After spending the morning hiking upper Eagle Falls above Emerald Bay and enjoying a relaxing picnic overlooking the gorgeous, bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe, we decided to drive into South Lake Tahoe find something fun to do before checking into our hotel.
When heading to Lake Tahoe, we usually always head up I-80 to Tahoe City and North Lake Tahoe. We were never really fans of the casino scene in South Lake Tahoe, so it had been years since we had explored the area. We love the Village at Squaw Valley and the Village at North Star California, so it was time we checked out the Heavenly Village.
The Shops At Heavenly Village
The shops at Heavenly Village didn’t disappoint!
Located at the base of the Heavenly Gondola, the Village offers a diverse shopping experience, restaurants, a movie theater, and while we were there, live music! Because it was Labor Day weekend, it was super crowded and there were really long lines at every quick eats location, and the Starbucks line was more like a long Disneyland line.
There were several special events happening around the Village, including a cool old car show along the main road. Three different awesome bands were playing too, so we grabbed a drink, found a spot to relax, and just enjoyed the music and the warm late summer sun.
We also debated whether or not we wanted to ride the Heavenly Gondola up the mountain. It sounded awesome, and we had a blast riding the aerial tram at Squaw Valley, but it was already late in the day, it would be closing in an hour, and it would cost us more than $120. Ultimately we bought the gondola tickets because it was my early birthday weekend and I wanted to do it!
Heavenly Scenic Gondola Rides
There was no line for the Gondola Ride, so we were able to hop into an eight-passenger glass cabin gondola alone right away.
The Heavenly Mountain Gondola swept us up the mountainside for a 2.4 mile ride featuring views of the rugged Tahoe mountain landscape and expansive views of Lake Tahoe. Partway up, at 9,123 feet elevation, the gondola stops at a 14,000 square foot observation deck. From the observation deck, we were able to see breathtaking views of Desolation Wilderness, Carson Valley, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and South Lake Tahoe.
Just make sure you get off the gondola to check out the observation deck on the way up the mountain, because you don’t get the opportunity to get off on the way down.
When we were done taking in the views on the observation deck (and hit the restrooms), we reboarded the gondola for the rest of the ride up Heavenly Mountain. The gondola ride ends in a mountaintop bowl where you can no longer see the lake. We knew Heavenly had added summer activities at the summit, but we didn’t really have any idea how expansive it was.
The Heavenly Mountain summer activity center is impressive to say the least. There are zip lines and adventure ropes courses for kids and adults from beginner level to advanced level, as well as tubing, dining, and hiking trails — and the kids were simply dying that they couldn’t do anything because it was too late in the day.
The kids were begging to come back. Brian and I had to promise to bring them again in 2016 to do all of the activities just to get them on the gondola for the ride back down the mountain.
Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort
By the time we reached the Village, we were starving. It was finally time to check in to our hotel, the Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort. We had seen the timeshare hotel during construction and were surprised to see it available online when booking a place to stay. It turns out, that the property makes rooms not booked by their timeshare holders available online to fill the property.
Upon arrival, there wasn’t a single space in the parking lot. We parked in a temporary space and went inside to check in, where they really pushed the timeshare and sold us valet parking. What?! The hotel doesn’t have enough parking for all of its guests and charges extra to park your vehicle for you. Our room with two queen beds, had a partial kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker, but it was small and felt like something you’d get staying at a roadside Best Western.
Again, we were starving, so we headed over to the hotel restaurant Bear Moon Bar and Grill, but it was empty at almost 6:00pm on a Saturday night, and that is never a good sign.
Instead we walked across the street to Riva Grill, a premier South Lake Tahoe waterfront dining destination. The floor to ceiling windows and a large dining deck create a beautiful, welcoming environment with breath-taking views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierras. And even with the cooling temperatures at sundown, the portable heaters make it cozy and comfortable.
Even without reservations, Riva Grill had us seated within 15 minutes on their patio. Our server was funny, gracious, and helpful. He went out of his way to make Natalie and Carter comfortable and to get Carter (my picky eater) a meal option not on the menu that he liked.
When we first sat down, our server brought the kids activity sheets and crayons, and the table, crunchy bread sticks and dipping sauces. Carter was engrossed in his drawing, really hungry, and so tired from our day of hiking. So much so, that he had a crayon in one hand and a bread stick in the other — and he actually started eating the crayon instead of the bread stick! And what’s even funnier is that he didn’t notice at first and kept chewing the crayon! We all were laughing so hard and we’re going to tease him about this forever!
The food at Riva Grill was so delicious! Natalie had a grilled chicken, bacon, and artichoke heart Conchiglie, Brian had a seafood pasta, and I had a decadent filet burger. We wrapped up our meal with a gooey fresh peach cobbler and Deep Fried Oreo Beignets with powdered sugar and vanilla bean ice cream (which were amazing).
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to get into our pajamas and play a few rounds of our new favorite card game Exploding Kittens, “a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.” The cards are funny, weird, and the “nope” card is my favorite card in the whole game. While my daughter really likes Exploding Kittens, my son absolutely loves it. If you have a son, you should buy this game!
When we come back to South Lake Tahoe to do all of the fun family activities atop Heavenly Mountain, we’re definitely coming back to Riva Grill again!
What About You?
Have you ever rode the Heavenly Mountain Gondola or done any of the summer activities at Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe? Have you dined at Riva Grill? What did you think?
I’d love to hear from you!