24 Hours in South Lake Tahoe, CA

If you have been wanting to visit Tahoe and you only have a short amount of time to do so, this guide is for you! My boyfriend and I had been wanting to go up to Lake Tahoe for a long time and over the Christmas 2019 holiday break, we decided to just make it happen and book an Airbnb for one night in South Lake Tahoe. We live in Sacramento, so its only about a 1 and 45 minute drive to South Lake, so we decided to make it a quick 24 hour trip to see the sights and play in the snow!

Blog post highlights

  • Where to stay: South Lake Tahoe
  • Snow activities: Skiing, Snowboarding and Sledding spots in South Lake Tahoe
  • Sight Seeing: Zephyr Cover, El Dorado Beach and Emerald Bay
  • Where to eat: Black Cabin Coffee, Fatburger and Heidi’s Pancake House
Zephyr Cove in South Lake Tahoe. Snow over rocks on edge of lake.
Zephyr Cove

Planning Your Trip- Where to stay

Since South Lake Tahoe is a super popular spot for all kinds of winter (when we went) and summer activities, so due to its popularity, I highly recommend finding a place to stay at least a couple months in advance. We fortunately were able to book a room over Airbnb about a month an a half out from our trip. If you’re trying to do just a quick weekend getaway, I recommend the Airbnb that we rented. It’s a bunk room (bunk beds are double beds, I believe) with a bathroom right next door.

The location is great because it is about a 7 minute drive from downtown South Lake Tahoe which has a ton of restaurants, shops and is famously on the state line between California and Nevada.

If you want to stay in a hotel or condo, there are tons of options all around South Lake as well.

El Dorado Beach, South Lake Tahoe. Woman on grey coat, standing on edge of lake.
El Dorado Beach, South Lake Tahoe

What to do- Winter activities

Playing in the snow

If you are a skier or snowboarder, South Lake Tahoe is the place for you. We are not skiers or snowboarders, so we decided to just go sledding and see the sights, but if you are into those activities, check out this list and this list.

Sledding in Kahle Park. Man and woman in coats and hats, smiling.
Sledding in Kahle Park

We had bought a couple of cheap sleds before heading up to Tahoe from Target and Big Five and once we got there we visited a few different sledding hills that we had found on Yelp and Google. The first couple were good, but you did have to pay entry to then and sled rental fees. Hansen’s Snow Tube & Saucer Hill did look promising, but we were hoping to sled for free and generally just frolic around in the snow.

After some more searching, we found a promising Google review for Kahle Park. Its a public park on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe and the review said that it had a hillside that people had used to sled down. We got to the park and immediately we knew it was the perfect place. It had a great hill behind a huge soccer field. There were other people there sledding down the hill and playing in the snow. We stayed there for about two hours, and it was a lot of fun!

Sightseeing in South Lake

Zephyr Cove

After we went sledding, we decided to go to Zephyr Cove, just a drive up from Kahle Park. I had wanted to go to Zephyr Cove because I had seen some stuff on it at Pinterest and thought that it looked super pretty. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint! We parked at a parking lot just past the Zephyr Cove marina and walked down the beach that is to the right of the marina. It was awesome to see lake Tahoe from this view and to walk beside the water to the left of us and with the snow to the right of us.

We kept walking along the shore towards this point that had all of these cool boulders.

Zephyr Cover was a spectacular sight to see, we were very happy that we decided to go there.

El Dorado Beach

Me and my boyfriend, Kenny, at El Dorado Beach

The next day, we went out to breakfast at Heidi’s Pancake House and on the way there, we saw this great beach that has a fantastic view of the lake, so we decided to stop there after breakfast. (More on Heidi’s Pancake House later)

The beach that was saw was El Dorado Beach, which is down the street from the main hub of South Lake Tahoe. It has great views of the lake is easy to walk down to from the couple of different parking lots that are near by.

view of lake tahoe from El Dorado Beach. Mountains with snow.
View of the Lake Tahoe from El Dorado Beach
El Dorado Beach. Follow me on Instagram @hellomadd

Emerald Bay

The last sight seeing place that was saw on our short, 24 hour Tahoe trip was Emerald Bay. Emerald Bay is about a 20 minute drive from South Lake Tahoe, just a bit northwest (I think) from El Dorado Beach. It is along the same road that you would take if you wanted to drive along the lake from South Lake to the North Shore on the left or California, side of the lake.

First off, the drive up to Emerald Bay is gorgeous, especially when the mountains are blanketed in snow, honestly just unreal sights. Then there’s Emerald Bay itself: stunning with water so blue it looks fake. Let me stop talking, just view the pictures for yourself.

Emerald Bay on South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay. Follow me on Instagram @hellomadd

What to eat

Black Cabin Coffee

To make the most of our 24 hour trip to Tahoe, we decided to leave from Sacramento pretty early, so when we got to South Lake, we were dying for a coffee. Luckily a friend of ours had suggested Black Cabin Coffee. As we were searching for a place to sled, we decided to stop for a quick cup of Joe or two. Black Cabin Coffee is on the main road that leads down to downtown South Lake and was also near our Airbnb.

Stepping through the front door of Black Cabin Coffee is like stepping into a cozy home that you wished you own (well at least I do). The decore is a mish-mash of furniture and decorations that gives off the vibe of, yeah, we make excellent coffee. Now, the coffee situation: SO GOOD!

I cannot recommend trying there coffee over there other beverage options. I got an almond milk cappuccino and it was super delicious. Before we left, I got a double shot of espresso and that got me going and jazzed for our sledding adventures.

If you don’t like coffee or aren’t in the mood for it, they do have a variety of teas, matcha and smoothies you can choose from. They also have bunch of food options that we wanted to try but were too full to try. Check out their beverage and food menu.


After sledding and exploring all day, we were super hungry and both of us were craving a burger and fries. Fatburger, a chain started in LA, just so happen to be in the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino and hotel on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe. We had never been there before and knew that we had to try it.

I got a western bacon cheese burger with sweet potato fries and my boyfriend got a three layer cheeseburger with fries. The burgers and fries were a bit expensive (about $20 for a combo) but we were so hungry that we didn’t care. I really enjoyed my burger and sweet potato fries, which were delicious.

Heidi’s Pancake House

Heidi’s Pancake House was the last place that we ate during our 24 hour trip in South Lake Tahoe. We had done some research on good breakfast spots the night before and Heidi’s kept coming up. I’m happy that we decided to go to Heidi’s because it was super yummy!

I got the blueberry pancake stack and my boyfriend got an omelet. We both had a bit of each others (he always finishes my pancakes, anywhere we go) and by the end, we were both super full. Those two meals but two cups of coffee came out to about $34 after tip. In my opinion, this isn’t too bad for the price of breakfast in a super touristy town like South Lake. View Heidi’s full menu.

Final Thoughts

Woman and man in front of Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe, California.

Overall, we had a fantastic 24 hour trip to South Lake Tahoe. I would love to go back for longer and explore more of the lake, in both the winter and summer times. So much to see in this beautiful part of California!

Thanks for reading along:) Have you ever been to Tahoe, what do you recommend? If you haven’t, does this inspire you to go? Let me know in the comments below!

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