Spring out of the confines of claustrophobic city spaces and whisk your family away to meet the incredible scenery and serenity of Lake Tahoe, California. Together, refresh your eyes as you stare at the mesmerizing glassy surface of this glacial lake. Breathe in some fresh mountain air and soak up some mountain solitude. Lake Tahoe is a majestic and sublime nature’s canvas located in the lap of northern Sierra Nevada. It is not only North America’s largest alpine lake but also its second deepest. But are there fun things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids? We say…YES!
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It takes around three hours to drive around this lake, and its fringe is dotted with resort towns of all kinds. Pick and choose between the livelier South Lake Tahoe with its slew of shops, restaurants and live music or the remote and relaxing North Lake Tahoe that is less crowded and more subdued.
Plan to meet the best of mountains and lake life with incredible family activities that will excite, entice and enthrall your child. Packed with plenty of history and natural beauty, there’s always a playful lesson to be learned in every bend of the rugged Sierra. We have handpicked things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids to meet the needs of every kind of family vacation possible. Make your planning a smooth sailing with us!
1. Emerald Bay State Park
If what pops up in your mind when you think of Lake Tahoe is a mesmerizing picture of miraculously bluesy water bordered with tall pine trees and looming mountains in the backdrop, chances are that it is a snapshot of Emerald Bay State Park! After all, it is one of the most photographed places on earth and encapsulates in one frame the picture-perfect beauty of Lake Tahoe.
The calm and quiet waters are apt for kids to swim in or just float about. Older kids can double kayak with their parents to reach Fannette Island. But all this doesn’t come easy, as mile-long hiking down to the beach and then back up is a moderately difficult task to tackle with the tiny tots. So prepare your tykes and their tiny feet, especially for the uphill climb. The trail is wide and flat, and strollers with wide tires can manage it smoothly.
2. Sand Harbor State Recreation Beach
Lying on the northeastern shoreline of Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbour is a spectacular slice of paradise with crystal clear aquamarine water, long stretches of sandy beaches, interesting rock formations providing unique photo-ops, and hiking trails to take you through the surrounding mountains. Watercraft like paddleboarding and kayaking are available during summer and families can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride on the snow-covered beaches during winter.
This beach is also famous for scuba divers checking out the rocky coves. With a dedicated picnic and BBQ area, restrooms and restaurants, families have a lot to do. It is one of the most popular beaches in Lake Tahoe and, therefore, understandably busy during the summer months. If you don’t arrive early in the day, entry is almost impossible. Entry closes when the parking lot is full!
3. Kings Beach State Recreation Area
One of the child-friendly beaches of North Tahoe, Kings Beach is known for its expansive sandy stretch (measuring 1700 ft of lakefront area) and gentle lake floor gradient making it super easy and safe for younger kids to play in the water. Access to this beach is absolutely free, though you have to pay for parking. Eateries and shops are located nearby and clean restrooms and electric plugs are available to blow your inflatables.
This beach has plenty of positives to boast, like a larger sandy space for beachgoers to spread out and not feel crowded. Shades are available in the form of a wooded area with picnic tables for eating and unwinding. You can also BBQ on a first come first serve basis. Kids can kayak, paddleboard, or rent a jetski. If they get tired of playing in the water, there is a playground located nearby to shift to.
4. Commons Beach, Tahoe City
Another beach on Lake Tahoe that gets its fair share of sunbathers and swimmers! Not as popular as Emerald Bay or King’s Beach, but don’t underestimate the beauty of Commons Beach. It is truly a hidden gem endowed with both a sandy area and a grassy area with plenty of picnic tables peppering its periphery. This beach is a great hangout zone for families looking to picnic by the lakeside. There is a BBQ area and an amphitheater inside the Commons Beach Park. Do check out the 12-foot sculpture of Penny Bear covered in pennies. Seasonal free concerts and weekly movie nights take place near the beach. Watersports like paddleboarding and kayaking can be done. The water is warm and shallow making it an appropriate splash spot for young kids.
