Sightseeing & Attractions of South Lake Tahoe


Vikingsholm Castle, Emerald Bay, South Lake Tahoe
Tahoe's classic blue skies, deeper blue lake, snow-capped mountains,
alpine forests and the area's wide array of cultural and historical
riches are among the great sightseeing pleasures of the world.
Probably the best place to start is the U.S. Forest Service
Lake Tahoe Visitor Center (Highway 89 between Pope and
Kiva beaches, 530-573-2600 or 573-2674), open Memorial Day through
late October. Go for free maps, brochures, wilderness permits, and interpretive
programs. If you'd like to walk or hike, several trails begin right at the center.
For a look at the lake as a whole, nothing beats the spectacular 72-mile drive around the lake.
To get the most out of it, first pick up a copy of the two-hour audiocassette,
Drive Around Lake Tahoe ($9.95, including map). The tape guides you from one notable
site to the next, dispensing facts, tales and legends about the lake, the area's colorful characters,
and points of interest. To purchase the cassette, contact the South Lake Tahoe
Chamber of Commerce (530-541-5255) or the Tahoe Douglas Visitor Center/Chamber
of Commerce (775-588-4591), located two miles north of the casinos at Round Hill Mall.
If you have a large party, Destination Lake Tahoe (800-833-8399 or 775-588-5746)
and Lake Tahoe Tours (530-544-8687) specialize in business, organization and l
eisure group tours -- on charter buses, mini-vans and limousines.
To get out on the lake, take a lake cruise. The paddlewheelers Tahoe Queen and
M.S. Dixie II cruise from South Shore to picturesque Emerald Bay. During the day,
you can look straight down through the boats' glass bottoms into the crystal-clear depths.
In the evening you can enjoy the popular sunset dinner-dance cruises. Various other
trips and charters are available (including private-party charters), from,
among others, Tahoe Sailboat Charters, M/V Par-a-dice, Ketch Tahoe, the
sailing trimaran Woodwind and the new 55' Woodwind II Catamaran. You can also
take in the astonishing scenery from the air. One easy option is the mile-long ride
aboard the Heavenly Aerial Tram (at Heavenly Ski Resort). The tram ($10.50 adults,
$6 ages under 12; 530-541-7544 in summer, 541-1330 in winter) will take you to heights
of 2,000 feet over the Gunbarrel ski run. At the summit of the tram, you have a chance to
either sit down and relax over a meal or a drink at the Monument Peak Restaurant,
or hike out from the summit trailhead of the Tahoe Vista Trail.

