by Carmel L. Mooney
You can ask almost anyone who has traveled with their family to Lake Tahoe about their fondest memories and you will likely hear mention of Camp Richardson.
Camp Richardson, a historic all-inclusive resort in Lake Tahoe has been the scene of family memories and outdoor fun and adventure for decades.
Dozens of quaint little 20’s and 30’s era cabins, docks, restaurants, and outdoor water fun are just a part of what makes what is known fondly as “Camp Rich” a family affair and tradition for folks from all over the world.
On our recent visit, we enjoyed the relaxation of dining on our cabin’s little private deck overlooking North America’s largest Alpine Lake. Everyone, kids included, enjoyed that we could walk a few feet out under the pines and to the water’s edge to enjoy swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding or just relaxing on the clean sandy beach. For added convenience, our cabin had a nicely appointed little kitchen so we could cook up a couple of our own meals and snacks which is always a bonus when traveling with always-hungry tummies.
When we got hungry, our clan enjoyed the spectacular view of Lake Tahoe from the Beacon Restaurant where we savored great food and excellent service in its famous laid-back and relaxed beach party atmosphere. A local’s favorite, The Beacon has a great fare to choose from and an impressive children’s menu too. We all agreed that the homemade sourdough bread bowl of savory chowder was delicious and the salads and scallops and melt-in-your-mouth St. Louis cut ribs were equally pleasing. Fortunately, the food is almost as perfect as the location and its impeccable view.
One afternoon we took the Rum Runner day cruise from Camp Richardson. This hour and a half, afternoon yacht excursion took us out to Emerald Bay where we were entertained by wildlife and osprey as we relished in the emerald and cobalt waters and history. Mom and Dad enjoyed the signature Rum Runner cocktail which was refreshing and enjoyable. Made from a famous tasty concoction of tropical fruit juices, nectars, and rums, it was memorable. But what doesn’t taste good while relaxing aboard a yacht overlooking the most beautiful lake in the Sierra?
One of the highlights of our visit to Camp Rich was renting a small speedboat so we could water ski and enjoy a picnic out on the crystal blue waters of Tahoe. The kids tubed and grown-ups water skied and we just thoroughly enjoyed exploring coves and beaches from our little vessel on the flat glass lake.
The proximity of Camp Richardson to South Shore Lake Tahoe is a bonus so we enjoyed going into town to explore, visit the casinos, and buffets, and tour the hidden gems of Tahoe. And even better, Camp Rich sits right on the bicycle trail for families to explore the lake.
While in town, we took time to experience a hike in Van Sickle Bi-State Park. One morning we even indulged in a long-time locals’ favorite by dining at the Red Hut Café where huge filling omelets, muffins, waffles, and homemade stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts filled us up and readied us for our wonderful day in the great outdoors. With its old-fashioned soda fountain and homemade goodness that has been pleasing locals and visitors since the 1950s, we knew we would not go wrong. We will be back and with several area locations it makes it even easier to return.
One morning was a highlight because we left Camp Richardson early to Paddle Board on Lake Tahoe while the morning water was flat glass. Our guides from South Tahoe Stand Up Paddle made us feel comfortable and created the right first experience for us to enjoy and not feel intimidated. Owned by the local Brackett family for two years, this organization is the way to go for beginners. They know how to show anyone who wants to try the fastest growing water sport in the world, how to take to the water effortlessly to enjoy the best views of Tahoe from standing right above the surface. Similar to surfing and easier than kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding is serene yet an awesome core workout as well.
Even our tween loved it and did it successfully on the first try. South Tahoe Stand Up Paddle offers tours and instruction for all ages and levels of expertise. Since they are located just a few minutes from Camp Rich it was a win-win and easy to meet them in the early morning conveniently for our wonderful Paddle Board experience.
One evening after working up a Tahoe appetite from a day in the great outdoors we enjoyed our favorite Tahoe area buffet. Located at a bird’s eye view on the 18th floor of Harrah’s Lake Tahoe it is truly a great buffet dining experience with multi-ethnic offerings and desserts of every kind imaginable. It is a bit pricey but the view is magnificent and the food is great. The Forest Buffet has been voted the “Best Buffet” in the annual Best of Tahoe’s Reader’s poll conducted by the Tahoe Daily Tribune as it has also been deemed “Lake Tahoe’s Best Buffet” in Casino Player Magazine.
Perhaps the best part of our Camp Richardson stay was enjoying a relaxing family evening each night, unwinding from the day’s adventures. Whether we had chosen an afternoon at Baldwin Beach or a day’s bicycle jaunt around the lake for a picnic and exploring, Camp Richardson provided us our little refuge in the evening to sit on our deck or the dock and gaze at glorious sunsets and enjoy the majesty and serenity of the most magical lake in the world. Sometimes Mom sipped some wine and dad and the kids explored with binoculars and one night we all just played a board game together on the water’s edge and built sand sculptures. But no matter what we chose in the evening we all had our fun and our time to recharge.
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Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples.