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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tackling Tahoe with Toddlers

My friends thought I was crazy to take an infant and toddler to Lake Tahoe. Not only was it winter, but my husband Mark would be occupied at a conference there. But I’m an optimist. I had visions of us happily sledding down the hill in the sun, making snow angels and snowmen while Mark spent his days indoors.

I didn’t count on the storm dumping four feet of snow in two days. I didn’t count on our kids not sleeping well. I didn’t count on the seven hour power failure. And I sure didn’t count on difficulty in booking $20 an hour babysitter for my only ski day in six years.

So here’s a list of places to go with young kids. And click here to read the complete article on Tackling Tahoe with Young Kids. It’s too long to publish on the blog.

Kidzone Museum
The biggest gem for kids in the Tahoe area is the Kidzone Museum, good for infants on up. Explore the cushioned crawling area with teething toys, indoor jungle gym, train table, mini-grocery store, hands-on doctor’s office, water play lagoon, dress up area, stage coach and craft room. This indoor museum is open most snow days (providing you can get there).

Historic Downtown Truckee
When the sun is out, this is the place to be with young kids. Spend a morning walking around the historic and picturesque streets of downtown Truckee. Stroll by the stores, which are surprisingly nice. Most of the local eateries are kid-friendly. The shops and restaurants are on two long blocks which are somewhat stroller friendly if the snow is cleared.

Sleigh Ride
Get the kids singing Jingle Bells as you ride on open sleighs pulled by horses. The 30 minute rides are suitable for babies to grannies – with blankets provided to keep you warm while you take in the scenery.
While hearing “mush” may remind you of grandmother’s breakfast, the cold air blowing through your hair as 10 gorgeous huskies pull you through the snow will leave you refreshed. Kids love the Alaskan and Siberian Huskies pulling the toboggan sleds, and you’ll love the photos. Cozy up with your family (kids need to be at least 10 months old) under blankets at Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours at Sugar Bowl or at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Children should be at least two for the Husky Express Dog Sled Tours, 30 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe. The ride is not recommended for pregnant women.

Sledding or Tubing
If your child has a sense of adventure, consider sledding or tubing. Many ski resorts have their own sledding and tubing hills with rentals.

Ice Skating: Squaw Creek, Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena
Those living in warmer climates don’t know what they’re missing if they haven’t ice skated outdoors. For scenic skating, take the tram at Squaw Valley and skate while overlooking the lake. Fearful of heights? Go to the outdoor Resort at Squaw Creek rink, or the newly opened rink at Heavenly Village. For indoor skating, the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena is open year round.

Lake Cruise
On a clear day, the lake is a great place for unobstructed snow capped mountain views, especially since it doesn’t freeze in winter. Take the kids on a 2 ¼ hour narrated cruise in Emerald Bay with Lake Tahoe Cruises. It runs daily at 1:00 p.m. with lunch and drinks sold on board. Crawling babies may find the floor a bit dirty, so bring a stroller or carrier.
Combine California cannibal history with snow play at Donner Memorial State Park and Museum in Truckee. Spend an hour at the Emigrant Trail Museum, which shows the area’s history including inhabitants like the Native Americans, the Donner Party and transcontinental railroad builders. The museum has a slide show, movies and exhibits. And in winter, there’s plenty of snow in the park for snow angels and snowball fights.

Ski Slope Day Care or Kids’ Ski School Progams
The key element to a successful day on the slopes with young children is babysitting. Many of the ski resorts provide day care and ski school, though the minimum age is usually two or three. Heavenly is the only resort taking infants, from six weeks up. The programs aren’t cheap, but they are fun for the kids, often including snow play, songs, crafts, playtime, lunch and snacks. Call ahead for reservations.

If you and your partner want to take turns watching the kids during the day, spring for an interchangeable ski ticket at Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Homewood or Tahoe at Donner. For the same price as a single adult ski ticket, the interchangeable ticket is good all day, no matter who uses it. At most Tahoe ski resorts, kids five and under ski free.

Details: Most programs have indoor and outdoor play, crafts, songs, and include snack and lunch. All but Heavenly and Sierra at Tahoe required kids to be toilet trained. Reservations book up quickly.
Squaw Valley (530) 581-7166.
Northstar at Tahoe (530) 562-2278.
Heavenly (775) 586-7000 x 6912.
Sugar Bowl (530) 426-6776.
Diamond Peak (775) 832-1177;
Kirkwood (209) 258-7274;
Sierra at Tahoe (530) 659-7453 ext 270.
Resort at Squaw Creek (800) 327-3353.

Once you get over the sticker shock of up to $20 an hour babysitting for two kids (holidays may cost more) you’ll find several services. Most nannies will come to your lodging to babysit, and will bring toys, games and sleds if appropriate. The hourly cost of babysitting does not include the services’ $10-30 referral fee, and possible $10-30 travel fee if the sitter lives outside your area.

Call ahead for babysitting – up to three weeks for Fridays and Saturdays.

The agencies are required by law to perform a TrustLine background check, though not all do them. TrustLine requires fingerprinting and California Department of Justice checks for criminal convictions and substantiated child abuse reports. To confirm a caregiver’s status, ask the agency for the sitter’s full name and driver’s license number, and call TrustLine at (800) 822-8490. These status checks by consumers are free.
Check with Neta’s Nannies or a complete list of Lake Tahoe babysitters. Tahoe Kids Guide also provides referrals.

Other Family Friendly Tahoe Resources
Tahoe Kids Guide

--Book a hotel suite or a condo, with a separate bedroom for the kids.
--Bring flashlights or candles (with matches) in case of a power outage.
--Bring a shovel in case you need to dig your car out (many hotels can lend them to guests)
--Book a room with a kitchen, so you don’t have to eat out. If you don’t have a kitchen, be sure there is a restaurant in walking distance of your hotel, in case you get snowed in.
--Bring a bottle of snow cone syrup for a special kid treat – pour it directly in the snow and eat up!
--Call several weeks ahead for a babysitter, especially for weekends. Ask about all fees (i.e. referral, travel and cancellation) to avoid surprises.
--Bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate in case the ski resort child care asks for proof of age.
--Check if child needs to be toilet trained if you want ski slope day care.
--The childcare programs at the ski resorts offer different levels of activity. Check the websites or call the programs to be sure your child will be comfortable.
--If you bring your child to ski resort child care, be sure to get a list of what you need to bring (i.e. mittens, lunch, sunscreen, change of clothes etc.)


  1., a Lake Tahoe Family Vacation Guide, families will find detailed information about Lake Tahoe events and activities that parents and kids can enjoy together.

    We also offer a Babysitter Referral Service. Rates: $15/hr for 1 to 2 kids. Referral Fee: $30

    Elizabeth Sedway, Pres
    (775) 813-4429

  2. Hi, Debbie,
    fyi, Sugar Bowl is one of the only resorts that actually takes the 3 year olds out on skis (most places start at 4) in their ski school, and also if you have kids of different ages, it has a single dropoff site for all the kids' programs (a lot of places have one site for ages 4-6 and a completely different dropoff site for ages 7-12). -Anita Reimann... catching up on your blog :-).

  3. You can also try All About Kids babysitting. All of their sitters are Trustline Registered and they have been servicing Lake Tahoe since 2002.