Finally, we were on our way to a much-needed escape from phones and screens, headed for some serious “us” time. The drive to the Sierras was long and beautiful. We seemed to stop every few miles for a scenic vista, rest area, or picnic. The road trip from the California Coast to Lake Tahoe had been travelogue perfect.
Why Lake Tahoe For Romance?
Lake Tahoe is a behemoth blue beauty, and the Sierras are spectacular. Mother Nature is very loud. You can hike a forest where you’ll encounter no one or head into Heavenly Village, where people and entertainment are abundant. Relax, breathe deep; the romance will naturally follow.
Note: When ARDA (American Resort Development Association) and Visit Lake Tahoe asked us to come to Tahoe as their guests at a mountaintop resort, we said yes. The result was one of the most relaxing long weekends we’ve had together, and yes, it was romantic.
1. Tahoe Ridge Resort
Comfortable surroundings are essential to romance. So for your long weekend, spacious lodging is vital. Our one-bedroom apartment at Tahoe Ridge Resort was perfect. We had plenty of room to relax, rest, and lounge. In addition, the full-sized kitchen had everything we needed to prepare meals when we wanted an evening in. The spa-like bathroom was enormous and included an inviting soaker/jet tub.
Tahoe Ridge is a beautiful resort at the top of Tahoe Ridge. At around 7,000 feet, you have incredible views of the lake and Tahoe Basin. Activities are numerous, including swimming, tennis, pickleball, mini-golf, hiking, and skiing. On-site is a movie theater, craft center, restaurant, bar, and clubhouse.
Tahoe Ridge is part of Holiday Inn Club Vacations. Some apartments are timeshares; others can be booked like any hotel or vacation rental through booking sites like Expedia. Don’t worry; no one will pressure you with a sales pitch unless you are interested. In that case, there is a preview center where you can get more info about the Vacation Club and/or timeshare ownership.
Don’t miss the rooftop deck for a soak in the tub under the stars — stargazing can be very romantic.
2. Ciera Steak + Chophouse
Make your first night a splurge dinner. Dress up a little — like it’s your first date. Order wine with your meal and a decadent dessert.
Our first-night dinner date was at Ciera Steak + Chophouse in Bally’s Lake Tahoe Casino. We indulged in the Chateaubriand for Two with a bottle of bubbles.
Ciera is a high-end steakhouse in a casino. It’s won many awards and is a AAA 4-Diamond Restaurant. The décor is a gorgeous combination of classic and modern. I especially liked the very high-backed chairs at our table. They made an intimate setting in the middle of a busy dining room.
The wine list is large and includes California, domestic, and international labels. The wine room is enormous, with a glass front. It’s really impressive.
Pro Tip: You will need a reservation at Ciera. When booking your table, ask for a booth with velvet drapes. This is the most romantic setting in the restaurant. You can even close the drapes if you need a little privacy.
3. Tahoe Rim Trail
Tahoe is covered with hiking trails for all capabilities. Kevin and I hiked part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. It’s 174.5 miles long and loops the lake. We covered about 5 miles of the track, which passes through Tahoe Ridge Resort.
Take along a picnic lunch and water in a day pack. Along the path, you’ll find places to sit on a rock or log, absorb the view and enjoy your repast.
Pro Tip: Tahoe Ridge Resort offers complimentary guided hikes on weekdays. If Jeff is your guide, you are in for a treat.
4. The Rainbow Trail
Rainbow Trail begins at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Rainbow is an interpretive trail that illuminates the connection between the lake, wetlands, creeks, and the wildlife that make the area their home. The short route is accessible to wheels and feet and has a branch that leads to a lakefront beach popular with dogs and their humans. After the walk, stop in the visitor center for more information about the flora and fauna of Lake Tahoe and the Sierras.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget a camera. The vistas of Lake Tahoe and Mount Tallac are a photographer’s dream.
5. Heavenly Village
Heavenly Village is a complex of shops, galleries, eateries, entertainment, and seasonal activities like ice skating or mini-golf. The gondolas to Heavenly Mountain load and unload in the center of the village. They are mesmerizing to watch.
Most cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating perfect for people and gondola-watching. Our favorite lunch spot is Driftwood Café. The café serves breakfast and lunch. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. The service is fast and amiable.
Pro Tip: Have a carafe of mimosas with lunch or breakfast at Driftwood. They make any meal romantic.
6. The Loft At Tahoe
The Loft At Tahoe has an adjoining theater where the Magic Fusion Show is performed twice daily. First, have an early dinner at Loft. The American Tapas menu was our absolute favorite in Tahoe. Our server, Scot, was the perfect host and guided us through a sublime eating experience.
The small plates are brought to your table by the armload. We had scallops, elk, to-die-for scalloped potatoes, and caper berries (new to us but now in our home cupboard). We shared many other dishes, but the topper was the blueberry bread pudding.
The Magic Fusion Show started at 7. It’s a high-energy magic show featuring amazing magicians from around the globe. Don’t be surprised if a magician stops at your table during dinner and performs some close-up magic. I’m still trying to figure out how the silver dollars got from my closed hand into the magician’s closed hand. The family-friendly show is about 75 minutes. Tickets are under $40.
7. Heavenly Gondola
A gondola ride from Heavenly Village to Heavenly Mountain is a must. You will have your own enclosed car, so snuggle up and enjoy the spectacular views. The 2.4-mile ride stops on the way up at an observation deck. Leave your car and take a long stroll (with a camera) around the observation deck. The vistas are truly breathtaking; you’re at about 8,000 feet.
There’s a snack hut where you can purchase snacks, drinks, beer, and wine. The Gondola Sports Shop has gear, clothing, and souvenirs. Also, you can take an easy, short hike for a different vista of Tahoe Basin.
Get back into a Gondola and continue your journey to the top. After departing your car, you can take an open-air chairlift to the summit for the remaining 500 feet.
Spend some time in the activity park. There is a lodge where you can get lunch or a drink in the bar. Activities vary seasonally, but there is something for everyone. During our fall visit, Kevin braved the zip line. I stayed on the ground with the camera at the ready for his flight.
8. The Most Beautiful Drive In America
This route is called “the most beautiful drive in America,” and I agree wholeheartedly. The 72-mile loop will take about 3 hours if you don’t do as Kevin and I did and stop at every vista point, rest stop, and the occasional café or market.
Stops include Tallac Historic Site, Emerald Bay, Tahoe Maritime Museum, Fish Hatchery, Incline Village, and many more. See this brochure for all the stops on your drive around the lake.
About Lake Tahoe
Freshwater Lake Tahoe is huge. It straddles the state line of California and Nevada. It’s so prominent that the lake’s surface is convex because of the Earth’s curvature. The lake is 12 miles wide and 22 miles long, with 72 miles of shoreline. Lake Tahoe is an Alpine lake at 6,225 feet above sea level. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest at 1,645 feet.
Often called the bluest lake in the world, the water is clean, clear, and intensely blue. The lake is filled by rivers, streams, and wetlands draining from the surrounding Sierra Nevada’s rain runoff and melting snow. It’s a snow sports wonderland in winter and a watersport paradise in summer. Tahoe is open year-round, only closing long enough to clear roads of heavy snow.
The closest airport to Tahoe is Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO), about a 45-minute drive. Take a rental car or shuttle bus to Lake Tahoe from the airport.
If you are in California, consider a road trip. For example, Lake Tahoe is about 4 hours from San Francisco, 2.5 hours from Sacramento, and around 8 hours from Los Angeles.
Relax, breathe deep; the romance will naturally follow. For more information about the Tahoe area, go to Visit Lake Tahoe.