Lake Tahoe ‘Shoulder’ season showcases fall colors

Less crowds during time between Labor Day, before Thanksgiving
By: Leah Rosasco, Journal Correspondent
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A visit to the Lake Tahoe area is a delight in any season, but a visit between summer and fall is ideal for those who delight in a little tranquility.

As Labor Day comes and goes each year Lake Tahoe and the destinations that surround it become more user friendly for those looking to get away. The gridlock dies down and the beaches, hiking trails, restaurants, lodgings, and parking become more accessible, all while the weather typically remains almost summerlike. This period between Tahoe’s two high seasons, summer and winter, is known as the “shoulder” season. 

According to Kym Fabel, North Lake Tahoe Visitor Center manager, those who like the Lake Tahoe sun but not the crowds know to visit after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving.

“September and October are great months to visit and a lot of people know that,” Fabel said. 

Although tourism drops off this time of year, Fabel said there are still quite a few visitors who come for the shimmering blue water, the beaches and the hiking as well as the slightly cooler temperatures and the beginning of the changing leaves.

“It’s not quite fall but it’s no longer summer, it’s a very unique time to visit,” she said.

According to Fabel the North Lake Tahoe Visitor Center, which took over its new building at the “Y” in Tahoe City in May, sees many visitors from overseas this time of year and people who are newly empty-nesters.

“We see a lot of people whose kids have just gone off to college and they want a quiet getaway by the lake,” she said.

Although not recent empty-nesters, Michael and Linda Mundy of Orange County usually make take their annual Lake Tahoe vacation in August. According to the husband and wife duo, who spent part of their vacation shopping at Girasole in Tahoe City, their schedule forced them to bump their trip back to October instead. 

“I like the change in colors and you don’t have to deal with the crowds,” Michael Mundy said. 

Although some services shut down for the season by the end of September, there is still plenty of opportunity to get out and enjoy all that the area has to offer including hiking, boating, kayaking, and cycling. According to Chris Willard, owner of Willard’s Sport Shop in Tahoe City, although business definitely slows, a lot of equipment is still in demand including kayaks and bicycles. 

“Bicycle rentals are still going really strong and people are still getting out and doing some paddling,” Willard said. 

First-time Lake Tahoe visitor Lauren Hummel of Pennsylvania recently visited Tahoe City with Sam Schauf of Reno and said she was happy to be visiting Lake Tahoe when there were fewer people.

“It’s so nice right now, I can’t imagine it being crowded,” she said. “I love it here. I never want to leave.” 

The benefits of visiting Lake Tahoe during the early-fall months extend beyond the relative serenity to lower prices on lodging and dining. Jeff “Ox” Oxandaboure, Managing Partner at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge, said a lot of restaurants offer dinner specials and two for one discounts this time of year. 

“It’s partly to entice visitors but it’s also to help take care of the locals,” Ox said. “When business slows down up here it slows down for everyone.”

Sunnyside offers Monday Night Football specials, Tuesday night Burger and a Beer for $10, and half-priced fish tacos on Wednesday nights, as well as discounted room rates in the lodge. Ox said people will generally have the best luck by calling resorts and hotels directly to get their best rates.

“It’s a great time to get some good deals up here,” he said.