The following Carson Valley and Tahoe South article is written for when we CAN travel again and for inspirational purposes. Plan now to Getaway later. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and dream big. Thank you.
In late November, my husband and I isolated for two weeks, tested negative on our COVID tests, and with hand sanitizer and masks on, flew to the Reno/Tahoe Airport in Nevada. This was our first time on a plane in over 10 months and we were so excited for a getaway!
One of the places that have been on my bucket list for the longest time in Lake Tahoe. I’ve seen how beautiful it is in photos and my late aunt loved vacationing there and mentioned it often. We arrived a day after it snowed and we were excited to spend lots of time outdoors and see all Lake Tahoe had to offer!
Before traveling we looked up all the travel requirements in Nevada and learned about the #SierraSafely campaign. This campaign is all about traveling safely, responsibly, and outdoors. We stayed outdoors 85% of the trip, wore masks, washed our hands, and wiped everything down with sanitation wipes. We even rented a car at the airport so we didn’t have to worry about Lyfting or Ubering.
#SierraSafely with Carson Valley & Tahoe South
Tahoe South encompasses the entire southern side of the lake in Nevada. Experience the best of life by the water as well as world-renowned skiing and snowboarding, award-winning dining, entertainment, and more. Sadly, we were a week too early for skiing and snowboarding but there was still plenty to do!
Where to Stay
Hard Rock Lake Tahoe – The Hard Rock was in a great spot and within walking distance to a lot of the shops and restaurants. Our room had a great view of the mountains and it was a great place to lay our heads after a full day outdoors. If you like to gamble, they have a casino and they also have a great breakfast at Alpine Union. Parking was self-service and it was easy to come and go! (Check out their COVID protocols here.)
What to Do
M.S. Dixie II Emerald Bay Scenic Cruise – One of our favorite excursions was the day cruise! We bundled up in our hats, coats, masks, and scarves and sat on top the whole cruise. There are three different levels to sit and enjoy, the second level is indoor and has a gift shop, bar, and food service. I recommend staying on the very top to enjoy the most amazing views. You can see the emerald green-colored waters and learn a lot of good history about the lake.
Van Sickle Bi-State Park – We got up early one morning and hiked Van Sickle up the falls. You can stand on the California/Nevada line (be in two places at once), see some breathtaking scenery. It was an easy hike, I’m not an experienced hiker so if I can do it, you can too!
Rabe Meadow to Nevada Beach – Another great hiking trail is Rabe Meadow to Nevada Beach. It’s for all hiking levels and is another beautiful hike to take all the views Tahoe South has to offer.
Spooner Summit – If you want another good hiking spot, I’d definitely recommend hitting up Spooner Summit. Hiking the loop around Spooner Lake is entertaining and educational. The views are mostly restricted to Spooner Lake and the neighboring forest. However, the lake is host to an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers. Bring cash or a checkbook to cover the cost of the entrance fee to the Spooner Lake area (it’s $10 per vehicle at the main entrance or $2 per person for hiking into the park from the north lot on Spooner Summit).
Off-Roading – We rented a Jeep and with all the fresh snow went off-roading at Genoa Peak. We were the only ones on the trail and had the best time exploring and riding through the snow. It’s a little bumpy but so fun!
Walk Around Heavenly Village – Down the road from the Hard Rock Hotel, is Heavenly Village! It has cute shops, restaurants, and a movie theatre. The perfect place to stretch your legs and grab some ice cream or some fudge!
Where to Eat
Azul Latin Kitchen – Our first night we enjoyed margaritas, chips, queso, and lots of Latin dishes by the fire at Azul’s Latin Kitchen. Most of their seating is outdoors and you can sit around heaters and fires to keep warm. They also have live music on the weekends to make the experience that much more fun!
