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Squaw Valley in Summer

Fast-forward from ski season to planning your next family vacation


Village at Squaw Valley
Courtesy of Squaw Village at Squaw Valley

If you’re wondering where to vacation with the kids this summer, you might consider heading to the Village at Squaw Valley in North Lake Tahoe. Staying there is a little like taking the whole family to camp but without the nutso counselors. As at sleepaway camp, everything’s right there: swimming, hiking, biking, even ice-skating, a ropes course, and a rock wall. And with some excellent restaurants, a spa with an encyclopedic menu of treatments, a high-end food store, and a wine shop with tastings, there’s something for all you happy campers. Once you park the family car in the village’s garage, everything is within walking distance, so you can settle in and start singing “Kum Ba Yah.”

Hiking: Squaw is ideal for family hiking. You can tackle the seven miles up the mountain to the swimming, ice-skating, and restaurant at Squaw Valley USA’s High Camp and ride the cable car down, or hike down from High Camp after riding the cable car up. Even if you start up on foot but hike only a mile, you’ll be enchanted by the forest, where huge, smooth boulders give you a climbing workout. In high-water years, waterfalls and serene rock pools reward hikers along a trail called Shirley Canyon. Wildflowers decorate the granite landscape until midsummer.

High Camp: By taking the cable car up to the top of Squaw in the morning, ice-skating until lunch, getting in a quick round of tennis, and then swimming for the rest of the afternoon, your family will earn big bragging rights—and have a blast. You may as well be flying as you circle the ice-skating rink, with its eagle’s view of the mountains and Lake Tahoe. The restaurant deck (on which you can enjoy a lunch of soup, salad, and sandwiches) offers a view of Squaw’s topmost slopes, where wildflowers and even the occasional bunny are visible. Swimming and relaxing in the huge pool and hot tub couldn’t be better after your healthy day of exercise.

Village life: The pedestrian-only village at the base of Squaw offers all kinds of opportunities to just hang around and relax. A chess game with pieces as big as magnum wine bottles will give the kiddies’ minds—and muscles—a workout. An over-the-top pet boutique called Tails by the Lake has “Yappy Hour.” Fridays between July 4 and Labor Day, at 5:30 p.m., dogs are invited to mix and mingle and have free treats. It’s a huge hit with the four-legged set—who run around and behave even worse than adults at a bar—and an entertaining gathering even for the dogless. A miniature golf “course” runs through the stone plaza of the village; each hole is separate, and golfers play a hole, pick up their ball, and walk to the next hole. Most of the restaurants have patios perfect for a snack or a drink and some people watching. For a village that sprang up out of nothing in 2002, this place has got an inviting vibe.

Restaurants: Best bets for kids include Fireside Pizza Company, which has sophisticated salads and a legendary pear-Gorgonzola pizza for Mom and Dad, and Mamasake Sushi. Mamasake is wild and welcoming with its colorful decor and loud music, and it serves fish that is impeccably fresh and showcased beautifully in the simpler sushi creations. For fine dining, the elegant PlumpJack Cafe can’t be beat. The village also offers shops where you can grab a bagel or a sandwich.

Mark your calendar: Every summer, the Village at Squaw Valley offers an extensive lineup of special dates. On June 16, celebrate the summer solstice with Celtic storytelling, harps, bagpipes, and dancing. The Squaw Valley Fine Arts Festival comes to the village the next weekend. The Fourth of July brings live music, kids activities, and fireworks; the third weekend of July is the Art, Wine, and Music Festival. Plan to come to Squaw the third weekend of August if the Brews, Jazz, and Funk Fest sounds like your idea of fun. Throughout July and August, free concerts take place on Friday evenings, and free new-release movies are shown in the plaza every Thursday night. For this year’s details, go to www.thevillageatsquaw.com

Bungee and trampoline fun at Sky Jump

There’s more: Beyond the more traditional summer activities like hiking and swimming, the village offers candle-making for all ages, a rock wall for climbers, a Sky Jump harness on bungee cords, and even a mini trapeze school. Organized sunset and full moon hikes, offered most weekend nights, show you the rare beauty of the mountain in twilight or moonlight.

Accommodations: The rental condos at the Village at Squaw Valley are so much better than camp cabins. The high-ceilinged spaces come with small, functional kitchens and give off a comfortable neo-Craftsman vibe, with their cherry furniture, dark fabrics, and stone fireplaces. Hugely tall windows bring the beautiful mountain scenery inside. Try to get a condo on the south side, closest to the mountains.

Summer prices at the Village at Squaw Valley start at $159 for a one bedroom, $199 for a two bedroom, and $219 for a three bedroom. Call (866) 818-6963, or go to www.thevillageatsquaw.com .

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