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South Lake Tahoe with Kids: Where to Stay and Play

Jul 21, 2021


Like most people living in Northern California, we regularly visit Lake Tahoe throughout the year. It’s one of the purest freshwater lakes in the world, covering the CA and NV border. 

The South Shore of Lake Tahoe is vibrant, bustling, and social. It’s known for its beaches, crystal clear waters, hiking, skiing, and immeasurable beauty.

Because of this, South Lake Tahoe has the unique ability to be an amazing time any month of the year.

And in the summer months, it’s a great place to escape to when we need to beat the heat of the valley. When I checked the temperature for the week and saw it was going to be 109 all weekend, I immediately started planning a weekend trip to Tahoe.

So, if you’re thinking about visiting South Lake Tahoe this summer, keep reading!

And if you want to combine the north and south sides, read my North Lake Tahoe guide here

Top 5 Things to Do in South Lake Tahoe with Kids

1. Beach

Always the first on my list! Lake Tahoe is filled with beautiful beaches with sparkling, clear cobalt waters, and an alpine backdrop. (The sand does have small pebbles in it and can get very hot, so I recommend getting water shoes for the kids.)

You can’t go wrong with any beach, but these are the ones that I recommend:

Lakeside Beach

This beautiful beach could easily fill your whole day. It has a sit-down restaurant, water rentals (kayaks, jet skis, paddle boats, and motorboats), a playground, volleyball nets, picnic tables, trees for shade, and a parking lot with street parking.

TIP: This is a private beach so the entry fee is steep, but if you’re just looking for a water rental, go to the left side (boat entrance) and rent from there directly so you can bypass the entry fee. There is a waiting area on the beach that you can relax at while you wait.

Entry fee: $25/adult, $15/ages 6-17, free for under 6.

Camp Richardson Beach

We happened to stumble upon this beach and I’m SO glad we did.

It has a sit-down restaurant with outdoor seating on a deck overlooking the water, volleyball nets, water rentals, live music on certain days, picnic tables, trees for shade, and a ton of parking.

Parking fee: $10/car

south lake tahoe beach

Pope Beach

Get here early—the parking lot gets full very quick (if you have a bike, it’s a very easy ride down the Pope/Baldwin bike path).

This beach has a more relaxed vibe to it, a perfect place for a swim and a beach picnic under the shade of the trees. Kayak rentals and a concession stand are available on site.

Parking fee: $10/car

Baldwin Beach

Another beach you have to get to early if you’re looking for parking. A long, expansive beach that offers kayak/SUP rentals, volleyball nets, and picnic tables. No shade here though, so come prepared with your own and lots of sunscreen.

Parking fee: $10/car

2. Get on the water

If you’re only going to do one thing in South Lake Tahoe in the summer, it has to be getting on the perfectly clear water. The views from the water are beautiful, the air is fresh, and the water is calm. It’s bliss!

Many of the beaches (like Lakeside and Camp Richardson) offer rentals for kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats, jet skis, and motorboats.

Or you can go on a tour and have a guide show you around!

Check out some highly recommended boat tours here.  

south lake tahoe beach

3. Heavenly Village Ski Resort

Full of shops, restaurants, activities, live music, and even a gondola, Heavenly Village is the social hub of South Lake Tahoe.

Enjoy some of the best cuisine and desserts in the area. Take the kids to a movie or play a game of mini-golf. Or if you’re an adventure lover, go zip-lining or rock climbing! 

If you really want a spectacular view, take the gondola up the mountain for tubing and a mountain coaster. Check prices and buy tickets for the gondola here.

4. Emerald Bay

For real breathtaking views, look at Tahoe from above. There are plenty of options to do this, but Emerald Bay is one of the best.

You can hike it, but for an easier experience with kids, you can easily drive and park at one of the lookout spots or on the side of the road for amazing pictures.

south lake tahoe beach

5. Take a hike

A hiker’s paradise, South Lake Tahoe offers many different hiking trails for all levels.

Three that would be best with young children are:

  • Rubicon Trail
  • Van Sickle Bi-State Park
  • or for an added bonus of a waterfall, Eagle Falls.

Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe has all types of accommodations—cabins, casino resorts, hotel rooms, family suites, vacation rentals, and campgrounds (but don’t ask me about camping though, def not my vibe). 

  Short on time? Check these options out:

  Mid-range: Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel

  Luxury: Marriot Grand Residence

South Shore

Scattered in between the lake shore and Heavenly Village—full of shops, food options, and even a gondola—the South Shore is the prime area to stay.

Staying here will make your stay much more walkable. Some of the best places to stay on the South Shore with a family are:


The Landing.
A beachfront hotel with all the bells and whistles. There are a couple of options for suites and only the 3-bedroom option includes a kitchen.

Marriot Grand Residence.
In the middle of Heavenly Village. All units have a kitchen included, and you can choose from 1 or 2 bedrooms.


Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.
All suite hotel with free breakfast in Heavenly Village. All suites come with a kitchen and choice between 1or 2 bedrooms.

