9 things to do with kids at Northstar (besides ski)

Like many families all over California and beyond, my family skis Northstar for the family-friendly ski experience and top-rated ski school. While we come for the skiing, we return because the entire Northstar California ski resort experience has so much to offer, especially off the slopes. Because even the most enthusiastic little skiers in our family sometimes need a break from skiing. Our kids' energy is boundless even after a full ski day, and I find that they want even more adventure and entertainment after hours. Luckily, Northstar has a number of non-ski activities that kids of every age will find engaging and exciting. Here are nine picks to keep your entire family entertained on a non-ski day or after the slopes have closed.

1. Go ice skating. The centerpiece of the Village at Northstar is an ice skating rink that my family visits at least once on every Lake Tahoe ski weekend. Bring your own skates, or rent from the adjacent rental shop, and take a few spins around the 9,000-square-foot rink. The rink is circled by fire pits with ample seating so non-skaters can stay warm while they watch.

Mother Daughter Ice Skating Break

Mother Daughter Ice Skating Break

2. Make s’mores. After a long day of skiing, your child has probably earned a sweet treat. And where there are fire pits, there must be s’mores! The fire pits that surround the ice rink are always a popular spot for s’mores making, while shops and the Cabana Bars nearby sell kits to make it easy if you don’t want to bring supplies yourself. 

3. Bounce on the bungee trampoline. If the black diamonds and terrain parks haven’t exhausted your kids after a long day of skiing, then have them burn off any remaining energy jumping on Northstar’s bungee trampoline. A favorite of little adrenaline junkies everywhere, the trampoline is located at the Village Center Overlook and is typically open starting at noon every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until dusk.

4. Go snow tubing. For even more high-speed fun, buy a ticket for an hour of snow tubing. The tubing hill is located mid-mountain at the top of the main gondola. Kids have to be 42 inches tall to ride, so measure younger kids before making any promises. Tubing is a popular off-slope activity at Northstar, so grab tickets early (at the Village lift ticket windows) on busy weekends and holidays to get a spot.

5. Take in a movie. When your kids are simply exhausted and just cannot do another physical activity, Northstar’s movie theater is the perfect activity for everyone to take a break. Village Cinemas has two screens, a concession stand, and first-run movies that change weekly. The theater is located within walking distance of the rest of the Village activities, too.

6. Dine out. Kids (and their parents) who have been hitting the slopes all day work up a serious appetite. Luckily, Northstar’s ample dining options have something for even the pickiest of eaters. Just about every Lake Tahoe ski weekend has our family making a trip to Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar. The kids' bento box is reasonably priced and provides a nice variety of food that is a little different from the standard kids' menu fare. We are also fans of dining with our kids in the Living Room of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. And you don't even need to change out of ski gear or dress up (Do not miss the delicious shoestring fries!).

Enjoying a Kids Bento Box at Mikuni Japanese Restaurant

Enjoying a Kids Bento Box at Mikuni Japanese Restaurant

7. Get crafty. Another non-physical activity that kids visiting Northstar always love is making crafts. The Villager Candle Shop Pottery and More shop in the Village offers a wide variety of crafts for kids and adults, including candle-making, pottery painting, and mosaics. Additionally, the shop features a special section called Bear Village for making, dressing, and accessorizing stuffed animals.

8. Take an excursion to Truckee. While there is certainly enough to keep any family busy at Northstar for days on end, taking a little excursion to the nearby town of Truckee can provide a different kind of adventure. The town has a number of top Lake Tahoe restaurants that are casual and family-friendly, such as Burger Me and Truckee Tavern & Grill. Stroll through the historic downtown, pop into the Truckee Railroad Museum (usually open weekends), or plan a visit to the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center to learn about the history of the area and its exploration by the infamous Donner Party.

9. Ride a gondola. Even if your kids aren’t ready to ski, taking a spin on Northstar’s high-speed gondola, Big Springs Express, is another fun adventure. Tickets are available from the same counters that sell lift tickets in the Village, including a non-skier rate. Also, a smaller gondola (the Highlands Gondola), connects the Village to The Ritz-Carlton. Bonus points that is completely free to ride, providing a lower speed adventure for you and your family.

Family Fun aboard the Highlands Gondola

Family Fun aboard the Highlands Gondola

What are your favorite Lake Tahoe winter activities for kids?

Leslie is a recovering attorney turned travel writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two kids, ages 7 and 3. Her travel passions include all things air travel, wacky roadside attractions, national parks, Disney, and (of course) skiing! Leslie has lived in California for more than a decade, but she still proudly holds onto the last vestiges of her Southern accent, acquired from a childhood growing up in Alabama. When she's not writing for Northstar, you can find her work on her blog, Trips With Tykes. Follow Leslie on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.