South Lake Tahoe with Kids: Where to Stay and Play

Heading to South Lake Tahoe with the kids this summer?  I just enjoyed a long weekend there with my sons and I have all the details you need about what to do, best places to stay, and kid-friendly spots to eat!  

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!

Key Takeaways

  •  South Lake Tahoe is a small lake town on the border of California and Nevada with plenty of activities for everyone in the family. 
  • A few of the best things to do in South Lake Tahoe are to enjoy the beaches, water and boating activities, visit Heavenly Ski Resort, and take in the views of Emerald Bay. 
  •  For a luxury stay, The Landing or Marriott Grand Residences are your best bet, while Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is great for a mid-range hotel.

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

Table of Contents

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  

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 

Where to Fly into Lake Tahoe

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.

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.  

You can also take a tour of Emerald Bay!
This popular, 5-star Emerald Bay sightseeing cruise is the perfect way to unwind while catching unbelievable views. 
➡️ Check prices and book this sightseeing cruise by clicking here! 

where to fly into lake tahoe

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. 

Best Places 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: Marriott 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:

📍Luxury Options: 

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.

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

➡️ Check prices and book your stay at the Marriott Grand Residence by clicking here!

📍 Mid-range Option: 

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.

➡️ Check prices and book your stay at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel by clicking here!

📍 Value Option: 

Beach Retreat and Lodge. Newly renovated and beachfront. Only offers standard rooms, no suites or kitchens are available. Location is perfect, it’s right on the sand! 

➡️ Check prices and book your stay at the Beach Retreat and Lodge by clicking here!

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

Walk

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!)

Car

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.

I always find the best deals on rentalcars.com.
It scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.
 ➡️ Check prices and get a car by clicking here!

Bike

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.

Scooters

Lime Electric Scooters are 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 HouseDriftwood
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! 

MEET BESA

Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

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 little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

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

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Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Besa has been a frequent traveler for almost 20 years, and the last five years of her travels have included her two toddler boys, 19 months apart.
Years of flying and beach bumming with her kids has given her plenty of hard-earned experience in the travel world.

Need Help Booking Your Trip?
Use My Favorite Resources!

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

LODGING
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.

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

ACTIVITIES
Viator lets you search for a specific activity at your destination or scroll all available.

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