New, transformed lodging reflects evolution on Tahoe’s South Shore
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — If you can peel your gaze away from the beauty of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada, you can see the South Shore evolving right before your eyes.
A trend that began about 10 years ago is now in full force. Lodging properties in South Lake Tahoe are being transformed from “this could be anywhere” accommodations, some originally built in the 1960s, to true Tahoe-style hospitality.
These new and reborn properties offer amenities that are more in tune with the experiences that travelers expect today – local authenticity, connection and community, sustainability, the option of seclusion, convenience, value, and pet inclusivity.
There are several examples in South Lake Tahoe alone, all within walking distance of Heavenly Village, the Heavenly Gondola, Stateline casinos and in 2023, the Tahoe Events Center.
The latest addition to the destination is the Desolation Hotel, an eco-luxury, micro-resort inspired by preservationist and pioneer John Muir. This hotel is all about nature, sustainability, and luxury. The name refers to the Desolation Wilderness to the east.
Maggie’s, the third-floor restaurant, is named for Maggie’s Peak, actually two peaks within the Desolation Wilderness. The pool bar (located next to the saltwater pool and 14-person spa) is Velma’s, for lakes also within that wilderness area. The all-new hotel stands on the site of the former Tahoe Villa and the few trees that were removed can be seen in the structural supports. Its 21 luxury accommodations all include soaking tubs on their private balconies, indoor fireplaces, Frette linens and robes, and kitchenettes featuring Bertazzoni gas ranges. Ten of the units are three-story townhouses with a private garage, EV charging capabilities, washing machine and dryer, and more.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune recently interviewed the owners/developers, Tahoe residents Eric and Chet Pipkins.
Hampton Inn & Suites also opened in July. It looks like a modern ski chalet (on the site of the former Super 8 on Lake Tahoe Blvd.), less than a mile from the beach, Heavenly Village, and the Heavenly Gondola. Guests will enjoy a lobby bar, heated indoor pool, heated patio, hot tub, and fire pit. Ski lockers have boot and glove warmers, and bike lockers are available. There are 12 EV chargers on-site for guests driving electric cars, seven for Teslas, and five standard chargers with conduit underground for future chargers. This very smart hotel utilizes solar and efficient energy consumption and a complete water retention system, so water runoff does not leave the site, helping to preserve and improve lake quality.
Today’s travelers are seeking authentic, local experiences
The most obvious change at the South Shore is the exterior architecture, which is being reimagined in a variety of styles, all appropriate for the environment. Modern chalet designs fit naturally among the pine trees of the mountain setting and rustic touches are classic, not campy. Even the Holiday Inn Express has an appropriate alpine exterior.
The interior trend at these revived hotels is to feel like warm, welcoming mountain cabins, places to linger and relax, for socializing or solitude.
Today’s travelers are seeking connection, community
After the isolation of the pandemic, visitors seek to gather and connect with others for convivial conversation and comradery. At the South Shore, hotels such as Basecamp, Station House Inn and others have transformed and expanded their public spaces, making them more interactive with comfortable seating, fire pits and games like table tennis and cornhole.
At Basecamp, guests naturally gravitate to the Courtyard, decks, 16-person hot tub, and common areas throughout the hotel (combining three separate properties) to share stories from the day on the slopes, the lake, the trails or the beach. The Beer Garden is open to the public with live music nightly. Accommodations range from traditional hotel rooms to the Family Room (two queens and two twin-sized loft bunkbeds overhead), the Explorers Club (eight twin beds, bunk bed style) or the Great Indoors (a king bed inside a tent, with faux fire pit and glowing stars above).
The Station House Inn began welcoming guests in 1972 and underwent a major transformation in 2020. Today, the lobby isn’t just for checking in. Overstuffed sofas, table games, books, Friday night movies on the big screen, popcorn and a large stone fireplace invite lounging. Outdoors there are picnic tables, swings, couches, chairs, and games. In warmer months, the large, heated pool, covered cabanas and food and beverages from the highly regarded restaurant Toulouse, located at the property, create the perfect resort vibe.
Today’s travelers are seeking sustainability
Going car free is entirely do-able at Lake Tahoe. Caring for the environment is a very “Tahoe” thing to do. Not worrying about traffic, parking and gas prices makes the trip that much more carefree.
For a comprehensive guide to getting there and getting around, visit http://www.linkingtahoe.com.
The new app-based Lake Link http://www.tahoelakelink.com launched July 22, allowing visitors and locals to request free rides in 9-12 passenger vans on the main thoroughfares from the Nevada casinos (and in 2023, the Events Center) to the Al Tahoe neighborhood in South Lake Tahoe. This is similar to the TART Connect service on the North Shore of the lake.
Another way hotels are making room for guests to gather is by joining older properties into new brand-new experiences. Renovating older properties or rebuilding on an existing hotel site is considered a high form of recycling and repurposing.
