5 Things: A Local’s Guide to Lake Tahoe (Winter Edition)

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In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Domonique Matthews of the The Simple Proof shares her favorite spots for a winter visit to beautiful Lake Tahoe.

5 Things: Lake Tahoe, including Truckee
Domonique Matthews of The Simple Proof

My husband and I dreamed of a home in Lake Tahoe for ten years before we finally found the perfect place to call home. We have three children, ages 5 though 12, and now split our time between the Bay Area and the west shore of Lake Tahoe. It brings us tremendous joy to spend time together during quieter winter months. Whether outside in the snow or inside our cozy cabin, the greater Tahoe area is a winter wonderland.


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Cottonwood Inn, 10142 Rue Hilltop, 530.587.5711
Squeeze Inn, 10060 Donner Pass Road, 530.587.9814
Best Pies, 10068 Donner Pass Road, 530.582.1111
Moody’s, 10007 Bridge Street, 530.587.8688

We spend more time off the lake during the winter months. This means we take full advantage of the many ski resorts and small town life in Truckee, California, as part of our winter routine. Our favorite place to eat is the Cottonwood Restaurant. This historic hilltop restaurant was once the site of one of the nation’s oldest ski lodges. Aside from delicious food, the mountain rustic decor includes historical photos and artifacts from the ski area and downtown Truckee from over a century ago. If you are in town on Thursday or Friday, be sure to stop by for live music in the fireplace room.


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Bespoke Truckee, 10130 Donner Pass Road, 530.582.5500
California 89, 10156 Donner Pass Road, 530.214.8989
Truckee Variety, 10088 Donner Pass Road, 530.587.3117

Truckee has really come a long way in the last five years, and is the site of some of my very favorites shops in Northern California. I always make a stop at Bespoke Truckee. The store is a careful curation of the very best in small brands and local makers. I have found the perfect gifts to give— from Pendleton Blankets to hand-crafted pottery, children’s art supplies, and jewelry or maybe just a little something for the house like a special ceramic mug or book of stories about Lake Tahoe. You never know just what sort of goodness you will come across in this gem.

California 89 will outfit your family with apparel commemorating one of my favorite highways in all of California. A favorite with our kids is the Truckee Variety. Every small town should have a store like this. A fun little old-fashioned shop, kids love to browse the toys, games, and tricks, some of which remind me of my own childhood. It’s everything from postcards and souvenirs to whoopie cushions and lego sets. Definitely worth a look.


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Homewood Mountain Ski Resort, 5145 West Lake Blvd. Homewood, 530.525.2992
Northstar California, 100 Northstar Drive, Truckee, 530.562.1010
Atelier, 10128 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, 530.386.2700

We spent many winters teaching our kids to ski—either by bundling them up and bribing them into ski school, or spending days on the magic carpet, scooping heavy tired kiddos up when they fall. It can be hard work, but our efforts have paid off. We now have all three kids skiing on the mountain and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Skiing is a perfect family sport we can all do together.

While some in our family are more adventurous (adrenaline-seeking) skiers than others, we get to spend a lot of time together; everyone is delighted in the thrill of the mountain. We tend to either ski nearby at family friendly Homewood Mountain Ski Resort on the West Shore, where you cannot beat the views or the prices, or we head up to Truckee to spend the day skiing at Northstar. Both resorts, while very different from one another, offer plenty of terrain and fun for kids and families of all ages.

For off the slopes play, The Village at Northstar has many shops and dining options, fire pits and an ice skating rink. For the creatives in your group, try one of the many workshops offered at Atelier in Truckee. Sister shop to Bespoke Truckee, Atelier hosts workshops taught by local artists as the creative hub in the area.


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The Cedar House Sport Hotel, 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee, 530.582.5666
Village at Northstar, 100 Northstar Drive, Truckee, 530.562.1010

It’s always a tough question to ask a local where they’d recommend staying in their area. Before we settled on our home, we usually rented houses or condos versus staying in any of the area hotels. Friends recently had a fun stay at The Cedar House near Truckee. The Village at Northstar has become very well developed with many options for condos right at the lifts or on the shuttle route. With young kids, it’s always nice to be able to have at least a small fridge for breakfast and snack items.


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For a few days in the snow in the Lake Tahoe area I would highly recommend a great pair of winter boots and a good set of gloves. These will take you far when out in the elements for the day. I always have lip balm and hand cream with me as well. The cold, dry conditions in the Sierra can be harsh on lips and skin. My favorites are Epicuren Lip Balm with SPF 15 and Kiehl’s Hand Salve. Other essentials include a fun family game and plenty of hot cocoa for all.

Thank you so much, Domonique! Visit her at The Simple Proof. 

P.S. See the entire 5 Things Series. And some of our previous posts about visiting Lake Tahoe: a Winter babymoon at the Ritz at Northstar, visits to Incline Village in the winter and in the spring, and a daytrip to Angora lake

[All photos by Domonique Matthews]

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