5 things to do at Northstar California in summer with kids

Think ski resorts are only for winter? Families can get great ski resort lodging deals in the summer, and pair them with outdoor seasonal activities perfect for all ages. We spent a sunny three days at Tahoe, CA’s Northstar this July, where we were faced with enough recreational and event options to last any family a month. How did we pick the best summer activities at Tahoe? We turned to Northstar and their innovative summer activities concierge service to help us have three perfect days on the mountain. Here’s what we loved at Northstar California in summer (and what you should do, too):

1. Rip it up on the Northstar Resort Mountain Bike Park:

Who knew you could ‘ski’ in the summer? A day in the bike park makes use of three lifts and over 44 trails, from wide ‘green circle’ paths to challenging ‘blue square’ and ‘black diamond’ single tracks. For about half the cost of a winter lift ticket, adults and kids can bike all day, making use of the Northstar Bike Academy for Bike 101 lessons and the Lodge at Big Springs for meals and breaks. It’s just like skiing Northstar in the winter, only you’ll be looking for shade at lunch instead of a place by the fire. And if you don’t own mountain bikes and protective gear of your own, rent everything at Plaza Bikes (pair it with a lesson for the best deal), just as you would rent skis and boards in winter.

Tahoe Star Tours

2. Star gaze with Tony Berendsen, President of the Nevada Science Coalition (and poet):

The Northstar Tahoe Star Tours program is popular: on the night we attended this 2 1/2 tour of the night sky, over 25 other guests joined us. Offered most nights at 8 pm, this interactive session includes an educational talk and exploration of the night sky by use of impressively high powered telescopes. Kids are included (and encouraged to ask questions) by expert Tony, and everyone in our group, from age 7 to 37, were entertained. We learned about super novas and constellations and viewed Saturn and Mars from the telescopes. The Tahoe night sky was amazing…the stars literally pop here.

The program meets at 8:15 at the top of the Highlands gondola, takes place just below at the Lodge at Big Springs, and ends at 10:30. Northstar shuttles stop running at 10 pm in summer, and the Highlands Gondola stops at 10:30, but a shuttle specially called to pick tour participants up right at the program venue, so there’s no need to worry about time.

Tip: The 10:30 shuttle does take some time to weave its way back down the mountain and drop off all passengers: we didn’t get back to our Northstar vacation rental until almost 11:30 pm. If you have young children who don’t want to be out that late, it’s also possible to leave the program at 10:15 pm, walk back up the hill to the Highlands Gondola, and take it back down before it shuts down at 10:30. (To make use of this option, however, you need your own transportation in the Village.)

3. Hike or geo-cache with a hiking pass:

For only $10 per adult (kids are free), families can ride the Big Springs Gondola and hike all day. If kids want to try their hand at geo-caching, GPS units can be rented at the NorthFace store in the Village. (This is a fun way for kids to turn hiking into a game, and there are tons of caches to be found!) Hiking trails are clearly marked on maps, and all filter back down to the gondola and lodge, where everyone can ride back up and do it again.

Tahoe Apex adventures

4. Enjoy a Northstar-at-Tahoe festival or music concert:

Nearly every summer weekend, something is going on at the Village at Northstar. During our visit, we were lucky enough to time our vacation with the Beer and Bluegrass Festival, which didn’t have much for kids, but the village atmosphere is always kid-friendly. While parents are enjoying an event, kids can spend some time on the ropes course and bungee trampoline run by Tahoe Apex Adventures. Northstar is a great music venue as well: check their Northstar summer concerts page for event information.

5. Swim in the lake or the pools (or both):

Northstar is only 6 miles away from the stunning north shore of Lake Tahoe, where kids will love swimming and renting watercraft at Kings Beach. If you don’t want to venture that far from your Northstar ‘home’, all lodging guests have access to one of two swim and fitness recreation centers. Both have outdoor pools and hot tubs, as well as games and recreational equipment.

tahoe paddleboarding

Tip: Families are given an events and recreation schedule upon check-in to Northstar-at-Tahoe (it has useful information about the current weather conditions and pertinent phone numbers, too, such as the dial-a-ride for the free Northstar shuttle. If you’re still a bit overwhelmed, make use of the Northstar concierge service.