Heading to Lake Tahoe with kids anytime throughout the year ? You’re in the right place. I was in Lake Tahoe with my two kids visiting a family member in 2023. Being there with a toddler and an older child, we explored a lot of family-friendly things to do in both, South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places I’ve travelled to, and I think it makes for a great family travel destination. There were many families visiting, and who lived there. Its the second deepest lake in the United States, (second to Crater Lake) and surrounding by mountains – which gives you a plenty of options of things to do as a family.
As you may know, Lake Tahoe is divided between California and Nevada. North Lake Tahoe is in Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe (often just called “South Lake” by locals) is in California. I’ll be talking covering things to do in both areas.
So lets jump in – things to do in Lake Tahoe (north and south) with kids!
Things to Do in Lake Tahoe with Kids
Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe with Kids
1. Visit the beach
Being that the main attraction is the lake, there are a number of beaches to visit in Lake Tahoe, many of them family-friendly. The sand can be very hot, especially in July and August, so I’d recommend water shoes. Conversely, the water is not very warm, even in the summer, so just prepare for that too. That being said, visiting at least one beach in Tahoe is probably something you want to spend at least one day, or afternoon doing – the views are highly worth it.
Some of the most popular beaches in Lake Tahoe for families are:
- Sand Harbour Beach in North Lake Tahoe. Very popular with families, but also very busy during the summer – has a visitor centre and gift shop, restrooms and picnic tables. Parking lot often fills up by 9am in the summer, so arrive as early as possible. Parking fee is $10/vehicle
- Commons Beach and Pope Beach (South Lake Tahoe) Both have picnic areas and restrooms. Common’s Beach has a children’s playground, while Pope Beach has some food concessions.
- Chimney Beach (South Lake Tahoe) very picturesque, but ‘all natural’ and doesn’t have the same amenities that the two beaches mentioned above do. There are restrooms at the parking area, and from the parking there is a short hike to the beach
2. Bungee jumping trampoline in Heavenly Village
In Heavenly Village (South Lake Tahoe) you’ll find a bungee jumping activity for kids – or anyone in between 40 and 170 lbs. It’s $20 for 6 minutes. It was worth every penny to watch my 10 year old having the time of her life soaring high with the bungee cords.
This activity had no lineup when we were there, so we were able to just walk up and book it. There is also a mini golf area right beside the bungee trampoline.
3. Go on a scenic hiking trail
There are a number of easy Lake Tahoe hikes that are suitable with kids, especially if they’re wearing good quality hiking boots and have hiked in the wilderness before. Many of them run along the lake, so you can get some beautiful views of the water and mountains. Some of the terrain may be rocky, and/or steep, so some caution is needed. But there are a number of hiking trails in Lake Tahoe that are considered easy.
Here ares some of the ‘easy’ hikes in Lake Tahoe:
- Chimney Beach Hiking Trail – 2.4 miles (3.9 km) and takes about 30 minutes to complete. You also need to go to Carson City to start the trail, but the views are worthwhile. This trail is a bit steep in some parts, so you will need to exercise caution
- Angorra Lakes Hiking 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.
4. Walk along the East Shore Trail
We mentioned a few of the easy Lake Tahoe hikes above, but hiking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, the East Shore Trail (known as “the Impossible Trial” by locals because of how long it took to build) is a great way to get the experience of a hike on a paved path along the shoreline of the lake. The trail starts in North Lake Tahoe, includes almost the entire east coast of the lake.
The views are gorgeous, and the walk is very easy. You can do as much or little of it as you want. There are a number of parking areas along this trail, which is 3 miles (4.8 km) long in total, it may be harder to get a spot at peak times, such as sunset. But you can always drive along until you find the next lot to park in.
5. Watch a movie at an old-fashioned cinema
Most of us are used to chain movie theatres now, such as Silver City. But Lake Tahoe has two old-fashioned cinemas that make you feel like you just walked into the 1950s. In South Lake, check out Heavenly Village Cinemas.
If you’re staying in North Lake Tahoe however, check out Incline Village Cinema, which is a charming one-man show movie theatre with old fashioned popcorn maker and snacks.
6. Check out the Lake Tahoe Dam
The Lake Tahoe Dam in Northeast Lake Tahoe makes an easy going and chill outing in Lake Tahoe with kids. There are walking trails in the shade, a bridge where you can watch the rapids and get some picturesque views, and some facts explaining the history and the significance about Lake Tahoe and the dam which the adults and some of the kids will find interesting.
The Lake Tahoe dam is not usually busy, especially if you head there in the early morning or evening. You can stop there to spend a short 30 minutes walking around and taking pictures, or bring a picnic and spend a few hours.
7. Get a great view from Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay is one of the most beautiful views in Lake Tahoe. Its apart of Emerald Bay State Park, which is located along the west shore of Lake Tahoe, just a short drive from South Lake Tahoe.
Some people choose to buy a park pass, and spend the day there (there are beaches, camping areas, and many hiking trails.) But you can also just drive through the park and stop at the lookouts along highway 89 to get incredible scenic photos. You can also visit Vikingsholm Castle if you’re in the area (mentioned below.)
8. Vikingsholm Castle
Vikingsholm Castle is a Scandinavian-style castle. It was inhabited by a wealthy family in the late 1800s as their summer home. To get to the castle, you need to park along highway 89. From there, walk the 1-mile trail down to the castle.
