South Lake Tahoe | Watson & Walls

Check out Watson the bichon-maltese mix dog's pet friendly travel guide on exploring South Lake Tahoe, California!

South lake tahoe

Watson in his Kreiser's sweater in Lake Tahoe, CA | Watson & Walls

If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen we've been going to Tahoe a lot this year. We are fortunate to have friends with a house up in the South Lake area! Whenever there's snow in California you can best believe we're headed up there.

Tahoe's main attraction is obviously access to the Sierra mountains. In the winter you've got skiing / snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing, gondola riding and hot cocoa drinking. In the summer there's hiking, biking, boating and anything that comes on a boat. It's pretty much heaven.

 
Watson by his Sleepypod on the way to Lake Tahoe via Southwest Airlines | Watson & Walls

GETTING THERE:

Tahoe is 7ish hours north of Los Angeles, so we normally drive. But you most likely want to fly.

  • The car ride is actually quite beautiful albeit long. Your GPS may want to take you up the 5 the whole way but don't listen. You should take the 405 (at least from the Westside) to the 5 to the 14 to the 395 all the way up (gosh how Californian do I sound?).
    • We always stop in Bishop at Schat's or Mahogany Smoked Meats for food.
    • There's also a beautiful park a block away from Schat's! Dogs may or may not be allowed... shhh 😂
  • If you're not crazy like us, you want to fly into Reno. It's about an hour drive from there. You can also fly into Sacramento but that's another half hour further away.
  • There are multiple options for shuttles, or they have this genius invention UBER SKI. It's the price of an Uber X but you are guaranteed a car that either is large enough to hold your skis / snowboards OR has a roof rack. Pretty rad right?
  • As you've most likely seen on previous blogs, we use Sleepypod as Watson's travel case and couldn't recommend this brand more!
 
Watson sleeping in Lake Tahoe | Watson & Walls

WHERE TO STAY:

  • Airbnb - honestly Airbnb is almost always my recommendation (or VRBO or Homeaway, of course). In a place like Tahoe you want a cozy cabin and there are a ton to choose from. You can run the gamut from ski in ski out, on the shuttle path, or having to take your car. If you do rent a car or drive up, make sure to try to park at the California Lodge - it's free. The Gondola parking lot can get verrrrry expensive!!
  • One of the Casino’s - you can't go wrong playing it safe and staying in one of the many casinos, and they put you smack dab at the bottom of the Gondola (especially Harrah's). The only problem is none of them are pet friendly :(. But major plus that you will never be bored between the gambling, spa-ing, close proximity to skiing and snowboarding, and people watching!
  • Basecamp - this hotel is pet friendly!! I haven't stayed here so I can't totally vouch, but it looks adorable from the outside and has a wall I've got on my list for next time #insertwatsonhere
  • Get a friend with a house! Haha that was rude of me ... but seriously sometimes they aren't too expensive to buy!
 
Watson by a mural in South Lake Tahoe, CA | Watson & Walls

WHERE TO EAT:

  • Basecamp Pizza - right at the foot of the gondola, you cannot miss Basecamp Pizza. Delicious pies and a great happy hour menu. Just make sure you don't come hungry on a busy weekend - you could be looking at a wait! [dog friendly on patio]
  • Tahoe Pizza Co - we *kind of* like this pizza better, but honestly both of these two are so good. I haven't eaten in here, only carried out, but it's bomb.com
  • Jalapeños - SUCH GOOD BREAKFAST BURRITOS!!! And they are $5!! Jalapenos is a small little spot in South Lake by some of the neighborhoods. They make fresh tortilla chips and have a huge pile of them out for the eating (and free refills!). [dog friendly outside]
  • Izzy's - they call themselves a "Burger Spa" which always makes me chuckle, but their burgers really are like happiness and relaxation in your mouth. Highly recommend stopping here! [dog friendly outside]
  • Sprouts - new favorite place! Sprouts is all vegetarian and they have extensive (re: awesome) options. We went here for breakfast but I don't doubt their lunch & dinner are great too. Also a good spot for juice or coffee! [dog friendly]
  • Bear Beach Cafe - this is your typical delicious diner, but it's got the most killer view of the lake! You sit 50 ft. away from the lake and there are large windows so you really feel like you're lakeside. 
  • Heavenly Donuts - thank the lordy lord for Heavenly Donuts!!! Situated right where the Gondola starts / ends, you can get amazing mini donuts with a slew of flavors on top. Oreo crumble, plain powdered sugar - it's all delicious. And they make them right in front of you. The smell will draw you in so there's no sense in trying to resist. [dog friendly - no indoor seating]
  • When on Heavenly Mountain: see a list here. I love Sky Deck because it's not too crowded. Pro tip: don't order from the inside bar at East Lodge - bad service and a much longer wait!
  • Himmel House - we sadly haven't ventured here yet, but my friend raves about it. Himmel House is a German beer house & restaurant, so you can expect satisfying weisses with schnitzel.
Watson and his friend Freddy by a mural in South Lake Tahoe, CA | Watson & Walls
 
Watson and his mom at Gunbarrel in South Lake Tahoe, CA | Watson & Walls

WHERE TO DRINK:

  • South Lake Brewing Co - what a gem! We just discovered South Lake Brew Co this past trip - it's new in the past year - and it gave me major LA brewery vibes. Open bright interior with cornhole, jenga and board games to play. Great selection of beer and pretty delicious food. Can you say on site hand made wood oven pizza?! [dog friendly]
  • Cold Water Brewery - this is one of my favorite place to go in Lake Tahoe! Great rotating beer selection and delicious food. We recently discovered that "Flannel Friday" is a thing there; we ate there on a Friday, when both my dad and Rahim were wearing flannel shirts, and lo-and-behold, they're eligible for $4 beers all night! 
  • Gunbarrel - we frequent this spot post skiing, as it's right at the bottom of the Gondola (the Gondola actually goes right over its patio!). There are fire pits outside which are CLUTCH après ski. And they make a mean Bailey's Hot Cocoa, which let's be real, is the only après ski to have. [dog friendly on patio]
  • Sunnyside - so Sunnyside is technically West Lake, but this place is a must see! Beautiful outdoor patio that makes for the perfect summer happy hour spot. They've got food too! [dog friendly on patio]
  • Admittedly we don't do out drinking a lot in Lake Tahoe since we're so tired from mountain activities😂😂😂  soooooo more to come..
 
Watson by the lake in South Lake Tahoe, CA | Watson & Walls

WHAT TO DO

  •  Casinos! - no real explanation needed as to why this is fun! Mini Vegas in the mountains with these casinos. Not a bad place to drink and people watch!
  • Spa at casinos - great way to relax après ski, or just plain relax if you aren't a skier or snowboarder. You can normally buy just a day pass or get a treatment which gets you full access for the day.
  • Ski / Snowboard - this is why you come to Tahoe!! Such a good selection of mountain resorts all pretty close to each other. Our personal favorite is Heavenly, it's really big and has a wide range of runs for all skill levels. Kirkwood is close to Heavenly but much smaller (and also cheaper!). If you want to trek up to North Lake there's Northstar and Squaw - where they held the Olympics! There are a few smaller ones too, but these are the only ones I've been to :)
  • Outdoorsy stuff in the summer: boating, biking, hiking! So many beautiful trails and sights, you can't go wrong!