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Inside Lake Tahoe’s Summer Music Scene

Article by Sam Rose 04.23.2018

Lake Tahoe’s music scene comes alive in summer, when both local and globally known bands — everyone from Paul McCartney to Bruno Mars has played here — perform at neighborhood taverns and low-key outdoor concert venues. The locations themselves — arenas, bars, beaches and even campgrounds — are as much a part of the experience as the music, and there’s a spot for every mood.


Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena

Everyone from James Taylor to Lady Gaga has passed through the Summer Concert Series at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena since it opened in 1992. This 9,300-seat venue is even more impressive once you realize it’s a temporary setup in a parking lot. Improvements to the sound system keep the music focused toward the audience, instead of dispersing in the open air, and raised bleachers ensure everyone has a decent view. The concert series cuts across a large swath of genres and pop music history, from nostalgia acts like Robert Plant and Steve Miller Band to radio hitmakers like Pitbull and Keith Urban. As the sun sets and paints the clouds in hues of purple and dusty rose, you’ll want to pull on a jacket or a cashmere sweater and cozy up — evening temperatures can dip into the 40s at night, even in the middle of summer. Highway 50 and Stateline Avenue, Stateline, Nevada


Cisco Grove Campground

This picturesque campground is an outdoor lover’s dream — it’s surrounded by 800,000 acres of Tahoe National Forest and the Sierra Mountains. While it’s a destination for hiking, biking and fishing year-round, come summer it’s also the site of the Guitarfish Festival, a four-day celebration of music and feel-good vibes. With “Love everybody” as its tagline, the festival has a distinct new-age feel, with yogis and healers practicing on-site. Guitarfish gives a platform to working musicians building their local and national followings, like the San Francisco-based neo-psychedelic soul band Con Brio. Bonus: Kids under 10 receive complimentary admission to the Guitarfish Festival, and there’s a dedicated Kidsville area offering arts and crafts like T-shirt screen-printing. July 26–29, Cisco Grove Campground & RV Park, 48415 Hampshire Rocks Road, Emigrant Gap, California;

The Lake Tahoe-based band Dead Winter Carpenters makes a stop at the Guitarfish Festival with a unique fusion of bluegrass, folk and acoustic rock. Photography by Ming Poon.

Commons Beach

Located on the North Shore, this 4-acre park boasts a beach, a playground and picnic sites, and it’s a town favorite for swimming, sunbathing and barbecuing. Summertime brings Concerts at Commons Beach, a free Sunday afternoon series hosting a wide range of music genres, from acid jazz to Latin pop bands. (Commons Beach hosts Wednesday night Movies on the Beach during the summer, too.) Sundays at 4 p.m. June 17–Sept. 2, 400 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, California;


Commons Beach is a destination for paddleboarding, kayaking and music in the summertime. Photography by BRStockPhoto - Travel/Alamy Stock Photo.

Gray’s Crossing

This championship golf course, designed by seven-time PGA Tour winner Peter Jacobsen, hosts a summer concert series every Tuesday in early evening on the lawn near PJ’s restaurant. Concertgoers can bring their own blankets and low-back chairs, and order from a stadium-style menu. Or, if table service is preferred, reservations can be made so guests can enjoy the concert from their dining table. Acts are a mix of acoustic rock, funk, folk, alt-country and classic vocal. Come for the music and enjoy the rolling green expanses. 11401 Henness Road, Truckee, California;

Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Also on the North Shore, Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a 979-feet frontage with a sandy beach and picnic tables surrounded by magnificent Jeffrey pine trees. Every summer, the park’s Music on the Beach series draws locals and in-the-know visitors alike for beachside revelry — the audience is arrayed on the sand on beach towels or loungers right in front of the bandstand. Kings Beach’s music lineup is all about showcasing local talent: The Sextones (soul and funk), Silver (American roots), Coburn Station (self-described “mountain rock”) and The Wrinkle (bluegrass) will all be there this year. Fridays at 6 p.m. June 29–Aug. 31, excluding Aug. 10, North Lake Boulevard between Bear and Coon streets, Kings Beach, California;

At Music on the Beach, bands serenade concertgoers under the sun. Photo Credit - Ryan Salm Photography.


Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats

This popular supper club has been a must-visit for history buffs (it’s set in a 145-year-old hotel) and musicians (namely, Sir Paul McCartney, who has dropped by for an impromptu set) for decades. While we can’t promise a celebrity sighting, Moody’s is a part of the fabric of Truckee, a convivial spot for craft cocktails, good music — everything from soul and funk to New Orleans jazz and hip-hop — and an all-around great time. Summer weekends can get rowdy, and you can expect to see Truckee’s most fashionable locals here. 10007 Bridge St., Truckee, California;

Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar

Located in one of the country’s oldest ski lodges (it was hand built from salvaged railroad ties in 1928), Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar is known for its eclectic cuisine, friendly atmosphere and spectacular views. The restaurant, which has local artifacts and artwork and vintage photographs decorating its walls, has live music twice a week. During the warm-weather months, the concerts start at 6 p.m. and take place on the deck to make the most of those magical vistas. 10142 Rue Hilltop Road, Truckee, California;

Local musician Mark Sexton is performing throughout Lake Tahoe this summer, including at Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar.

Throughout the summer, artists from various local festivals will be handpicked to perform for guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, giving those staying at the hotel the opportunity to enjoy the best of the area’s vibrant music scene within the intimate setting of this luxurious mountain escape.

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Plan Your Visit to Lake Tahoe

  • Lake Tahoe

    Location Truckee, California


    • Lake Club with watersports and a private pier
    • Ski Valet and Mountain Concierge
    • Champagne bar and other après-ski experiences