Midsummer Night Dreams Come True!

IMG_1909Picture yourself sitting in a beach chair, your toes in the sand, sipping on a glass of your favorite wine while you nibble on tasty cheese and crackers, listening to the waves clap against the sand in the background.  Just another day at the beach in Lake Tahoe?  No way!  Instead you are sitting amongst an audience under the stars at Sand Harbor State Park enjoying a live performance of William Shakespeare’s as part of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.  And the best part, you don’t even have to be a fan of Shakespeare’s work to have an extraordinary time.

Last year marked my first visit to the amphitheater at Sand Harbor where I immediately became enchanted by the venue and its magical performance full of music, singing, costumes, theater and even… a dog amongst the cast members in last year’s rendition of Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Upon return home that evening, I jumped online and quickly purchased tickets to return to the performance later in the season since I had such a remarkable time.  Even my husband loved going and Shakespeare is not his typical cup of tea.

Each year the cast at Sand Harbor performs a different Shakespeare classic.  This upcoming summer they will feature one of my all-time favorites, A Midsummer Night’s Dreama perfect fit for this venue along the shores of Lake Tahoe.  A famous Shakespearean classic, this comedy celebrates the story of love, mischief and magic. Not your traditional screening, this season’s Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s rendition is inspired by a rock ‘n’ roll infused 1960s London culture which is sure to be the biggest craze in Lake Tahoe this summer.  I can’t WAIT to go see it.

So I realize that there may be some of you that I haven’t yet convinced.  That you may still be traumatized from your high school English teachers when it comes to anything Shakespeare related.  Don’t worry, you can still enjoy this remarkable venue which offers a wide variety of performances all summer long.  Others include:  The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Broadway on the Beach, the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Classical Music Under the Stars with the Nevada Chamber Music Festival at the Lake, the Sierra Nevada Ballet’s rendition of Coppelia,  The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess by the Reno Jazz Orchestra, Les Miserables in Concert performed by TOCCATA and the 2013 Lake Tahoe Summerfest.  Talk about a line-up.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival performances run from mid-July through the end of August and are presented on a stage whose backdrop is Lake Tahoe along the East Shore at Sand Harbor State Park.  The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit organization established for the cultural benefit and entertainment of all visitors and residents to the region.  It began in 1972 and was originally hosted at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the opposite side of Lake Tahoe until four years later it was relocated to Sand Harbor State Park where it has been held ever since.

The venue includes a large amphitheater with stadium seating amongst the sandy hillside overlooking Lake Tahoe.  Facilities include ample parking, restrooms and delicious culinary options provided by Brimm’s catering, a full-bar and even table service depending on which section you purchase your seats.  You can learn everything that you need to know about the venue including seating maps and how to book your ticket’s on the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival website.

Have you been to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival before? Which Shakespeare play or live concert performance would you like to see at Sand Harbor State Beach this summer?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Opening Day to Bike & Hike at Northstar California

547284_349278815154232_1618896414_nWith temperatures around the basin heating up and the sun slipping behind the mountains later each day, it is no secret – summertime has arrived in Lake Tahoe.  What does that mean besides BBQs, beach days and summer weekend traffic? It means that resorts and vendors throughout the basin will begin launching their summer schedule of activity programs.

A big player in the region did just that today.  Northstar California owned by Vail Resorts starting turning their chairlifts again, celebrating the opening day of their downhill mountain bike park and trail lift access for the summer season.

Northstar California is home to Northern California’s largest mountain bike park offering beginner to advanced cross country and downhill mountain biking trails, bike rentals and repair, lift access throughout the resort and its own Bike Academy.  Whether you are an expert or a novice downhill mountain biker like me, this place has something for you.  The ultimate perk, with lift access you can cut out 1/2 the work by riding the chair lifts up the mountain alongside your bike and focus your time and energy on enjoying the thrill of riding down the mountain instead.

My personal favorite and recommendation for beginners is to sign-up for a lesson with Northstar’s Bike Academy Bike 101 program.  It’s the perfect introduction to both mountain biking as well as the resort terrain teaching you all the basic skills needed, familiarity with the equipment 2013-summer-trail-mapand safety instructions.  The Bike 101 program includes half-day bike rental, safety gear and helmet as well as a lift ticket to enjoy the mountain which you can explore all day after your lesson.  I tried the experience last summer, loved it and looking forward to returning this year.  The staff is phenomenal, well versed in mountain biking techniques as well as knowledge of the mountain.