The Coachman was originally built in the 1960’s as two separate motels, the Green Lantern and The Royal Coachman. Reopened in 2016 with a combined 81 rooms, its approachable and comfortable features include top-rated beds and Frette linens, dedicated areas for storing personal outdoor equipment, an innovative text messaging platform, Apple TVs, and adaptable meeting spaces centered around shared fire pits and gathering spaces. The Coachman also provides work/play options through a partnership with Cowork Tahoe, a local coworking office.
Hotel Becket, part of the Trademark Collection by Wyndham, combined a Travelodge and the 968 Park Hotel for a total of 165 rooms. Close to Heavenly Village, the Gondola and the casinos – check. Cozy alpine décor and exterior – check. Fire pits, two outdoor terraces, outdoor hot tub, seasonal outdoor pool, barbeque and brews – check. Looks like they’ve got it all.
Today’s travelers also want to get away … sometimes
Greg and Rachel Carlson saw the potential in the nine-room Black Bear Lodge in 2017 when they purchased the property and began renovations. Nestled under the pines off of Ski Run Blvd., the lodge and cabins are less than a mile from Heavenly’s California Base and half a mile to the beach. Today, the elegant mountain style is expressed with river rock around the gas fireplaces and door frames, natural log beams and other rustic-but-upscale touches.
Located at the end of State Line Ave. at Lakeshore Blvd., The Landing feels separate and secluded, across the road from a semi-private beach (many hotels in the area also offer their guests access). The décor is “cozy, chic, comfortable,” and definitely upscale. Jimmy’s restaurant boasts a 1,500-bottle wine vault and a bar program with 100 high-quality spirits.
Today’s travelers appreciate convenience as well as amenities
With the Heavenly Gondola literally rising overhead and Heavenly Village and Nevada casinos right next door, Forest Suites Resort is perfect for those who want to be at the center of it all. The opening of the Tahoe Events Center next year will make the location even more prime. Ongoing updates include new appliances in full kitchen-style units, rustic wood style flooring, a redo of the lobby with a full American breakfast included. Forest Suites offers an expansive breakfast buffet, on-site beer/wine bar Al’s Saloon with happy hours and wine receptions, a private on-site massage therapy studio and fitness center. The family-friendly environment is enhanced by the free game room with XBOX and lawn games. Two outdoor pools, open seasonally May through October, and two year-round outdoor hot tubs are complemented by gas fire pits.
Today’s travelers always want good value for their money
Hotels such as The Jeffrey Hotel (“inspired by the ‘70’s camping culture and style”), 3 Peaks Inn (“classic cabin-style Tahoe hotel accommodations”) and the Moose & Maple Lodge (“a unique mix of professionally designed and curated rooms”) show that adding style doesn’t have to add to the price.
Since 2020, both the interiors and exterior of the Quality Inn have been remodeled to upgrade the overall guest experience, including the experience of having fun while saving money.
While hotel names like the Flamingo, Capri and Green Lantern are gone, those seeking a touch of retro will be warmly welcomed at properties like the Stardust Lodge, Ambassador Motor Lodge, Paradice Motel, and the Black Jack Inn, offering all the modern amenities at excellent rates.
Today’s travelers want to bring their fur babies along
Who welcomes dogs and/or pets? These hotels mentioned here: 3 Peaks, Ambassador Lodge, Basecamp, Coachman, Desolation Hotel, Forest Suites, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe (has an on-site doggy daycare and grooming available for all fur-babies), Hampton Inn & Suites, Harveys Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino, Hotel Becket, The Jeffrey, The Landing, Moose & Maple Lodge, Quality Inn, Stardust, Station House Inn, and many others. For more, see https://tahoesouth.com/hotels/pet-friendly-hotels/.
Grand is good too
Some of the largest properties at the South Shore are designed with mountain-size charm. Whether bathed in summer sunshine or wearing a fresh coat of snow, these full-service resorts welcome visitors to hubs like Heavenly Village, Ski Run Marina or other popular locations. Exploring the shops, restaurants, entertainment and other attractions at Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Marriott’s Timber Lodge, Zalanta Resort at the Village and others gives confirmation of having escaped to someplace special. Many have membership or ownership programs but a la carte stays may also be available.
Evolution continues on the Nevada side of the South Shore too
At Edgewood Tahoe Resort, the new two-bedroom, three-bedroom and five plus-bedroom Villa Suites will be available beginning September 2022. Located between the lakefront and the eighth and ninth fairways, adjacent to the main lodge, this project involves extensive environmental planning, similar to The Lodge, which opened in 2018.
Discreetly located on the Nevada waterfront adjacent to the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Tahoe Beach Club opened in 2017. The gated community features a private pier, lakefront clubhouse, health club, spa, pool, and dining. Vacation rentals range from two to six-bedroom units.
Harveys Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino completed more than $41 million in capital expenditures in 2020, including renovating all 519 guest rooms in the famed resort’s Lake Tower. The tower’s balcony suites, with incredible views of the lake, were also refurbished last year. Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe opened January 2020 and draws crowds nightly.
Throughout the South Shore, these new and reimagined hotels expand and enhance the outdoor recreation, High Sierra nightlife, events, and breathtaking scenery to create an all-encompassing Tahoe experience. For more information, visit http://www.VisitLakeTahoe.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.