If your soul is crying for a sky’s-the-limit experience of a lifetime, one needn’t look any further than Reno’s neighbor, Lake Tahoe. There is a plethora of exhilarating options when budget is no object for a Tahoe getaway.
One of the most extravagant splurges is nestled on the banks of Tahoe’s east shore, just six minutes from Sand Harbor State Park. A lakeside time machine, the historic Thunderbird Lodge has hosted royalty, celebrities and dignitaries such as Howard Hughes, Jack Dempsey, Queen Beatrix, President Ronald Reagan and baseball player Ty Cobb over the decades, according to Bill Watson, chief executive and curator of Thunderbird Lodge.
The Thunderbird was commissioned by multi-millionaire George Whittell Jr., designed by architect Frederic J. DeLongchamps, and construction began in 1936. The lodge, a Tudor-style stone structure is the centerpiece among 10 buildings comprising the George Whittell Estate, also including a card house, the cook and butler's house and an elephant barn that housed Whittell’s pet elephant. A boat house protects Whittell’s wooden yacht that is used today for taking guests on cocktail cruises.
The estate sits on six acres of lakeshore land, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is under the care of the nonprofit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society. And it can be yours overnight for a substantial donation.
“It’s preservation with privileges,” said Bill Watson, the chief executive and curator of the estate. Preservation comes with a hefty price tag for those tasked with it: the structural tribute to Tahoe’s heyday costs about $1 million a year to operate.
Dinner-at-the-Castle for anywhere between two and 16 people costs $10,000 for which guests receive a private curator’s tour and a four-course dinner.
Add a two-hour yacht cruise on the 55-foot piece of floating history, the Thunderbird, for up to 16 guests for an extra $10K. If inclined, rest your head in the cottage overnight for $2,500. The day clocks in at $22,500.
If a private shoreline castle experience is beyond your means, other options are available. In Incline Village, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino has private Lakeside Cottages that include a living room, fireplace, efficiency kitchen, two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and private balconies or decks with views of the lake. These recently renovated 875-square-foot cottages start at $500 per night, based on the season.
While there, check out the six-hour Tahoe Package at the Hyatt’s Stillwater Spa, which features buttery leather furnishings and walls lined with natural stone. For $630, indulge in a Moor Mud Wrap, custom facial, 50-minute Tahoe-stones massage, manicure and pedicure and lunch.
Suites, anyone? Head to the top-of-the-line Sierra and Tahoe Suites at Montbleu Resort, Casino & Spa, starting at $620 per night. Earth-tones, expansive windows, wooden floors, contemporary decor and sleek, low-slung seating are suite signatures. The 1,200-square-foot Tahoe Suite features room service, a Jacuzzi tub for two, wet bar, plasma TV and epic views of the high Sierra lake.
Eat in and hire a private chef. Chef Clint Jolly of Great Thyme Catering, winner of Food Network’s “Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge” in 2016, cooks up his clients’ fondest food memories and desires with customized, eight-course menus paired with carefully selected wines. Dinners start at $3,000 for up to 10 people.
On the South Shore, The Loft Theatre-Lounge-Dining is reviving the classic Nevada experience, dinner and a show. Guests take their seats in plush red chairs surrounding the stage where magicians entertain the audience with sleight of hand. Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduate and Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers Frank Trotta presents a multi-course dinner served with wine and bubbles pairings and tasting notes.
Afterward, a private meet and greet with the performers precedes a visit to the VIP indoor fire pit, where guests partake in bottle service and tableside s’mores, while a deejay heads to the stage for the late-evening entertainment. This package starts at $3,000 for two.
Get a bird’s eye view of Tahoe’s grandeur from the sky. Heli-Vertex has heli-tours departing daily — weather-permitting — from Truckee Tahoe and South Lake airports and the Resort at Squaw Creek. Try the 60-minute sunset champagne tour or night flight starting at $400 per passenger.
Ascend right from the lake in a hot-air balloon. Lake Tahoe Balloons patrons embark on a skyward journey from an aquatic launch pad at sunrise. For about four hours, take in panoramic views of Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, the Desolation Wilderness and even peaks as far as Yosemite on clear days. Each flight is priced at $299 per person for a group flight of up to 12, or $3,600 to keep it all to yourself.
Based out of Reno, Sierra Adventures puts together “Bucket List” packages that include options taking place in and around Tahoe, from glider flights and snowmobile adventures to sky diving and ATV excursions. Pricing is based on your selection and starts at $600 per adventurer.
Party animals can head to PEEK Nightclub at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. Celebrities and entertainers in this 6,700-square-foot space have included Shaquille O’Neal, Lil Jon and Paris Hilton. Patrons must dress to the nines. High rollers can purchase PEEK’s “No Limits Package” that includes a bottle of Louis XIII and other spirits and mixers served in the VIP area for $10,588 plus tax and tip.
Not expensive enough for you? Join Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation club with an initiation fee of $17,500. They’ll fly you to Squaw Valley from San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Monica or Santa Barbara, California. Call for pricing details.
A variety of luxurious lodging and dining indulgences are available around Lake Tahoe with everything from sailboat charters to obscure excursions with which to orchestrate your idyllic alpine adventure.