Also, if you have never ridden a chairlift in the summertime, frankly you’re missing out.  Most associate chairlifts with wintertime activities, but here you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and glimpses of nearby Lake Tahoe all summer long on the hiking trails of Northstar California.  With three main chairlift access open including the Gondola, Tahoe Zephyr Express or Vista Express chairlifts, families and friends can explore the mountainside enjoying scenic views of Lake Tahoe, Martis Valley and the Sierra Crest of in the distance.  Easy lift access, clearly marked trails and parameters of the resort, make it easy for out-of-town families to explore hiking trails safely and with more familiarity than in the open, backcountry of the basin.

Afraid you and your kids might get hooked?  No problem, Northstar California offers competitive season passes packages allowing guests to enjoy access to the biking trails and hiking trails all summer long through September.  Learn more about mountain bike and hiking pass pricing as well as season passes.   Also learn more about the resort’s hours of operations as well as answers to all of your questions about the mountain experience.

Do you enjoy downhill mountain biking and if so, where are your favorite places to ride in Lake Tahoe? Please share your feedback in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Paradise Found in Reno

imagesLast weekend my girlfriends and I decided to treat ourselves to a “girls” day in celebration and reward for a very busy and productive year.  Usually our gatherings include trips to the library, study sessions and coffee shops as we tackled graduate school classes together but this time the reason was much better – a spa day in Reno.  Our destination would be poolside, consisting of rejuvenating spa treatments, celebratory beverages and of course, great company and laughs.  Based on one friend’s previous experiences, we chose Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino on South Virginia Street.  We cleared our schedules, made a few calls to confirm appointments and packed our bags for an indulgent day in Reno.

Every spa day should be this effortless.  When the day of our appointments arrived, I pulled into the conveniently located self-parking and reunited with my friends about an hour before our 11 am massage appointments.  First stop, a visit to the Passport Reward’s member card registration desk where within minutes I was registered by the helpful concierge with my “local’s” passport reward’s card extending 20% discounts on all room, food, beverage, retail and spa purchases beginning immediately.  So convenient and immediate, I loved it!  Plus, it remedied any guilt I was feeling about the $$$ I was about to spend.

My friends and I found our way towards the resort pool and nearby Spa Toscana where we checked in for our appointments.  The first thing I noticed was that the spa was bustling with visitors.  It was a Sunday, but in early June, and I was surprised to see it this busy.  Nevertheless, our service was extremely courteous, not rushed and on-time.  After being graciously toured the spa lounge amenities, locker facilities and relaxation areas, we changed into our robes and were escorted to the upstairs private relaxation lounge where we awaited our spa therapists, sipping on flavored waters and teas.

Within minutes I was greeted by Tamara and whisked away to a treatment room for a 50-minute deep tissue massage. Tamara was delightful, intentional and very knowledgeable.  After reviewing with her areas of focus and attention, she made me feel at home allowing me the ability to customize the treatment room with TV video choice, select an iPod music spa-toscana-at-peppermillstation and even the temperature of the massage table.  I was already in heaven.  My massage was exquisite.  Tamara applied a perfect combination of deep tissue pressure techniques with smooth, longer relaxing motions that both healed and relaxed.  My only disappointment was that I hadn’t booked a longer treatment!  After my massage, I returned to the relaxation area where I met my girlfriends and headed to the salon for mini-pedicures and conversation. A quick pedicure later (just what I wanted), we were ready for an afternoon at the spa pool area.

Having worked up an appetite and thirst from our morning of pampering, we made our way to the nation’s only indoor/outdoor Caldarium spa area that features an indoor heated pool, cold plunge pool and heated whirlpool with outdoor patio seating and views of the resorts main pool down below. Here we happily camp for the afternoon on lounge chairs under umbrellas and began ordering lunch items, mimosas and margaritas from resort staff.  One immediately feels as though they are lounging poolside in Las Vegas, a sign that my staycation in Reno was working as a getaway retreat.  As temperatures heated up above and beyond the 80’s we spent our afternoon alternating between the indoor pool amenities and sun deck patio further enjoying the best of both worlds.

