Once a lumber source for the nearby mines, North Lake Tahoe evolved into a ski destination and Rat Pack playground. Today, the area lures visitors with crisp air, clear water, and big views.
- Built in 1936 by a playboy with a distaste for guests, Thunderbird Lodge just outside Nevada's Incline Village is fortified like a castle but looks more like a genteel Tudor home. Whereas much of the area's history has been replaced or renovated, the lodge preserves a thousand stories in its secret staircases and underground passages. Staffers lead tours from May through October.
- Don't let the food-truck vibe fool you. Residents drive halfway around the lake to pay cash for tritip burritos with house-made salsa from T's Mesquite Rotisserie in Incline. Get your meal fresh from the rotating spit, then hit the beach for a lakeside picnic.
- High elevation meets high design just up the road at Alpine Home Furnishings. Inside, South African tonga baskets share space with Navajo-inspired rugs and porcupine quill lamps. Stroll the shop and design your new life.
- Tucked among the woodsy cottages on the northwest shore, Fire Sign Cafe in Tahoe City, California, is beloved for its brunch. Relax with a board game and a latte in the coffee annex as you wait for a table, then dig into delectable American standards such as the eggs Benedict with a lemony hollandaise sauce.
- You needn't walk far from the Mount Rose summit trailhead, northwest of Incline on Highway 431, to reach a stunning lake overlook, but you'll want to. Just a few miles up the trail you can soak your feet under Galena Falls, then wade into a meadow of wildflowers.