3 Peaks Resort and Beach Club.
In the middle of Lakeside Beach and Heavenly Village. 1-or-2-bedroom suites with a kitchen included are available.


Beach Retreat and Lodge.
Newly renovated and beachfront. Only offers standard rooms, no suites or kitchens are available.

House Rentals

There are also many different amazing options for apartment, condo, or house rentals. Check them out here.



If you’re into gambling and staying right in the action, Stateline is for you.

Plus, it’s also only a 15-minute walk to Heavenly Village or Lakeside Beach.

You can’t go wrong with any of the casino resorts on Stateline, plus they each have options for one-bedroom suites (but none offer kitchens).



Hard Rock

Mont Blu

TIP: Sign up for a rewards program for any of the casino resorts and get all kinds of freebies (sometimes even a free room!)

How to Get to South Lake Tahoe

You can fly in from two airports:

RNO: The closest airport is Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO). It’s about 60 miles away and roughly a 1.5-hour drive. There are hundreds of flights daily into this airport.

There are also many options for shuttles from the airport to South Lake Tahoe hotels. Click here to check them out.  

SMF: The other option is Sacramento Airport (SMF). It’s about 115 miles away and roughly 2.5 hours away (no traffic). There are also hundreds of flights daily into this airport. There aren’t any shuttles, but plenty of rental car options. Check them out here.

You can also attempt to fly into San Francisco (SFO) or Oakland (OAK). These airports are at least 4 hours away though and traffic will be tough.

Unless you are combining a trip to the Bay Area with a trip to Tahoe, I really wouldn’t recommend flying into these airports to drive into Tahoe unless absolutely necessary.

Getting Around South Lake Tahoe


You can easily park your car and get by walking for a day or two if you stay in the central area. You can walk to the lake in the morning and then head over to Heavenly in the evening (that’s what we did!)


While you can plan your trip so that you don’t NEED a car, I would still recommend getting one so that you can explore. South Lake Tahoe is full of amazing places that you just shouldn’t miss. Check out your options here.


South Lake Tahoe is a Bike Friendly Community and there are plenty of safe bike paths all over town. There are multiple bike rental shops with all kinds of options (with attachments for kids too, obvi). A bike rental is roughly $10/hour or around $40/day.    


Lime Electric Scooters available in South Lake Tahoe. They were very popular when we visited and looked like a ton of fun! They are $1.00 to start a ride, and $.015 per mile.


Where to Eat in South Lake Tahoe with Kids

There hasn’t been a meal I didn’t enjoy in South Lake Tahoe, but here are a few of my faves.

Note that there’s almost always a wait, but most of the restaurants now let you put your name on the waiting list on their website without actually having to wait there.


Breakfast: Social House, Driftwood

Pizza: Basecamp Pizza, Blue Dog Pizza

American: Red Hut Cafe

Mexican: Azul Latin Kitchen

Mediterranean: Artemis Lakefront Café

Sushi: Naked Fish

FAQs: South Lake Tahoe with Kids

What is special about South Lake Tahoe?

South Lake Tahoe is a family-friendly destination known for it’s stunning beauty and outdoor activities. Surrounded by mountains, forests, and a crystal-clear lake, the views are like nowhere else and you can enjoy them in so many ways. You’ll be spoiled by the countless outdoor activities like swimming, boating, hiking, biking, or just lounging on the beach. If you are looking for a beautiful, exciting, and fun place to visit, South Lake Tahoe is the perfect destination.

How do I spend a day in South Lake Tahoe?  

After a delicious breakfast, head over to one of the many beaches to snag parking and a great spot in the sand. Enjoy water activities like kayaking, swimming, or a boat tour around the lake. In the evening, venture over to Heavenly Village for dinner and activities like zip-lining, rock-climbing, or going up the gondola for amazing views!  

What side of Lake Tahoe is better, north or south? 

Both sides of Lake Tahoe are ideal for a family-friendly trip and offer their own charm. The best side of Lake Tahoe depends on your personal preferences.

If you are looking for a laid-back, relaxing vacation with a more small-town feel, North Lake Tahoe is the spot.

If you are looking for a more vibrant vacation with more activities and shopping options, South Lake Tahoe is the better choice. 

Wrapping Up: South Lake Tahoe with Kids

A trip to South Lake Tahoe in the summer will not disappoint! 

From the amazing lodging options, to the fun and adventurous activities, to the delicious food, there is plenty for you to try.

Not only will you never forget the immense beauty of the area, but you’ll remember the family friendly fun you had. South Lake Tahoe is perfect for a family vacation! 


need help booking your trip?
use my favorite resources!


Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites for the lowest prices plus the flexible calendar tells you which days are the cheapest to fly. 

booking.com is easy to use and gives options for all types of lodging. When I know I want a big rental house, I use VRBO.  

rentalcars.com scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.

Get your Guide and Viator let you search for a specific activity, or scroll all available.

Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page.


Mama & Traveler

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple baby boys in tow – and I want to help other parents do the same.

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, tricks for scoring deals, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation spots.


Mama & Traveler

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple baby boys in tow – and I want to help other parents do the same.

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, tricks for scoring deals, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation spots.