Spa 1Without realizing it, we saved the best for last – the Ladies Ritual room. The perfect ending to our relaxing day at Spa Toscana was a visit to the Ladies’ Ritual room were we began our spa ritual journey through the eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge pool, cedar wood sauna, hot whirlpool and cascading deluge showers.  While relaxing (and laughing) in the steam room amongst thick clouds of steamy mist, a friend announced “I think this is my new favorite place in Reno”, we all immediately laughed, signifying without words how we all unanimously agreed.  Spa Toscana truly is our new favorite place in Reno.

I hope this blog post helped you learn a bit more about Spa Toscana and gave you ideas about where to host your next girls day in the Reno-Tahoe region or spend a birthday or couples celebration.  If you have visited the Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno what treatments do you recommend?  What other spa locations in the region do you enjoy?  Please share your feedback in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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The Best Bites in Lake Tahoe

IMG_4004 This weekend I enjoyed one of my favorite restaurants in Lake Tahoe, Bite American Tapas located in Incline Village on the North Shore.  When my husband and I moved to Lake Tahoe from Maui we were at first a bit underwhelmed by the culinary options in our quaint neighborhood until we discovered Bite.  When stepping into Bite one feels relieved to be met by its modern decor, an escape from the mountain decor often found in local restaurants.  I love their large bar and lounge area where I almost always sit even though they do have a separate dining area. Bite’s concept features creative share plates, perfect for a social gatherings, and their menu features high-quality, seasonal products and hard-crafted mixology creations from scratch.  Menu items are priced to try and share multiple dishes which makes the dining experience more fun and different every time you visit.  Another favorite thing about Bite is their daily happy hour food and drink specials from 5-6pm perfect for after work as well as their special late-night menu offered in the off-season.

IMG_4016So after my husband and I jumped in the car, took a short drive to Bite, walked in and pulled up to cozy bar seats we started ordering a few of our favorite items I will share with you here.  First stop, their seasonal cocktail menu which they had just recently updated for the summer season.  However, I had to stick with my favorite, the lemon ginger zinger shown below.  It is a fresh mixture of vodka, fresh mint, ginger, lemon and soda offering a refreshing citrus blend.  No exaggeration, this is my favorite cocktail on the planet.

While the entire menu is designed for sharing, a few of my favorite appetizer menu items include the Crispy Risotto Balls with Marinated Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce and the Green Eggs-n-Ham Deviled Eggs with Wasabi Tobiko & Prosciutto.  They also have a great selection of delicious soups and salads including the Chopped Chinese Chicken Salad which is our favorite.  We chose to start our meal by enjoying the Green Eggs-n-Ham Deviled Eggs featured below.

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Ah the slider menu!  Always my favorite part of the meal is picking which pair of savory sliders we will enjoy since they are all delicious and uniquely creative.  With ahi sliders, beef short rib sliders, duck confit sliders, BLT (L is for lobster!!), crispy goat cheese and of course traditional American cheeseburger sliders to choose from, you can’t go wrong.  If I had to, I would say the ahi sliders are my favorite for their unique balance of flavors and my second favorite the BLT sliders pictured below.

The Best Bites in Lake Tahoe

Finally, the main small plates… our favorite dish we always order is the Grilled Filet Mignon Bites with roasted red onions, shiitake mushrooms, blue cheese and a red wine demi glaze for only $18.  The sliced presentation makes sharing easy and the decadent red wine glaze paired with mushrooms and blue cheese makes your mouth water!
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IMG_4050Make sure you save one last bite! Because their desserts are also served in bite-sized portions perfect for sharing (or not sharing!). Ranging from decadent chocolate cake bites, key lime pies bites, crème brule bites to bread pudding bites the hardest choice by far is sticking to just one.  I recommend they create a sampler platter of bites!  My husband picked the bread pudding bites with vanilla ice cream and it was the perfect ending to our recent visit to Bite.

