A Tale of Two Shores

Before you visit Tahoe, it's important to understand the distinction between the North and the South shores. Don't let the "City" in the North Shore's "Tahoe City" fool you; you can drive through it in a couple of minutes. To the contrary, South Lake Tahoe brims with high-rise casinos, motels, and mini-malls. Where you choose to stay is important because driving from one end of the lake to the other takes an hour or more in summer and can be treacherous in winter.

So which side is for you? If you're here for gambling or entertainment, go south: The selection of casinos is better, with more action and more lodgings, often at better rates. If you seek a relaxing, outdoor retreat, head to the North Shore, which has a better selection of high-quality resorts and vacation rentals. The woodsy West Shore has the most camping spots, and the East Shore, protected from development, has no commercial activity.

Wherever you stay, you'll find plenty of water and mountain sports. The lake is crowded during summer and ski season, so plan far ahead. It's much easier to get reservations for the spring and fall, and rates drop significantly. Many vacation homes and condominiums are rentable; call the visitor-center bureaus or visit the websites below under "Visitor Information" for a list of rental agents.

Visitor Information -- In Tahoe City, stop by the Tahoe City Visitor Information Center, 380 N. Lake Blvd. (tel. 888/434-1262; www.gotahoenorth.com). In Incline Village, go to the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Visitors Center, 969 Tahoe Blvd. (tel. 888/434-1262 or 775/831-4440; www.gotahoenorth.com). Go to the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, 3066 Lake Tahoe Blvd. (tel. 530/541-5255; www.tahoeinfo.com). Many other websites offer information about Lake Tahoe, including www.virtualtahoe.com, www.skilaketahoe.com, www.laketahoeconcierge.com, and www.tahoevacationguide.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.