Chart House – If you want a romantic sunset dinner, this is THE spot! We made dinner reservations right around sunset and had a glass of wine while we enjoyed the sun setting over the trees and the lake. I had salmon and my husband had the prime rib. There was so much good seafood on the menu, I almost didn’t know what to pick! The restaurant had all the tables very spaced out so definitely make a reservation.
Red Hut – We had the best breakfast at Red Hut! They’re known for their waffles and we had hot chocolate, french toast, waffles, and bacon! They stay pretty busy so get there early and be prepared to wait outside!
Ivano’s Italian Restaurant – Enjoy a delicious Italian meal at Ivano’s. They’re only open at night for dinner but call before you go because their hours might be limited due to COVID. They have all the Italian favorites that will have your mouth watering! Don’t forget dessert!
A Few Tips…
- If you’re renting a car, ask if they have chains for the tires. It helps if you want to go off roading or if there’s a lot of snow. Also make sure your rental had 4 Wheel Drive!
- Limit your alcohol, increase your water. I hardly drank at all when we were in Tahoe South because I was dried out from the elevation. I went to CVS every night to buy a gallon of water to get me through the day.
- The elevation also made me SO HUNGRY. I ate so much and all the places we ate were phenomenal.
- Check times and make a reservation if you can. With COVID all restaurants are full due to limited capacity. Always try to make a reservation and call to see when they close.
With natural beauty, historic sites at every turn, outdoor recreation, and a healthy dose of the legendary character, Carson Valley remains a destination worthy of attention. Carson Valley is half an hour from Tahoe South and it’s a gorgeous drive. There are lots of places to stop and see the scenery along the way.
Located 45 miles south of Reno-Tahoe International Airport and 12 miles east of South Lake Tahoe, the region includes the communities of Minden, Gardnerville, Topaz Lake, and Genoa (Nevada’s first settlement dating back to 1851). It offers a window to the authentic American West. The region’s natural beauty is legendary: wide-open farms, ranches, bands of wild horses, and birds of prey dot the landscape. And of course golf with views that will leave you wanting more. The valley’s museums, arts, antiquing, Basque dining, a myriad of outdoor recreation, and 50+ miles of trails add to what sets this destination apart.
For the latest on traveling to Carson Valley, please review the Travel Advisory and Information page.
Where to Stay
Carson Valley Inn – The Carson Valley Inn was right in the heart of town and such a cute hotel. It had a restaurant called Katie’s Country Kitchen, and a coffee shop called Job’s Perk. We would get our coffee and donut at Job’s Perk in the morning as we were heading out. They also had a casino if you’re into gambling!
What to Do
Soar High with a Glider Ride – We were supposed to do this but the weather wasn’t ideal. So if you visit, please go and do it for me and take lots of photos! This adventure will have you seeing the valley from an entirely different and all-encompassing view of the Sierras. Soaring combines excitement with quiet serenity as you glide above one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Soaring is one of the most exhilarating, safe, and economical forms of aviation.
Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center – I love going to local museums and learning the history of the towns I’m visiting. Operated by the Douglas County Historical Society, the museum offers a rotating exhibit on the top floor and artifacts and a historical overview on the lower level. Here you can see exhibits like the Native American Washo Tribe exhibit, the Basque influence is prominent in Douglas County, the Doctors Exhibit features Dr. Eliza Cook, and more!
Explore Minden and Gardnerville – Do you love antiquing? So do I! We had so much fun following along on the Antique Shop Tour (found here) and looking for rare finds! There are also some great boutiques that have unique pieces that you don’t find anywhere else.
Minden Park and Esmerelda Avenue are at the center of this Carson Valley town. You can tour the Dangberg Home Ranch and get a taste of the life of an early ranching family. An upcoming distillery, art center, casino gaming, and shopping are just a few of the activities on hand.
Walk Around River Fork Ranch – After lunch, we spent the afternoon walking around River Fork Ranch. We had the park to ourselves and enjoyed the easy walk and the breathtaking views. I mean seriously, have you ever seen a view so gorgeous?! There were benches throughout so you can stop and admire the river and the mountains.
