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Destinations: Summer Fun: Have a Magical Time in Tahoe (and Reno) with Rob Lake

The splendid view of Lake Tahoe from the Heavenly Ski Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy Jenny Peters.

By Jenny Peters

Looking for a California adventure this summer that doesn’t involve Mickey Mouse? Then consider heading to Lake Tahoe (and Reno, too) to have a truly magical journey, one that’s got a little bit of everything – including women being sawed in half right before your eyes!

That’s just one of the seriously mind-boggling magic tricks that world-class illusionist Rob Lake is pulling off every night all summer long at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada. That lively resort is literally on the borderline between Nevada and California on the southeast side of the truly breathtaking lake, a picturesque place jam-packed with fun things to do.

Illusionist Rob Lake brings his mind-boggling magic show to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino through September 2017. Photo courtesy Rob Lake/Harrah’s ©In Color Studios.

It was magic that lured us there, invited to see Rob Lake’s show as he began his run – he’ll be at Harrah’s until September 4, 2017 – on a night when Lake had also invited the area’s first responders to come to experience the magic. Lake’s fascinating show is filled with audience interactions – the better to astound everyone with his magical legerdemain – and this one was ultra special, as Lake called out the first responders to join in.

“People kept saying to me, ‘oh, if I had been up close, I could have figured it out,’ so I decided to shift and change things in my show to disprove the naysayers,” Lake explains. “Then it just became really fun to involve and engage the audience whenever I can.”

Rob Lake wows the audience during the incredible finale of his magic show at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy Rob Lake/Harrah’s ©In Color Studios.

Of course, for Lake’s big tricks, it is all him and his four female assistants, who are willing to be sawed in half, levitated, cut into ten pieces (that was an amazing illusion) and even completely disappeared. “I keep coming up with new illusions,” Lake told us after the show, “and I’m really excited about some of these new things we’re doing.”

All we know is it was a mind-boggling evening of theater and a terrific way to jumpstart a magical time in lovely Lake Tahoe. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the lake is huge (191 square miles), deep (1,645 feet) and filled with very pure, very chilly water. In the summertime, crowds form, launching kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, jet skis, canoes and, naturally, boats, into the deep blue waters. Everyone heads for Emerald Bay, with its waterfall, beach and famed Scandinavian mansion, Vikingsholm, built in 1928 by Lora Josephine Knight and open for tours. Nearby Fannette Island, the only island in the lake, has the remains of Knight’s “Tea House” perched atop its craggy peak and is a popular spot for picnics and parties.

Vikingsholm Mansion in Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay. Photo courtesy Jenny Peters.

It’s easy to party on Lake Tahoe if you put yourself in the capable hands of Tahoe Tastings owners Diondra and Shane Colquhoun. Their beautiful “Golden Rose” 1953 Chris Craft serves as their “wine bar on the lake,” as they offer two-hour wine-tasting daytime or sunset cruises. Pouring a wide range of California wines – eight varietals in all – while the ship heads into Emerald Bay, the couple creates a convivial experience that might even teach you a few unexpected things about wine tasting.

Tahoe Tastings’ convivial “Golden Rose” boat out on Lake Tahoe, during one of their wine tasting cruises. Photo courtesy Tahoe Tastings.

Off the water, there are plenty of places to wine and dine on the south end of the lake, including the exemplary Bistro at Edgewood. Part of the luxurious resort that makes up The Lodge at Edgewood (which includes a golf course and spa), the Bistro looks out onto the lake and serves up wonderful seasonal fare. Try two of their signature dishes, the standout Ai Funghi e Salsicce brick oven pizza made with elk sausage, wild boar salami and wild mushrooms and the Yellowfin BLT, the crazy good seared tuna and smoked bacon sandwich.

The Bistro at Edgewood’s delicious flatbread brick-oven pizza is worth the trip to South Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy Jenny Peters.

If Italian family-style eats are more to your taste, visit Capisce? in Zephyr Cove on the Nevada side, where you’ll find specialties from Northern Italy including handmade ravioli – called “original ravs” here – fat pillows of pasta stuffed with Italian pork sausage and cheeses. They offer plenty of other classics like veal piccata, risotto, steamed clams and mussels, chicken parmigiana and pizza, too. This homey place will make you feel like Mama is doing the cooking and the rest of the family are working the front of the house.

Work off those meals by getting up into the mountains, either taking hike up one of the countless trails that wend through the Sierras that surround the lake, or go way up on the Heavenly Ski Mountain Resort gondola, which will transport you high in the sky – up to 10,000 feet at the summit. The views are stunning, the air is clear and crisp, and if you’re feeling daring, there are high-flying zip lines, rope climb through the trees and other exciting adventures to be had.

The inviting swimming pool at the rustic Granlibakken Lodge in North Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy Granlibakken Lodge.

To see even more of Lake Tahoe’s spectacular summer beauty, head up the winding mountain road to North Tahoe, where the quaint little towns of Tahoe City, Alpine Meadows and Incline Village await. For a rustic experience, unpack your gear at the Granlibakken Lodge, a ski and tennis resort tucked deep into the forest and originally constructed in the early 1900s. Choose one of their spacious suites, complete with fireplace and kitchen, and create your own cozy dinnertime, or do what we did and take a quick drive into Tahoe City to Mo’s Original Bar B Que, to taste some yummy pulled pork while overlooking the lake.

Mo’s Original Bar B Que serves up smoky pulled pork in a perfect setting beside Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy Jenny Peters.

As with the southern end of the lake, there’s a cornucopia of outdoor fun to be had up here, as well as plenty of cute boutiques and antique shops to lure you in. We had to go up to Donner Memorial State Park to check out the visitor’s center, where the legendary Old West story of the Donner Party’s very, very bad 1846 winter is commemorated. On a less ghoulish note, nearby Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows actually still had a few ski runs open in July 2017, but we preferred to take the scenic aerial tram to 8,200 feet, for another incredible view of the area. The High Camp Pool and Hot Tub experience is a highlight, too, especially on a warm sunny afternoon.

Squaw Valley’s aerial tram gives a breathtaking view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains ringing Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows/Matt Palmer.

We flew into the area via the Reno Airport, so spending a little time in “The Biggest Little City in the World” was in order. Making the massive (and recently renovated Eldorado Resort and Casino home base made sense, for its central location as well as its connection to the Silver Legacy Resort and Circus Circus – on a hot day in the desert, you never have to go outside! Be sure to try the new Kanpai Sushi there, where talented chefs have invented outrageous rolls like the El Jefe, a taste bomb made with crystal shrimp, seared tuna, spicy crab and a tangy special sauce. It’s terrific, as are the other innovative offerings there.

Reno, Nevada, is the gateway to Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy Eldorado Resort and Casino.

Do get outside in the summer, for Reno’s Artown is an annual July tradition that has elevated this old western gambling town founded in 1868 into a center of arts and culture. Over 300,000 people attend the concerts, exhibits, dance recitals, films, cultural experiences and other events throughout the month, which take place in Wingfield Park, at Village Green Park or at one o the many other venues scattered all over town.

The Eldorado Resort and Casino is a centrally located home base for a visit to Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy Eldorado Resort and Casino.

When planning your summer trip to Reno/Tahoe, be sure to keep one thing in mind: this is the jumping-off spot for the annual Burning Man Festival that springs up in the Nevada desert over Labor Day Weekend, so that might not be the time to plan a trip . . . unless you’re ready to check off that bucket list experience and actually head for the Playa in Black Rock City, that is.

 

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About Jenny Peters (147 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's 10Best.com, AARP.org, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (www.criticschoice.com), which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.