5. Donner Memorial State Park
Picture the pioneers in the mid-1800s braving the stark and unforgiving Sierra Mountains at 6000 ft making their way to the west looking for prospect and prosperity. Bring back the history pages to life and introduce your kids to this important part of the US emigrant experience. Donner Memorial State Park is an alpine park located in Truckee. It is a beautiful spot to enjoy all seasonal activities that elevate a mountain experience.
Summer sees picnickers and hikers exploring its scenic vistas. Boating and fishing can be done in Donner Lake and Donner Creek. Winter has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Check out their visitor’s center for an in-depth look at the place’s historical significance. Make a stop at the Pioneer Monument and be part of that 2000 mile eventful journey that passed through here a few centuries back.
6. Tahoe Donner Resort
Sample a taste of the Tahoe lifestyle in the High Sierra! Tahoe Donner Resort is located in Truckee, California at a 25 minutes drive from Tahoe. They offer an abundance of activities to enjoy the outdoors in every possible way. At Alder Creek Adventure Center, you can go horseback riding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking at the 60+ miles Tahoe Donner Trail System.
Along the banks of Alder Creek, you can also camp at Tahoe Donner Campground surrounded by Sierra Nevada wilderness. Come winter, their Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort opens its door to kids as young as 3 years to enjoy the gentle slopes and beginner’s terrain. They have a tonne of scrumptious dining options like Pizza on the Hills where you enjoy outdoor seating and a playground in between bites of some delicious cheesy goodness.
7. Epic Discovery
Located in Heavenly Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Epic Discovery dishes out an attractive platter of outdoor family-focused summer adventures. Push your limits and test your family’s adventure quotient with their fun amalgamation of unique activities. Ride up the mountain face on a gondola and get welcomed with a gobsmacking view of Lake Tahoe. Zoom down the mountain on a gravity-powered alpine coaster.
Climb a man-made rock wall imitating the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Enjoy the exhilarating summer tubing sans water or snow. They have a 250 foot long specially designed tubing surface that takes you down a 500-foot long hill. Take a lift back, and you can start all over again! A lovely lesson awaits your kids as they take part in gold panning and understand firsthand what made the Gold Rush such a fascinating chapter in US history.
8. Truckee River Raft Company
Rafting and kids might send a shiver down your spine thinking of the risk involved, but not on Truckee River. This river comprises small rapids and tranquil stretches of water where you can just float by. Cradled by mountains and meadows, this stretch of the river is scenic and serene. Truckee River Raft Company is the oldest rafting company that is family-owned and has been around since 1973.
They are trusted and come highly recommended if you choose to river raft here. They offer commercial grade rafts with all safety guaranteed. It is a self-guided rafting adventure that takes you from Tahoe City to River Ranch restaurant. Kids of 2 years and up can participate in these 2-3 hours-long rafting fun.
9. Taylor Creek Visitor Center
For an alternative to a high-thrill activity like tubing down the mountains or a gondola ride up it, opt for an easy-peasy stroll through any of Taylor Creek’s four self-guided hiking trails. Explore the marsh and meadows, streamside or beachside habitats of this region. With the twin perks of being free of cost and offering an immersive experience of the natural ecosystem, Taylor Creek is a firm favorite with both locals and visitors.
Situated just three miles north of South Lake Tahoe, the visitor’s center is normally shut during the winter, but the park is not. The Rainbow Trail has an underground setup called The Stream Profile Chamber where a slice of underwater stream life is captured behind glass panels. Children can marvel at trout and other aquatic lives that populate the water. If one is lucky and visiting at the right season, they can catch a sight of wild bears chowing down on spawning salmon in the creek on one of its trails.
10 . Truckee Certified Farmers’ Market
Nothing enriches a travel experience more than rubbing your shoulder with the local community. And the Farmer’s Market in Truckee is one such glorious activity where you can sample the freshest produce from local and regional vendors and learn about the importance of community. Truckee Certified Farmers Market takes place every Tuesday at Truckee River Regional Park.
