Lake Tahoe for Families

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Lake Tahoe for Families
Families can explore Lake Tahoe in many different ways: As well as lake cruises, beaches, and nature walks, there are science and nature museums, arts and crafts, and plenty of historical attractions.
By Vanessa Petersen, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Matt Palmer/Squaw Valley
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    Arts and Crafts
    For those who love creating, painting, and crafting—or if rain has stopped play—there are many places to make art in Tahoe. The Villager Candle Shop Pottery Painting and More at Northstar offers candle making, pottery painting, and mosaic crafting. It also has a "Bear Village" where children can stuff and dress teddy. Wildwood DIY Boutique, in South Lake Tahoe, offers workshops and supplies amid a creatively curated collection of local artisan goods. In August, the Tahoe City Fine Arts and Crafts Festival showcases the work of dozens of local craftspeople.
    Photo courtesy of Matt Palmer/Squaw Valley
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    Exploring Science and Nature
    Tahoe Science Center in Incline Village and its summer field station and education center in Tahoe City encourage exploratory learning about science and nature. They also help visitors appreciate Lake Tahoe's history and acquire a deeper understanding of its formation and survival, while encouraging them to be part of the "Keep Tahoe Blue" movement, which aims to protect and restore the region's environment. For further hands-on learning fun, there is the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center in Reno, and the KidZone Museum in Truckee, which offers workshops and classes on art, nature, and science.
    Photo by Kristina DeWees/age fotostock
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    Adventures in the Sky
    There are numerous opportunities to get up into the mountains and enjoy the stunning vistas over Lake Tahoe without breaking a sweat. In South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly has scenic gondola rides with shore-to-shore mountain views, and in North Lake Tahoe, an aerial tram takes visitors to Squaw Valley’s High Camp. For those who want to truly soar, take a ride with Reno Tahoe Helicopters or enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon tour with Lake Tahoe Balloons. To stay slightly more rooted to the ground while completing a challenge, there is Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park near Tahoe City, with a variety of bridges and zip lines.
    Photo courtesy of Ryan Killackey/Visit California
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    Living History
    Visitors can explore the area's history in nearby Placerville, Carson City, Virginia City, Truckee, and Old Sacramento. Families can see the living remains of gold rush prospect towns and from the industry brought by the railroad. These are thriving, modern towns but history lives on in their brick buildings, train cars, and Old West facades. Individual families have also created places so unique that they have been preserved as historic landmarks, such as Vikingsholm Castle, built in Emerald Bay by a Swedish architect in 1929, and Thunderbird Lodge on the east shore, a grand estate from 1936.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Trains, Automobiles, and Sailing Ships
    Exploring the art and engineering of transportation is something families can enjoy together. For train enthusiasts, there is the Nevada State Railroad Museum and the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. The V&T makes train runs between Virginia City and Carson City in the summer, along with special themed train rides around Halloween and Christmas. The Tahoe Maritime Museum in Homewood exhibits rare vintage boats and Tahoe maritime history. While visiting the historic Thunderbird Lodge, see the one-of-a-kind yacht build in 1940, which is available for private cruises for a (sizable) charitable donation. Marvel at the historic and vintage cars collection at the Automobile Museum in Reno, with interactive exhibits that capture the feel of each era.
    Photo by Michael DeFreitas/age fotostock
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    Paddle Wheel Lake Cruises
    Take in the beauty of Lake Tahoe from the unique perspective of a paddle wheel boat. These historic feats of engineering propel passengers across the crystal blue waters of the lake with views of Emerald Bay. In South Lake Tahoe, two lake cruises leave from Zephyr Cove Resort: the MS Dixie II, which tours twice daily, and the Tahoe Queen, an authentic Mississippi paddle wheeler (Note: Tahoe Queen closed for renovations). A more personal alternative to the mighty paddle boats is the 12-passenger Wild Goose II, a gorgeous hand-built mahogany boat offering daily lunch or cocktail cruises from Sunnyside.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Farmers' Markets and Historical Festivals
    Farmers' markets in Tahoe have more than just fresh produce, offering kids the chance to meet alpacas, try hula-hooping, and enjoy ice cream tasting. In summer, there are weekly markets in Truckee, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, Incline Village, and South Lake Tahoe. Summer also brings historical festivals each year, including the Valhalla Renaissance Faire at Camp Richardson (not taking place in 2016 due to construction, but will return 2017), the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor, and the Great Gatsby Festival at Tallac Historic Site. These festivals are a great place to explore the past through colorful costumes, entertainment, and special food and drink.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California
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    Family Beaches
    Sinking your bare toes in sand and splashing in cool clear water is a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, and you'll find public beaches on every side of Lake Tahoe. In North Lake Tahoe, Skylandia Park & Beach has a swimming area and walking trails, while both Kings Beach and Tahoe City's Commons offer beach access along with playgrounds, restrooms, and restaurants a short walk away. In South Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor Beach has lifeguards and picnic areas. A trip to Emerald Bay's beach involves a hike, but you are rewarded with a spectacular view and wooded picnic areas.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Nature Walks
    Just as there are a wealth of hiking trails, there are also numerous nature walks on which the whole family can discover native plants and birds or watch the spawning of salmon. Start your excursion at Taylor Creek Visitor Center to learn about the flora and fauna you can identify while on other trails around the lake. Eagle Falls is a fun walk above Emerald Bay and if the family is ready for more exploring, the Vikingsholm mansion is nearby. The Nature Trail at Donner Memorial State Park offers an easy and interesting family walking trail around Donner Lake and the Emigrant Trail Museum.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen