Incline Village in winter is ideal for two things: vacation rentals and upmarket gambling.
A master-planned community on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe, the town of Incline Village, Nevada, was conceived in 1959, the year before the winter Olympics came to Tahoe. Envisioned by Oklahoma developer Art Wood, who purchased 9000 acres from land-magnate and playboy George Whittell for a mere $5.3 million, the idea behind Incline was to create a completely planned, residential ‘village,’ with two primary amenities for community members: a golf course and small ski area.
The effect is ersatz. Shops and services are bunched together in a small commercial center that now jams with SUVs on any given weekend afternoon. Brown-painted houses line countless cul de sacs. Kids play basketball in driveways, while moms and dads barbecue around back. Everyone drives everywhere.
With the exception of the late-20th century lakeside mansions along Lakeshore Drive, Incline is basically a giant subdivision of vintage-60s and -70s second homes on some of Nevada’s most expensive real estate. There’s a huge inventory of affordable rental properties, some of them damn big and with fabulous lake views, making Incline a primo locale for a weekend getaway of ten friends, or for a big family house party.
Aside from skiing at Diamond Peak, wintertime entertainment centers around dinner at a handful of restaurants or gambling at the Hyatt Regency, Lake Tahoe’s only true full-service resort. Its casino is the cleanest and best kept at Tahoe, ideal for clean-hands gamblers who find South Lake distasteful.
Forego bottled water while you’re here. Instead drink from the tap: the lake supplies Incline’s municipal water. And it’s delicious.
- Rent a big house for a ski weekend.
- Gawk at gazillion-dollar lakefront homes.
- Empty your pockets at Lake Tahoe’s nicest casino.
- Meet local Republicans.
- Four to four-and-a-half hours from the Golden Gate—and that last half hour is l-o-n-g.
- Limited shopping; bring specialty items from home.
- Few restaurants and hotels; plan to cook at your rental house.
See & Do
Because it’s largely residential, not a lot happens in Incline in winter. There’s good golfing, a terrific Shakespeare festival, and a cool historic mansion tour we’ll tell you about once the weather warms up, but for now, the big activity is skiing at Diamond Peak or Mount Rose.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, consider booking a spa treatment at the swanky Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt Regency Resort. The arid, high-altitude winter air is hard on skin, so a body wrap and hot stone massage feel great at Tahoe. But bring your checkbook: all this pampering doesn’t come cheap.
If you’re not feeling flush, the best free activity in Incline is a drive along Hyatt Lake Tahoe Casino, the top casino at Tahoe.
Incline Village Restaurants
Everybody rushes to the Lone Eagle Grille ($$$$) at the Hyatt, by far the grandest dining room on the north shore, with soaring ceilings, huge rock fireplaces, and enormous plate-glass windows overlooking the lake’s blue water. Too bad the overly fancy steakhouse fare doesn’t live up to the surroundings. And those prices? Outrageous. If you’re on an expense account, go for it.
If it’s truly great food you want, the hands-down best cooking at Incline is at Le Bistro ($$$), a tiny French-provincial restaurant run by a 43-year veteran French chef who trained in a Michelin three-star restaurant in the French countryside. A master craftsman, he’s one of Tahoe’s best chefs—and hardly anybody knows about him (even though Gourmet and Bon Appétit both have featured him). At a time when everyone is racing to capitalize on the next big trend, it’s comforting to find a sure-handed, old-guard chef who knows how to breathe new life into old classics. If you know real Gallic cooking, prepare to be wowed. You can order a la carte, but the five-course prix fixe ($42) is the way to go.
Alternatively, choose Frederick’s ($$$–$$$$), a small Cal-Asian bistro with hearty dishes like braised lamb shank and gnocchi, as well as a small sushi bar and good sake menu. Request a table by the fireplace for maximum romance. Thursday is locals’ night, with half priced sushi rolls served at the bar.
At the other end of the spectrum, the best cheap eats are at T’s Mesquite Rotisserie ($), a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint that serves mesquite-grilled tri-tip and chicken. It’s a good place to pick up food the night you arrive in town, and ideal for feeding the kids before a movie at the cinema next door.
- $ = entrées under $10
- $$ = $10 to $15
- $$$ = $16 to $22
- $$$$ = $22 and up
Incline Village Hotels
The premier (and only) hotel at Incline is the Hyatt Regency Resort ($$$$), the one truly full-service destination resort on Lake Tahoe, with the usual cadre of four-star in-room amenities, including plump down pillows and high-thread count sheets (alas, service could be stronger, but this is Tahoe after all, land of ski bums and slackers). Most rooms on the 26-acre lakefront property are in the casino-hotel tower, and though they’re well kept and have comfy furnishings, they feel generic—and none has a good lake view. A better bet are the newer, more expansive rooms in the three-story Spa Terrace wing, but avoid those that face the pool unless you like being awakened by screaming kids. The top-of-the-line Lakeside Cottages are actually four-unit buildings with 900-square-foot suites, lavishly decked out with Alpine-lodge furnishings (think river-rock fireplaces and woolen fabrics). The best face the lake, and are high on the fabulosity scale. If you can’t quite swing the price, the next best are the bedroom-only Lakeside Doubles. There’s a private beach, boat dock, and a good list of activities for kids. In winter, there’s less to do, other than play in the snow, empty your pockets in the casino, or drift away in the spa.
- $ = standard double under $100
- $$ = $100 to $200
- $$$ = $200 to $300
- $$$$ = $300 & up
Whether you’re a budget traveler who can’t afford the double-whammy cost of hotels and restaurants, or a luxury traveler who wants seclusion and over-the-top grandeur, you’ll get more space and privacy for your money by booking a rental property. And you’ll have a kitchen too.
Harbor Vista Half Moon Bay: This 4BR/3BA home in the hills of El Granada has panoramic views of Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point Harbor, and is 1 mile from the beach. Enjoy 2 master suites, 2 decks, a remodeled kitchen, a play structure and a new 6-person spa on the back patio. It’s a secluded retreat that is centrally located on the San Mateo Coast.