Hopefully by now I have convinced you that Bite in Incline Village is worth a visit and to learn more view their complete menu.  For a list of the most popular dining options on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe be sure to visit this great restaurant list of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

A Lakefront Dining Tour Like No Other

Wet Woody Garwoods Lake Tahoe-3Memorial Day Weekend launches the beginning of summer in Lake Tahoe including the “opening day on the Lake” when residents and visitors begin to flock to its beaches and crystal clear waters on weekends and vacations.   One of the best rituals visitors and residents partake in the summertime that I especially love is spending the day visiting all of the wonderful lakefront dining options by boat.  If you are planning to visit Lake Tahoe this summer, here is an activity that you simply can’t miss!  It can be especially fun with a large group of friends celebrating a special event or enjoyed with family members reuniting.  To help you along your adventure, I have listed a few of my favorite stops to visit!

First, I recommend starting your day at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino’s Pier where you can rent various models of speedboats by the reputable Action Water Sports.  Here you will quickly become equipped with a vessel to host your journey around the lake for the day.

Start your journey by traveling west along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe as you leave Nevada and sail into California.  The first stop is one of the most famous along the North Shore, Garwood’s Grill and Pier.  Infamous for its signature beverage, the “Wet Woody” rum punch cocktail this is a must try when visiting Lake Tahoe if you want to do as the locals do.  Garwood’s is also a great family, all season restaurant to enjoy lakefront dining for lunch and dinner.  Save the date – their deck opening party for the summer is June 19th!

Next, cruise further west along the North Shore past Tahoe City and enter the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, especially popular to visitors and part-time residents during the summer months.  From a distance you will see the large, brightly colored umbrellas of Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge.  A popular family restaurant in the TS Restaurant group, Sunnyside is my favorite place to enjoy lunch al fresco on its large outdoor deck.   Personal favorites include: the zucchini sticks, fish tacos and of course the decadent hula pie dessert!

Another popular restaurant to enjoy lunch located nearby is the West Shore Cafe and Inn.  Also open for lunch and dinner, guests at the West Shore Cafe and Inn can enjoy the newly remodeled restaurant and California menu offerings including starters, salads, sandwiches and signature entrees.  Guests are invited to enjoy lakefront dining under ruby colored umbrellas with convenient pier access while watching boats jet by.

Last but definitely not least, if you still have the time and the gas, be sure to continue traveling down the West Shore until you reach Chambers Landing in Tahoma.  Chamber’s Landing is a favorite amongst locals and has been a hot spot on Lake Tahoe during the summertime for decades.  Be 0.DiningOnTheWaterTS11lgsure to visit the rustic but often rowdy pier bar to sample its signature Chamber’s Punch before ending your day on the Lake.

Upon return to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino be sure to end your evening relaxing in one of the adirondack chairs lining the Pier overlooking the lake while sipping on one of their delicious cocktails, the Lone Eagle Margarita is my favorite.

Have you visited a lakefront restaurant at Lake Tahoe and if so what was your favorite place?  Please remember that when boating on Lake Tahoe to always follow safety measures, drink responsibility and have a sober driver operate the boat vessel.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Fore! Golf Season in Lake Tahoe is here

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This last weekend we celebrated Memorial Day, which officially launches summer in Lake Tahoe. Besides the numerous hiking and water sports activities available in the area, Lake Tahoe boasts dozens of world-championship golf courses for visitors to enjoy.  It’s no secret that here in the high Sierras, your tee shots will drive higher and longer soaring through the high altitude elevation.  Here I am going to share with you a few of my favorite courses to play in Lake Tahoe, from South Lake to North Lake to Truckee, CA.

Edgewood Tahoe is located along the beautiful sandy shores of South Lake Tahoe, minutes from the downtown action of state line.  The course was designed by George Fazio and opened in 1968 and rated by Golf Digest Magazine as one of “America’s Top Golf Courses.”  The course ranges in length from 5567 to 7555 yards and challenges players of all levels.  It also the well-known host of the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship which draws large celebrity and spectator crowds, both by land and boat, and will be hosted on July 16-21 of this year.

Traveling north around Lake Tahoe you will reach The Golf Courses at Incline Village including  two 18-hole courses, the Championship Course and the Mountain Golf Course.  With two diverse courses, The Golf Courses at Incline Village are designed to suit every golfers style of play.  The Championship courses is a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. design and offers beautiful, scenic views of Lake Tahoe from afar and challenging terrain.  The Mountain Golf Course offers a scenic mountain terrain, elevation changes and a more affordable price.  There are also a variety of competitive packages available allowing players to experience both courses during their visit to Lake Tahoe.

