An Insider’s Guide to Making the Most of Your Weekend Away

Written By: Andrew Merritt and Anthony Rojo Escape the City to North Lake Tahoe
Photographed By: Andrew Merritt and Anthony Rojo

While the waves of the Bay Area are sometimes less appealing than those crashing on southern shores, the draw of the nearby mountains cannot be denied. We all have weekday dreams of escaping, regardless of season, to the shores of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding mountains, but sometimes we need a reminder of how thoroughly transported one can be after a few hours on the road. No security lines, no lost luggage, and definitely no extra-bonus-surcharge for having the gall to bring your own snowboard; just a drive barely long enough to justify a stop at In-N-Out and total stereocontrol from door-to-door.

While South Lake is home to all sorts of great activities, food, and nightlife, the north side of Lake Tahoe is a place of solace and tranquility. Now let’s get into it. You’ve only got the weekend, so you need the short list; where to stay, what to do between cocktails, and where to acquire said booze. Plus food, because you’ve got to eat. So here it is, your guide to North Lake Tahoe.

 

STAY

Hibernate at Sunnyside

You’re only going to have one room for your trip, so this is the most important decision of them all. You need somewhere that can provide the real feeling of escape while still providing all the little comforts that are usually delivered by some app in the city. While options abound, the best is Sunnyside Lodge. Positioned steps from shore, about two miles from Tahoe City, it’s somehow simultaneously calm yet always bustling. While the summer months bring the real crowds, Sunnyside’s 22 rooms and two restaurants are full most of the year round. Regardless of the season, there’s plenty to do at the resort; from the myriad water activities based out of their own enormous marina or the lift ticket packages they offer in the winter.

Insider Tip: Make sure to request a guest room with a fireplace.

Accommodations are quintessential lodge with a range of rooms and suites, all of them including their own private balconies. There’s no gouging on necessities either, as wifi and breakfast are always included. With your gear safely stashed and your appetite returning, you need go no further than downstairs. While you were checking in and getting settled, the lodge has filled with locals and tourists alike. You’ve got two options; Lakeside Dining Room for a more classy experience or the always humming Mountain Grill. Both feature menus by Executive Chef Robb Wyss that offer all the cravings that seem appropriate in the mountains; from the Durham Ranch elk loin to the Steelhead trout served alongside corn and bacon fritters. They’ve even got a plethora of meat, gluten, dairy, and nut free options to choose from as well.

Not to be outdone by the culinary skills of the kitchen staff, operating partner Jeff “Ox” Oxandaboure manages a wine and cocktail program to rival any in the city. Featuring flagship wines from producers like Guigal, Caymus, and Aubert, the list is reasonably heavy on local California regions Napa and Sonoma though it has a surprisingly large number of gems from around the world. The whole program is also available retail, offering guests the ability to grab a great bottle to take on a picnic or simply back to the room. If you make it up on a Thursday, don’t miss Ox’s Picks; entrees designed to pair with wines from a featured winery, often poured personally by the winemaker.

If cocktails are more your thing, fear not, as Fridays bring Martini’s and Music at the Mountain Grill with serious local musical talent to accompany featured drinks like the Blanhattan, a take on the classic featuring Blantons bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, and orange bitters. The food on this side is just as thoughtful with snacks like their famous crispy zucchini sticks and fish tacos. And the best part is, if you have one too many, you just have to make it upstairs!

Sunnyside Lodge and Restaurant
1850 West Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.583.7200

 

DO

Shred at Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers an unrivaled mountain resort experience for everyone. For both skiers and snowboarders, this mountain is first choice for its breathtaking views, versatile terrain, and abundance of bars and restaurants. If riding isn’t your thing, don’t worry there is an array of snow activities and plenty of outdoor fun waiting for you. If this is your first time on the mountain, we recommend hiring a ski instructor to show you around the best parts of the mountain, regardless of your skill level.   

Squaw Valley Resort
1960 Squaw Valley Rd
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
800.402.0206  

 

Break for a Bloody at Sandy’s Pub

Navigating around the mountain all day can really make you hungry (and thirsty). Check out some spots here at Squaw that will refuel you and leave you more than satisfied. The first mid-morning break should be for an obligatory mountain Bloody Mary at Sandy’s Pub. Sandy’s Pub is located inside of Squaw Creek Resort and serves a perfectly spicy Bloody Mary to hold you over until you’re ready for lunch at PlumpJack!

