village, continental breakfast included!
- Luxury: Marriot Grand Residence Club (pictured below) located right in Heavenly Village, and steps from restaurants, shops and the gondola
Lake Tahoe with a Toddler: Conclusion
Lake Tahoe is a beautiful and family-friendly destination, and that includes toddlers. There are a number of things you can do as a family. A lot of the tourism is centred around the outdoors and taking in natural beauty, so you will get incredible photos and make some great family memories – we sure did.
Is Lake Tahoe toddler-friendly? I would say so, especially certain activities. There are some things to do that might not be as easy or suitable for a toddler, but you will find so many other things to do that you’re not going to feel like you missed out.