Keilah Woodard is a local mother of three who has a passion for tracking down inexpensive and fun local adventures with her kids. You can find her reviews of the best places to go on her website, www.sacramentosidetracks.com. You can also watch Woodard every other Thursday on Fox40 Live as she highlights free and fun things to do with kids that weekend in our area.
"When can we go to Lake Tahoe again?" my kids ask on occasion when something has jogged their fond memories. This sure sign of a successful family getaway is gratifying. It motivates us to return to a place that is without a doubt a retreat from the everyday.
As my husband and I contemplated an ideal spot for time off last August, our wish list included getting there by car with kids in tow. Because Lake Tahoe encompassed the combination of fun and relaxation and is just a two-hour drive, it was a clear winner. We set out to meet the challenge of pleasing everyone with a great plan that would keep our getaway simple (and affordable), yet memorable.
Here are the accommodations and activities we chose that will remain a formula for our future stays in Lake Tahoe.
More than just a place to sleep
We booked our stay at Montbleu based on its heated indoor pool. We were thrilled to find it went beyond our expectations with a grotto and waterfall. This meant fun and excitement in between meals and activities just steps away from our room.
After dinners at Montbleu's tasty buffet, we made stops at the arcade for our own air hockey tournaments.
Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa
55 Highway 50, Stateline, Nev.
$ Tip: Try to book your stay in advance to hit the discounted days that are offered. We booked in May for August weeknights at just $59 per night.
Experience the essence of the destination
Just three miles down the road from Montbleu is a family-owned beach on the south shore of the lake. After parking, a friendly staff member picked us up in his golf cart to run us to the Round Hill Pine's entrance. We rented a canopy for $10 from the snack shack and set ourselves up for the day. A water-sport kiosk on the beach listed a great variety of reasonably priced rentals. We opted for a paddle boat for just $15, including life jackets, and we had a blast trying it out. As we splashed around in the clear, blue water with the breathtaking view of the tree-lined mountains around us, I had a feeling Lake Tahoe was quickly becoming a favorite spot for my family to play together.
Round Hill Pines Beach & Marina
Zephyr Cove, Nev.
$ Tip: Bring cash for parking, canopy rental, water sport rental and lunch.
Create a unique outing memory
For a Wild West experience, we took advantage of exploring Virginia City, just 40 miles from Lake Tahoe. We ate lunch in a saloon, walked around shops and saw the Outlaws Wild West Comedy Show, complete with cheers and boos. The most memorable part of our day was taking an authentic stagecoach ride that travels full speed, just as they did in the old days.
86 South "C" St., Virginia City, Nev.
$ Tip: Save money on activities by purchasing an Adventure Package at the Visitor Center as you enter town.
5 tips for harmony in the car
For a short road trip like this, snacks and activities will do the trick to keep everyone in good spirits and help the time pass quickly.
1. Snacks on hand Load up with individually packaged snacks (to save money, divide into reusable containers before you leave home) that you can distribute to hungry kids.
2. Surprise them Fill a bag with activities and dollar store treats. Sticker books, small toys, lollipops, activity books and art supplies are all good time-fillers.
3. Car-friendly crafts Get creative with window markers and stencils or make colorful pipe-cleaner sculptures such as necklaces, swords, bracelets and towers.
4. Map it Print out maps of your road trip so when you hear "Are we there yet?" you can just hand your little ones a map and ask them to figure out how much longer you'll be on the road.
5. Play games A Road Trip Eye Spy checklist and Road Trip Bingo (search www. pinterest.com for great printables) will keep kids busy independently. Play family trivia by asking the kids trivia questions about family members as a great way to share family history and interact on the road.