July 4th weekend off Lake Tahoe

It’s no secret that the Fourth of July is the biggest week around Lake Tahoe. If it wasn’t enough that Lake Tahoe is one of America’s most beautiful, comfortable places in July, it’s also home to one of the top Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. That makes for the busiest weekend of the year.

However, there are so many great things to do off Lake Tahoe during that week. In fact, some of my favorite events and things to do off Lake Tahoe happen over the Fourth of July weekend. And, if you play your cards right, you won’t have to spend a minute in bumper-to-bumper traffic around the lake.  Below, I share a few of my favorite things to do off Lake Tahoe during Fourth of July weekend.

Truckee Thursdays

While not a Fourth of July event per se, Truckee Thursdays is a great way to kick off the holiday weekend. Happening every Thursday during the summer, Truckee Thursdays shuts down the main thoroughfare of Truckee for a big block party with live music, food trucks, a beer garden, games, and local merchants selling their wares. I'll typically stroll the street a few times, sampling some of the local street food while enjoying the live band, before posting up down the street on the outdoor patio of Mellow Fellow with a craft brew in hand. Arrive early if you want to snag a parking spot. Otherwise, there’s also a free shuttle service (which picks up at the Village at Northstar).

Beerfest & Bluegrass Festival

Northstar California’s Beerfest & Bluegrass Festival is one of my top summer events around North Lake Tahoe. It brings together a couple of my favorite things, great beer and great music, in one of my favorite places, Truckee, at the base of Northstar in the Village. Taking place Saturday, July 1, this year’s festival features 3 bluegrass bands and more than 30 breweries. What’s more, you can get the Brewmaster Dinner combo ticket, which includes entrance the following evening for a five-course beer and food pairing with Great Basin Brewing Company on the patio of Martis Valley Grille at sunset.

Fourth of July "Backyard" Party at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

For a proper holiday retreat without the crowds, look no further than The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. The Fourth of July weekend at The Ritz is chock-full of unique events, including nightly s'mores by the fire, lawn games and the Backyard Brick Oven Experience on Friday night for kids to learn how to make brick-oven pizza with The Ritz's chefs. Additionally, that Friday evening is another one of my favorite Truckee events, Tahoe Star Tours, with star guide and poet Tony Berendsen. The Ritz's weekend festivities culminate on Tuesday with the backyard party, featuring games and activities for kids and live music. 

Lake day at lesser-known lakes

Lake Tahoe isn’t the only lake amidst the High Sierras. If you want to be on the water, but don’t want the prospect of crowds and traffic, then check out some of the lesser-known lakes beyond Lake Tahoe. First and foremost, there’s Donner Lake, which is just a few minutes from downtown Truckee, where you can rent kayaks, paddle boards and boats. Make it a day with Donner Memorial State Park, which has camping, hiking trails and the Emigrant Trail Museum. For something more off the beaten path, just northeast of Truckee is a series of reservoirs, Prosser, Boca and Stampede. 

Fireworks at Donner Lake 

While Lake Tahoe isn’t the only lake in the area, it’s also not the only place to view Fourth of July fireworks. Donner Lake has their own fireworks show on the night of July 4, shooting off from the West End Beach. While it's a ticketed event to watch the fireworks from the lake, if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle, I'd recommend scouting out a spot near one of the overlooks or trails above Donner Lake. Bring a blanket and a good pair of walking shoes, and find a spot around sunset. This affords the unique opportunity to see a fireworks display from up above. 

Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.