Long before Walt Disney helped to launch the first nationally-televised Olympic Games from Squaw Valley in 1960, North Lake Tahoe set the stage for a rich cultural and natural history. As we explore the basin today, history can be found in our daily adventures, sometimes in unique and surprising ways.
From prohibition poker matches that defined the fate of Kings Beach to underground passageways frequented by celebrities and mobsters, history buffs and story lovers will find a new type of adventure in North Lake Tahoe. Step back in time and learn Lake Tahoe geology and its unique environment, about the Native American tribes that first enjoyed this area and the centuries of experiences pristinely preserved at iconic sites and museum exhibits.
Afterward, celebrate the ever evolving culture of North Lake Tahoe at a lineup of incredible festivals and events throughout the summer.
CULTURAL TOURS & ICONIC SITES
Thunderbird Lodge Tour
The magical and stunning Thunderbird Lodge National Historic Site is Lake Tahoe’s “Castle-in-the-Sky”. Docent-led tours take visitors around the historic estate and gardens, including the Boathouse to see the legendary wooden speedboat, the Thunderbird yacht, built by George Whittell, Jr. in 1939. This eclectic character was one of the wealthiest men in California in the early 1920s, even housing elephants and lions at the property, and gambling areas of Lake Tahoe away at poker matches.
- Public Tours by Land: Tuesday to Saturdays, May to October
- Public Tours by Boat: Depart from The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino hotel dock each Thurs-Sat @ 9 a.m.
- Public Tours by Kayak: Depart from Sand Harbor with Tahoe Adventure Company (guests will be outfitted with gear and a comprehensive paddle board lesson)
- Specialty Wine Tours
- Saturday Mimosa and Garden Tours (new this summer!): July 8, 22; Aug. 5, 19.
- Friday Wine & Cheese Tours: July 8 – Oct. 14.
- Winemakers’ Dinner Events
- Thunderfaire- Grape & Gourmet on the Lake: Aug. 13
- Epicurean Seated Dinners: September 10, October 8
- VIP Yacht Cruise with Wine Tasting & Dinner
- Thunder Thursday Receptions (invitation only)
- Wine/beer, apps, tours, artists & entertainers: Thursdays July – Aug
- Wine/beer, apps, tours, artists & entertainers: Thursdays July – Aug
Located in Emerald Bay, this magnificent castle is a unique blend of nature’s spectacular beauty and man’s architectural ingenuity. Tours of Tahoe’s Hidden Castle are provided by the Sierra State Parks Foundation, seven days a week from Memorial Day until the end of September. The scenic property fronting the Vikingsholm Castle offers public swimming and beach areas for daytime use.
One of the grandest Old Tahoe mansions in existence and a classically beautiful wedding site, the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, built in 1903, is a must see for engaged couples and architecture buffs alike. Tours of the property begin Memorial Day weekend and run through the end of September.
The Gatekeeper’s Museum
The Gatekeeper’s Museum is a reconstruction of the original Gatekeeper’s Cabin that was built by Robert Montgomery Watson on the same site where the original stood until it was destroyed by arson fire in the early 1980s. The museum contains one of the most extensive and eclectic collections of Tahoe history and is open Thursday through Sundays. Local tip & photo opp: explore a maze of Lupine fields adjacent to the museum to complete a lovely afternoon in Tahoe City.
Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
The Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum, co-located with the Gatekeeper’s Museum, is home to a world-class collection of over 800 utilitarian and fine baskets from 85 tribes throughout California and western North America. In addition to baskets, the collection also includes Native clothing, jewelry, tools and pottery. Dat-so-la-lee, Maria Martinez, Maggie Mayo James and many other famous Washoe weavers work also feature in the collection.
Watson Cabin Living Museum
Located at 560 North Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City, California, Watson Cabin still stands on the original site where it was built in 1909 by Robert Montgomery Watson and his son, Bob, as a honeymoon cottage for Bob and his bride, Stella Tong Watson. The log cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes as the oldest building built on site in Tahoe City. The Watson Cabin Living Museum is free and open to the public from July through August, Thursday to Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.
Tahoe Science Center
The Tahoe Science Center has a little something (science-related) for everyone, including docent-led tours, hands-on science activities, multiple interactive exhibits, and an award winning 3D movie, “Lake Tahoe in Depth.” Open Tuesday through Friday, 1 – 5 p.m., year-round at Sierra Nevada College. This is a must-do for families visiting the area.
Museum of Sierra Ski History and 1960 Winter Olympics
Fuel your nostalgia for powder by traveling through medieval ski history all the way to modern ski and snowboard practices. Exhibits at Museum of Sierra Ski History and 1960 Winter Olympics include photos and memorabilia, including ski equipment, trophies, clothing and local athlete profiles. Located in the Boatworks Mall in Tahoe City, open 7 days a week.
Tahoe Maritime Museum
This gem of a museum gives visitors a glimpse into the rich maritime history of Lake Tahoe. The current exhibit for summer 2017 is titled “On the Water: Sport & Leisure at Lake Tahoe” and explores the history of water tourism in the area, dating back to the late 1800s. A visit to Tahoe Maritime Museum will give you incredible insight into the evolution of water recreation and culture in Lake Tahoe.
LIVE CULTURAL EVENTS
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
July 8 – August 27, Sand Harbor
Showcasing live entertainment seven nights a week at Sand Harbor, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival will celebrate its 45th anniversary this summer. Productions include: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare’s labor of love and laughter, and The Hound of the Baskervilles, a hilarious Sherlock Holmes whodunit based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. This stunning venue is a perfect place to experience theatre amidst the Sierra night sky.
Lake Tahoe Dance Festival
July 26 – 28, 2017, Gatekeeper’s Museum/William B. Layton Park.
A highlight of summer in Tahoe City has become the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, known for bringing its first-rate artists from around the world. A diverse program celebrating the innovators of dance – from classic works that helped shape the art form to the most promising choreographers of today. This outdoor event is not to be missed!
Lake Tahoe Music Festival
August 15 – 20, West Shore & Tahoe City
The Lake Tahoe Music Festival 20-Piece Academy Orchestra is comprised of elite student musicians from across the United States under the direction of Maestro Timm Rolek. Joining the orchestra this year is violinist Michael Sutton, and the Amaranth String Quartet. Enjoy five consecutive concerts consisting of music, ballet, food, and wine. Bring a picnic and low-back lawn chair for majestic summer nights filled with beautiful music and dance.
Pacific Fine Arts & Crafts Festival
Various Dates, Tahoe City & Homewood
Traveling throughout California this summer, the Pacific Fine Arts & Crafts Festival makes several stops along the West and North shores of Lake Tahoe. Visitors and locals alike will have a special opportunity to meet with more than 45 artisans and craftspeople, showcasing photography, oil paintings, ceramic vessels, jewelry and much more.
World Concert for Peace
September 9, 6:30 p.m., Sand Harbor
Take a trip around the world with Trails & Vistas World Concert, featuring the extraordinary Tim Eriksen, “widely regarded as the best ballad singer of his generation” (BBC Radio). The World Concert for Peace will be the finale of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Encore Showcase Series.
Feature image credit: Ryan Salm Photography