The Reality TV Junkie's Guide to Lake Tahoe

Swimming, skiing—and the opportunity to check in on the latest 'Vanderpump' venture.

The view from Lake Tahoe from the Heavenly Village gondolas.
(Image credit: Sophia Vilensky)

Lake Tahoe is gorgeous. It's "I can't believe I'm in America" gorgeous, or rather "I can't believe I'm on earth" gorgeous. It's dreamy, heavenly, and any other adjective you might think of to describe a place where one of the best activities to partake in is staring at the landscape.

While many think of Lake Tahoe as a destination for skiing, hiking, and other physical activities (there's truly something outdoors-y to do year-round), there's a separate type of traveler running to the mountains these days. These people, my people, are the cozy seekers. Sure, we want to see the scenery, but we'd rather see it from the comfort of our plush hotel bed while whatever movie happens to be playing on Bravo runs in the background. And then? We want to head to the bar and see some Real Housewives in real life.

This April, Lisa Vanderpump (of best TV show ever Vanderpump Rules fame) opened a new restaurant, Wolf by Vanderpump, in the natural paradise—her first outside of reality TV hotspots LA and Vegas. The third restaurant to come from LVP's partnership with Caesars Entertainment Group, Wolf is located in Harvey's Casino Hotel (which does indeed feature excellent views from their beds).

"Lake Tahoe is one of the most exquisite places I’ve ever seen," Vanderpump tells Marie Claire of how Wolf came to be. "We immediately felt this vision come to life, of dripping icicles in a forest, and uncaged wolves, and it developed from there."

Ahead, everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Lake Tahoe. Detox, retox, and let your eyes do the heavy lifting.

Grab a Room With a View

The view of Lake Tahoe at sunrise.

The Lake Tahoe in the early morning, view via a Harvey's hotel room. Yes, this is also what you see from bed. And the shower.

(Image credit: Sophia Vilensky)

For my traipse to Tahoe, I stayed exactly where the action is. Harvey's Hotel & Casino in South Lake Tahoe just so happens to house Wolf by Vanderpump and a number of other brilliant dining establishments with food and drinks as delicious as the views (yes, views can be delicious! I want to slurp that mountain/water combo right up). It's also literal steps away from so much Tahoe fun, including the shopping of Heavenly Village and the town gondola to bring you up into the mountains for a sight to behold and a bit of après-ski—even if you're not actually hitting the slopes.

The view of Lake Tahoe from the Harvey's Hotel Room shower.

Imagine a shower here followed by a plush hotel robe and Hell's Kitchen room service. (The lobster risotto, obviously.)

(Image credit: Sophia Vilensky)

If you're looking for a quainter abode, you can also check out the Coachman Hotel, a boutique property housed in a pair of 1960s buildings that offers complimentary s'mores kits. North Lake Tahoe has Cedar Glen Lodge, a cozy, cottage-y spot with all the rustic details your Instagram post is waiting for. Larger rentals also abound if you plan to whoop it up with a group—the Vanderpump cast rented a pet-friendly six-bedroom house right on the water in Zephyr Cove when they were in town.

Enjoy a Lake Day

Emphasis on Lake Tahoe here. Whether you arrive in the winter and decide to appreciate the chilly water from afar or take a dip in the summertime, there's nothing like the bright blue waters of the largest alpine lake in North America to make you feel purified. (I know Prince was talking about Lake Minnetonka, but when was the last time he visited the California/Nevada border?)

View of the waters of Lake Tahoe from a boat.

There's nothing like a little scenic yacht cruise to start your day. You can even charter the Tahoe Star, which the VPR cast took out during their Season 11 cast trip.

(Image credit: Sophia Vilensky)

Measuring a whopping 22 miles at its longest and widest point, the lake is best enjoyed by boat. Sail south to Emerald Bay, a stunning, actually emerald-toned inlet and state park that's positively crowded with enjoyers in the warm months (it doesn't take away from the beauty, promise). The area is also home to the lake’s only island, Fannette Island, which is itself home to the marvelous "Tea House," a small, castle-like structure where one Lora Josephine Knight, a Californian philanthropist, would be rowed out to for tea in the 1930s. (Don't you wish they had RHOBH in the early 20th century?)

Perhaps easier to access (pull up to the dock or hike a one-mile trail from the parking lot on Highway 89) is Lora's other Tahoe residence. Inspired by the architecture of Scandinavia, the impressive Vikingsholm Castle is just steps from the water and open daily for tours from June to September. Hang out by the beach, marvel at the trees, or appreciate the lapping waves from a different vantage point. Oh, and say hi to the positively adorable ducks.