Bite into some juicy berries or buy locally raised meats and freshly caught fish. It is a great place to show your kids what vegetables and fruits grow in that region. Encourage them to interact with the locals so that their social skills are developed, and natural curiosity stoked. Farmer’s Markets are a great way to teach kids about nutrition, organic food, and getting over the fear of eating something new. So, all in all, it’s a tasty travel treat that they will definitely adore.
11. Lake Tahoe Bleu Wave
Enjoy the bliss and beauty of Lake Tahoe aboard a 70-foot luxury yacht. Bleu Wave offers several fun and adventurous cruises throughout the day like lunch, dinner, happy hour, sunset, the afternoon, etc. A typical cruise lasts for two hours, and their prices include some refreshment snacks and a choice of beer, wine, or champagne for the adults.
Kids can have soda and snacks as they savor the towering Sierra with its snow-capped peaks and granite-carved rugged mountain face. The lush forestry bordering the lake provides a much-needed green break for the eyes. The yacht sails from the Tahoe Keys Marina and floats by the sandy shores of Emerald Bay. You can also view the lake’s only island, Fannette Island, and other sites like the architectural wonder of Vikingsholm Castle and the roaring Eagle Falls during the lake cruise.
12. Fanny Bridge
Constructed on the only outlet of Lake Tahoe where it flows out to meet the Truckee River, Fanny Bridge is located right next to the historic Lake Tahoe Dam. It is a charming bridge that was built in 1920. The vintage vibe of the construction makes for a great backdrop for family photos. The origin story of the bridge’s name is hilarious. Legends have it that the bridge was named after the most prominent feature that one would see from the road, people’s behind or fannies as they lean over the railings to admire the deep blue depth of the lake.
Apart from its namesake, Fanny Bridge also offers a great view over Lake Tahoe and a scintillating sunset over the waters! Spend some quality time with kids spotting enormous fish like Rainbow trouts, Mackinaw, and German Browns swimming in the blue-green water of the lake. The lake-facing side of the bridge has a display of fascinating historical anecdotes of this region and makes for an informative viewing.
13. Fishing for Crawdads
If you are curious to participate in a local pass time, try catching some crawdads at Kings Beach with your kids. The deal is simple and primitive, so no need for any fancy fishing line. Devise a trap out of a discarded plastic soda bottle or buy a fishing net and fishing pole with some chicken livers at a local sporting goods store. The sloping sandy beach and the pier are great for crawfish hunting as they like to hide under woods and rocks in the shallow water.
There are apparently 300 million crawfish in Lake Tahoe, so there is a high chance to snag one at least. If not, the physical activity and water playing will give your family an ample amount of light exercise and amusement right in the midst of nature! Suggested by a local, you will never find these typical childhood fun activities in any list of things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids.
14. Go Geocaching at Squaw Valley
Explore the stunning mountaintop of Sierra Nevada on a real-life treasure hunt! Take in the bird’s eye view of Lake Tahoe from 8200 ft and set in through wildflower-covered meadows of Squaw Valley and captivating mountain vistas to locate six caches hidden among mountain peaks. Download the app and follow the GPS coordinates to discover all the boxes within three hours. Collect the prize and sign the log sheet. Hiking through the high alpine region of Lake Tahoe is an exhilarating experience that will definitely bring the family together in this unique fun activity. Carry some refreshments to take a break at any of the overlooks to gorge on some food along with gorgeous views!
15. Palisades Tahoe Aerial Tram
Featuring a rich history of hosting the Winter Olympics in 1960, Squaw Valley is a must-do if you love the outdoors and are a sports enthusiast. Hiking mountain trails are not always possible with kids in tow. So why not take them for a ride in Palisades Tahoe Aerial Tram that soars smoothly up to its 2000 vertical feet high up into the mountains? The view is breathtaking and the ride itself is adventurous.
The cabin features an ultra-modern design, is spacious and heated. Approach the tram bay on the world’s largest elevator. You can reach a certain point in the High Camp. Then proceed to do a guided hike from there in the high mountains. On your way, admire the aerial view of the Olympic Village and the Thunder Mountain. It is believed to have inspired Walt Disney to design his Disneyland ride. At the top, at High Camp, you can visit the Olympic museum with its plethora of memorabilia, the Olympic Rings, The skating Rink, the restaurant and a pool and a spa.
