With three active kids, National Parks TravelingMom wishes she could ski for days on end…but she just can’t. That’s why when mapping out their Lake Tahoe ski trips, she plans for a rest day off the slope. And Tahoe City, just a few minutes from the ski resorts, is the perfect non-skiing day with family favorites like sledding and ice skating.
Tahoe City for Winter Family Fun
A day on the mountain is the best, but Mom needs a break after a couple of days. That’s why I plan a winter family fun day to catch my breath — without a lift ticket. Tahoe City offers 10 activities perfect for families that scream fun like sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing, all within walking distance.
Granlibakken Tahoe for Ski Sled and S’mores
Nestled in a glade of evergreens, Granlibakken Tahoe (725 Granlibakken Road) offers lodging and a small ski operation, although my kids love the super fast sledding hill. For about half what other ski resorts charge for an hour of snow tubing, Granlibakken offers a day of crazy, sledding fun.
For $16 per person ($17 during holidays), kids get unlimited access to the monitored hill and a saucer sled for the day. My kids climbed Granlibakken’s hill over and over, racing each other and even Mom.
After a few sledding runs, I treated the kids to s’mores. The ski hut at Granlibakken offers s’mores packages with enough chocolate, grahams, and marshmallows for our family to toast at the fire pit. The ski hut also features hot drinks, soups and Mexican favorites in an authentic log cabin with a pot belly stove.
Granlibakken features a small ski hill with a rope tow. With inexpensive lift tickets ($30 – $35 per person for a full day), we ski this resort on our first day back on the snow.
Tahoe City Winter Sports Park for Winter Family Fun
During my stroll through Tahoe City, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, my kids begged to check out the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park. All the winter sports activities are conveniently located next to each other and rental equipment is available.
Tahoe City Ice Rink
New for this season, Tahoe City installed an ice rink with jamming tunes and festive lights, perfect for kids of all ages. Located in the center of town (251 North Lake Blvd), this rink offers families a place to strap on their skates for some outdoor fun.
We laced up our brand new skates and hit the ice under a canopy of twinkling lights. My kids grabbed the seals that beginners can push around the ice to add confidence and stability.
Rental skates are available or bring your own ($10 ice rink fee or $15 for rental and rink fee per person).
Tahoe City Sledding Hill
Looking for more outdoor kid fun? Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers a small sledding hill steps away from the ice skating rink. For $10, kids of all ages get a saucer for hours of sledding fun.
Cross-Country Ski Trails in Tahoe City
For outdoor enthusiasts, Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers 4 km of groomed trails that meander through a meadow in the center of Tahoe City. Though not suited for the youngest kids, teens enjoy cross country skiing.
The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers ski rental. The cross-country trail pass is $10 per person ($5 for residents) for non-residents for a day of skiing.
Snowshoe Trail in Tahoe City
Snowshoeing requires no new skills, just strap on snowshoes and walk with a couple of poles. At the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, I found a snowshoe loop that’s dog-friendly. Grab a toboggan and pull the littles for family fun.
The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park offers snowshoe rental and special shoes aren’t required. I just strap them to my snow boots. The snowshoe loop pass is $10 per person ($5 for residents) for non-residents for a day of exploring.
Want to do it all? A Sports Park All Day Fun Pass is available ($35 for adults and $30 for kids 12 and under).
After a couple of hours on the ice, we needed a snack. I dropped into Café Zenon with my kids, steps away from the ice rink at Tahoe City Winter Sport Park. With a large menu of upscale comfort food offerings, I found entrees that satisfied my palate and the kids.
The mac-and-cheese satisfies the picky eaters though adults can order it with pride. The chicken tenders with fries are cheat-worthy. Don’t tell the kids! But the fries are really frites–they’re that yummy.
Café Zenon offers a full bar for an afternoon après with inventive and signature cocktails. For the kids, hot chocolate is served along with coffee and tea to warm up.
The Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema
Evening comes early in the winter and movies provide a warm escape. With cozy couch seating or rocking leather seats, I saw the latest blockbuster with the kids.
As Lake Tahoe’s only cinema draft house, Mom and Dad can order a local draft beer or espresso drink to accompany their popcorn. Don’t miss the popcorn spice bar. The theater serves hot dogs and cheese pizza too.
Commons Beach Park and Playground
One of most picturesque paved walking paths along the shores of Lake Tahoe, the Common Beach Park offers families space to roam on a sunny winter day. The divided path offers a lane for cyclists and walkers along with interpretive signs and access to Lake Tahoe.
My kids found playground gold at Commons Beach Park. My 14-year-old jogged over to the climbing wall after seeing her brothers scramble over it.
With plenty of seating, a few picnic tables and a restroom located next to the playground, families congregate here year-round. A separate play structure exists for little kids and the playground has a swing set too.
Shopping in Tahoe City
Quaint, locally-owned shops line the streets of Tahoe City. During my visit, I stopped by the New and Used Tahoe Sports shop (NUTS). A resource for parents that need some winter equipment or clothing for kids.
Ski Resorts near Tahoe City
Lake Tahoe offers premier, world-class skiing for families, including some of the best ski schools around, and Tahoe City is minutes from several top resorts.
Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers families Olympic skiing and history with lots of mountain top green runs served by a large gondola.
Northstar Ski Resort offers families a luxury ski getaway with a premier kids learning center to get kids loving the snow. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, located at Northstar, offers the only ski-in, ski-out, AAA five-diamond mountain lodging at Lake Tahoe with a ski concierge.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort, near Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, has been a locals’ favorite for years. A smaller resort with some of the best views of the lake along with lots of advanced skiing older kids crave.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Outdoor ice skating rinks are faster ice than indoor rinks. Bring a helmet for kids learning; falls are common.
- The ice rink is open every day, but check after a heavy snowfall when snow removal temporarily closes the rink.
- Park at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park and walk to the park, movie theater and shopping.
- Before heading out, check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.