Guest Traveller Neil O’Sullivan travelled in September to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA. Irish-born but living in Sydney, Neil is owner and director of Sydney’s first, exclusive, infrared sauna Nimbus & Co, in Bondi. This trip to Lake Tahoe wasn’t the first time Neil had ventured to this “inland paradise” popular with revellers from the West Coast of the US, most notably, San Franciscans. This time, however, he arrived at this beautiful, yet massive, lakeside acropolis for the wedding of one of his closest childhood friends. His friend had frequented San Francisco through high school and university and on one of those trips, the groom met his now bride in Lake Tahoe. The rest, as they say, is history. Let’s join Neil as he recounts his “American Dream” of a jaunt in Northern California…
The initial aspect of note about Lake Tahoe is the purpose fit, all-year-round attraction that comes with this place. Whether it’s the middle of winter – where you’ll see the place packed with transient avid skiers – or the summer – where the mood and feeling resembles a scene from a 70s Hollywood movie with aristocrats sipping cocktails beside poolside bars – it really has it all.
It’s definitely where the rich come to play. It’s not a cheap vacation but it’s a memorable one. The scenery alone when you drive there is simply stunning. Whether you want to make the drive from San Francisco, a popular route – a 3-hour ride without traffic mind you – or whether you choose to fly into Reno, a shorter 45-minute ride – either way, the views are breathtaking. Get ready for popping your ears as you climb the mountain hillsides and if you like evergreen trees or that autumn-y smell of sap on tree barks, you’ll be in heaven.
We stayed in Incline Village, north of the lake. You have a few options here in terms of accommodation. The wedding itself was located in the main hotel of the area, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Lakeside Cottage Green. However, I was catching up with a lot of childhood friends (about 20 of us to be exact, partners included) so we decided to rent a big house just a short, 10-minute walk from the hotel. The pros to doing it this way are that you get your own place, stunning views as you’re at a height, as well as the comfort feel of a very American-style country cottage. Plus, if you have a rental car, it’s only a short two-minute drive down to cafes/bars, etc.. Alternatively, the hotel itself is stunning. For anyone who likes a flutter, yes, there is a casino on site on the main floor of the hotel. I can’t tell you how much fun it was on the night of the wedding itself, to have two or three black jack tables littered with your dearest friends, in full black-tie attire, sharing everlasting memories – just surreal.
A short walk from the hotel to the lakeside, you’ll find yourself at the bar resort connected to the hotel, and the venue for said wedding. Wow, this place really is magical – it has it all. You’re in good company there. We even had a sing-song with an older group, one of whom had actually lived and drank in a local pub where we grew up in Ireland; small world.
The views of the lake were out of this world. There’s a jetty you can walk down that has a cocktail bar at the end where you can watch the sun set. You can literally dangle your legs over the side whilst sipping on a Hendricks G&T or an Espresso Martini. The beach itself is really user-friendly and comes with cabanas and sun beds for rent (you do have to be a hotel resident to use it though – but we snuck in).
But I haven’t even gotten to the wedding part yet. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip as, being an Irishman, and living through the rich, Catholic upbringing of my youth, who’d have thought that, 20 years later, getting married in a church would now seem so alien to me? Well, us Irish also like our greenery and we had the pleasure of watching the big day on the beautiful grass lawn overlooking the water – this felt so much more natural to me now than what I envisaged as a child. You really had to pinch yourself being there. Oh, and did I mention I was a groomsman too? Yet another highlight.
It was a great honour to be named within the main wedding party. The groomsmen and I were lucky as we had the use of the hotel boardroom for the pre-wedding dressing and suit donning. Only the groom, his best man and the groomsmen were allowed in. We were spoilt with this VIP treatment. We were welcomed by chilled beers, aged whiskey, and old school music from our youth, all in the same room as our closest pals. A serious touch of class was added by the groom when he offered us all a brand-new timepiece, coupled with a pocket square to remember the day. What a day.
This really was the perfect place for a wedding. The pre-wedding rehearsal dinner was spent at the picturesque Sand Harbor Beach, Ramada Picnic Area – just a short five-minute drive away. Here, we relaxed to a picture-perfect sunset by the water once more, all over a classic American BBQ and some heart-warming speeches. We threw in a few sing-songs as well – in fact, the Irish mob drew some notability because of our singing escapades (it’s in our blood, really) throughout the trip.
Fast forward through the wedding day and what better way to get over a few heavy nights wetting our taste buds then a day on the water. That’s one of the best parts to the Lake; it’s super easy to get out on the water and you’ve got a few options here. This time round, we actually booked a catamaran (they run daily at various times with different companies). It came fully equipped with a captain, food and nibbles and of course, drinks – for $80 USD via AWS Incline (we rented the charter called ‘Sierra Cloud Catamaran’). Alternatively, you can go it alone and rent your own boat. It will be a lot smaller though! This is just as fun but, we did this the first time I was at the lake and you can’t beat dropping the anchor mid-lake and hopping in for a dip. If you go the catamaran route you won’t be able to swim though. When we had our own boat, it was fourth of July weekend when we were there and we had the freedom to be able moor up at a bar (they literally reeled us in) that was right on the lake, filled with people all celebrating America’s big day – it was quite something: ‘The American Dream’.
Tahoe really is a place you simply have to add to your list if you’re travelling to the west coast of the US anytime soon. It has all the activities you could hope for in a holiday but also gives you ease at which to relax and get away from human contact, if that’s what you’re looking for. Not many places can offer both the lure of activities and relaxation at the same time, but this place does. You can swim, relax, pamper yourself, gamble if you want to, rent a boat, admire how the other half lives and the fancy cars they drive, go for hikes and even get married. You can rent kayaks, float the Truckee Rivers, visit Historic Truckee, golf, or even go bowling. It even gives up some welcomed surprises (like seeing the famous houses alongside the lake while on our boat – we even got to see the famous house from the “Godfather” movies) and some not-so-welcomed surprises, like the night where we were stopped by flashlight from a local neighbour screaming to us that a bear had just been seen down the road rummaging and that we’d better get indoors immediately. Although, we’re told, there are no grizzlies here so it’s pretty safe for random bear run-ins (but they do have ‘bear-proof’ bins! Yikes).
In a nutshell, you’ll get a lot from your time here. It comes with all the mod cons I’ve mentioned but always keeps its class throughout. The people, the vibe and the experience gives you a sense of duality that sees old money meet forest reserve, a ‘California in the Woods’, if you like. Plus, it’s only a short drive or flight away, which is nothing for us Aussies who are used to long drives.
A must go.
If you’d like to know more about Tahoe, feel free to reach out to me on social media @neilosul or get me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can check out the wedding website, which details heaps of cool things to do.
Neil’s Top Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Lake Tahoe:
- Lake Tahoe has a purpose fit, all-year-round attraction.
- Whether you want to make the drive from San Francisco, a popular route – a 3-hour ride without traffic mind you – or whether you choose to fly into Reno, a shorter 45-minute ride – either way, the views are breathtaking.
- We stayed in Incline Village, north of the lake. You have a few options here in terms of accommodation. We stayed in a big house which we rented through…
- Rent a catamaran or a small boat and explore the lake.
- Watch out for bears!