Its been over a year since I’ve taken my last vacation. Last year, I embarked on a trip to New Orleans and was absolutely blown away by the hospitality and charm. Plus, the ghost tours in combination with the comfort food was speaking to my soul. When the new year approached, I was itching to travel again. But where would I go? It all boiled down to having just the right amount of money and vacation hours. All I knew was that I was extremely overdue for a vacation.
I have lived in California my entire life and I’ve never visited Lake Tahoe. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve always wanted to. I just never got around to it. After weeks of waiting and saving my vacation hours, I packed everything but the kitchen sink and hit the road. I packed way too many shirts that I didn’t even end up wearing. I swear, I’m the WORST at packing. (Somebody help me…) Originally, I was supposed to take off on Thursday and check into the hotel later that night–but I figured leaving on a Wednesday night and driving to a halfway point would give us additional time. And it did.
Once I clocked out from work on Wednesday, I rushed home and packed the rest of my things as quickly as I could. Hopping into the car, we took the 395 to Bishop. The plan was to drive all the way to Bishop and then the next morning, wake up early and get on the road to Lake Tahoe. My excitement kept me awake throughout the drive and when we reached Bishop, I knocked out the second my head hit the pillow. Waking up at 5:30, I threw on my sweatpants and a sloppy t-shirt and proceeded to the nearest Starbucks. I was going to need all the espresso in the world if I was going to be pleasant…
The drive was absolutely breathtaking. And I feel like the word breathtaking doesn’t really do it justice. Smog-free skies, tree’s that reach for the sky and fresh mountain air was enough to make me forget about Orange County. And that made me insanely happy. Anytime a place can make you forget about where you are and how you’ve been feeling as of late (read all about that here)–you’ve truly hit the mental reset button.
Ya’ll know me–I’m all about breakfast. It really doesn’t matter what time it is–I will eat eggs and bacon. Plus another side of bacon. Usually one would just assume I would hit up IHOP (or IHOB as it is now called) to get my fill on a decent breakfast meal–but you’re dead wrong. I’m very picky about where I decide to have breakfast. The service has to be top notch and the bacon cannot have the consistency of a napkin. I hate when bacon is thin like a napkin–that’s just not right. There’s a little diner that (sadly) doesn’t exist where I reside. Heidi’s is the perfect place to grab a delicious breakfast. Its no wonder that it’s referred to as Tahoe’s Best Breakfast. Be sure to arrive when it opens.
When I was growing up, my dad was hell-bent on teaching me how to play golf. My dad would spend all of Sunday parked on the couch watching and shouting at the golfing channel. So loud in fact–you could hear it across the street. Here’s the thing, Golf and Nascar are two of his greatest loves. He loves watching race cars zoom around in a circle. And he loves watching a small ball soar across the sky in hopes of landing in a small hole. I’ve never really had the patience for golf so whenever he’d take me to the golf course, I get super pissed whenever I’d miss the ball. On Thursday afternoon, we ended up going to Magic Carpet Golf–an adorable mini-golf course. This mini golf course has been around since 1971. I’m not going to lie to you here–I wouldn’t have gone to mini golf if I had the choice, but my fiance had gone with his family since he was a child and I just couldn’t say no. Throughout the entire game, I developed that special anger from Happy Gilmore…
Friday morning, I woke up feeling really excited to spend a whole day in Lake Tahoe from start to finish. I was relieved that we weren’t going to spend the entire day driving in the car. Road trips are fun but staring at a highway for hours on end get’s boring. (Especially when you can’t read in a moving vehicle since you’ll get motion sickness.)
Before my trip, a co-worker of mine suggested that we hitch a ride on the Gondolas at Heavenly. The first time I heard the word Gondola, I immediately thought of those tiny boats that you take through canals. I couldn’t be more wrong. These were actual cable cars! At Heavenly Gondola, they have cable cars that travel up and down the mountain giving you an unbelievable view of the lake. The last time I had taken a cable-car was during my trip to Japan and it was TERRIFYING. Don’t get me wrong–it was an unbelievable experience and I do not regret it, but in that moment I was scared. I mean–the mountain was incredibly steep and I thought we were going to die. Regardless of my experience in Japan, I needed to give this a shot. When you travel up the mountain in one of these Gondolas, you are immediately surrounded by the sounds of nature. The hills are most definitely alive with the sound of music.
As you travel up the mountain, the Gondolas stop abruptly as you are left swinging in mid-air. Full disclosure–I panicked a little when it stopped the first time. I can’t even ride a Ferris wheel because I hate feeling of being nauseated by the constant spinning and stopping in mid-air. How the hell was I even pulling this off right now? The cable-car would stop intermittently and start to swing. I could feel the blood draining from my face. I had to remember that the view was worth more than my fear of being suspended in the air without anything below to catch my fall. When you reach the midpoint of your journey, your first stop is the observation deck which you can exit from the Gondola and capture the view beside the mountain.
I managed to capture this photograph of the Gondola traveling up the mountain with the lake and resorts behind it. As I stood there taking in the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe, I realized that this trip was everything I ever needed…
The top of the mountain is where the rest of the summer activities take place. You can do the zip line, a rock climbing wall, tubing and more. Unfortunately, the Blue Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster wasn’t open. This coaster resembles the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland. The Blue Ride Rider Mountain Coaster takes you through the forest and rock formations. The opening for that incredible ride is still TBD.