Once you’re there, you can either simply take photos, or there are tours that you can schedule as well.
9. Heavenly Gondola
The gondola in Heavenly Village takes you 2 miles (3.8 km) up the mountain, where you’ll get spectacular, panoramic views from the top. Round-trip tickets are $34 for 5-12 year olds, and $69 for adults, and can be booked at the ticket office.
Once you’re at the top of the mountain, there’s an observation deck and a café. You can enjoy some time up there before heading back down.
10. Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster
Take a ride on Lake Tahoe’s roller coaster that speeds through the forest. Drivers must be at least 16, but kids aged 3+ can ride with them in the two-seater cars. The Ridge Runner can be found in South Lake Tahoe.
NOTE: The Ridge Runner is currently closed for the 2023 summer season.
11. Horseback Riding
For kids aged 7 years and older, horseback riding at Zephyr Cove in South Lake Tahoe is an exciting and unique experience in Lake Tahoe. 1 hour rides on trails with lake views on their friendly horses. My 10 year old loved the experience.
Good to Know: Normally, helmets aren’t worn fo the horseback riding at Zephyr Cove, but they do provide helmets if you prefer to wear one. (No one on our tour chose to wear one.)
12. Take a boat ride
Given that the lake itself is a large part of the attraction in Lake Tahoe, its great to make the most of that and head out on the boat so you can get incredible views of the mountains that surround the lake, and see how deeply you can look down to the lake floor. (The water is incredibly clear!)
For a family with kids ages 5+, try this affordable 2-hour sailing tour on Lake Tahoe
13. Go bowling
Head to Bowl Incline (pictured below) in North Lake Tahoe for some family-friendly, old fashioned bowling with a diner on-site. If you prefer to stick to South Lake Tahoe, then there’s Tahoe Bowl – not quite as nice, but still a nice way to spend a rainy day or an evening.
14. Take a day trip to Virginia City
Virginia City is a historical town nestled in the mountains of Nevada, and still has the same feel of the 1800s when it was an up and coming city. Although its primarily a tourist town now, it has a population of about 900. You won’t be able to stop taking pictures as you’re walking through there, its quite beautiful.
There are a number of things to do in Virginia City with kids, such as a mining tour (ages 7+), museums and a bowling alley, a train ride.
15. Spend an afternoon in Truckee
Truckee, California is a quaint little town that is apart of North Lake Tahoe, but its about a 20 minute drive from other towns in North Lake Tahoe, or about an hour from South Lake Tahoe. The town is busy, but has a rich history and is very scenic. It has a lot of cute shops , museums and restaurants along the main strip, as well as an old fashioned train station. Read my post on thing to do in Truckee
If your kids are under 10 (ideally between the ages of 18 months and 8 years old) there’s an amazing kids indoor playground (pictured above) called Kidzone. Its very educational, with a lot of ‘pretend’ play – there’s also an art room and a science room. We went to Kidzone our 10 and 2 year old, and although the 10 year old was slightly older than the target age, she enjoyed playing with her little sister.
Good to Know: Kidzone closes at 3pm on the days that its open, so just keep that in mind when planning your trip
16. Tallac Historic Sight
The Tallac Historic Sight is a 100-year old estate located in South Lake Tahoe. Its an easy, relaxing place to visit and it has well-shaded and flat trails to explore as a family. There are also gorgeous views of the lake from the property.
Lake Tahoe with Kids: FAQ
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about visiting Lake Tahoe with kids and visiting Lake Tahoe as a family
Is North or South Lake Tahoe better for families?
Both North and South Lake Tahoe are good for families. South Lake Tahoe is larger, with many more accommodations, restaurants, plus it has the Heavenly Village which is full of attractions. North Lake Tahoe is less built up; there are fewer hotels and restaurant options. Unless you’re visiting someone or have a specific reason you want to stay in North Lake Tahoe, then I would personally choose the South if you’re travelling to Lake Tahoe with kids, so that you have more options and the activities are closer by.
Is South Lake Tahoe good for kids?
Yes, South Lake Tahoe is great for kids. There are a ton of kid’s activities in Heavenly Village, such as mini golf, gondola, bungee jumping trampoline, and an old fashioned movie theatre. There’s also the ridge runner ride nearby.
When is the best time to visit Lake Tahoe?
The best times to visit Lake Tahoe with kids are in the spring or fall, or the months of June and July. (August is nice as well, but it tends to be fire season so it carries some risk with that.) It is cold and snowy in Lake Tahoe for 6 months out of the year, and you have some chance of encountering snow even in May. Be sure to check the upcoming weather forecast before your trip, and bring some clothes for cooler weather so that you’re prepared.
Is Lake Tahoe worth going to?
Lake Tahoe is definitely worth a visit. Its turquoise waters remind me of the Caribbean, and the mountains remind me of Switzerland. Lake Tahoe has so much natural beauty and lots of activities for both adults and kids.
Lake Tahoe with Kids: Conclusion
You and your kids are in for a treat visiting Lake Tahoe – I can assure you of that. Its a beautiful area with a variety of family activities; many of them outdoor and nature based, as well as old-fashioned movie theatres and bowling. I hope you found our guide helpful in planning your trip to Lake Tahoe with kids!