There's no shortage of fabulous California weekend getaways, especially if you live in Los Angeles. Some of the best California vacations are within driving distance. Since moving to Los Angeles, I've experienced a few spontaneous road trips to weekend hideaways, like Idyllwild and Palm Springs. Recently I got the chance to enjoy a Lake Tahoe weekend getaway with my girlfriends, something I highly recommend every girl try.
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Planning a Lake Tahoe Weekend Getaway
In my opinion, the best girls trip is one that helps you reconnect with your besties. A good girls weekend should be full of good laughs, good food, and good times, all of which are highly therapeutic for modern-day working women. My besties and I knew we needed a girls trip soon, so we started weighing all the best road trip ideas near Los Angeles.
Visions of snowy mountains, snuggly warm cabins, and fireside chats filled our minds for weeks until we finally set off on our girl's vacation. Return relaxed and reconnected, something every girl needs.
I've put together a few tips to help you plan your perfect ladies-only weekend getaway. Use these tips to make sure your BFF time is time well spent no matter where you plan to go.
Prepare for the Road (& Conditions)
Driving to Lake Tahoe in the summer is delightful. Twists, turns, and towering trees keep the long drive from LA (approx 7 hours) exciting. You could easily make the trip in any vehicle. But a wintertime Lake Tahoe road trip requires a rented 4WD SUV. You'll want complete control over the icy roads. I mean really, who wants to get out in the cold to put on chains? Nope. Not me. And even if you fly into Reno, you'll still have a 90 minute drive to Lake Tahoe, so be prepared. Plus, you'll want plenty of room for snacks. 🙂
Make an effort to reconnect
Like the scenery, time will pass quickly on I-5 while you and your girls catch up. Spend time telling funny stories and laughing until you can barely breathe. After all, that's the best thing about road trips. Am I right?
To kick start the sharing, challenge your girls to play The Great Girlfriends Road Trip Game on your next girls trip. It'll make for some interesting conversations, to say the least. Share childhood stories, chat about big dreams and discover even more ties that bind while the world whizzes by.
Stop for Lunch
Driving from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe is one of the longest weekend road trips, but I promise the views and fresh mountain air makes the schlep to Tahoe totally worth it. For those who enjoy taking the scenic route, you might want to consider taking Route 395 rather than I-5 North. Some claim taking the freeway is quicker (depending on the traffic, I'm sure), US Route 395 is a much prettier drive. Plus, you'll get to stop along the way at Erick Schat's Bakery in the adorable roadside town of Bishop. Trust me, the bread here is off the chain!
If you do take I-5, consider stopping in Bakersfield for an old school burger & shake combo at the last surviving Woolworth Diner. Now nestled in a lovely antique mall, the 1950s diner offers the same fare you'd find during the sock hop days. Definitely worth a little detour.
Be Sure to Bundle Up
This seems obvious, but I'll say it anyway. If you're visiting Lake Tahoe during the winter months, please prepare for very chilly temperatures. Between the snow and the wind, Lake Tahoe can be a winter wonderland with gusts of freezing wind. You'll want gloves, hats, scarves, boots, and a good coat, and if you plan to hit the slopes, you'll also need snow pants. Hit up Amazon to save money on snow gear that you'll wear once a year.
Don't Forget Provisions
Assuming you've rented a cabin, you'll want to head to the local grocery store post haste. While there are several grocery stores in both North and South Lake Tahoe, there may not be full-service grocers in your area, so be sure to research options before you arrive. And some stores close early, so be sure to get your vittles while you can. You'll want that coffee and breakfast if you're snowed in the next morning!
Indulge a Little
We arrived at our cabin by midday, and the crisp, mountain air was all the refreshment we needed. So, after quickly unloading our bags, we were off to Tahoe City for a bite to eat and some shopping.
Soon, we found ourselves indulging in good beers and good food at Lake Tahoe Brewing Company. Some of us even walked away with a few new beer glasses for only $5 each. I loved the throwback logo design and couldn't resist buying one of each color. Our Lake Tahoe weekend getaway was off to a good start!
Shopping is Never a Bad Thing
"I hate shopping," said no one ever. Good thing Tahoe City has a few cute shops to explore. Spend some time bopping in and out of shops looking for Tahoe trinkets. In the winter you'll find fun boutiques filled with hand-knit scarves and hats, vintage clothing, and handmade jewelry. Tipsy Gypsy was a personal favorite of mine; I could have spent a fortune in there. Instead, I scored some amazing new pieces of rock quartz jewelry from LaLaDesigns, a small boutique with amazing one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.
We spent the rest of the evening doing all the things you'd expect girls to do on a Lake Tahoe weekend getaway: talking, telling stories, and playing games. Our favorite games, Catch Phrase and Cards Against Humanity, both made an appearance, causing hysterics to ensue. After all, isn't having fun the point?
For dinner that night we phoned it in, meaning we phoned the local pizzeria and asked them to deliver dinner. We were hitting the slopes the next day, so why not carb load?
