Ask any Tahoe local—the fall season is the best time to be up in the mountains. The summer crowds are gone, the weather is pleasant, the aspens and dogwoods are starting to turn color, and excitement is building for the coming ski season. But don’t mothball your bathing suit just yet; there are still a few months of late summer fun awaiting you in Lake Tahoe. Here are some of my favorite picks for family-friendly fall festivals taking place in Tahoe this October.
TAHOE’S KOKANEE SALMON FESTIVAL
One of the best reasons to take a family getaway to Lake Tahoe this fall is to attend the annual Kokanee Salmon Festival, held the first weekend in October every year by the US Forest Service at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. It’s one of most interesting and educational events in Northern California. Festival activities include “Wild Things”, where kids can view native Sierra Nevada animals on stage, a giant 40 foot inflatable fish for children to explore, ranger-led walks, and a salmon barbecue feast that benefits the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.
But the highlight of the festival is the Stream Profile Chamber, a series of submerged windows beneath the surface of Taylor Creek that allow an up-close-and-personal study of one of nature’s stranger rites: the annual spawning display of red Kokanee salmon as they battle their way up Taylor Creek to lay their eggs. It’s fascinating to watch; I remember spending hours here when I was a kid.
Although the salmon run takes place during October, the chamber and visitor center are open from Memorial Day to the end of October. When the salmon aren’t stealing the show, you can watch rainbow trout, crayfish, and minnows in their natural habitat through the viewing windows. Best of all, there’s no entrance or parking fees, and the ranger-led tours are free as well.
And if you’re looking for a great place to stay while attending the festival, the Camp Richardson Historic Resort is right down the street, and they’re offering a special rate for LocalGetaways fans starting at $65 a night.
OCTOBER HARVEST FESTIVAL
If you like beer, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and bluegrass, keep reading. On both ends of the lake there are several fall festivals taking place that will put a serious dent in your diet. Over at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley they’re hosting an October Harvest Festival, featuring bluegrass music, hayrides, pumpkin painting, pie-eating contests, winemaker’s dinners, harvest brews and bratwursts, and (now this sounds like a hoot) a night-time glow golf tournament.
Tahoe’s lively Oktoberfests are another perfectly good reason to head to the mountains this fall. On the first weekend of October the Camp Richardson Resort hosts its annual Oktoberfest. A local favorite (half the families in South Lake show up for this one), the festival features authentic German food, craft booths, a costume contest for you and your dog (always good for a laugh), live music featuring the Gruber Family Band, family games & activities (pumpkin patch, bouncy castle, face painting), and their legendary Beer & Wine Garden.
On the north side of the lake the beer will be flowing as well at the 10th Annual Village Oktoberfest at Squaw Valley USA on Saturday, October 1, from 2 to 6pm. All the classic elements of a quality Oktoberfest are represented, including traditional Bavarian music and folk dancers, a beer garden, all the brats and kraut you can eat, as well as free live entertainment. Tickets are only $10 and include ½ liter glass and one beer.
If you have your own tips and recommendations on fall festivals that you’d like to share, feel free to add a comment to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.
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