Finding the Fun: A Quick Visit to South Lake Tahoe and its Picturesque Lakeside

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For De’s birthday this year, we opted for a quick visit to South Lake Tahoe. This amazing body of water straddles both California and Nevada and is only a two-hour drive from Auburn. We chose to do it as a circle, heading out on Highway 50 to catch the great summit view as you come into the basin. We returned via I-80, where you pass beautiful Emerald Bay. This really was just a whirlwind trip with only two nights on the road. Still, we managed to hit a couple of casinos (and win), take a great trip across the lake, and finish off with a local Pride fundraiser on the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. It’s a picture-perfect, unique location that has opportunities for photographing dramatic outdoor landscapes, as well as a modest casino culture scene with its accompanying eye candy, and then the two together of the two in urban-mountain mixed landscapes.

Lodging in South Lake Tahoe

We had a very nice stay at the Station House Inn. It used to be a Best Western Motel, and then was sold to the current owners in 2019. They did a very nice remodel and it has lots of beautiful woodwork and retro ski lodge style. The grounds feature fire pit areas, outdoor games, and a very spacious pool and deck. Hot tub currently out of commission. It has an excellent restaurant next-door, but only offers packaged oatmeal and granola bars with hot beverages in the morning in lieu of a full breakfast. It’s in the uptown part of South Lake Tahoe, so the casinos and many restaurant options are close. The area seems a little more upscale than the other parts of South Lake Tahoe. It was a cozy, comfortable choice for this birthday outing.

The Sights

Handy Tesla superchargers at the Hard Rock Casino made it the obvious first choice for a little gambling fun. Hard Rock does a weekly Saturday Drag Brunch we would have loved to attend, but we were there mid-week. Since I was not expecting much for our quick stop, I was only armed with my ipone camera when De had a nice little win after just ten minutes of play. She walked out of there with $67.99 in her pocket on the eve of her 68th birthday. Go figure!

After drinks and dinner up on the mountain at Fox & Hound, we popped down to Harrah’s and scored free parking before checking out their Tuesday Bluesday. The Buddy Emmer band totally delivered, and then I had a little luck on the machines. Together we came out about $100 ahead,

The next day the Zephyr Cove Resort picked us up in their shuttle bus for the 3-hour boat ride across the lake in the M.S. Dixie II. It’s a beautiful paddlewheeler, and we thoroughly enjoyed the narration and scenery as we sailed from the Nevada eastern side of the lake directly west to Emerald Bay.

The setup

This time I was ready with my Nikon D780 with me and you can see the views of the colorful parasailer we had with the still snow-touched mountains in the background. My mantra for travel photograph is to “travel lite,” so I generally just take my two travel zooms, and a few prime lenses. I can’t pretend that the quality for the 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/4 lenses are as good as the 2.8 ones I use for assignments and events, but they are much lighter and more inconspicuous. People just don’t sit up and pay as much attention to high-quality consumer grade lenses compared to the pro ones, which definitely has its advantages. My shoulders are also grateful for them during long days out exploring.

After touring around Emerald Bay and seeing the impressive Vikingsholm and the Tea House on Fanette Island, we settled in for some fish and chips in the restaurant while an on-board monitor showed the underwater footage of various finds in the area. Super interesting – a kind of photography I so appreciate!

Pride at the Lakeside

After a little break and birthday presents we headed out to find the LGBTQ+ community. While you won’t encounter a Pride march or festival in SLT, Lake Tahoe Pride does organize multiple queer-themed activities throughout the year for visitors and locals. 

We headed over to Sidellis, the only very-openly-gay owned pub in the area. De’s birthday coincides with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and Sidellis was holding a raffle to raise money for an Equality Scholarship at Lake Tahoe Community College. For a bar setup I just can’t bear to bring a real camera inside — back to the iphone!

Organizer Michael Freeman told us that they’ve ended up with more than $2,000 this year, as the community keeps growing in strength and support. 

He also listed off the various queer bingo, walking, skiing and other events that Lake Tahoe Pride organizes to keep the pride going all year in this beautiful location. “We’ve got everything!”

A special dinner

Our lucky streak continued as we won a dinner certificate of up to $150 to spend at Shedcat Distillery. Shedcat has a super-interesting business model: they have a small-bath distillery on site and a restaurant serving upscale very interesting cuisine. I went for the Tahoe trout and De had a porch chop in a molasses. The side veggies were fantastic, as was the delicious beignet we had for dessert. The mocktail list was super cool as well.

To finish off our whirlwind visit to South Lake Tahoe, we stopped quickly at the newly-painted progress pride flag crosswalks in town. It seems important to me to keep making images with the new flags in them and get them out in the world (via stock, in my case) to help people learn more about our community and the changes it is making.

I hung out for a few minutes with my Nikon to grab a shot of a couple walking over them; they’re are already looking worn with tire tracks, so lots of folks are seeing them.


All photos are copyright Chris Allan and cannot be used without my written permission. Please contact me for usage rights. Thank you for reading my blog post “Finding the Fun: A Quick Getaway to South Lake Tahoe’s Picturesque Lakeside” To learn more about me and my work, please see my About page.

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