16. Tahoe Star Tours
Gather around the fire pits and get comfy under the blankets as you set to unravel the secret of stars and galaxies at an elevation of 6400 ft with Tahoe Star Tours. Begin your cosmos conversation with the skies above the Sierra. Take the stargazing session a notch higher with viewing through a computerized Celestron telescope, the best in the astronomy field. Each session starts with Astro-poetry that ignites curious little minds. Stories are swapped over s’mores sessions. Then difficult science is made extremely easy and palatable for children of all ages to comprehend. This kind of outdoor astronomy experience is a passionate endeavor of a dad-son duo. Its success is pretty evident in the love and adulation showered by guests who have attended this experience.
17. KidZone Museum at Truckee
Blending together the joy of playing, the pleasure of learning, and the excitement of creativity. KidZone Museum is a great place to inspire young minds to explore more. Geared especially towards toddlers, KidZone has educational exhibits that are themed and interactive. New topics are added periodically. They have both an outdoor play area and an indoor play park. Kids can learn age-appropriate art and science and do painting and other crafts. The interior has a brightly colored playset where they can climb and slide, an instant hit with the kids. This museum can not only save your trip on a suddenly rainy day but can be a good place where kids can connect with others of their own age and burn off that extra energy indoors!
18. Tahoe City Art Haus Cinema
In the time of continuous video streaming, a theatre visit has become more of a special occasion. Add to that a draft house cinema and non-GMO gourmet popcorn and you have got yourself a real winner! Tahoe City Art Haus Cinema is a small intimate cinema House run by really passionate people. When in North Tahoe, make an evening of it. They play everything from mainstream, indie to documentaries. Check their selection on their website but patrons swear by their classy picks. Grab a craft beer, a comfy leather couch, and enjoy a cozy time here with the family. It is a cinema viewing experience you will not forget in a jiffy!
19. Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
When contemporary theatres are ditching the proverbial fourth wall, we call to down all the walls of an auditorium and prop up a stage in the magical outdoors instead. Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival does just that. Welcoming viewers to watch the bard’s work and other modern productions. It’s right on the beach with a scintillating backdrop of Lake Tahoe Basin, under a cover of star-spangled sky. Indeed an exceptional natural setting for your next theatre viewing! With gourmet food from the food court, wine, or any alcoholic beverage of your choice and an awe-inspiring atmosphere of outdoor theatres, even kids will be ecstatic to join in on the fun. And if you want to make it extra special for your theatre enthusiast kid, sign them up for children’s events. A short adaptation of major plays where they can shine with their theatre skills.
20. Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks
For the big daddy of the thrill pill, pop one at any one of the three Tahoe Treetop Parks – Tahoe City Treetop, Tahoe Vista Treetop, or Olympic Valley Treetop. Inviting kids of 6 and above for their aerial adventure with a wooden platform, rope, and zip line obstacle courses, make the tall alpine trees your family’s playing field for the day! Treetop Adventure Parks is one of the coolest family experiences one could wish for.
The staff are friendly and though these are self-guided adventure courses, they are always ready with information and encouragement to steer you forward. The pieces of equipment are well maintained and safety is a priority. Courses are designed with all levels of experience in mind. Beginners can start from green and blue and ultimately work their way up to black and diamond courses. This is not just wildly entertaining for the kids. Accomplishing each course with its mix of variety and complexity will build confidence in them that they can’t get from an amusement park ride!
The beauty of Lake Tahoe as a mountain destination is, irrespective of the season of the year or your child’s age or their inclination, your family will always find something fun to do here. You can bring babies and toddlers in the summer. They can play in the crystal clear shallow water of the lake or wander around the bountiful mountains. And during the white winter, they can chuckle while making their snowman or trying to learn how to ski. For school-goers and teenagers, Lake Tahoe is no less of a wonderland where they can chase thrills or just chill. We believe our list has covered all the things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids and has given you all the clarity you need to pick and choose and customize your Lake Tahoe family holiday!