For the past three winters, I’ve promised my nine-year-old that we’d take him to play in the snow. This year, my husband and I finally got a chance to make that snow trip happen. It was a blast!
We planned a two-night stay in South Lake Tahoe from Feb. 27-Mar. 1, fingers crossed that the skies would cooperate, and luckily, the snow gods blessed us. But we found that even if you end up with minimal or no snowfall, there are still plenty of fun things to do.
Armed with two pads of Mad Libs and the collected works of One Direction, we hit the road with plans to fit in some tubing and snow play, log in some casino time for mom and dad, and let our son run amok in the arcades.
Our first stop was Basecamp Hotel, on the California side of the Nevada state line, an affordable boutique hotel decorated in cool, vintage-rustic style. We chose it because they had three things our family loves: a hot tub under the pines (snowflakes falling on our faces as we brewed in the steamy water), free breakfast, and hot s’mores ($2). Some of the rooms even have bunk beds.
We found plenty of happy kids staying there, some dogs, and a nice mix of young singles, too — somehow, existing in harmony. We were also impressed by the continental breakfast buffet, which featured a changing array of scones, bagels, plain full-fat yogurt with fresh raspberries, oatmeal and granola.
My son also wanted a trip to the arcades situated on the bottom floors of Harrah’s and Harvey’s hotel-casinos. Joined by an underground tunnel, the two properties are part of the same company and boast more than 500 games for kids between them. The arcade manager explained that if you have younger kids, Harrah’s is a better choice because the games are targeted toward that age group, and the sight-lines make it easy to keep your eye on them. Mommy needed an Advil after an hour here.
Now comes fresh air. We spent a morning riding the gondola up 2.4 miles to the Heavenly resort, and became big fans of Heavenly’s 500-foot tubing hill, which features a 65-foot drop. Heavenly isn’t cheap (the gondola runs $52 adults/$27 kids and one hour of tubing is $30, regardless of age), but it is a great splurge if you like to stay close to town. My son says, “Be sure and ask them to spin you, it makes you go faster!” Check their Twitter page for updates on snow conditions @SkiHeavenly.
If you have younger kids, you might prefer Sierra-at-Tahoe, 12 miles west of South Lake Tahoe. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s tubing hill on Blizzard Mountain at Thunder Gulch, is quite tame ($25 for two hours, kids under 42” free with paying adult), but the resort is a good place for parents who want to drop off their kids for a day of activities: we saw kids enjoying a ski and snowboard lesson that included lunch, and Star Wars fans get their own program, too. Sierra also has a huge daycare center, if you want to hit the slopes yourself. Check for updates on Twitter @Sierra_at_Tahoe.
This was our first truly kid-centric trip to Tahoe, and we turned out to have a meaningful, and very sweet, weekend bonding with our son.
If you go:
South Lake Tahoe, Calif., is 177 miles northeast of Berkeley, Calif., around 3-1/2 hours in good weather. It was just 3 hours from El Cerrito, outside rush hour, an easy drive up I-80 and I-50. We bought some snow chains at Savers thrift store on University Ave. in Berkeley just in case, but check the California Dept. of Transportation for updates online here or call (800) 427-7623.
- Warm clothes are a must. I saw some folks walking and playing in the snow wearing jeans and sneakers, which made me extra grateful that my husband scored all of our snow clothes at Savers and Goodwill beforehand.
- Basecamp Hotel 4143 Cedar Ave., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150 (530) 208-0180
- Heavenly Resort 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150 (800) HEAVENLY (800-432-8365)
- Sierra-at-Tahoe 1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, CA 95735 (530) 659-7453/24-hour Snow Phone: (530) 659-7475
- Harrah's Lake Tahoe 15 U.S. 50, Stateline, NV 89449 (775) 588-6611
- Harvey's Lake Tahoe Highway 50 at Stateline Ave., Lake Tahoe, NV 89449 (775) 588-6611
Accommodations, gondola rides and tubing passes were provided, but all opinions are my own. Photo credits noted above — LT