14 Fun & Best Things to Do in Truckee, California

Truckee, California, is nested in the Sierra Nevada mountain range about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco. The location of this community offers year-round activities for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and biking. 

During the winter, Truckee has been recognized as the coldest spot in the nation, making this a popular destination for winter snow sports. In the summer, temperatures warm up during the day, perfect for visiting parks, hiking, exploring, and more. Then you can gather around a campfire to warm up as the temperatures drop. 

Some of the best places in Truckee to explore include the beautiful Donner Lake, Trout Creek Trail, Truckee River Railroad, and Martis Peak Fire Lookout. There are various things to do, including dining, shopping, outdoor adventuring, and sightseeing. The best thing about the area is that it averages 245 days of sunshine a year, providing perfect weather for outdoor exploring. 

With such a diverse collection of available activities in the Truckee, California area, there will surely be something for everyone. 

TLDR

So you have booked your trip and are now left wondering what to do in Truckee – here’s a list of some of the most fun and exciting things to do in Truckee, California: 

  • Most significant landmark – Truckee River Railroad
  • Best park – Truckee River Regional Park
  • Best free activity – Hike to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout
  • Best activity for kids – Playing at KidZone Museum
  • Best activity for adults – Wine Tasting at Truckee River Winery
  • Best food – The Golden Rotisserie Best nightlife – Donner Creek Brewing
  • Best all-around accommodation – Cedar House Sports Hotel

Best & Fun Things to Do in Truckee, California

Truckee is well worth the visit if you are exploring California and looking for a unique adventure with plenty of outdoor activities. 

1. Truckee Railroad Museum

Address: 10075 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Located next to the historic railroad station in downtown, the Truckee Railroad Museum is the most iconic landmark, adding historical significance to the area. The caboose is from the Southern Pacific Railroad and was regularly used in the area. 

The railroads, including the First Transcontinental Railroad, Logging Railroads, and Tourism by Rail, all played significant roles in the development of Truckee. 

The Truckee Railroad Museum shares the story of the railroad in and around the area, including details from the initial round of survey parties scoping out the site for the First Transcontinental Railroad. Additionally, the museum features a children’s play train, a logging exhibit, and several rail cars and vehicles. 

If your kids love trains, or maybe you do, the Truckee Railroad Museum is a must when visiting the area. There is so much historical information at this one location that you will have a lot of knowledge and a better understanding of the area as you continue to explore. 

See Related: Best Things to Do in San Jose, California

2. Truckee River Legacy Trail

Address: 10500 Brockway Rd, Truckee, CA 96161

The groomed trails along the Truckee River Legacy Trail stretch approximately six miles, starting at the Truckee River Regional Park. The Truckee River Legacy Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails following the Truckee River, offering breathtaking views of the river and surrounding areas. 

Truckee River Regional Park is also home to many recreational activities worth exploring. The park offers visitors access to an abundance of playground equipment, pony rides and sports facilities, such as ballfields and tennis courts. 

The park’s amphitheater hosts several events, including the annual Wednesday Summer Music Series. Additionally, the amphitheater features many live acts and concerts during the summer, making this park the place to go for summer excitement and family-friendly fun. 

The Foothill Farmers Market is hosted weekly, on Tuesday mornings, from mid-June through late September. This weekly event hosts live music, free samples, various community vendors, and more. 

The farmers market is held near the playgrounds at the park and is easily accessible from the Truckee River Legacy Trail. The farmers market is a must-experience event, especially for those looking for handmade crafts, homemade goodies, and locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables. 

3. Cedar House Sports Hotel

Address: 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Cedar House Sports Hotel is a quaint hotel dedicated to providing guests who love an active lifestyle, a cohesive experience that inspires them to continue exploring the Truckee area. Consider this hotel the base camp for outdoor adventures and a place to stay and enjoy four seasons of fun and excitement. 

Staying at the Cedar House Sports Hotel offers breathtaking views of the area and access to the freedom of living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Skiing enthusiasts staying at this hotel are minutes from some of the most popular ski resorts, including Northstar California and Olympic Valley.  Black Tie Ski Rentals offers equipment rentals for those going cross country skiing.

The atmosphere at Cedar House Sports Hotel is a symbiotic relationship between the mind, body, and soul with its innovative architecture. In addition, there is an emphasis on environmental awareness, integrating many recycling and eco-friendly elements in the décor, design, and room amenities. 

Staying here offers an opportunity to live your best life. With access to activities all year long, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy. Your experience at the Cedar House Sports Hotel is unique, especially for people who live an active lifestyle. 

Book your stay at the Cedar House Sports Hotel and plan your upcoming Truckee getaway. See for yourself why this is the best Truckee hotel for your stay.

See Related: Proven Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms

4. Donner Creek Brewing

Address: 11448 Deerfield Drive, Truckee, CA 96161

Donner Creek Brewing is a brewpub carrying two to three in-house brews on tap, as well as a few local favorites. The stellar selection of bottled or canned beers and wines can be enjoyed at the brewpub or to-go in the comfort of your home or hotel accommodations. 

The gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at this location are a must and pair great with the in-house brews. 

The laid-back environment and local vibe make this the perfect place to hang out, meet the locals, and make new friends. In addition, the area attracts fantastic people worldwide, so you never know who you may encounter. 

Outdoor and indoor seating is available, allowing you to gather and enjoy the fabulous views of the surrounding area. The brewpub is family and pet-friendly, offering something for everyone. 

The night crowd is friendly, making this the place to grab a drink with friends in the evening after a long day of exploring the great outdoors in Truckee. 

During your next visit to the area, stop by Donner Creek Brewing for a refreshing cold brew and some exceptional grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Thirsty for more? Join the San Francisco’s Craft Beer Walking Tour.

