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Living the Retirement Life at Lake Tahoe

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Part One: A Tale of Some (Very Different) Cities at Tahoe
By Flo Williamson

Beautiful Lake Tahoe is a wonderful retirement destination for well-heeled retirees who love all things outdoors. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 50 miles south of Reno, NV, this famous vacation resort area offers recreational activities and more. Lake Tahoe is about 11 miles wide and 21 miles long running north to south. The eastern third is in Nevada, with the western two thirds in California. Starting at the upper eastern portion of the lake in Nevada, we’ll take a look at the diverse communities that ring Lake Tahoe’s shores.

lake tahoe

Tahoe scene

Casinos near Stateline, NV (courtesy of Wikipedia and Constantine Kulikovsky).  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0/

Incline Village, NV is home (or second home) to some of the wealthiest residents in the country. Sports figures, entertainers, and high tech billionaires flock to this pristine town, where private amenities for residents rival those of a high end gated community. Private beaches, skiing, golf courses and more are some of the perks that come with living in Incline Village. While Incline Village is best known for its lake front mansions,(and set location for the TV show Bonanza), there are also smaller properties and condos for those looking for champagne on a beer (or more realistically, wine) budget,  The fact that NV has no state income tax helps more than a little for most residents.

There is a large and active retirement community here, with lots of scheduled activities and trips  I’ve participated in a few Incline Village activities, and am pleased to say that most residents I have met, were charming and very down to earth, but as I was informed– “you don’t live here if you don’t ski”. Winters here, like all around the lake, usually mean A LOT of snow, but unlike many other areas of the country, the roads are quickly cleared and bright, sunny weather follows. Incline Village, like most Lake Tahoe communities is far from any major shopping. Incline Village has a small hospital, restaurants, a few grocery stores, and specialty shops, but that’s about it. Most residents, though, who can afford Incline Village living can also afford gourmet and specialty shop prices. For those with deep pockets,  this is one of the nicest places to be in Lake Tahoe.

Boat basin

Down the east side of the lake
Moving down the east side of the lake you’ll find beautiful state parks and scenic beaches. There is no commercial or residential development until you reach the Route 50 highway which runs from Carson City NV to the Nevada towns and beyond on the southeast side of the lake. The towns of Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove border the lake or the nearby mountain sides. The area is primarily residential with expensive single family homes and a few pricey condo developments. Several parks and marinas are located here as well.  There is small, strip mall like shopping with few other amenities. There is a Senior Center in Zephyr Cove that offers activities and trips. Local bus  transportation is available. Stateline, the last town on the Nevada side of the lake is full of action. This is where those famous Lake Tahoe Casinos are located. Along with gambling, there are major headline entertainers, restaurants, and motels and hotel vacation condo rentals.

Lakeside scenery

South Tahoe
Right next door, in South Lake Tahoe, is where California begins. South Lake Tahoe is, without a doubt, the “Big City”  on the lake. Big City here, however, that means, grocery stores, TJ Maxx, and Auto Zone. For big box and national chain brand shopping,  residents travel to Carson City. NV about 35 miles away. South Lake Tahoe has long been looked upon as the “poor stepchild” by its more affluent West Side and North Lake neighbors. This is a working and largely tourist community, with all kinds of businesses, skiing, motels, services, marinas, restaurants, and more. People who work here also live here. Upscale development has started though, especially in the area next to the Nevada casinos. Here vacation club resorts, specialty shops, and entertainment abounds. For ski enthusiasts, this is where you want to be– with an intown gondola taking you right to the top of Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort.

The rest of South Lake seems more “old school”, with mom and pop motels and small family run businesses. Here you can find condos and single family homes in varying price points. There are doctors and a hospital in South Lake, but most residents (as do all around the lake), travel to Reno for any kind of elective surgery. South Lake Tahoe has plenty of local parks and public access to the lake. There are lots of free lake front events, fairs, and festivals and many money saving deals for “locals”. South Lake Tahoe has a Senior Center which offers activities and counseling. Transportation and ride schedules are available.

Snow capped mountains

South Lake Lake Tahoe

If all this sounds too good to be true, be aware that with all the tourists comes traffic. Year round, Friday nights and Sunday afternoons are especially challenging and it seems that no matter where you go around the lake, there is road construction of some kind or another during the summer. Some know routes to avoid it, but most of the time it is unavoidable, and locals just grin and bear it. That’s easy when all you need to do is take a deep breath and look at the beauty outside for your car window!   For retirees who want an active lifestyle with easy access to entertainment, skiing, hiking, boating, amenities, and services, South Lake just might be the place for you!!!

Ranger giving nature talk

About Flo Williamson: Flo has been so helpful to Topretirements as volunteer Blog and Forum moderator, frequent Blog commenter, as well as editorial contributor. Here are links to some of her other articles – we think you’ll like how she describes the retirement experience in the places she has lived and/or spent large amounts of time visiting.

Part 2: Lake Tahoe Retirement: The West Shore
Part 3: Some Surprisingly Nice Places to Retire in Nevada
Flo’s North Carolina Visit
Flo’s Observations about South Carolina Retirement
Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on December 2nd, 2017


  1. Thanks, Flo Williamson, for a nice synopsis of the Tahoe area. I have considered retiring in the area many times over the years, but alas, I do not ski. There is much to do and see and hike in the spring, fall, and summer months. The Truckee River, which flows out of Lake Tahoe, is a wonderful fly fishing stream. The nearby town of Truckee is also a pleasant stop for visiting a pleasant small town, to explore shops and restaurants, etc. There are beautiful vistas all around the lake, and many years ago it was voted the best vacation area in the US in the old Places Rated Almanac. The Tahoe/Truckee area is a jewel, and I have spent many terrific days there fishing and enjoying the beauty, but it is extremely cold there, especially at night. Winter day time temperatures are often fairly reasonable, but the thermometer usually has a long crawl from the overnight low to get there. Beware the common single digit temperatures at night! As mentioned, if you are a skier and a fly fisherman, there is no better place. A beautiful place!

    by Mark Pancoast — December 6, 2017

  2. Thanks Mark !!
    In the coming weeks you will be seeing additions to my article. It’s a huge lake, so I’ve yet to discuss the West Side and North Shore. Truckee is a favorite too, so I’ll include that along with some (somewhat) less expensive, nearby areas for a Tahoe retirement. Stay tuned!!

    by Moderator Flo — December 7, 2017

  3. You may want to consider the Carson River Valley, just of the mountain range form Tahoe via Route 50 or Kingbury Grade. Some cities are Genoa (1st settlement in Nevada) and Gardnerville. Handy to Reno, Carson City (Nevada State Capitial), and Lake Tahoe. Close to Heavenly for skiing.
    The area doesn’t have much industryk.
    Area has a very active senior and community center. My wife and I recently purchased a lot to build a retirement home in Gardnerville. 360 view, behind looks up to Mount Job. Looks across the valley (mainly ranch country) to the mountains 20 miles away.
    It is Nevada with normal cost of living and low tax rates.
    If you are looking at the Tahoe area, I recommend you also looking at the Valley.

    by Dee — December 7, 2017

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