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North vs South Lake Tahoe with Kids Travel Guide

North vs South Lake Tahoe with Kids Travel Guide

Keep reading to see our comparative guide to North vs South Lake Tahoe with Kids!

So… we just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe with our family! We had a blast, Beckham loved being able to play on the lake and we loved the fresh mountain air. I will say this though, we started our trip staying on South Lake Tahoe and after being there for several days, we decided that we wanted to move to the North Side of Lake Tahoe and stay at the Ritz Carlton to get a little bit more space and enjoy the mountain solitude a bit more. Because of this, we wanted to write a post on which side of Lake Tahoe is best for families and give the pros and cons of North vs South Lake Tahoe with kids! 

North vs South Lake Tahoe with Kids Travel Guide

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous glacial lake that is in both California and Nevada. It takes approximately three hours to drive around the whole lake and has several different resort towns and areas that appeal to different kinds and types of travelers. For example, in the Nevada areas of Lake Tahoe, there are many more casinos and it has a more Reno and Vegasy vibe. There are areas on the California side that have a retro and chill atmosphere similar to certain areas of Palm Springs. Really deciding what area to stay and visit of Lake Tahoe depends upon the type of traveler you are! 

For us, when we go on a mountain vacation, we like a little bit of space, fresh air, good food, and some adventure. We are not super big on the party scene and I can honestly say that I personally have never gambled, so the party areas of Lake Tahoe are not for me. Keep that in mind as you read our guide and think about things that you would like versus things that you and your crew wouldn’t.  

*For one of our most favorite Summer Mountain Destinations, see our post on Whistler, Canada here!

Pros and Cons of Staying at South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is super lively! We started our trip staying at Marriott’s Timber Lodge that is specifically geared toward families and is at the base of Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort and Village. There is live music and a plethora of shops; toy stores, ice cream shops, and fun souvenir shops and restaurants galore. The crowds and the more touristy atmosphere is something that can be good or bad, depending on what you are expecting out of your vacation. 

Pros of South Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Village and Resort! 

Such a fun area both at the base and the top of the mountain. At the top at Heavenly Resort, there is a mountain coaster, tubing, ziplining, and ropes courses. Becks was in heaven. However, something to note, it is pretty pricey. We figured out that we spent more at Heavenly than we would have at a day in Disneyland. Something to think about. 

Great Food and Many Kid-Friendly Resturants

Our favorite place we ate at on the South Side of Lake Tahoe was Basecamp Pizza. Notable mentions are The Getaway Cafe and Fire and Ice. There are plenty of food options from inexpensive to more pricey.

Emerald Bay

One of the best attractions of Lake Tahoe is found right in the center of the South Side. Emerald Bay is absolutely gorgeous. Families can hike and can paddleboard out to the center of the bay and hike a little island. 

A Good Range of Accommodations

The more ritzy accommodations like the Ritz Carlton etc… are on the North Side of the lake. However, on the South Lake you can stay anywhere from a casino, to a family-centered hotel like the Marriott or even a campground. 

Cons of Staying at South Lake Tahoe

Crowds

For us, it was really crowded. Like really. We didn’t love the party vibe and we were wanting more space on our mountain retreat. 

Traffic

To be fair, traffic is fairly bad all around the lake but in our experience, it was WAY worse on the south side. Think taking 30 minutes to go 1.5 miles in the middle of the day on a Sunday. That was a frustration.

The Pros and Cons of Staying on the North Side of Lake Tahoe

Pros of North Lake Tahoe

More Space

The vibe on the north side is far more relaxed. Even in the more busy areas like King’s Beach things are less touristy and more local. We loved this! The traffic was better and we felt a bit removed. When we take a summer mountain vacation, we like to get away from the crowds, not immerse ourselves into them even more. 

The Food

Honestly, we loved all of the local eateries and fun places to eat on both sides. Like the South Side, the food on the North Side was yummy! Our favorite place we on the North Side was The Burrito Window. I got the salad bowl with chicken and it was SOOO SOO SOO GOOD! It was light, fresh, and oh my yummy. 

Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor is awesome! Situated on the North, Nevada Side of the lake, Sand Harbor is a large area of beaches, boulders, and crystal clear shallow waters. We paddle boarded here and loved it. Becks had a blast climbing the rocks, swimming in the water, and playing in the sand. 

Less Traffic

There is still traffic, let’s be honest, but not as much. 

Cons of Staying on the North Side of Lake Tahoe

The biggest con we can see is the pricing. While there are some cheaper accommodations and food options, the North Side is more pricey than the South Side. 

Lack of NightLife

For us, this was a draw but for some, it might be a con. North Lake Tahoe is more sleepy and laid back and doesn’t have that energetic vibe that the South boasts so well.  

EITHER WAY! 

Either way, visiting North vs. South Lake Tahoe with kids can be so fun if you are prepared and know what to expect. If you are going during the peak seasons of Summer and Winter, prepare for some traffic, and crowds. Be sure to get out to your activities early, make reservations, and you will be fine and will have a great time!

Let us know if you are an energetic traveler, or like a little more relaxation, or if you like a little bit of both!

Xo

Kam

12 Comments
  • Andi
    Posted at 08:28h, 18 August Reply

    I lived in the SF Bay Area for close to 30 years so I had the opportunity to visit Lake Tahoe throughout all the seasons and love this place! My parents even honeymooned here in the 60″s. My aunt and uncle just celebrated their 50th anniversary here and we have had countless family reunions here as well. It is perfect for families and events as there is so much to do. It is truly a magical place!

  • Jenn and Ed Coleman
    Posted at 08:51h, 18 August Reply

    I used to teach skiing at Incline Village and lived in Tahoe for several years. It’s a beautiful area, no matter where you go, but South Tahoe has a lot more going on. It just depends on if you want activities or solitude.

  • Danik
    Posted at 02:08h, 19 August Reply

    The more I hear about this place, read up on it and see photos, I want to go there soon. Looks like the ideal location for outdoor activities for young children and as I got a daughter (and another child on the way), this part of the USA will be the first place I hit up with them. To me, taking young children to national parks etc is an ideal way to educate them about our planet, wildlife, ecosystems and the USA is geared up for that big time.

    • kamree
      Posted at 13:28h, 25 August Reply

      YES, YES, YES!!! All about learning about our planning and teaching our kids about it!! Thanks Danik!

  • Debra Schroeder
    Posted at 16:21h, 19 August Reply

    Crowds can be bad on both sides of Lake Tahoe, depending on the time of the year. We’ve never been to Sand Harbor so will have to check it out.

  • Rosemary
    Posted at 04:48h, 20 August Reply

    This is one part of the US I have not visited yet, so it’s interesting to discover there are two sides to Lake Tahoe. Either way, the views are stunning the Lake magnificent. Perhaps the best idea is to visit outside the holiday vacation period (if possible). Nonetheless, we would totally prefer the quieter northside of Lake Tahoe.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 07:27h, 20 August Reply

    I love Lake Tahoe! North and South! South isn’t as busy off season but North has so many great little hidden spots and Sand Harbor is a must visit either way. So many great memories in Tahoe!

    • kamree
      Posted at 13:27h, 25 August Reply

      Agree! We love the hidden spots of the North Side!!!! XO Kam

  • Theresa
    Posted at 13:34h, 20 August Reply

    What a great place! It reminds me of British Columbia where I live. I always assumed Lake Tahoe would be super cold but it looks great for swimming.

  • Vanessa Workman
    Posted at 21:07h, 21 August Reply

    I totally love your blog! And your honesty! I have spent lots of time in Tahoe during the winter months when I lived in San Francisco, but I never visited during non ski season. You have inspired me to give it a go now because the nature looks fantastic but I would want the Northside quiet for sure. Awesome photos too btw, thank you for sharing.

    • kamree
      Posted at 13:27h, 25 August Reply

      YAY!!! Thank you so much Vanessa! You will love it in the summer! XO

      Kam

  • Jitaditya
    Posted at 08:07h, 22 August Reply

    Loved the family Loved how the family bonded in this picturesque setting. Was not aware of the difference between south and northern parts of the lake. I think lake vacations are the best kind of vacations you can have with a family as they help you both relax and indulge in adventure activities.

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