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Visit us on Sierra
Nevada Geotourism

All around Tahoe

Published Sunday, Jul. 26, 2009

When you circumnavigate Lake Tahoe's 72 miles of shoreline by car, the question is not "What do we do?" Rather, it's "What do we do next?"

North Shore

The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society offers a free 90-minute guided walking tour of Tahoe City, with emphasis on practical information for families (activities, restaurants, bike rentals), plus history and local lore. The tour will start at 10 a.m. Aug. 8, 15 and 29 at the visitor information center, 380 N. Lake Blvd. (530-583-1762 and www.northtahoemuseums. org).

In Tahoe City, Highway 89 crosses Fanny Bridge and heads north toward Truckee while Highway 28 follows the lake toward Kings Beach.

An option is to stay on Highway 89 (turn left) and detour to Squaw Valley USA (530-583-6985 or www.squaw.com) and/or the Resort at Squaw Creek (530-583-6300 and www.squawcreek.com) for shopping, dining, activities, events and a general look-see. Along the way, look on the left for the River Ranch Lodge on the Truckee River (530-583-4264 and www.riverranchlodge.com). The patio hosts a nonstop party scene all summer.

If you make that left onto 89, turn right at Fairway, just past the Chevron station. A few blocks down is the trailhead to one of the legs of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

We turned onto Highway 28 and stopped at the lakeside Boatworks Mall. Inside, Jake's on the Lake has a solid menu served in an indoor stone-and wood restaurant and on the sunny deck (the place to be) overlooking the marina (530-583-0188 and www.jakestahoe.com).

Upstairs is Tahoe City Chocolates, where the blueberry-pecan-jalape o cluster in dark chocolate is amazing.

East Shore

We cruised along Highway 28, enjoying world-class views, and came to Captain Jon's restaurant in Tahoe Vista. The compound was built in 1903. The main restaurant and the deck are fine for dinner (seafood and steak specialties), and the Boathouse is ideal for a casual lunch and happy hour. It sits over the water, next to a dock (7220 N. Lake Blvd., 530-546-4819).

The Cal-Neva Resort in Crystal Bay straddles the California-Nevada state line. Literally, you can swim from state to state in the hotel pool and stand in the Indian Room with one foot in California and one in Nevada.

Though the "Lady of the Lake" is looking sleep-deprived, she's worth a visit because of her legendary past. Such as the drama during the 1960s involving Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, John and Bobby Kennedy, and Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.

The Celebrity Showroom is dark, but the hallway leading to it is lined with photos of the stars who appeared there.

The Circle Bar used as a set in a few movies sits beneath a marvelous glass dome made of 7,000 pieces of hand-cut German crystal.

Information: (775) 832-4000 and www.calnevaresort.com.

In Incline Village, we turned right onto Lakeshore Boulevard and drove past multimillion-dollar homes to the gorgeous Lone Eagle Grille. The showcase restaurant is reminiscent of a massive Old Tahoe stone-and-wood lodge, but the shaded outdoor patio is better yet. As waves lapped the beach, we found the slushy tequila-based Golden Eagle cocktail to be the best of its kind on the lake. Signature dishes include wild salmon, buffalo tenderloin and seared elk chop (775-886-6733 and www.loneeaglegrille.com).

Yes, Sand Harbor State Park is home to the annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (through Aug. 23), but don't overlook its boulder-strewn coves and sandy beaches. If you want a swim, it's one of the best sites on the lake (775-831-0494).

On the outskirts of Incline Village is the incredible Thunderbird Lodge, built between 1936 and 1940 by the late multimillionaire eccentric George Whittell Jr. The 40,000 acres of lakeside property he bought is why the East Shore is largely undeveloped to this day.

If you have time for only one special event, make it a tour of the multi-building compound.

There's no parking at the lodge, so arrange your visit via a reservation through www.tahoe.activitytickets.com or www.thunderbirdlodge. org.

The Tahoe Adventure Co. sponsors guided kayak tours out of Sand Harbor to the Thunderbird Lodge at 9 a.m. Tuesdays through Sept. 30 (other times and dates can be arranged). Once kayakers land at the beach, they get the full tour of the compound, followed by lunch. The price is $124.

Information: (530) 913-9212 and www. tahoeadventurecompany. com.

Also: Woodwind Cruises' classic motor yacht leaves for the lodge from the Tahoe Keys Marina (888-867-6394 or www.tahoeboatcruises. com).

As Highway 28 approaches Highway 50, look on the left for Spooner Lake State Park (775-831-0494). The two-mile loop trail around the tranquil lake features shaded benches and informational signage.

On westbound Highway 50, headed back to the South Shore, be on the lookout for Sam's Place on the left (775-588-2844). The pizza is good, the burgers are better. And while we're thinking about it, barkeep, we'll have another pitcher of cold beer. It's been a very long day.


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