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Christmas - New Year at Lake Tahoe for non-skiiers

Christmas - New Year at Lake Tahoe for non-skiiers

Old Dec 5th, 2011, 01:03 PM
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Christmas - New Year at Lake Tahoe for non-skiiers

Planning a visit to Lake Tahoe towards the last week of December with family (4 + newborn). ~5 days between Dec 23 - Jan 2.

Here are things we would like to do -
- Take rest/family time
- Visit casinos in Reno
- Hit some slopes for a day (Green/easy Blue)
- Home cook with 1 restaurant visit everyday
- Want a vacation where I am not tired at the end of it

Some contraints -
- Not everybody in the group is a skiier
- have a 3 month old, so will be fairly slow and plan to do no more than 5-6 hours of things every day (preferably split into 2 slots of 3 hours each)

Here are a few initial questions for fellow fodorites -
1. Are most vacation rentals available at that time for the week only, and is vrbo the best choice to look for one in the Tahoe area
2. Should I stick to South Lake Tahoe
3. Do I need to rent a 4 wheel drive to avoid chains (live in SF, so would prefer to drive my FWD SUV)
4. How many days is the ideal trip (would 4-5 days be good; or do I need to plan a week).

Any other suggestions welcome.
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Old Dec 5th, 2011, 01:28 PM
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You know there are casinos in South Lake Tahoe right? Not sure I would make a trip to Reno to visit the casinos.
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Old Dec 5th, 2011, 01:31 PM
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No. 2 - South Lake Tahoe is quite a bit farther from Reno than North Lake Tahoe (40 min. vs. 80 min. +). If you stay in South Lake Tahoe (which would not be my choice, but everyone's opinion differs), you'll have casinos so there would be no reason to go to Reno.

No. 3 - watch the weather before the trip. Yes, if there's a likelihood of snow, no if there's not.

No. 4 - I think 4-5 days would be plenty sans skiing. I also wouldn't take the baby to Reno -- nothing to do with the baby while there.
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Old Dec 5th, 2011, 03:51 PM
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I did not realize there are casinos in South Lake Tahoe. I have never been there, and assumed I would have to go to Reno. That would make some part of the trip much easier!

sf7307 - just curious, why do you prefer North Lake Tahoe? Is there a distinction based on whether you ski or not? Thanks for your responses on 3 & 4..
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Old Dec 5th, 2011, 04:55 PM
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No, that's not why. They just have a different ambiance. South Lake Tahoe/Stateline is much more built up than the North Shore. The North Shore has several ski areas (Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, and others). South Lake Tahoe has one main one, but it is great (world class, as is Squaw Valley) - Heavenly Valley (the views of the lake from the top of the mountain are simply spectacular). The North Shore has more of a rustic, funky ambiance -- small towns dot the shore, whereas South Lake Tahoe has a few big high-rise hotels that give it a different "feel". Honestly, though, although I greatly prefer the North Shore in summer, in winter, if I wanted to be near casinos, I'd probably choose South Lake Tahoe as long as you understand you're not going to get "quaint" or "charming".
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Old Dec 6th, 2011, 07:47 AM
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I'm not sure if you realize that that is THE busiest week of the year at Lake Tahoe. My advice is to do some research on restaurants and make dining reservations-immediately. We didn't, and were either shut out of all of the good restaurants or were faced with 2+ hour waits.
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Old Dec 6th, 2011, 09:09 AM
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And I would think that the possibility of finding a decent rental this late for the holiday week, one of the biggest "prime times" of the season, are not in your favor. I made the same mistake about 15 years ago, and got stuck with what turned out to be a very disappointing rental (no wonder it was still available!).

