An aerial view of the bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe with pine trees and a highway in the foreground and mountains in the background

Weekend Getaway: Lake Tahoe

AJ had a couple of big Spartan races in Tahoe one weekend last fall, so I flew out with him. Thank you, JetBlue points! We stayed in a super cute little condo rental in Homewood, complete with kitchen and bear wires.

While AJ ran a punishing 17-mile race, I spent most of my Saturday tooling around the California side of the lake, stopping at various points and testing out my photography skills with AJ’s camera.

My first stop was the Fire Sign Cafe, which I chose because it had great reviews online. My experience there was actually less than stellar. I thought that the food was on par with mediocre diner food. Dry eggs. Heavy pancakes. Meh. The busperson cleared my half-eaten breakfast when I got up to go to the bathroom. I guess that’s a hazard of dining alone. I didn’t even care that much, though. My server seemed to feel bad about what happened, but nobody offered to give me a discount or anything.

The blue waters of Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay with a lush pine tree forest surrounding it and mountains in the background
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Next, I ventured to Emerald Bay State Park. This is a stunning part of the lakefront and the location of Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian-inspired historic home that was built in 1929. Given that I had limited time, I opted not to tour the house, but I did hike down to it in order to get to the beautiful shore of Emerald Bay.

Two adults and one child kayak in Emerald Bay as a goose swims in the foreground and waves lap the shore
Kayakers in Emerald Bay

One thing that I learned: the areas around Lake Tahoe do not have enough parking! Parking spaces at the major sightseeing points and even at a lot of the restaurants are very limited. People, including myself, tended to just park on the side of the road along the somewhat narrow Highway 89, which circles the lake. My guess is that this is not technically legal, but I gathered I probably would not get a ticket since everyone else was doing it too. And luckily, I didn’t.

The Hellman-Ehrman mansion and its sloping yard, sparsely specked with ancient trees
The Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, otherwise known as Pine Lodge


An interior room of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion with matching floral curtains, bedding, and armchairs, along with antique wooden dressers
A guest room at the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion

After that, I had just enough time to catch a tour of the Hellman-Ehrman mansion in Sugar Pine Point State Park. Built in 1903 by the wealthy banker Isaias Hellman and later inhabited by his daughter’s family, it was a look back at the frontier days of Lake Tahoe, when the only way to reach the property was to take a train followed by a boat through the crystal blue waters of the lake.

I picked AJ up after his race, and we drove back to the condo so he could shower and get a little rest. Then we headed back out to take a sunset dinner cruise on the Tahoe Gal with North Tahoe Cruises. It was their last sailing of the season, so they were out of some food items on the menu, but overall we found it to be an enjoyable experience. Cruises like that are more about the scenery than the food anyway.

On Sunday, I wanted to be able to cheer on AJ and his friend toward the end of the second race of the weekend, but I still had plenty of time to go for a morning hike at Eagle Rock after loading our stuff into the car and checking out of the condo. It was a short hike with a great payoff.

The suns shines off of the waters of Lake Tahoe with the landscape of Eagle Rock in the foreground
The spectacular view from Eagle Rock

There’s nothing quite like a scone and a cup of tea after a long hike, so I headed over to Tahoe House Bakery and Gourmet on my way to the Spartan race site. They had a great variety of pastries and specialty grocery items, along with a quaint seating area with lots of natural light. I was very happy sitting in the sunshine with my pumpkin scone and Earl Grey tea.

Once I got to the race site at Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, I still had plenty of time to wander around, take pictures, and have lunch before AJ finished the race. I was snapping away when a Spartan employee approached me and calmly informed me that there was a bear sleeping in the bushes right next to me. Just as calmly, I picked up my bags and vacated the area.

A ski lodge sits by a pond in Squaw Valley, surrounded by birch trees and shrubs
Apparently there was a bear right beside me while I was taking this.

After AJ basked a little in Trifecta glory and showered at the venue, we were off with boundless energy to explore the Nevada side of the lake a bit before catching our red eye from Reno back to the East Coast. We headed to Sand Harbor for yet another unique and beautiful view of the lake.

An athletic man with facial hair makes a joking exhausted face while holding up his Spartan medal
Trifecta glory


A man with facial hair and a blonde woman pose for a selfie on a sandy beach with the smooth waters of Lake Tahoe behind them
Catching the evening light at Sand Harbor

It turns out there’s a lot you can do with just a weekend in the Lake Tahoe area. We would definitely want to go back there to explore the area more. Can’t wait for next time!

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