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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuel 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.