In the nearby town of Truckee you will find the two premier golf courses in Lake Tahoe – Old Greenwood and The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing.  Both golf courses are Audubon International Gold Certified Sanctuaries, representing the highest level of environmental commitment which only 16 courses in the world have achieved this level of distinction.  Old Greenwood was rated among Golf Digest’s “America’s Top 100 Greatest Public Courses” in 2011, and The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing ranked in Golfweek Magazine’s “Top 50 Best New Courses” in 2008.  And, The Golf Academy at Old Greenwood is led by the 2011 NCPGA Teacher of the Year, Keith Lyford as is the most renowned golf academy in the Lake Tahoe basin.

Are you ready to take a swing on your next summer visit to Lake Tahoe?  For a complete list of golf courses available to play in Lake Tahoe visit this Lake Tahoe Activities Guide.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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The BEST of Summertime in Lake Tahoe

waters-tahoe-vacation--1I am currently on vacation in my other favorite place in the world and place I formerly called home, Maui Hawaii, I can’t help but think of summertime.  As I am here playing in the surf, soaking in the rays and visiting with my Maui ohana of friends and wish for vacation not to ever end, I remind myself that everything will be ok.  Because, I am returning to home to Lake Tahoe at the beginning of summertime, my favorite time of year there.

Lake Tahoe in the summertime is an incredibly special time during the summer months. A place I feel so special to be for the season that I refuse to leave at anytime for any reason in fear of missing a day there to play.   It also got me thinking about why Lake Tahoe is the best place to travel to in the summertime and I wanted to share my list of reasons with you here.

Best Reasons to Visit Lake Tahoe in the Summertime:

The Lake – Obviously, this is the main attraction.  The clear, crisp blue waters of Lake Tahoe are the cornerstone of all summer activities including boating, trips to the beautiful beaches and my favorites – SUP and kayak along the coastline to hidden coves.

The Mountains – When you aren’t on the Lake, you’re hitting the mountains.  The Sierra Nevada mountain ranges surrounding the Lake provide the ultimate playground for all of your adventures including golfing, cycling, rafting and especially miles and miles of mountain biking and hiking.

The Beaches – Lake Tahoe’s 72-miles of coastline is scattered with beautiful sandy and rocky beaches.  A few of my favorites you can’t miss are: Sand Harbor State Park, Hidden Beach, Zephyr Cove, Emerald Bay, D.L. Bliss State Park and Sugar Pine Point.

The Temperature – It’s no secret, we have the best temperature in Lake Tahoe in the summertime.  With NO HUMMIDITY, bright blue bird cloudless days, consistent 70’s temperatures and cool evenings, the weather in Lake Tahoe is perfect for any and all summertime activity.

The Sunsets – Lake Tahoe offers some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen with its alpine glow, clear skies and mountain range silhouette backdrop, perfect for every evening sunset spectating.

The Smells – Anyone who has visited Lake Tahoe in the summertime will state this accolade.  Lake Tahoe has the most amazing smell in the summertime.  It is a mixture of fresh pine trees, crisp cool air and occasionally a lingering BBQ in the distance.

The Evenings – I LOVE the long days in Lake Tahoe during the summertime.  It’s almost like the world knows we need longer days in order to squeeze in all of the jam packed activities we have planned.  It doesn’t get dark in Lake Tahoe during the evenings until 9pm. It is amazing.

The Events – Summer is FULL of fun activities of all sorts throughout Lake Tahoe with so many things to choose from including outdoor weekly concerts, farmer’s markets, Truckee Thursdays, Shakespeare Festival performances, holiday parades, fireworks, races and community events and more!

The Traditions – When people ask me to describe Lake Tahoe in the summertime, I often say it is reminiscent of quintessential American summertime traditions.  Everywhere you turn it is full of families celebrating pastimes and traditions whether its playing cards at the beach, enjoying secret family BBQ recipes and drinking games all while reuniting at the same rental cabin year after year.

The People – Whether its the locals, first time visitors or returning neighbors and family friends, you are guaranteed to be amongst amazing company, and likely to make some new friends, as visitors flock to the mountains and lake, year after year to reunite amongst this beautiful backdrop

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about what is to come in Lake Tahoe over the following months. I hope to see you this summer around the Lake!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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