Get (Somewhat) Outdoorsy

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I know, this isn't that type of travel guide. But you'd be remiss to visit this lush landscape and not spend a little time in the open air. Whether you decide to pack your snowsuit or swimsuit is up to you.

A year-round travel destination, snow season in the Tahoe area typically begins in mid-November and ends in April. In the summertime, you'll find trail options for the seasoned hiker and stroller alike (bike rentals are also available, if that's more your speed), or you can check out the famous clear kayaks for a decent arm workout and 360 degree views. Stargazing tours fit with LED lights are even offered at night.

And if that all sounds truly terrible, just go for a bite on the patio and breathe in that cool, clear mountain air. Or maybe take a yoga class on the beach? Relaxation is on the agenda, after all.

Visit the Spa

Because you're fully surrounded by two very grounding elements—earth and water—it makes sense that you'd want to turn inward when visiting Lake Tahoe. You know how Sedona, Arizona has its vortexes? I'd be surprised if there wasn't something going on energetically here, too.

If I had my pick, I'd head to the spa at Edgewood Tahoe Resort for the Earth Connection Ritual. It features dry brushing, a full-body basalt stone massage, and wild lime scalp treatment to literally ground you from head to toe. The north-side Lake Tahoe Ritz-Carleton Spa's Journey Through the Forest offering also features an exfoliation treatment, plus a private soaking tub and full-body massage to restore and delight, all set to the scent of native essential oils designed to release deep stress and tension.

Have a Pumptini

The Pump and Bump cocktail at Wolf by Vanderpump.

(Image credit: Sophia Vilensky)

We know why you're really here!!! The final boss in a nationwide Vanderpump Rules bar crawl (West Hollywood's Sexy Unique Restaurant, aka SUR , TomTom, and Something About Her and Las Vegas's Vanderpump Vegas, Vanderpump à Paris, and soon-to-open Pinky's by Vanderpump somehow seem a little easier to descend upon), Wolf is an absolute delight. While I naturally tried everything on the menu, standouts were the pull-apart gruyere and herb Wolf Bread (it comes with hot honey butter and whipped lava salt butter), goat cheese balls (a necessity!), lobster ceviche crisps (so fresh), crispy tricolor cauliflower (tempura-d to perfection), and herb dusted wild salmon (I loved the braised chickpeas on the side).

As far as cocktails are concerned, the fruity Pumptini is a classic for a reason. The Giggy Tonic—a giant, purple, botanical G&T—and the Bitch in Heat (okay, Lisa!) spicy margarita are both delightful, or you can go really sexy and unique with the Pump and Bump, a vodka martini that balances a bump of caviar. And yes, there's an espresso martini on the menu. And a shot-ski! There's even a drink topped with cotton candy and equally gorgeous mocktail selection. Need I go on? I will, you know—this is my favorite subject.

On the left, a woman reclines on a couch drinking a cocktail. On the right, a dog laying on a table with a glass of champagne.

On the left, me, and on the right, Donut Vanderpump. Both having an equally great time at Wolf.

(Image credit: Left: Sophia Vilensky, Right: Dylan Hafer)

While you're dining, take a second to focus on the design details, from the (faux, I presume) fur upholstery to the icicle chandelier. LVP and her design partner, Nick Alain, do not skimp on experience. They brought the grand outdoors and special Tahoe feeling to a place with goat cheese balls and a chocolate ganache pine cone, and Bravo fans/indulgent vacationers from far and wide should be thankful.

Sophia Vilensky
Freelance Writer

Sophia Vilensky is a Freelance Beauty Writer at Marie Claire with a beauty, wellness, and entertainment journalism portfolio that includes contributions to Byrdie, Bravo, Teen Vogue, and Us Weekly. Growing up in a family of beauticians—and through her own personal studies—she developed an in-depth understanding of aesthetics, cosmetic product formulation, and beauty treatment development and has also held roles as a senior copywriter, content strategist, and proofreader for top beauty and wellness brands. Even so, you'd be hard pressed to find her with her hair and makeup actually done. Sophia is based in Minneapolis and is a 2019 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she majored in English and minored in cinema studies. During her time at the university, she was the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Minnesota Daily, earning the 2019 Editor of the Year award for her work. She connected deeply with the Twin Cities arts scene, collaborating with leading beauty professionals, designers, and artists. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, her thesis—a close-reading of Vanderpump Rules—was featured on NPR. When not immersed in writing or testing new products, Sophia enjoys watching reality TV, reading, and exploring the newest woo-woo wellness trends. Keep up with her on Instagram @sophiavilensky.