The River Fork Ranch Preserve’s riparian corridor and a patchwork of pastures, meadows, and wetlands support a robust and diverse wildlife population including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, leopard frogs, monarch butterflies, mule deer, and Western Pond Turtles.
Explore Mormon Station and the Town of Genoa – The cutest little town I’ve ever been in had to be Genoa. It’s also known as Nevada’s oldest town! Genoa was the first permanent settlement in what would become the state of Nevada. We started with lunch at the Pink House and wandered through Mormon Station and the town. There’s so much history here! Definitely take some time to walk around, wander the shops and read about the history throughout the town.
Sierra Chef Cooking Class – The best date night idea? A cooking class! Chef Cynthia was the nicest and walked us step by step while we made homemade ravioli. The food was to die for! Normally, you cook with a few other couples but with COVID it’s just one couple at a time. The Chef and her team wear masks and we wore our masks while preparing the food. Chef Cynthia’s in-laws are from Italy so her food is the real deal and so good! She also does dinners to go and caters to special occasions.
Where to Eat
Cafe Girasole – We ate here for lunch and had such a yummy, healthy meal! Graze on delectable wraps, grilled paninis, and sandwiches that include locally grown, organic produce, sumptuous vegetarian options, and tasty gluten-free bread, soups, and desserts. Yummy cookies, cakes, specialty cheesecakes, and pastries come fresh from the oven. You can eat inside at a limited capacity or take it to go.
DST Coffee – We all need a pick-me-up, so stop by DST for coffee. I enjoyed the cookies and cream ice cream while my husband had a seasonal latte. It’s the perfect place to stop in between visiting antique shops!
J T Basque Bar & Dining Room – JT’s Basque Restaurant hosts an authentic Basque dining experience. JT’s roots stretch back well over a half-century and are considered a Nevada icon. The multi-course family-style meals are plentiful and palate-pleasing. Voted Best Basque Restaurant in the Carson Valley for more than a decade running, this locals’ favorite is festive, family-oriented, and fun.
We loved all the courses and the variety of the dishes. Guests dine on soup, salad, french fries, red wine, ice cream, and coffee on top of the main dishes. We left stuffed!
The Pink House – Before you explore Genoa, stop for lunch at The Pink House. The food here was absolutely phenomenal! The Pink House offers a fine selection of artisan products, including cheese, charcuterie, beer, wine, and specialty coffee. They also feature a menu of sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, and other light fares. We shared a charcuterie board and I had a barbeque sandwich and side salad. Everything on their menu looked amazing!
The Pink House is allowing dine-in service at 25% seating capacity. Reservations are required. The lunch menu is up to date and on their website.
Genoa Bar & Saloon for a Drink – One step into the bar and it’s evident that you’ve stepped back in time. Adorned with medallions on the ceiling, the lights are all original. The electric lamps are original to the bar and were oil but converted to electricity at the turn of the century. The coolest part is a number of movies have been filmed there including “The Shootist” with John Wayne, “Charley Varrick” with Walter Mathau and Joe Don Baker, “Honky Tonk Man” with Clint Eastwood, “Misery” with James Cann, Kathy Bates, Rob Reiner, and Richard Farnsworth, and most recently, (last summer) “Till the River Runs Dry” starring Ann-Margaret.
Stop by for a drink and check out Raquel Welch’s black leopard print bra hanging on the antlers!
Disclaimer: Please follow all Government and CDC guidelines regarding local and regional travel. Getaway Reno/Tahoe supports social distancing and safe practices promoting the health of our community. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, digital and print content is updated to the best of our knowledge. Please keep in mind, many photos featured in our publication and online platform are taken before the pandemic and don’t reflect current conditions. As you navigate your Reno/Tahoe adventure, be sure to visit the corresponding event URL or business page to check cancellations, closings, or postponements.
Have you been to Carson Valley before? Let me know in a comment below!