South Tahoe with kids where a winter wonderland awaits.

The 411 on South Tahoe with Kids – Winter Edition

The kids shrieked with joy and screamed in delight as the first snow-clad Sierra pines came into sight, and the cacophony of, “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my GOSH!” and “Guys, over there!” and “Oh! It’s like…like… giant mushrooms!” continued with increasing volume  as we ventured on over the mountain toward our favorite summer playground–now transformed into a winter wonderland they only recognized from holiday greeting cards.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and on the heels of years of drought, there is one thing my kids will tell you they have NOT had enough of. But with the glorious “snowpocolypse” blanketing Tahoe with impressive snowfall, this is clearly the year for families to get out there and seize the snow.

That’s exactly what we did on our recent trip to uncover the best of South Tahoe with kids. If you’re headed that way, here are 4 great family-friendly activities, along with recommendations of 1 great place to stay and 1 great place to eat while you’re there.

Activity 1: Snowshoe or Cross-Country Ski at Camp Richardson

South Tahoe with kids--by snowshoe!
South Tahoe with kids–by snowshoe! Great fun exploring the powdery woods around Camp Richardson.

If you’re new to snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, South Tahoe’s Camp Richardson is a great place to start. Mostly-level trails are lovingly groomed throughout the day, with easy loops for little kids or longer treks for those raring to go (make sure to pick up the handy map at the Mountain Sports Center when you rent your skis or snowshoes). Stay in the pines or venture down toward the lake to enjoy –and keep an eye out for snowy woodpeckers)! When you’re done? Catch a bite across the road at The Beacon Bar & Grill while enjoying views of the lake (yes, they have a kids menu, too!).

Activity 2: Snowboard Like a Jedi at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort

 The Burton Star Wars Experience at Sierra at Tahoe
$49 first-timer’s ski packages for everyone 13 years+, but for kids 12 and under? The Burton Star Wars Experience awaits!

Not only is Sierra-at-Tahoe the closest ski resort to the Bay Area, it’s also got the most affordable beginners’ ski package you’re likely to find in all of Tahoe. At $49 for kids 13 years+ and adults, the First-Timer Package includes ski or snowboarding equipment, a 2.5-hour skiing or snowboarding lesson, and a pass for their Easy Street and Easy Rider Express lifts (online offer only–click here). Plus, Sierra-at-Tahoe is where your “younglings” and “padawans” can learn to snowboard in the Burton Star WarsTM Experience. Kids 3 to 6 years get started in Yoda’s Riglet Park with easy “drop in nodes” built just for little Jedi-snowboarders in training, while kids 7 to 12 work on balance, movement, and control in the Burton Star WarsTM Echo Base. A full-day package for the Star Wars Experience includes equipment, lesson, and lunch (more details here).

Activity 3: Play Arctic Explorers Aboard the MS Dixie II

Fannette Island from the MS Dixie II
Snow falls as we circle Fannette Island, looking quite different from our summertime visits by kayak and paddle board!

Even when it’s wild on the mountain and windy on the lake, chances are the MS Dixie II will be making her rounds from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay and back. The 2-hour narrated cruise is a great winter option for multi-gen families with tiny tots through grandparents who want a memorable and low-impact Tahoe outing together. And while Lake Tahoe’s stern-wheelers are typically packed to the rails in summer months, winter offers a peaceful reprieve from the crowds with room to seat families comfortably together, enjoy hot chocolates and grilled sandwiches, and enjoy the winterscape views from the water, whether keeping cozy inside or while catching snowflakes on your tongue up on the hurricane deck.

Activity 4: Jump, sled, slide and play in that snow!

South Tahoe with kids in snow
South Tahoe with kids and snow–fun is easy to find!

On a year such as this, it’s easy to enjoy the Tahoe snow–step outside! Bring your sleds or discs, snow boots, mittens, and be sure to build in time for your family’s own freestyle fun. It’s not every day–or year–we get great heaps of this wonderful white stuff! For some recommended spots and helpful tips for your sledding or tubing excursion, see this helpful post in the Tahoe South blog.

1 Great Place to Stay: The Ridge Tahoe

The Ridge Tahoe
Topographically speaking, it’s hard to top The Ridge at south Tahoe. But for family-friendly accommodations? Tops, too.

Our first night at The Ridge Tahoe, we looked down from our living room, stunned to see the same view you might expect from an airplane. Sunrise over Carson Valley the next morning was no less stunning (see my snapshots here). But don’t let the commanding views distract you from all that makes this resort such a great fit for families–spacious, sprawling units that can even be combined to add additional bedrooms and bathrooms, en-suite laundry in most units, flat-screen TVs and flip-switch fireplaces, ski lockers in the hall. But don’t get too cozy yet–there’s still a movie theater on property to visit and a complimentary kids club for potty-trained kids 3 years and up! Spa? Check. Jacuzzis? Check. And guests of The Ridge Resorts can take advantage of the ski in-ski out access to the Heavenly Stagecoach Chairlift using the Hilltrac Skier Express Lift that gets you there in just 2 minutes.

1 Great Place to Eat: The Loft Tahoe

The Loft south tahoe has family-friendly dining--with a dash of magic.
The Loft has family-friendly dining in South Tahoe–with a dash of magic.

Two words: “Strolling magician.” Okay, I have many more than two words to explain why The Loft is a great place to spend the evening with kids in South Tahoe, words such as “handmade ravioli,” “fourth-generation family recipes from northern Italy,” and “even a kids menu,” come to mind. And “live theater with family-friendly performances,” should be mentioned, too. But really you should see my full review of this South Tahoe family-friendly restaurant and it’s  theater: How South Tahoe’s “The Loft” and “Magic Fusion” Get it Right for Families.

For more help planning your trip to South Tahoe with kids, take advantage of the free resources and special offers at

Thanks so much to these businesses for the opportunity to provide this independent review.

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Shelly Rivoli

Founder, Editor, & Chief Adventure Officer at Family Travel 411 and Travels with Baby
Shelly Rivoli is the award-winning author behind the Travels with Baby guidebooks and Travels with Baby website and blog, and is the founding editor of Family Travel 411. When she isn't traveling with her husband and three children, she hangs her hat in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter: @travelswithbaby and Facebook: Shelly Rivoli.
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