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 Restaurants
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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, 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!
*Click to check out our fun Lake Tahoe coloring page that is so easy to download to print or color on your device!