Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lake Tahoe 4th of July 2012 planner

Why Tahoe?

The Lake Tahoe area has always been one of America's most popular destinations for 4th of July weekend because of its natural beauty, it's super-clean water and beaches, and its many entertainment options in the summertime. Where else can you not only lay on the beach, but also hike, mountain bike, paddle, shop, gamble, or go to your choice of concerts and comedy shows.
Plus, unlike most other summer destinations, Lake Tahoe can guarentee cool weather. Even with 1000s of cities breaking all time heat records across the USA, Lake Tahoe has had temperatures in the mid 70s. Even if it's 100 degrees in Sacremento, I can assure you it won't be over 80 up here.

4th of July Events

Arts and Crafts fair at Heavenly Village
  • There are arts and crafts fairs all over Lake Tahoe on 4th of July week, including ones in front of Heavenly Village, the Horizon, the American Legion Hall, and up at Squaw Valley / Kings Beach on the weekends before and after.
  • Run to the Beach 4th of July 10k run in Kings Beach, CA


About the Fireworks

It also dosn't hurt that Lake Tahoe's annual fireworks event "Lights on the Lake" has been named one of the best small town fireworks displays anywhere. Last year we were #6 on AOL's nationwide list, and this year we were featured on NBC's Today show. Our local fireworks display is an automated music-synchronized display from award-winning area family business Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. The fireworks are shot off from a barge anchored off of Nevada beach just the other side of the state line, and can be seen from all over south Lake Tahoe. The fireworks begin at 9:45PM on July 4th - Tune into KRLT-FM 93.9 or KOWL-AM 1490 to listen to a synchronized musical broadcast for the best effect.

Eye Level to the Fireworks

If you're a little more adventurous than the rest, Lake Tahoe's high-rises and mountains provide a uinque opportunity to get a perspective on a fireworks display that most people never get. For the intrepid, there are organized hikes to the top of mount Tallac west of Lake Tahoe where you can be above the fireworks. For the less intrepid you can take the Heavenly Gondola up to the top of Heavenly ski resort for their annual top of the mountain 4th of July Gala. You can also get a nice high view from close to where they set off the fireworks for free by setting up in Khale Park on Kingsbury Grade.

Fire Safety

Tahoe is a forest, and this year the forests in Tahoe are exceptionally dry. It takes everyone's cooperation not to burn the forest down on a major holiday like 4th of July. As I mentioned before, private fireworks of any kind (even as little as a sparkler) are illegal in the Lake Tahoe basin. Barbequeing is not permitted on forest service land except for designated fire pits in campgrounds and beaches. For more information check out this article from Lake Tahoe News

Watching from the Water

The absolute most spectacular view of the fireworks you can get is from a boat out on Lake Tahoe. From a boat, the fireworks display is almost straight up and appears to fill the whole sky. The lake can be crowded with boats on the 4th of July so unless you feel comfortable driving a boat at night on a very crowded lake, you may wish to consider other options.

The Tahoe Queen or M.S. Dixie II

Both of Tahoe's famous mississippi-style sternwheelers, the Tahoe Queen and the M.S. Dixie II offer special Fireworks cruises on the 4th of July where you'll be guarenteed the absolute best spot on the lake to see the fireworks. Tickets are $47 but they sell out fast so contact Zephyr Cove Resort to make your reservations well in advance. Check out my video of the Tahoe Sternwheeler Races to see thise beautiful boats in action.

Your Own Boat

Among Tahoe locals lucky enough to have a boat, it's pretty common to take your own boat out. Since local boats are usually launched long before this time of year it can be a pretty convenient option for them. If you bring your own boat, boat Launching stations are available at Tahoe Keys Marina, El Dorado Beach, Ski Run Marina, and Cave rock. Boat launching runs $13-$20 dollars depending on where you launch, you can find a full list of boat launches on Lake Tahoe and their fees at Lake Tahoe Access.
However, if you're not from Lake Tahoe you need to realize that there are special complications to launching your boat here. Because of the threat of aquatic invasive species you will need to get a boat inspection (and possibly decontamination) at one of the boat inspection sites on the way into town before you can launch your boat, and the boat inspection stations aren't anywhere near the boat launches - they're at the inspection stations at Meyers and Spooner Summit on the way into town. For more information about locations and opening hours for the boat inspections visit Inspections cost $35 to $100 depending on the size of your boat, though if you're a local you can get a discount by getting inspected early.

