Guide to South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe will forever hold a special place in my heart. When I was two months old, my Nonna (my dad’s Italian mother) took us there for a week of summer vacation. Obviously, I don’t remember that trip, but my family made it a tradition for the next 14 years to visit that same place, all of us parents, kids, aunts, uncles, EVERYONE into a three story condo for 7 days, at the end of every July. I will treasure those memories forever.

When my Nonna died the year of my 14th birthday, my mom and dad decided that they would continue on the tradition in South Lake. Though because it was something my grandma had hosted every year, they would have to save up; every 3-4 years since my Nonna’s passing, my parents had treated my siblings and myself to that vacation, inviting whoever could come from our extended family to join. This year was quite a different dynamic, and unexpected as my aunt and uncle surprised us early in the year that they had booked a condo for us all to spend the week. With spouses and kids and all of us cousins grown up, it was like it had all come full circle. It was a special week spending time together in a space that holds so much nostalgia and happy childhood memories for all of us.

My guide for South Lake Tahoe mostly contains food, a few shops and one or two sights because, well.. the beautiful “to do + to see” is everywhere. Drive to any neighborhood near the lake or the mountain and you will find scenic walks, sometimes trails and anything along the water is going to be picturesque. I think this is one of the most incredible things about Tahoe. You can go with barely any money but will find plenty to do, see and eat. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite places from this trip below!

My little family on the shores of South Tahoe!

My little family on the shores of South Tahoe!

To eat:

Sprouts Natural Foods Cafe: Try the Kale Refresher: kale, spinach, apple, ginger and orange juice. This is an ultra healthy cafe with a full breakfast and lunch menu and an extensive fresh juice and smoothie menu.

Azul Latin Kitchen: Right in the hub of the “tourist” arena, but well worth the trek through the crowds. They had delicious margaritas and a quinoa kale salad that is heavenly (pun sort of intended, you will know why when you park)!

Slice of Sierra Pizza: Organic, non-gmo pizza dough and sauce + mostly organic ingredients for toppings and salads. A good place to bring small kids (arcade games!) or spouses who like a cold beer with their pizza!

Alpina Cafe

Alpina Cafe

To coffee + hang:

Alpina Cafe: This house turned cafe is too cute. Tucked away into the trees on the way from South Lake to Emerald Bay, it’s the perfect spot to stop and grab a light lunch before renting bikes at Anderson’s or driving the scenic, narrow road to Fallen Leaf Lake (I recommend both)! Sitting inside gave me all of the cozy mountain cabin feels and reminded me of a European hostel living room. With homemade pastries, sandwiches and funky trinkets all around, it was a perfect pit stop before our afternoon adventures.

Free Bird Cafe: A funky little shed cafe with a small outdoor seating area. They are known for their homemade chai, fairtrade coffee and organic smoothies and pastries. A must visit!

Revive Coffee + Wine: A gorgeous, wifi-free space encouraging face-to-face interaction, this local coffee and wine house turns into an event space in the evenings. With open space for live music private events, this is a perfect stop along the path at El Dorado Beach about a block away.



Black Cabin Coffee: You guys, my favorite coffee spot in South Lake Tahoe (thanks to Kelly at Gaialicious for the recommendation)! Their beans are roasted in house and come from co-op farms that use sustainable harvesting practices. On top of that, their menu selection is INSANE. Try the Fireside Mocha if you go. It’s a super spicy blend of ancho AND chipotle chiles, organic Peruvian cacao, espresso, steamed (I had) almond milk and whipped cream. Drinking this coffee was one of my favorite experiences in Tahoe this trip. Not only was the mocha delicious, the shop is nestled into the trees and the staff was incredibly friendly!

The Morning After: WIFI! If you are someone who will be working on your trip, write this name down! I enjoyed the lack of available wifi in Tahoe as a whole because it forced me to really unplug from the rest of the world, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me slightly uncomfortable that I couldn’t do much work. This place saved me when I had a website mishap and needed a quiet place to sit and use the wifi for a half hour.

Aleworx: Craft beer enthusiasts, unite! There are two locations (my recommendation is to find the one at the “Y”, closer to Camp Richardson, not the one at the Nevada border near the casinos). Buy a wristband, and it’s a self-serve taproom with an open outdoor seating area; some evenings there is also live music on the patio. They also had a kombucha on tap when I went!

To shop:

Grass Roots Natural Foods: One stop shop for all of your grocery/sunscreen/”oops I forgot my chapstick” needs. I appreciate small markets like this one because I know the selection has already been paired down to the best choices.

Tot to Tot: South Lake Tahoe’s only used children’s apparel/shoes/toy store! I found this shop on my hunt to replace my daughter’s sandals after our car had been stolen the week before our vacation with them inside. I didn’t want to buy anything new since I know she will likely grow out of them in a matter of weeks, so I was stoked to find this place! It’s pretty large inside, but easy to navigate, full of anything a mama could need for her child, and they do have some new items as well!

Gaialicious: A boutique focused on fair trade, local and handmade. I (of course) was so excited to visit Gaialicious, as I had been there before- years before dreaming up the Sister House Collective shop! During this visit, I noticed they stocked KarmaLit and Conscious Coconut, two brands I adore and carried in our shop, so I started chatting with their owner, Kelly- who is amazing! She too is part of the collective effort to bring sustainable, high quality goods to the people. We had a great time talking and I ended up leaving with a beautiful hand-felted banner for my daughter’s birthday and a handcrafted zipper pouch. She also pointed me in the direction of Black Cabin Coffee and Aleworx, so thank you for those recommendations Kelly!

Kelly from Gaialicious

Kelly from Gaialicious

Wildwood Maker’s Market: Right next door to Gaialicious, it’s like Etsy come to life! Wildwood is a curated shop filled with handmade goods from independent artists and makers all over the country (although the majority is made by local artists and is Tahoe/nature inspired) and because I'm a card junkie, I have to add that they have a large selection of cute cards! They have some DIY kits as well, plus a connected yarn and workshop space, Knits and Knots.



So what are your thoughts? Have you been to South Lake Tahoe, or are you going? If you use the guide, make sure you tag #shcconsciousgirlsguide in one of your posts! Happy traveling!



TravelAshley Ayala