Enjoy the Seasonal Activities
Day two of your Lake Tahoe weekend getaway is sure to be epic no matter what you do. Of course, your activities will depend on the time of year you visit and how active you and your girls want to be. Warmer months are perfect for hiking and biking, while winter months are paradise for athletic snowbirds. If hiking is your main objective, try this map of trails around Lake Tahoe. Swimming in the crystal clear lake is invigorating in the heat of summer as the mountain water is always crisp and cool. Skunk Harbor is the perfect combination of hiking and swimming. By the time you reach the swimming hole, you'll be ready for a little cool water on your skin.
If you're visiting during snow season, you'll want to visit Squaw Valley, home to the Olympic games in 1960. With a variety of activities for all ages, there's surely something everyone can enjoy. Hit the slopes on a rented snowboard or pair of skies, or barrel down the slopes on an intertube, my personal fav. If you'd like a little more solitude, experience nature on a scenic snowshoe tour (beginners welcome) or rent a pair of cross country skies.
Look for Locals Only Events to Attend
Standing on the snowy banks of Lake Tahoe, we gasped in awe of the 20+ men and women brave enough to venture into the icy waters in honor of the annual Polar Bear Swim. Each year, Tahoe City hosts Snow Fest, a week-long event that features the best of Lake Tahoe's activities, businesses, and vendors.
We shivered alongside hundreds of other onlookers as raucous cheers rang out for the swimmers. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to wade into the water.
Make New Friends
After the swim, we all headed to Gar Woods Grill & Pier for a bite to eat and a beverage. Apparently, Gar Woods has been graciously hosting the Polar Bear Swim festivities for years. It seemed like everyone was there to watch the swimmers and enjoy the festive atmosphere. Free appetizers lined the tables of the bar, while beer flowed from the nearby taps.
After the race, a good time was had by all, especially the swimmers. We even helped one hold his drink because he was so cold he could barely keep the cup in his hands! Even his polar bear costume couldn't warm those chilly bones.
Plan Good Meals
Soon, we headed back to the cabin, where, after a quick nap, we started story telling again. We listened intently as my girl, Amy, who grew up coming to Lake Tahoe, shared stories of being snowed in and unable to escape for days at a time. Having grown up in Louisiana (where it never snows), I was especially fascinated by these tales of Lake Tahoe snow storms.
To make our Lake Tahoe weekend getaway extra special, I'd offered to cook one night for my girls. For those of you who don't know, cooking is another one of my passions. So, I set to work whipping up a dinner fit for queens: roast chicken with lemon & garlic rub, asparagus risotto, and roast zucchini.
Bring an Old Movie Collection
Before we set off, we'd checked beforehand that the cabin offered cable in addition to several other amenities. If it hadn't, I had an arsenal of old movies ready to make the trip with us. After all, there's nothing wrong with a group of grown women singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You" in their pajamas.
For the rest of the night, we dined and drank delicious wine, sharing more stories of our childhoods, loves lost, and lessons learned. A brisk snow began to fall, adding to the existing blanket of snow outside. Cozily, we sat watching the snow fall while a favorite old movie played in the background.
Let Loose & Be Silly Together
The next morning we woke to an incredible winter wonderland. A fresh, clean blanket of snow lay over the land. Excited, we scrambled to get our snow gear on after noshing a quick breakfast of eggs and homemade hash browns. Snow angels here we come! We played in the snow for what felt hours, trying to make snow balls, snow men, and snow angels.
Exhilarated and cold, we finally went inside to shake off the chill and get ready to hit the road back to Los Angeles. Our weekend had flown by it seemed. Little did we know, we were snowed in! It wasn't until we started checking the road conditions did we realize that we might not be heading home after all. Suddenly, it was as if Amy's stories had become a reality.
Expect the Unexpected
Expected back at work the next day, we all began to worry about what one more night would mean. Sure, none of us were quite ready to go, but we knew that we'd best try to find a way to get out if possible. Bags packed and ready, we waited for updates about the road closure.
Several hours later we heard the news: the roads were open again! After shoveling snow from around the SUV, we hurriedly made a mad dash for the exit. It looked like our Lake Tahoe weekend getaway was really going to end.
Go with the Flow
An hour later on treacherous roads, we made it to the freeway. We had made it through the small, twisting roads that lead to Lake Tahoe, but the mountain pass still lay ahead. We stopped for provisions at Mellow Fellow, a dog-friendly pub with tons of craft beers and a good lunch menu.
Others had clearly been waiting there a while for the roads to open, as they'd taken advantage of the many board games supplied by the bar to pass the time. If the pass didn't open soon, we'd all have to turn around and venture back down to Tahoe City for another night.
Stay Calm and Work Together
Just then we heard the announcement ring through the crowd in the bar. The pass was open! After a little debate on the safety of our plan, we quickly paid our tab and hit the road. We had to try to get out, even if we failed.
The atmosphere in the car was tense and uncertain, but we knew we could trust our driver to get us out if the roads allowed. Lines of cars were in front and back of us, as everyone was just as anxious to get out as we were. After another hour of painfully slow driving, we made it out of the mountains. Amy and our rented 4x4 saved the day!
Good Tunes Help Get You Home
We spent the next 6 hours chatting and listening to our epic 90's road trip playlist on our way back to Los Angeles. It had been a good trip, one that we'd never forget. Memories had been made, beer had been drank, and snowy mountain passes conquered. By the time we got to Bakersfield, we were already planning our next road trip to Lake Tahoe.
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