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5 Things to Know About North Lake Tahoe

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© Getty Images Lake Tahoe (Photo via D-brane / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus)

By Will McGough, TravelPulse

With a circumference of about 70 miles, Lake Tahoe is far from one destination. Each section of the lakeshore has its own personality, and even a first-time visitor will be able to feel the difference.

The biggest distinction rests between the North and the South—South Lake Tahoe brims with energy and takes on the bulk of the region’s visitors, while the North keeps a lower profile.

But, that’s not a bad thing. Here’s what you need to know about the lesser visited North Lake Tahoe:

It is Made Up of a Series of Small Villages

On the North Shore, it’s a stretch to say that the clusters of restaurants, shops, and residential dwellings are towns. The North breaks down into small villages, reserved and laid back, less developed, barely visible from the hills above, the treetops still amongst the tallest figures in the “skyline.”

Each “village” has its own unique vantage point on the lake and its own local trails. Kings Beach seems to attract the most tourists—rightfully so, with its full strip of services and sandy beaches—but don’t forget about Tahoe City and Incline Village. Catch a beer in their respective local brewpubs to meet locals.

For lodging, there’s a myriad of small inns throughout the different towns, more modern hotel options like the Hyatt Regency, and full-service lodges like the Granlibakken.

There’s Less Emphasis on the Casinos

There are a couple small casinos along the Nevada side of the North Shore, but you don’t come here for that. Here, you spend the days outside: walking, hiking, biking, swimming, or sailing.

Take a mountain bike ride or a guided hike with the Tahoe Adventure Company. To get out on the water, you can rent a kayak or enjoy a variety of boat tours—even one with a musician on board.

You’ll see the lakefront in a new way from the water, and after you can explore one of its impressive estates. Incline Village is home to close to ten billionaires today, but the legend of its rich past lives on at Tahoe’s version of Hearst Castle, the Thunderbird Lodge.

The Best Options for Nightlife are the Great Lakeside Hangouts

Those coming to Lake Tahoe to fully immerse themselves in its outdoors will find the vibe in the North to be extremely appropriate. Whereas the South stays up late, the North goes to bed early.

If the plan is to spend the entirety of your trip surrounded by nature and to hit the sack early to ensure you enjoy a morning activity, then the relaxed, subdued nightlife in the North is perfect.

Your outdoor attire will carry you right up through dinner at causal lakeside and mountain-view restaurants like Sunnyside, the Lone Eagle Grill and Gar Woods—the shining stars in a series of laid-back, patio-style hangouts. Show up for dinner and a couple cocktails during the sunset before retiring early.

The heyday of the Cal Neva Hotel was in the 1960s when it was owned by Frank Sinatra, visited by celebrities, and mixed up with the mob. It is named for its position directly on the California-Nevada border, and it's the North’s most recognizable landmark.

After falling into bankruptcy in 2016, it was purchased earlier this year by an investment group headed by Larry Ellison, Oracle’s Founder and the owner of the Hawaiian Island of Lanai. Plans remain unclear at the moment, but the hope is that Ellison will revitalize its glory days while retaining its low-key footprint.

The Access to Skiing is Arguably Better Overall

What contributes to South Lake’s popularity in winter time is the fact that Heavenly Ski Resort is literally right there in the center of town (you can take the gondola from the shores of Lake Tahoe up to the slopes).

While this is a special treat and super convenient, the North also has its perks. Its strength comes from its proximity to a number of other ski hills: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Northstar, and it's also closer to the lesser-visited yet equally-interesting Sugar Bowl Resort, located adjacent to Donner Pass (in which Walt Disney was an investor).

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