48 hours in Truckee with kids

Lake Tahoe is often described as Northern California’s outdoor playground. And that's for good reason, since Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The combination of lush forest, beautiful mountain peaks, and that cobalt blue lake make for some of the West Coast's best exploring. But just beyond Lake Tahoe, there’s so much to do in the nearby town of Truckee. Located in the North Lake Tahoe area, historic Truckee sits just minutes from eight major ski resorts, making it the perfect place to explore while enjoying Lake Tahoe’s winter activities.

So in my latest post, I'm sharing an itinerary of what to do in 48 hours in Truckee with kids.

Day 1

4:00 p.m. Stroll through downtown Truckee.

After checking into your accommodations, stroll through downtown Truckee and get to know its historic main thoroughfare, lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. A must-stop for families is Truckee Variety Co., an old-fashioned toy store that’s filled with unexpected treasures for both kids and adults.

Elsewhere, visit Riverside Studios, Bespoke, and Tahoe University for curated, unique gifts. The cherry on top is a stop into Sweets, which is just that, a candy shop specializing in homemade candies and fudge.

6:00 p.m. Dinner in a Victorian hotel.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stroll historic Truckee down to Moody’s Bar & Bistro, a family-friendly restaurant located in the the historic Truckee Hotel. Moody’s offers a loungy atmosphere with farm-to-table dishes and local live music at night. Of particular interest for kids are the DIY s'mores on Moody's dessert menu.

Day 2

9:00 a.m. Breakfast in a restored diner. 

Welcome to Jax at the Tracks, a beautifully restored 1948 diner that was transported all the way from Philadelphia to Truckee. While it's not always easy getting a table at Jax, the wait is well worth it with entrées like the crab cakes eggs benedict and corned beef hash. After all, the restaurant’s comfort food even caught the attention of Guy Fieri of Food Network, who featured it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Jax's specialty is the All Day Addiction, a mouthwatering combo of hash brown triangles topped with eggs, bacon, avocado, mixed greens, roasted tomatoes, house-made pesto, and a balsamic drizzle. However, you can also find classic comfort dishes like French toast, chicken and waffles, banana pancakes, and omelets served until 2:00 p.m.

Planning an early day skiing? Then get to Jax even earlier, getting a head start on both the crowds going to Jax and those hitting the slopes.

10:30 a.m. Visit the KidZone Museum.

The KidZone Museum is the place for your kids to let loose and have fun making creative discoveries. The museum’s many activity areas cater to children of all ages, from babies to older kids, with features like an art studio and indoor play structure. KidZone is open Tuesday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Monday evenings from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is $8 per person.

1:00 p.m. Enjoy family fun at the Village at Northstar.

If you’re up for an afternoon of family fun, Northstar has it all, whether a kid or an adult, skier or non-skier. Begin at the Village at Northstar, where one of the highlights for our family is the year-round ice skating rink. Surrounding the ice skating rink are a number of shops, including kids' favorite, Ambassador Toys. Additionally, the Village is home to a number of restaurants for a late lunch, such as my favorite, Rubicon Pizza. A lesser-known Northstar Activity is the free gondola ride, which connects the Village to The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. 


3:00 p.m. Adventure outdoors mid-mountain at Northstar.

After taking the gondola up to The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, take in the expansive views of the surrounding mountains before enjoying an afternoon drink at one of the hotel’s bars or restaurants. From here, you're mere steps from a number of other winter adventures, such as snowshoeing, for something laid-back, and snow tubing at the tubing hill, for something with a little more speed (and at least 42 inches tall).

5:00 p.m. Time for s’mores.

S’mores are serious business at The Ritz-Carlton! Join The Ritz's mashmologist at the outdoor fire pits at 4:30 p.m. for Marshmology, a unique spin on s'mores. Learn the art of the s'more from The Ritz's marshmologist before enjoying a creative take on s’mores offered for guests to enjoy.

6:30 p.m. Have dinner mid-mountain.

Stay for dinner at The Ritz's main restaurant, Manzanita, or take the gondola back down to the Village, where you'll have your choice of any number of restaurants open for dinner, including Tavern 6330' and Mikuni. If you’re in the mood for locally-inspired fare, head back down to Truckee and settle in at Fifty Fifty Brewing Company, a casual brewery and restaurant with good craft beer and good food.

Day 3

9:00 a.m. Breakfast in Truckee.

Kick off your last day with coffee and breakfast at one of Truckee’s casual breakfast spots, such as Squeeze In, Full Belly Deli, Marty’s, or Coffeebar. Additionally, if it's a nice day, go ahead and pick up picnic supplies at Safeway or Sticks Market for lunch. 

11:00 a.m. End with a visit to Donner Memorial State Park. 

Just beyond Truckee is one of the locals’ favorite spots, Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park. The Pioneer Monument at the state park commemorates the infamous Donner Party, who lived here during that fateful winter of 1846-1847. The Visitor Center includes exhibits about the Donner Party and local Native American history.

After the history lesson, head to the park’s miles of trails, which are perfect for a family hike. If there’s snow (and there's been plenty this winter!), rent snowshoes or cross-country skis in Truckee first. Picnic tables are scattered at a number of spots along the lakefront, where you can stop for a snack or picnic lunch while taking in the view.

And so ends a 48-hour tour of Truckee with kids. Truckee's small-town vibe, family-friendly activities, and access to world-class ski resorts make it the perfect base for a winter weekend in North Lake Tahoe. 

Jenna is a blogger, freelance writer, and full-time ESL instructor in Sacramento, California. On her blog, This Is My Happiness, she covers family-friendly travel in Northern California and beyond. She enjoys writing about the unique culture of a place to provide a deeper look at destinations and help people travel smarter. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found with her husband and two boys, ages 9 and 5, having as much fun as possible in their favorite places: Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, California wine country, and Brazil. Follow Jenna on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.