Lake Tahoe

April 1, 2009

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Lake Tahoe entices each of our five senses. There are incredible surroundings to see, casino slot machines to hear, local cuisine to taste and fresh snow to feel. Unlike a lot of places, Tahoe also pleases one’s sense of smell with a crisp, pine tree-infused scent that matches its pristine natural surroundings.

While it’s equipped with a variety of accommodations, meeting spaces and attractions to handle the indoor aspects of group gatherings—from board retreats to incentive trips and larger conferences—Tahoe also possesses a seemingly endless list of recreational pursuits to connect delegates with the great outdoors.

“We sell what makes us different,” says Mike Frye, sales and events manager at the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. “We’re the only place with this kind of beauty, with both active and passive outdoor activities, plus great restaurants, gaming and entertainment.”

There is indeed something especially sensory about Lake Tahoe. And for starters, whether your group meets on the North Shore or South Shore, be certain to get them outside for that breath of fresh air.

North Shore

With all the casino action, culinary options and outdoor pursuits in Lake Tahoe, it’s next to impossible that you won’t find something fun to do when you visit, according to Jason Neary, director of sales at the North Lake Tahoe Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“We are selling limitless recreational activities in a peaceful mountain setting,” he says. “We cater to groups who want to get away from it all and meet in a serene mountain environment with all the appropriate amenities.”

Situated about 40 minutes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport and within driving distance of a large population base in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe is the most easily accessible mountain destination in the country, according to Neary.

“We sell that easy access but we’re also currently selling affordability with the state of the economy, and not only in the shoulder season,” he says. “It’s a buyer’s market now.”

It’s the perfect time for planners to check out all that’s transpired in the North Shore over the past few years. Neary touts an increase in inventory that makes it an exciting time.

“Our product is so incredibly different than it was even five years ago,” he says, citing the Resort at Squaw Creek, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Casino, and the brand-new Village at Northstar. “We have the ability to cater to many groups, from associations to high-end incentive trips.”

The upcoming opening this fall of The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, which is booking groups for January 2010, Neary says, speaks to meeting planners.

“From a planner’s perspective, if a Ritz is building here, there must be something great about Tahoe,” he says. “We’re able to go after clientele now that we couldn’t have gone after before.”

On the Nevada side of the North Shore, groups enjoy meeting at casino properties, including the Hyatt Regency, the Tahoe Biltmore, Crystal Bay Club Casino and Cal Neva Resort.

“Whether you’re on the Nevada or California side you have access to beaches and skiing,” Neary says, adding Tahoe has the largest concentration of downhill ski resorts in the country. Among them are Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, Squaw Valley and Mt. Rose.

In addition to all manner of winter sports options, including downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing, Lake Tahoe offers spring and summertime activities, from hiking and biking to waterborne action and golf. “We have unbelievable golf here in the North Shore that will rival golf courses anywhere,” Neary says.

Some noteworthy places to hit the links with groups are Coyote Moon, the Championship Course at Incline Village, Old Greenwood and the course at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

“Keep in mind that in Tahoe we cater to the sophisticated palates of visitors from the Bay Area, so we also have incredible dining options,” Neary adds.

Among the eateries that also accommodate private group functions are Graham’s at Squaw Valley; PlumpJack Cafe, located at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn; Wolfdale’s; and the lakefront Sunnyside and Gar Woods Grill and Pier Restaurant.

South Shore

Lake Tahoe is unlike many destinations in that it offers the duality of the beautiful outdoors and ample business-friendly amenities, according to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s Frye.

On the South Shore, business-ready standbys include the gaming-friendly Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Horizon Casino Resort, Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa, and Harveys Lake Tahoe.

“These are the big guys that can handle pretty large events,” Frye says, adding that from the standpoint of location, it’s really easy to walk over to the gondola for some off-session skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort from these four. They’re also close to shops and dining in Heavenly Village.

Other popular properties in the South Shore are the smoke-free Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel and Ski Resort, Forest Suites Resort, Lakeland Village Beach and Mountain Resort, Inn by the Lake, and the Ridge Tahoe, which Frye says is an incredibly unique property situated at the top of Kingsbury Grade.

“You can see the desert floor of Carson Valley on one side and Lake Tahoe on the other,” he says. “It’s spectacular from the view standpoint, and it also has a lot of breakout rooms, plus shuttles in place to get to Heavenly.”

Most of the properties mentioned are within minutes of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, situated on the lake’s shoreline.

“It’s completely unique,” Frye says of the home of the Annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. “Name me another lakefront golf course like this; people love it.”

While activities on and around the lake are diverse and many, Frye recommends group outings on the Tahoe Queen or MS Dixie II paddlewheel boats, even during the winter. The boats, which dock at Zephyr Cove, often accommodate group events, including dinner and dancing to the Steve Walker Band.

“The band plays classic rock and appeals to people of all ages, from their 20s to their 70s,” Frye says. “Everyone gets on the dance floor and sings along.”

Groups can also make a day of it and take a Queen or Dixie trip to Squaw Valley on the North Shore for an afternoon of skiing.

“You can ski Squaw, get the Steve Walker Band to entertain the group, have dinner—it’s an all-day deal,” Frye says. “If a planner wants a unique experience that dazzles and doesn’t cost a gazillion dollars, plan this event.”

Aside from boarding a paddle- wheeler for a day out on the lake, Zephyr Cove Resort also offers other year-round activities, including snowmobiling, disc golf and volleyball.

“It’s a great outfitter for different events,” Frye says, adding that the large lodge-type restaurant at Zephyr Cove is a hit with groups. “You don’t often get the chance to have a dinner in a log cabin.”

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About the author
Carolyn Blackburn