Winter Playground How to keep the kids smiling in Lake Tahoe

  • Fun Off The Slopes
  • Ice Skating @ Northstar
  • Borges Sleigh Rides
  • Kahle Community Center
  • KidZone Museum

It's been years since you've taken a ski vacation, but this year you're thinking about skipping the tropics and heading to the snow. 

You're wondering, though, about your young kids who have never skied. 

Sure, you can put them in lessons, but will that structured time keep them happy all week?

And what about your one-year-old who isn't ready for downhill action just yet?

These were some of the questions I asked myself the very first time I visited Lake Tahoe.

Although Tahoe is now my home, I first came here as a tourist with kids in tow. 

What I discovered—and one of the reasons my family would eventually come to call this place home—is that Lake Tahoe is an incredible winter playground for kids both on and off the slopes. 

Where To Stay

There’s really nothing like the experience of staying right in the heart of a ski village. 

Grand Residence
The first time I visited Tahoe with my family, we stayed in a condo at the Marriott Grand Residence at Heavenly Village. 

The “Cub House” kids club at the adjacent Marriott Timber Lodge is great for kids about six and under; there’s enough going on there to keep them busy for an entire day or an evening. 

Staying in the village also gives you access to restaurants and shops just outside your front door. 

The Village at Northstar offers a similar experience with its Village Rooms and the Hyatt Residence Club.

Being cooped up in a small hotel room with kids and loads of ski gear might sound less than ideal. Solution: Check out Black Bear B&B on Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe—just minutes from Heavenly’s California Base Lodge—to see the difference between living and living well. 

Tahoe also has a very active vacation-rental market. 

Where To Eat

Photo by: @Bsncarole

Basecamp Pizza in Heavenly Village and Rubicon Pizza in the Village at Northstar are two of my favorites for a can’t-go-wrong, kid-approved meal.

They’re under the same ownership and share a menu, though some menu items are named differently.

Basecamp is a hopping place that’s great for kids: There’s corn hole outside and you can often catch some live music.

Morning-wise, getting a good start to the day—especially before an action-packed string of adventures—is critical.

If you’re on the South Shore, head to Red Hut Cafe for breakfast.

Photo by: @hnah13

In Truckee, make sure you check out Squeeze In.

Locals have long known how great this place is, but it shot to stardom in 2010 when it was featured on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.”

One great thing about renting a condo or cabin is that it comes with a kitchen.

This is a huge perk, as eating every meal out with young kids can get exhausting (and add up). When you first arrive, make one run to the grocery store to stock up.

You’ll save money by eating out less and after a day of skiing, you and your kids will be happy to have a big spaghetti dinner in your place instead of getting everybody dressed and ready to go out again.

Fun Off The Slopes

Pro Tip

You may not even need to hit the commercial parks to go sledding: Just start driving, and eventually you’ll see a line of cars parked on the side of the road and a hill nearby.

It’s more than skiing that makes Tahoe an ultimate winter playground for kids.

There’s no shortage of sledding and tubing hills frequented by locals and visitors alike.

You may not even need to hit the commercial parks: Just start driving, and eventually you’ll see a line of cars parked on the side of the road and a hill nearby.

If ice-skating is on the agenda, try the village at Northstar, the South Lake Tahoe Rec Center, or the Truckee Ice Skating Rink.

There are also popular lakes in the area for ice skating, but if you go this route, make sure you know the ice is safe.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take your kids on a sleigh ride.

To you, it might be a chilly ride with some pretty scenery, but your kids are conjuring up images of Kristoff and Anna from the movie Frozen.

Assure them there’ll be no wolves on this ride, and they can belt out “Let It Go” all they want.

Borges Sleigh Rides on Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada, (near Heavenly on the South Shore) is the most recognized sleigh-ride experience.

If you’re staying on the north side of the lake near Truckee then hitch a ride with Sierra Adventures, who will even arrange to pick you up.

Tired of being cold? The Kahle Community Center on South Shore has an indoor basketball court and a climbing wall for kids.

The KidZone Museum in Truckee is awesome, and your kids will want more than a day here.

Date Night (Or Day)

Make sure to take a little time for yourselves, sans kiddos.

Tahoe’s nightlife and entertainment is pretty lively, and it’s worth it to plan a night for yourselves.

Most hotels offer babysitting services. Lake Tahoe Sitters, who are members of the Tahoe Chamber and frequently voted “Best of Tahoe,” are also a reliable choice.

Heavenly Village 

Best advice? Have a date day and a date night.

Put your kids in ski school for the day.

If you have kids who aren’t ready for skiing yet, most resorts offer daycare.

Then, hit the slopes for some time as a couple. Have an adults-only lunch on the mountain.

At the end of the day, pick up the kids, take in a Riperoo Parade in the Village at Northstar or Heavenly Village, then head back to your condo and wait for the babysitter to arrive.

You can hit the tables at Harrah’s or Harvey’s, enjoy a five-star dinner and follow it up with a night of dancing at Opal Ultra Lounge on MontBleu.

Just remember not to stay out too late—you’re back on with the kids bright and early tomorrow morning!

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