One of the perks of reaching the top of the mountain is the incredible hiking trails. There are many trails built for those who want something easy and quick to a long and experienced hike that’ll really test your limits. Seeing as though we wanted something a bit more leisure, we took advantage of the Loop Trailhead. This trail is 1/4 miles and is perfect for all ages and hikers. This trail is perfect for photo opportunities and if you stand in certain places you can see the layout of all the summer activities taking place. I think this was the moment where I truly didn’t want to go back to Orange County. And how could I? This place had managed to steal my heart.
The best part about taking these Gondolas up to the top of the mountain is the fact that you are guaranteed with a more intimate adventure with nature. Now, I know that I’ve been using the word nature A LOT in this post, but it’s definitely the overall THEME of this vacation review. Sometimes when you are surrounded by nothing but cars, smog and angry people you forget that places like this EXIST. You can hear yourself think while you’re breathing in the fresh mountain air. Stress doesn’t exist. Your depression fades away. It’s just you and the soothing sounds of wildlife with the sun beating across your face. I think this is where my mental reset truly took place. When we hopped back onto the Gondola to return to the bottom of the mountain, I let the Loop Trail take the large bag of rocks that I had been carrying for almost four years. And to be honest–I feel a little lighter.
Saturday morning, I was a little cranky. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m definitely NOT a morning person whatsoever even when I’m on vacation. I’m a night owl–that’s where I come alive. So when I had to get out of bed at 6:00am to get ready for Saturday’s festivities, I struggled. We were going to be taking a SteamTrain from Carson City to Virginia City. I love trains and If I can take that instead of driving–I’m sold. When you catch the steam train, the ride is about an hour from Carson to Virginia City. When you arrive, you have three hours to explore before the train takes you back. I was excited to explore this unique little town.
Virginia City is all about shopping, eating and drinking. And not to mention, it is the hub for a lot of bikers. When you are strolling down the crooked wooden planks, your eyes will come across shops filled with beautiful gemstones, cowboy boots, and leather bags. And if you’re more into the foodie scene–there are places for you to get fudge by the pound, savory cocktails, and delicious barbeque.
Virginia City has so much history integrated into its’ buildings. This little city was built during the 19th-century mining boom. With that being said this city is haunted. There isn’t just one building that’s haunted–all the buildings are filled with paranormal activity. And since you’re my friend and you’ve been reading my blogs for a while–if a place is haunted–count me in. If you’re willing to take a gamble and explore one of the most haunted places in the state, the Washoe Club is something you need to explore. I managed to take a mini tour of the Washoe Club where the infamous Ghost Adventures team managed to capture a full-bodied apparition. I will be writing a separate blog post dedicated entirely to that tour and the history embedded within that building. Stay tuned!
This city is packed with all sorts of attractions. Museums, Mines and Mine Tours and Historic Walking Tours. Not to mention–Virginia City has a variety of events that occur throughout the year. If you’re planning to have a fun filled weekend, be sure to check out some of the lodgings that exist here; whether its Bed and Breakfast establishments, Hotels or Motels–you’re guaranteed to have a spectacular visit. Have a drink, eat some barbeque and be sure to explore this little town.
Once Sunday arrived, I realized that I was only going to have two more days in this gorgeous place. Waking up early again, my fiance and I made sure to be one of the first people to arrive at the Forest Buffet in Harrahs. You’re probably wondering, why this buffet in particular? The view, honey. The view. Not to mention this is the only brunch buffet in town. And I’m okay with loading my plate full of bacon with a side of golden, crispy waffles. Arriving early for the Brunch Buffet, we landed a window seat which has a spectacular view of the mountain where you could see the Gondolas (cable-cars) traveling through the trees. When you sip on your champagne, you can capture a panoramic view of the lake.
When I’m on vacation, I take full advantage of touristy things (except the carriage rides). I used to be in the cycling club in high school and cycling is one of my favorite cardio exercises. Regardless of how touristy we were going to look, I didn’t really care. I rented a beach cruiser with a basket and managed to pack my enormous purse and camera. After applying sunscreen to my ghost-like skin, we set off. The second we started cruising along, I knew that this was going to be one of my favorite parts of this trip. I was grinning like a fool while we rode our way though town. Hiking at the top of the mountain was a refreshing experience, but this was different. The plus side about these bike rides is that there are plenty of routes you can take. You can ride alongside the lake or through wooded areas decorated with beautiful homes. We biked a total of three miles.
Deciding that we were already out and about, we extended our ride. Peddaling down the sidewalk, we took off toward a small path near the lake passing several cyclists on the way. The breeze from the lake was definitely helpful during our bike ride. I can’t stand the heat, so when I get natural air conditioning while pedaling–I’m grateful. We’d ride past houses, cottages, vacation rentals, and breweries. And not to mention some of the houses have the lake in their own backyard…
Standing on this small wooden staircase looking out at the lake, I realized that this place is unlike any other place I’ve ever visited. There’s this unexpected pull that you get when you’re standing near the lake and looking out at the water. For nearly a year, I haven’t felt well. There’s just been this toxic vortex that swallowed me whole and it seems as if I’ve been doing nothing but digging myself out of a hole that constantly showers me with nothing but dirt. And getting any sort of peace when aspects of your life are in turmoil seems nearly impossible. But once I stood there taking everything in, I realized that the way I’ve been feeling wouldn’t last forever. This was all temporary–a setback. Everything was going to be okay. Maybe not right away, but I knew that someday I’d get to where I needed to be.
If you’re looking for somewhere to go, whatever the reason,–get in your car and head straight to Lake Tahoe.