If you have a larger appetite for airborne views, try a charter air tour of the
area through Oasis Aviation (530-541-2110) or Alpine Lake Aviation
(530-541-4080). Both fly year-round. For a more old-fashioned, more sedate
air tour, 90-minute hot-air balloon rides are another possibility
(530-542-5944 or 800-872-9294).
One of the most photogenic spots in the world is the tiny bay at the
southwest corner of the lake. Emerald Bay State Park affords
amazing views of the mountains, the lake, and Tahoe's only island,
Fannette Island. Hike down along the falls trail to the shore at the
head of the bay to find the striking structure known as
Vikingsholm (accessible only on foot or by boat). In 1928, Mrs.
Lora J. Knight, a wealthy Chicago widow, purchased this
then-isolated site and instructed Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect,
to design a home -- a fully detailed reproduction of a Norse fortress
circa 800 A.D. -- without disturbing even one of the lot's
magnificent trees. Completed in September of 1929, Vikingsholm is
considered the finest example of Scandinavian architecture in the Western
Hemisphere (top photo). The methods and materials used in the construction,
including the granite boulders of the foundations and walls, are all
those of ancient Scandinavia. Turrets, towers, intricate carvings,
even hand-hewn timbers were used to recreate the fortress -- and
the sod roof, with its living grass, is like those sometimes used in
Scandinavia to feed livestock in winter. Many of the furnishings
that Mrs. Knight desired for Vikingsholm were of such great
historic significance that the Norwegian and Swedish governments
forbade their export, so she had them copied in every detail, down
to the measurements, coloration and aging of the wood.
Vikingsholm is open for guided tours ($2 adults,
$1 children) daily June 17 through Labor Day, then weekends
only through the end of September. (From the short, you can also see a
small stone house on Fannette Island. This is where Mrs. Knight and her
friends occasionally took tea in the afternoons.) For information,
call 530-541-6498 or 530-525-7232
For another fascinating glimpse back into Tahoe's history, visit 74-acre
Tallac Historic Site, (530) 541-5227, former site of the 100-year-old Tallac Resort.
In its heyday, the resort included two large hotels, a casino, and numerous annexes
and out-buildings. The Lucky Legacy Tour ($2.50 per person; you must
call ahead and request the tour specially) allows you a view of the 19th-century
gaming world of former Tallac Resort owner Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin.
The site is also home to three estates erected as summer retreats by wealthy
California families -- the Pope and McGonagle mansions, and Valhalla. Tea
With The Tevises is a free tour (with tea in the arboretum) of
the Pope Estate grounds, starting at 8 PM Mondays, July and August.
Valhalla has been converted into a community events center, the McGonagle
mansion into the Educational-Cultural Center and the Tallac Museum,
which contains exhibits on the Baldwin family (proprietors of the Tallac hotel)
and the casinos, and the Washoe Indian Cultural Foundation Exhibit (which
features artifacts, historic photos, basket-weaving demonstrations, and slides).
Music, theater and fine art are all vital parts of Tahoe's varied entertainment scene,
as are the many spectacular venues. Throughout the summer at the
Tallac Historic Site (where fine art and photography are
on display year-round), the Valhalla Festival of Arts and Music
(530-541-4975 or 542-4166) showcases jazz, bluegrass, rock, mariachi
and classical music. Summer highlights include June's Valhalla Renaissance
Festival, July's Native American Fine Arts Festival, and August's Great Gatsby Festival.
The Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum (3058 U.S. Hwy. 50, 530-541-5458)
possesses the area's most comprehensive collections of early photos, pioneer
implements, and Washoe Indian basketry -- as well as a fine model of the historic
S.S. Tahoe and the basin's oldest erect building.
Shakespeare at Sand Harbor (July and August) attracts large crowds,
as does the annual Lake Tahoe Summer Music Festival.
Four exciting music and dance concerts are offered each year by the prestigious
Tahoe Arts Project, and the Tahoe Community Orchestra and
Tahoe Community Choir perform each winter and spring.
Exhibits at more than a dozen galleries, college and community
theatrical productions, headline acts and cabaret entertainment at the casinos
also contribute to an outstanding arts calendar. Click here for current Calendar.
Getting beyond the immediate area, head southwest on Highway 89.
About four miles from Markleeville on Hot Springs Road,
Grover Hot Springs State Park is a superb site for hiking, fishing,
ross-country skiing, or a dip in the hot spring-fed pool (big enough for 75 people).
Reservations (800-444-PARK) are advisable May 7 to September 4.
Fifteen miles each of the lake on Highway 206 you'll find historic Genoa
(775-782-4951). Nevada's first settlement, and once a Mormon trading post,
Genoa was founded in 1851. Today the city has nearly 30
buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, a replica of the
original trading post (now a museum), and the Golf Course at Genoa Lakes.
Heavy with Old West atmosphere is Nevada's capital, Carson City
(775-687-7410), north of Genoa on Highway 395. Named for famous
"scout" Kit Carson, the city hosts a Kit Carson Trail Walk ($3, free for
ages 12 and under), a guided tour of some 15 historic homes in town,
every Saturday through the summer. A different home is highlighted each week,
with a narrator in period dress discussing the house's past. The
Nevada State Museum here is considered one of the ten best regional museums
in the American west, but there are several other notable museums in town as well.
The city even has its own hot springs.
Discovery of the Comstock Lode made Virginia City (775-847-7500),
farther north on Highway 341, "the richest place on earth."
The city itself is the nation's largest historic landmark. It retains the flavor of its
mid-19th century heyday. Visitors enjoy the wooden boardwalks, restored mansions,
mine tours, and museums -- as well as the saloons, fine dining and shopping.
Courtesy Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

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