Situated on the California-Nevada state line, South Shore is one of those fantastic year-round destinations
Asnowy wonderland in winter and a water enthusiast’s dream in summer, there’s never a bad time to visit the spectacularly scenic South Shore of Lake Tahoe. Split by the massive, magnificent alpine lake in the middle, both the north and south shores are easy to navigate and offer an abundance of outdoor (and indoor) attractions and activities year round.
Our family has always been partial to the south side of the lake and some of the best memories we’ve made over the years have been on those vacations we have taken here with friends.
So I was really looking forward to our family/friend trip to South Shore last month. Our kids – at ages 8 and 9 – were old enough to enjoy much of what Tahoe has to offer and because a family of friends (ranging in age from 8 to 78) who reside in nearby Reno and Carson City were driving in to spend the entire day from mid-morning to early evening during our stay, we went with a much more comfortable, cozy and convenient accommodation option. Rather than book a traditional hotel room, we decided to rent a privately owned vacation home rich in amenity for all ages. The Tahoe Keys Resort and Lake Tahoe Reservation Bureau (www.tahoevacationguide.com or 800.698.2463) offers an extensive selection of rental homes, condos and cabins to suit your specific needs and budget – whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic retreat, a family of five or a large group of friends.
As anticipated, this trip more than delivered. Driving into the region, the views of deep gorges, craggy mountains and the tall green trees are singularly beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay – the home we selected, located at 950 Balbijou Road, is a super spacious newly renovated, professionally decorated four-bedroom house centrally located to everything – grocery stores, shops, the casinos at stateline. The views are incredible – a large deck on the second floor overlooks a private residential beach below, the master bedroom windows face the lake (imagine waking up to the beauty of the lake each morning) and the back door opens out onto a beautiful downstairs deck steps from the water’s edge.
The home’s luxury accommodations are characterized by beautiful furnishings, high-end finishes and a feature few rental properties can boast – a lakefront location with its own private beach, waterfront access and steps from a wooden pier perfect for strolling. Bonus! Two houses down the beach was a place to rent kayaks ($25 an hour for a single and $35 an hour for a tandem), which made it completely unnecessary (but for a few hours aboard a paddewheeler – more on that in a moment) to ever leave the property since we had literally everything we needed on site.
Between the private beach, the large, open concept living space and multiple dining areas, renting this particular house for our four-day stay proved to be the perfect choice – we had plenty of space to stretch out and everyone had their own rooms to retreat to (the master features a king bed and private bathroom; queen beds in the second and third bedrooms and two sets of twin bunk beds with a shared bathroom was ideal for the younger set). The home sleeps 12 with an queen size sleeper sofa in the den. We saved time and money by being able to cook our meals and dining in rather than eating out three times a day. Several cozy fireplaces provided the perfect ambiance for cool nights and a pool table in the bonus room for apres summer fun.
Other than kayaking, if you’d like to spend time out on the lake, another unique option is to book a daytime scenic cruise or an evening dinner cruise aboard one of two spacious paddlewheelers – the M.S. Dixie II or the Tahoe Queen (800-23-TAHOE). Our group opted for the family-friendly Tahoe Queen boat tour of Emerald Bay – an absolutely must for amazing photo opportunities. Take in some of the most incredible scenery in the world, enjoy lunch, hot cocoa and a good dose of South Lake Tahoe history with the Captain’s live narration. The kids had a ball exploring the boat’s three decks while the adults sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the view.
Unlike vacations where we schedule a series of specific activities designed to keep everyone occupied and entertained away from the hotel room, this trip was all about taking full advantage in all the rental home had to offer – the kids were in and out of the house all day long, spending hours at the water’s edge building a sand castle “village,” hunting for seashells, kayaking with the grown ups and strolling the pier. Evenings were filled with board games, billiards and “movie nights” with kid-friendly programming on Netflix and big buckets of popcorn. Lunches and dinners were either easy outdoor affairs – steaks, burgers, hot dogs and grilled corn cooked on the barbecue or on the last evening, a multi-course meal prepared in the chef’s gourmet kitchen – and for the adults, “happy hour” on the upstairs deck was a nightly highlight sipping a glass of fine wine while watching the sun slip over the horizon – a perfect end to each fun-filled day in one of the prettiest places on the planet.