For the 2021 Thanksgiving holidays, we decided to visit Donner Lake and a couple of ski resorts in its vicinity. It would have been fantastic if there had been snowfall (sadly there was not), but we still ended up having a good and restful time.
Google Maps informed me that normally it takes 3.5 hours to drive fromFrom Santa Clara to Donner Lake. But due to Thanksgiving holidays, traffic was literally crawling between Fairfield and Roseville and it took almost 5 hours on the road.
There are multiple routes to go from Santa Clara to Donner Lake (and back). For both directions, I chose to go through Fairfield and Roseville. Traffic was busy and even jammed until Roseville, but after that in the mountains the driving was a breeze.
We booked a stay at the Donner Lake Village, which is right on the lake. It is conveniently just a short ride away from multiple ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region.
We liked how we could just go to the lake for morning and evening strolls since it was right behind the hotel.
We did not like our room much, since the sofa bed and furniture were a tad old. This might have been an exception since our friend’s room at the same hotel was nice.
We had a few tranquil mornings and evenings lazing on the Donner Lake bank abutting the hotel. It was super quiet and the water was so peaceful that it mirrored the surrounding mountains and woods. The kids had fun by the lake side.
The Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley) ski resort was a 30-minute drive away. This is famous for being the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Since there had been no recent snowfall, the skiing season was not open and all ski lifts and activities were closed. Thankfully, the Aerial Tram was open and we took that up the mountain to hike and play in the snow up there. (Tickets were $39 for adults and $29 for kids.) The snow was enough for the kids to have snowball fights and build a snowman. There is also a small Olympic Museum up on the mountain about the 1960 Winter Olympics that is nice and must not be missed.
The Soda Springs mountain resort was a 15-minute drive away. Here too, the snow season had not opened, but they had a Planet Kids arena built with fake snow which had activities for kids like tubing, tube carousel, snowboarding and skiing. The kids had lots of fun, especially tubing which was easy since they had an escalator to return back before sliding off again.
For eating, we liked the options at The Village in Squaw Valley. Especially the Fireside Pizza Company place and gelato at Euro Sweets were liked.
For groceries, there was a Safeway which was a 15-minute drive away which was convenient.