Rent a Boat

If you don't want to deal with the hassle of a boat inspection but still want to take a boat out, there are several options for places to rent boats on the 4th of July. You can rent boats at the Tahoe Keys, Ski Run, and Zephyr Cove marinas. Fair warning: Supplies of rental boats in Tahoe are limited and they tend to sell out very fast, if you plan to rent a boat on a holiday weekend up here make your reservations well in advance and expect to pay handsomely for the privilidge.

Watching from the Beaches

The most popular places to watch the fireworks are Lake Tahoe's many beaches. Though just about every beach on the south shore of Lake Tahoe has a good view of the fireworks, you're going to have a different view and a different experience depending on which beach you choose. Be aware that most beaches in Tahoe charge $20 to $25 for access on 4th of July proper, and plan accordingly.

Lakeview Commons at El Dorado Beach

If you're looking to share the 4th of July with a big crowd, there's no better choice for that than the brand-new stone ampetheatre at Lakeview Commons. Closed the last two years because of ongoing rennovations, El Dorado beach is poised to regain its historic position as the all-time favorite place to watch fireworks in Lake Tahoe. Besides an excelent view of the fireworks, they offer barbeque facilities, vendors, bands, and the biggest and most enthusiastic 4th of July tourist crowd in Tahoe.
If you plan to view from Lakeview Commons, plan on showing up early and spending your whole day there because all of the seats are usually taken by mid afternoon. Bring a picnic, wear sunscreen, and enjoy talking to the crowd. Be aware that alcohol is banned at Lakeview Commons on 4th of July and this is not a particularly pet friendly venue, especially for a long day.

Nevada Beach

View of Nevada Beach
If you're looking for the absolute closest beach spot to the fireworks, you can't do any better than Nevada Beach. Located directly behind the fireworks barge, Nevada beach is more of a beach blanket venue than a stone ampetheatre. There are picnic tables and BBQ pits, but they go extremely fast on holiday weekends, so plan to show up early if you need these facilities or bring a picnic dinner with you that you can eat on your beach blanket. Nevada beach has a small dog-friendly section toward the stateline end of the beach, but be aware that it's usually very busy with lots of dogs on holidays.

Dog Friendly Beaches

If you want to do 4th of July in South Lake Tahoe with a dog, better choices for your dog include Reagan and Kiva beaches in South Lake Tahoe. These are less crowded than the two main beaches and more dog friendly. These beaches tend to be a little less touristy than the others and offer a family-friendly locals oriented holiday option.

Party for 4th of July

Most of Lake Tahoe's public 4th of July events are NOT oriented toward drunken reveling. We pride ourselves on being a "family friendly" holiday location so if you're idea of a good 4th of juloy is a wild party with a lot of adults, you should consider some of our more adult venues. All of the south shore casinos offer adult-friendly 4th of July options with gambling and alcohol allowed. The best views are from the 19 kitchen / bar at the top of Harvey's; but there are cool 4th of July events on the tops of all the stateline parking garages.

Alcohol Friendly Beaches

View of Stateline Beach
Alcohol is banned from public beaches in Lake Tahoe on major holidays like the 4th of July; but that dosn't mean you can't have a beer anywhere. Both of South Tahoe's main private beaches at Stateline and Zephyr Cove have concession stands that serve alcohol even on holidays. The beach fees at the private beaches tend to be in the $25-30 range instead of the usual $20. These beaches tend to have a wilder, more party like atmosphere, and may be a little less family friendly than the others.

Avoiding a DUI

It's always a bad idea to drive or boat while drunk, but FAIR WARNING: The South Lake Tahoe police department and the Douglas county sherrif do heavy DUI enforcement on holidays including 4th of July and the weekends before and after which make it virtually impossible to avoid getting checked for DUI if you drive that night. I strongly suggest you have a non-drinking designated driver or call a cab if you have no other option. Tahoe Yellow Cab can be reached at: 1-530-544-5555.

PS. If you're dumb enough to get caught, don't think the state line will save you. It's a federal crime to cross a state line to avoid law enforcement and there's another roadblock just the other side, anyway. You can't outrun the radio, so don't even try or you'll wind up in America's Greenest Jail.