Resort to lavish indulgence
Since its birth, amid a torrid race for gold in nearby Virginia City, Tahoe has been linked to wealth. After the gold rush departed this alpine landscape, the tourism rush began: wealthy vacationers from California and Nevada built palatial homes along the state-straddling lake’s picturesque shores, several of which still stand. Today, Tahoe is a place where, as one Nevada resident jokes, “the billionaires have kicked out the millionaires.” Translation: lavish restaurants, spas, and resorts ripe for the plumbing.
Headquarter your weekend of luxury on Tahoe’s North Shore. Less than an hour from the Reno airport, the North Shore holds the lion’s share of Tahoe’s mountain resorts, including the renowned Resort at Squaw Creek (from $179), an extravagant 405-room hotel that received a $53 million face-lift in 2007 and is regularly tapped as one of the top ski resorts in North America. Get some body work of your own in Squaw Valley, where the muscle maestros at Trilogy Spa erase any remnant travel tension. By the end of the signature Lomi Pohaku stone massage, the only thing more tender than you might be the sustainably raised Durham Ranch beef rib eye at nearby PlumpJack Cafe.
For a truly exquisite dining experience, climb 7,000 feet to Manzanita, the Ritz-Carlton’s restaurant, where James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef champ Traci Des Jardins serves up impeccably executed dishes like red wine–braised short ribs. (And if you’re here during Tahoe’s Restaurant Week, October 2–9, you can score a prix fixe supper at Manzanita and many other local restaurants for $20–40.)
Feeling a bit overindulgent? Pack a picnic from Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet and hit the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile-long trail circumnavigating the lake and with eye-popping views of the cerulean water reflecting the Sierra Nevadas. Besieged by such beauty, you’ll have no trouble understanding why San Francisco’s legendary tycoon George Whittell built his waterfront estate, Thunderbird Lodge, here in 1939. You can still see it for yourself on a tour (Tuesday–Saturday), which includes a 600-foot subterranean trek from the main house through a tunnel to Whittell’s infamous Card House, site of many high-stakes poker games. Of course, seated at the edge of the spectacular scene—the lagoon stretching toward golden shores and snow-dusted summits—you’ll feel like you’ve already won. —KC
Specializing in California cuisine tinged with French techniques and lakefront seats, Christy Hill has been a Tahoe City favorite for a quarter-century. Warmly lit and always packed, cozy Moody’s, in Truckee, delivers locally sourced dishes to your table and live jazz music to your ears.
It doesn’t get much more luxurious than the two-year-old Ritz-Carlton (from $199) in Northstar. Unless, of course you count the jaw-dropping $8,000-a-night properties for rent at tluxp.com. (Don’t worry: there’s plenty of luxe lodging for under $300, too.)
Forget the paddle boats. See (and feel) what a million bucks is like on a cruise aboard the Tahoe Bleu Wave, a million-dollar restored 1966 yacht. Stocked with hundreds of nearby Napa labels, The Pour House, a beloved Truckee wine shop, could turn a quick tasting stop into an all-day affair.