Sandy’s Pub
400 Squaw Creek Rd
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
530.581.6617

 

Nordic Skiing at Tahoe XC

Lake Tahoe offers many of outdoor activities and today we scratched a new one off of the list, Nordic Skiing. Visit Tahoe XC for beautiful trails and fun instructors. Whether you’re a beginner on skis or more advanced, there is a perfect trail for every skill level. Nordic skiing is an activity for everyone who wants to get outdoors with family and friends and experience a beautiful day in the snow. It’s a great workout but rest assured, there is a prize for all of your hard work. At Tahoe XC, you will get to see gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe like you’ve never seen before.

Tahoe XC
925 Country Club Dr.
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.583.5475

 

Mush Some Sled Dogs at Wilderness Adventures

An experience of a lifetime, feel the adrenaline of being pulled by a dozen eager canines led by experienced musher Brian Maas. Get a sense of what the pros at the world famous Iditarod sled race face in a safe environment. The surrounding mountains providing the perfect backdrop for your epic selfie.

Wilderness Adventures – Dog Sled Tours
530.426.3840

 

EAT

Navigating the sea of tourist traps and weak food options is one of the trials facing anyone in a new place, but Tahoe has seen a recent uptick in much more legit and highbrow dining options.

 

Snacks and Sando’s at West Shore Market

For the more casual meal, there is no better choice than West Shore Market and Deli just steps away from Sunnyside. Re-opened just a few months ago to overwhelming excitement, West Shore has been given much more than a fresh coat of paint; redesigned using upcycled materials like the dock cleats serving as cooler handles. Options aren’t limited to just basic provisions as the well curated market stocks everything from Coolhaus ice cream to Dry Soda’s as well as a fantastic liquor selection.

Not content as simply a market, the shop also has a full service barista with pastries and a sandwich counter serving a killer fried chicken sando and a perfectly executed Cubano with marinated ham, bacon, dijon aioli, swiss, and pickles. Beer and wine are available by the glass though if you’re taking your lunch to-go, don’t miss the wine cellar in the back offering a broad range with some great values.

West Shore Market & Deli
1780 West Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.584.2475

 

Lake Views and Long Islands at Jake’s

If you’re looking for spectacular views to accompany your meal, look no further than Jake’s on the Lake. A family owned institution in Tahoe City, they’ll win you over with their broad and well executed menu in addition to their self-described “mountain aloha” hospitality. Nibble on some lamb ribs with honey hoisin and sweet potato fritters or keep it light with their delicious salad of hearts of palm with hazelnuts and a basil vinaigrette.  

Jake’s On The Lake
Boatworks Mall
780 North Lake Tahoe
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.583.0188

 

Thaw Out After Riding at Plumpjack

PlumpJack sits at the base of the beautiful Squaw Village and serves up culinary excellence. Get the PlumpJack burger, it’s melt in your mouth good and will leave you wanting to order another. The esteemed wine program runs deep and staff has the knowledge to back it up; plus the Plumpjack tradition of minimal markups. This place also serves up some great tasting liquid courage cocktails to help you shred on the mountain and give you fuel for the rest of the day.

Plumpjack Squaw Valley
1920 Squaw Valley Inn
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
530.583.1576

 

DRINK

Find Some Refreshment at Pete n’ Peter’s

There are certainly no shortage of watering holes surrounding the largest alpine lake in North America, but some shine brightest. If you’re like me and enjoy activities with your libations, look no further than Pete n’ Peters in Tahoe City for darts, shuffleboard, Golden Tee, and two pool tables. Add to that the multiple big screens playing any game you could hope to watch and bargain prices and you’ve got the perfect spot to nurse your sore hamstrings.

Pete n’ Peter’s
365 North Lake Tahoe Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.583.2400

 

Hang With the Locals at the BridgeTender

A Tahoe City classic since 1977, the BridgeTender is where the staff from all the above places go to let go. A great selection of beer and strong pours match their well deserved reputation for enormous portions of classic drinking foods. Their burgers are some of the best around and you can opt to go with the waffle fries or tots supplement. Lesser known is their solid breakfast menu featuring a breakfast sammy, biscuits and gravy, or just a 24oz Olympia and two strips of bacon for $5. The obvious choice to go with breakfast is their Bloody Mary with all the standard garnishes and the added bonus of bacon or shrimp. No matter what you choose, you’ll feel fully justified after you’ve burned thousands of calories on the the mountain all day.

BridgeTender
65 West Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City, CA 96145
530.583.3342