Looking for a great resort getaway including some benefits and nearby activities? We just took a trip to South Lake Tahoe and it was fantastic. The flight was just over an hour to the Reno Airport from LAX. From there, we took the South Tahoe Express which leaves on the hour every hour. That was much more relaxing than renting a car, plus you really does not need a car when staying on the South Shore. I traveled with my wife and baby so it was much easier than trying to install a car seat and saved us a lot of time and money. Only $93 roundtrip, you can book them by going to www.southtahoeexpress.com or by calling 866-89-Tahoe.
We arrived approximately an hour and fifteen minutes later at our hotel (The Embassy Suites). This place couldn’t be more convenient for Heavenly Valley. The Gondola is literally only 200 yards away. Every room is a suite there, which gives you a lot of space and an extra room if you have kids. I wouldn’t recommend the pullout couch for adults though but the hotel was child friendly. They also provide pack n play cribs if you need one. We loved that this place was based on the California side so it was totally smoke free. Not to mention their outstanding non-chlorine indoor pool, nice gym and free breakfast with cooked to order omelets. Come back for the open bar and snacks in the late afternoon. We did have a problem with a couple of engineer employees who were very rude and disrespectful so we would not return unless they were not there in the future. It may have been a couple bad apples, which put a damper on such a nice place, and that was unacceptable. One last recommendation is to dine at the Echo Lounge located inside the hotel. The New England clam chowder and ciopinno soup entree were outstanding while other fantastic dishes included the sushi grade Ahi tuna, pan seared crab cakes and fresh pizza in the new oven. More at www.embassytahoe.com
We ended up also staying at the Lakeside Inn on the Nevada side about ¼ mile away. This hotel/casino was rated the top casino and very economical. It had a rustic look and everyone was very extremely friendly. The rooms were very nice, clean and spacious. The restaurants were fabulous. We dined at Latin Soul the first night. Besides their happy hour specials, they had delicious swordfish, chipolte chicken sandwich, fish tacos and their chicken mole. Don’t miss the $3.99 breakfast at the Timberhouse restaurant located on the second floor and busier casino area. With many great options to choose from, we had the dinner for two, which included soup, salad a dinner combination and dessert. Our choice was the salmon and turkey to split, which was mouthwatering! More information on the Inn and restaurants at www.lakesideinn.com
We did dine at one other fantastic restaurant during our visit called Friday Station located at the top of Harrah’s hotel & casino. The view was incredible and this place was very classy. We started with the authentic French onion soup and signature snoopy salad with crab, shrimp and avocado. Don’t miss the blackened shrimp and you must try one of their steaks since this is a steakhouse. The fillet was tender and fabulous and I added scampi, which came with fettuccini. That was the dish of the night. Call 775-588-6711 for reservations.
The most convenient and our favorite resort by far was Heavenly Valley. Basically walking distance to the Gondola from downtown South Lake Tahoe or take a shuttle from many other close lodging, this place had it all. The best picturesque views of the Lake were the most incredible and surreal views we have ever seen from any ski resort. The Gondola takes approximately 15-20 minutes while you enjoy the ride and sightseeing. The resort is absolutely breathtaking as there are many great, diverse runs for all levels of skiers or snowboarders. Plus there are quite a few trails where you have a view of the whole lake and on a nice day (which we got quite a few of them), there is nothing like it. Heavenly Valley was spectacular as everyone we met or dealt with were so friendly and helpful. I have never been to a ski resort with so many high-speed chairs and the lines were non existent during the week and not bad on the weekend for such a busy place. Some of our favorite runs came off the Comet, Dipper and Olympic Express Chairs on the Nevada side and the Sky, Canyon and Powderbowl Express Chairs on the California side. Once you are up there, you can ski to either side and you still cannot cover everything for a few days, as this mountain is huge. There is a great mix of blue, black and double black diamond runs as well as a terrain park for snowboarders. The tree skiing was unparalleled, as I have never seen so many wide trails and runs with fresh snow in between trees.
The ski rental people across from the bottom of the Gondola at Heavenly Sports were experienced and knowledgeable. They helped me put on and take off my boots and shoes. I loved the fact that they took my shoes and held them for me as part of their service so you come back at the end of the day to get them. You can leave your rented skis there to pick up the next day if you choose. There was no delays there as they were on the ball. There are some great kids programs as well plus a day care center if need be. Other features includ ski school, private lessons, and some sharp shooters located at key points to capture great photos if you forgot your camera or want one right then and there. Free parking at the lodges is available if you drive there. There is also a free shuttle that takes you there if it is too far to walk from a majority of the hotels & lodges. Discount lift tickets when you buy multiple days or visit the website for 20% off lift ticket specials online. This is the only resort in the country walking distance to casinos and gambling. More at www.skiheavenly.com or call 800-heavenly.
Kirkwood Ski Resort is a full day option if you want to experience some extreme old fashion skiing. It is about an hour away from the Heavenly area by car or take Ryan’s Express shuttle from any of the hotels and you are there in 90 minutes for only $15 roundtrip. You can go to www.ryansexpress.com and scroll to the bottom where it says reserve for Kirkwood Ski Bus or call 800-999-7191. Kirkwood had some incredible runs but is for the expert skier. They have only 2 high speed chairs but really only one main one called the Cornice Express. The Wall lift takes you to the top as well and drops you into some intense black and double black diamond areas. Between that and the Sentinel Bowl, those two were my favorite runs at this resort. It was quite the long drive and effort but worth the visit for a day. I had a tough time riding the slow chairs at Kirkwood after visiting Heavenly with all the high speed lifts. More info at www.kirkwood.com
There were two great activities I highly suggest while you are visiting, the MS Dixie Cruise and a snow mobile adventure tour, both provided by the Zephyr Cover Resort located about 15 minutes from Heavenly Valley heading north. They pick you up in a shuttle as you can visit the resort or try either their fantastic snowmobile adventure tour and/or the Dixie Cruise that departs every day at 1pm for a nice leisure ride around the lake. You can take the 10am snowmobile tour and then walk over to the cruise if you want to do both on the same day. For reservations for these fun activities, call 800-23-tahoe or visit www.laketahoesnowmobiles.com and www.laketahoecruises.com