We’ve traveled to Lake Tahoe and Reno on Interstate 80 for winter sports or summer getaways often passing through Truckee and sometimes pausing for gas, a bite to eat or to remove tire chains. We never thought to stay overnight or go there for winter sports. Two recent stays have totally changed our mind. Truckee and the town’s premier resort area, Northstar, are both certified GEMS! And how about this for a start: highly regarded National Geographic Travel, Sunset, and Travel & Leisure magazines have named Truckee one of the best ski towns in the West. Our magazine can now join this prestigious list.
Lodging, Dining & Entertainment:
Let’s start with the crème de la crème:
Ritz Carlton Tahoe, a luxurious five-star property at the Northstar resort area, is the finest mountain hotel property we’ve visited. And yes, that includes Colorado’s and Utah’s upscale resorts known for winter sports. It’s also the only AAA Five Diamond mountain resort in California. Their mid-mountain location encourages ski-in/ski-out access to Northstar’s top-notch groomed runs for all skill levels from novice to expert. Ritz’s first class slope-side spa features sixteen treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools while their fitness center offers state-of-the-art training equipment and exercise classes. Dazzling architecture, two beautiful year-round heated outdoor pools, stunning guest rooms with a superb concierge club level option and seasonally inspired California cuisine in their signature restaurant, Manzanita, are additional hallmarks. Family oriented activities like complimentary S’mores around artistically sculptured fire-pits are offered all year and bocce ball, beanbag throw and other games are waiting during summers.
On our most recent stay we also checked into Cedar House Sport Hotel, another deluxe Truckee property, exuding a very European flair. Many consider their Stella restaurant one of Truckee’s finest. Imported German bedding systems, sleek Euro furnishings, delightful complimentary buffet breakfasts in Stella and an outdoor hot tub are highlights.
Have a tighter budget and into a more laid back stay? If so, we suggest you consider checking into the modest yet recently renovated historic 1873’s Truckee Hotel and home to Moody’s Bistro, Bar and Beats. This small but iconic watering hole features excellent comfort food and live entertainment a few nights each week. Normally their bands provide high octane music that should rock your soul. www.truckeehotel.com. For more casual and light dining treats, a quieter brand of live entertainment and a less crowded venue than Moody’s, consider the Bar of America, a local hangout for 40 years. Their spicy cowboy chili with the unusual combo of white beans, smoked chicken and chipotle cream was the best we’ve tasted in years. www.barofamerica.com.
Another of our best meals on a recent visit was at the beautiful Lodge at Tahoe Donner perched high up the hill behind town overlooking one of the area’s finest Sierra golf courses open to the public. If warm enough, be sure to opt for dining on their new outdoor deck. This Tahoe Donner community is an ultra-deluxe development and should be a perfect location for a future high-end lodging property. It also offers horseback trail rides in the summer and novice and intermediate levels of downhill skiing and snowboarding with a recently enhanced cross country skiing area during winter seasons. www.tahoedonner.com.
What to See & Do:
First and foremost you need to spend time at Northstar, one of the country’s most highly praised family winter and summer season resort complexes. A world class skiing and snowboarding school, a wide range of well groomed runs suitable for all skill levels and an ice skating rink highlight the winters. Summer season features world-class mountain bike trails, rollerskating, a bungee jump trampoline, hiking trails, a ropes course, gondola trips and a championship golf course. If staying at the Ritz you can grab the complimentary intermountain gondola and head down to the Village at Northstar during high seasons for lots of shopping, dining and entertainment options. A great choice for lunch is Rubicon, where the tasty pizzas and friendly staff are welcome plusses. For more lodging properties, dining possibilities and all Northstar activities go to: www.northstarcalifornia.com. History buffs and hikers should not miss the Donner Memorial State Park (also a National Historic Landmark) we’ve always associated with Truckee. Dedicated to the infamous Donner Party, a group of eighty-seven settlers from Illinois that headed off to Sacramento’s Sutters Fort in the 1800s. After becoming snowbound, mostly as a result of poor decision-making, only forty-eight miraculously survived. Located right next to Truckee and the nearby Donner Lake, this 3,243 acre park, started in 1928, features 2.5 miles of hiking trails, 3 miles of lake frontage, the Emigrant Trail Museum and the awesome Pioneer Monument. www.parks.ca.gov.
This recent visit brought to light a few new inviting changes giving downtown Truckee a much more welcoming vibe: new boutique shops; better restaurant choices; attractive sidewalk pavers; and small trees wrapped in twinkling lights lining the main streets.
TIP: Downtown streets now have paid parking, but free limited parking is available at the lot across the street from the Truckee Hotel.
Bottom line: Winter or summer visitors to Truckee will find a plethora of outdoor fun activities and a wonderfully clean-air atmosphere that could hook them on the town’s quintessential mountain lifestyle. For all things Truckee check out: www.truckeechamber.com