May 25 2010

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Lights on the Lake: The West’s best 4th of July vacation

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By Jennifer Nielsen

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Spectators enjoying Lights on the Lake, Lake Tahoe's 4th of July celebration. Credit: rasputin243.

As a Lake Tahoe native, I’ve been lucky to grow up experiencing North America’s largest alpine lake straddling both Nevada and California. Best-known for its ski resorts, Lake Tahoe is also an extraordinarily beautiful summer vacation destination with an amazing 4th of July celebration. The 72-miles of lakeshore offer spellbinding scenery and rugged terrain, with almost perfect daytime temperatures and cool nights. If you’re looking for the perfect 4th of July vacation, there’s no more spectacular place to be than Tahoe’s Lights on the Lake celebration.

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Meek Beach, Lake Tahoe. Credit: The Tahoe Guy.

Set to music that fills your heart with joy and pride, the 4th of July Lights on the Lake celebration is considered to be the largest pyrotechnics show in the West. And South Lake Tahoe more than rises to the occasion with abundant festivities and activities, drawing both visitors and locals to its shores to help kick off the season. But the show doesn’t stop here: beyond the 4th of July extravaganza, there’s an incredible summer vacation here just waiting to be had.

Here’s a few tips on how to best enjoy the show and experience the beauty of a Lake Tahoe summer vacation:

Where to watch the fireworks
The fireworks are launched from several barges just off the South Shore at the Stateline and there are several viewing options. Short of actually being in a boat directly under the fireworks cruising the lake, Nevada Beach is a great place to see the fireworks (located off Hwy 50, just north of Stateline, on Elk Point Road). Regan and El Dorado Beaches (where Hwy 50 meets the Lake) also offer good views. Other good vantage points include Baldwin Beach (off Hwy 89) and Bijou Community Park (on the corner of Johnson and Al Tahoe Blvds.)

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Lights on the Lake fireworks, Lake Tahoe. Credit: rasputin243.

What to wear
During the day Lake Tahoe is in the high 70’s to low 80’s so be sure to have your shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. Don’t forget your beach chair, cooler, and beach bag (make sure it packed full of suntan lotion and a good book). The days in July tend to be warm but nights are chilly. Evenings usually require you to layer up so be sure to bring warm clothes, especially if you’re checking out “Lights on the Lake” from a boat (it won’t likely get too cold until several hours later, when you’re finally getting your boat out of the water).

What to do
These activities really add to the Lights on the Lake experience, but most would still be a blast at any point on your summer vacation.

1. Rent a boat or jet ski from one of many Lake Tahoe marina’s and head out on the lake for a couple of hours.

2. Take a cruise on the M.S. Dixie or Tahoe Queen paddle wheelers. The tours offer wonderful service, unlimited photo opportunities, and the chance to see the Emerald Bay up close and personal — Lake Tahoe has incredible visibility and it’s a must to experience it on the water!

3. Go for a hike or bike ride on any number of hiking and biking trails around the Lake.

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Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Credit: The Tahoe Guy.

4. Check out some of the historical places around the Lake such as the Vikingsholm and Fannette Island, the CalNeva Resort (Old Rat Pack Hangout).

5. For top notch views of Lake Tahoe, ride the Heavenly Gondola which transports guests in its 8-passenger cabins 2.4 miles up the mountain in 12 minutes. Guest will arrive at the Deck, a 14,000 square foot mid-station observation platform. Located at 9,123 feet, the Deck treats visitors to incredible scenes of the Carson Valley and Desolation Wilderness.

6. Check out Tahoe’s premiere sport fishing guide service by booking a fishing charter with Tahoe Topliners. Great for a family outing, guys or girls trip, office entertainment, or just the chance to chase a trophy trout.

7. Cross over from California to Nevada to gamble. From high-end luxury casinos with full buffets to low- scale casinos where you might hope the slots are a little looser. Don’t forget the live entertainment, dining, and shopping that come along with casinos.

Where to stay
Lake Tahoe accommodations range from hotel rooms, studios and condos, and across all budgets. Whatever you choose, make your reservations in advance since Lake Tahoe’s 4th of July Celebration is often a sell out.

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A market manager for the West’s ski and mountain region, Jennifer Nielsen lives in Lake Tahoe and Park City with her husband and young daughter. A fan of every season, she loves water skiing and boating in the summer, and of course,  skiing in the winter.

More About: Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn is a travel writer and Chicago journalist whose work appears in Chicago magazine, HuffPost Travel and Condé Nast’s HotelChatter. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and considers thrill seeking part of the DNA. Find her on Twitter at @ninakhahn.
View More Posts By Nina Kokotas Hahn
Posted on: May 25, 2010 | Tags: | Category: California VacationCategory: Family TravelCategory: Gambling VacationCategory: Holidays & EventsCategory: Travel Tips

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