As for your surprise about casinos in So. Lake Tahoe, there are also casinos on the North Shore as well, in Incline Village at the Hyatt, and in Crystal Bay, altho these are very small, low-key casinos. Still, if you want to gamble and don't want to drive all the way to Reno, they're right there.
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 01:20 PM
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South Lake Tahoe would probably make the most sense. There is a gondola that runs from downtown SLT to Heavenly Resort which you should all do even if you don't ski. The skiers can ski, the gamblers can gamble, and none of you need to worry about driving. This all assumes you can find a place to stay however. If you don't rent a vacation rental, look at some of the casinos in SLT such as Harrah's or Harvey's. I prefer Harvey's. 2 wheel drive will be fine if you carry chains. You would need chains even if you had a 4x4 so go get some and make sure you know how to put them on before you leave SF.
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 01:31 PM
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Clarify... You would need to CARRY chains even if you had a 4x4 with snow tires. You may not need to put them on but you are required to carry them anyway.
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 03:20 PM
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>>

FWIW, I have no idea how to put the chains on my car. That's that the "chain monkeys" are for
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 05:44 PM
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I've never used or purchased chains for my 4 WD vehicle. Driven in Tahoe, Mammoth & Mt Shasta (I5) in snowy conditions and never needed chains. Caltrans does not require 4 WD vehicle's to carry chains. They screen only tractor trailers for chains. If you were going to Yosemite you would be required to carry chains regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive. If the conditions were such that you'd need to put chains on a 4 WD vehicle my advice is to not drive under those conditions. Just wait a little while for the snow to let up and drive after the roads have been cleared.

Hope we get some snow soon. There is currently no snow at the lake level. The only snow is what the ski resorts make in order to open some of the ski runs.
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 04:28 PM
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Suzie, whereas they don't CHECK the cars for chains 4WD are required to carry them. Whereas it's great not to drive if conditions are bad, there are situations where you could be really stuck without chains, so it's a good idea to have them and just hope you never have to use them.
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 10:16 PM
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You are not required to carry chains if you have a 4 wheel drive unless you are on federally controlled roads. Caltrans most definitely does NOT require you to carry chains if you have a 4 WD, Obviously if Caltrans imposes R3 your 4 D would be required to have chains. The roads to Tahoe close before R3 is imposed.

Here is the link to Caltrans winter driving TIPS (not requirements) and near the bottom is the chain requirements section

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/wntrdriv.htm
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 11:49 PM
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Yep, never was required to carry chains in my Subaru either on many trips over Donner Summit.
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 08:56 AM
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Okay, well just wait until the area you're in gets a ton of snow and you can't even get on to the road without chains. It has happened to us. We've had people stuck at our cabin for an extra day because they had 4WD and it snowed and they couldn't get out on the smaller roads. Forget about getting chains locally when that happens too, they will be sold out.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 12:59 PM
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Thanks for all the help folks. I just booked a vrbo vacation rental for 5 days in South Lake Tahoe. Plan to take chains, just in case..but I really doubt I will manage to put it on if its snowing heavily.

Plan to do the Heavenly gondola/casino thing and some casinos in the area. It sure was tempting to try a trip down south to Mono lake or Yosemite, but definitely do not want to risk the snow..maybe May/June of next year.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 05:07 PM
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Pick a clear day and drive around the lake (east side - west side usually close in winter) up to the very pretty North Shore - and maybe drive in to see magical Squaw Valley. Takes about an hour - and you get a great view of the lake.

We used to drive all the time to Tahoe from SF (to ski in the winters - and also loved the summers up there) and only had to chain up once or twice (if you go during daylight) and it's very very unusual you would have to do that with a SUV. Would have to be a monster storm to require that and they usually have the roads to and from Tahoe in pretty good shape.

Friends of ours live at the North shore - and his office is in Reno - and they have SUV's and hardly ever have to chain up.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 05:08 PM
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BTW - I always put the chains on myself (grew up in Oregon) and like anything else - once you learn how to do it - it's not that hard - but they have chain "monkeys" all along the road when the chain controls are on. Again, they usually just wave 4WDs thru the checkpoints.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 05:12 PM
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Forgot to add: We did put snow tires on the Mustang in the winter - and at least back then (70's) that was usually good enough to be waived thru the checkpoints if it was snowing.

Things may be different now?
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 07:35 PM
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I have lived in the Bay Area and been going to Tahoe (both north and south, summer and winter) for nearly 40 years. We have often been required to put on chains whether on 50 or 80. That said, when we drove up and back in a snowstorm last year in a 4WD, we held up 4 fingers and were waived right through chain control..
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