5. The Golden Rotisserie

Address: 11357 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161

Do not let the fact that The Golden Rotisserie is set in a strip mall fool you. The food and service are fabulous and a must-try when in the area. 

The Golden Rotisserie serves mouth-watering simple Mexican-inspired cuisine, including rotisserie chicken, tacos, tostadas, and burritos. Every bite of food is full of flavor, and this restaurant does not disappoint those looking for a unique, simple, and affordable meal. 

Food service is quick, allowing visitors to grab their food and enjoy it while exploring the town. Many order from The Golden Rotisserie and take the food to a park or a trail for a peaceful picnic. 

People visiting Truckee, staying in a hotel or Airbnb, or needing to find food to bring back to their room, will want to order from The Golden Rotisserie. 

California offers a series of food tours that you should not miss, such as the Downtown Los Angeles Food Tour, San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour, and Monterey Guided Walking Food Tour.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Oakland, California

6. Truckee River Winery

Address: 10061 S River Street, Truckee, CA 96161

The Truckee River Winery was established in 1989 and is California’s coldest and highest winery. This winery specializes in single vineyard varietals, offering high-quality vintages for locals and travelers to enjoy. 

Truckee River Winery is a great experience for any wine enthusiast when exploring California. The wines have a rich flavor and the overall experience is unique. 

The winery has become a valued part of the Truckee community, offering award-winning pinot noir events and knowledgeable staff, happy to answer any wine-related questions the customers may have. 

It isn’t easy to imagine that the Truckee River Winery started in the garage of owners Russ and Joan Jones. However, it has come a long way and offers the perfect place to gather with friends and family while sipping some of the finest wines in California. 

Don’t forget to stop by Truckee River Winery during your California vacation and visit their tasting room to sample some of the best wines in the area. 

For more wine tasting tours in California, book a Napa & Sonoma Valley Full-Day Wine Trip.

7. Donner Lake Inn Bed & Breakfast

Address: 10070 Gregory Place, Truckee, CA 96161

The Donner Lake Inn Bed & Breakfast has five guest rooms in a resort nestled in the mountains near Donner Pass. The setting and environment at this bed and breakfast will make you feel at home. 

Relax in your room with comfortable living spaces, perfect for escaping your daily routine. Select rooms have a fireplace, making it feel like a mountain resort getaway with views of Donner Pass.

The bed and breakfast offer comfortable public spaces for guests, including a dining room area and a great room space with a seasonal wood-burning fireplace. 

Seasonal outdoor seating areas are available and a great way to enjoy forest sights and sounds, providing an outdoor oasis to kick back and relax in. In addition, the outdoor seating area offers fantastic sky views, perfect for stargazing and relaxing under the stars. 

Nearby, tranquil Gregory Creek flows by, offering peaceful sounds, perfect for relaxing outdoors or taking a nap.  Don’t forget to set your alarm because the hearty homemade country breakfast is worth waking up for. 

Book your mountain escape at the Donner Lake Inn Bed and Breakfast for a magical addition to your getaway in Truckee, California. 

See Related: Hotel vs Motel vs Inn: What’s the Difference?

8. FiftyFifty Brewing Co.

FiftyFifty Brewing Co. Interior
image by Jan OR/TripAdvisor

Address: 11197 Brockway Road, Suite 1, Truckee, CA 96161

FiftyFifty Brewing Co. crafts its beers using the finest products and ingredients while creating the best possible experience for locals and visitors. 

The brewery takes pride in its work, creating unique products and adding special touches to each bottle. The wax-sealed bottles are done by hand because small touches mean a lot to the owners. 

The outdoor patio area offers a serene place to enjoy the cold beverages and mouth-watering dishes available at FiftyFifty Brewing Co. 

The restaurant and tasting room staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and very interactive. Additionally, the service is quick and attentive, ensuring you can grab a quick bite to eat or stay for several beverages, all while catching up with friends. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy an excellent, refreshing, locally crafted beer with a tasty meal at FiftyFifty Brewing Co. 

9. KidZone Museum

Address: 11711 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Kids have a blast playing, learning, and discovering at the KidZone Museum, a local attraction, in Truckee, California. Exhibits are designed to inspire and promote creativity in children under seven but can provide fun and valuable learning experiences for visitors of all ages. 

As part of a 192 grassroots coalition of parents, agencies, and educators, the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum, also known as KidZone Museum, opened in Truckee. 

This location offers many opportunities for kids to be kids and burn off any energy they have left while exploring Truckee. In addition, the museum exhibits provide healthy and loving connections with the children, establishing and strengthening their physical and intellectual foundation.

The exhibits at this museum are designed to encourage participation and interaction. Popular exhibitions at KidZone Museum include Sierra Settlers, Indoor Play Structure, Art Studio, and a Nature Play Area. The museum also offers an Infant Area, with activities perfect for guests aged 0 to 18 months. 

If you are visiting Truckee with children, include a visit to the KidZone Museum where your kids will have a blast. 

See Related: California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

10. Martis Peak Fire Lookout

Martis Peak Fire Lookout Scenery

Address: Highway 267, Truckee, CA 96161

There are many free things to do in Truckee, California, and hiking up to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout is one of the most challenging, yet thrilling free experiences in the area.

Some of the best views of the Truckee and Tahoe Range are from the Martis Peak Fire Lookout. This lookout was built in 1914 to provide a place to watch for wildfires throughout the mountain’s summit. 

The Martis Peak Fire Lookout is used five days a week during fire season and is open to anyone who wants to hike up for a look or go skiing and snowshoeing in the area. 

Hiking to the lookout is available from the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the main road is marked with orange diamond signs. This hike winds through the Picnic Rock Lake Tahoe viewing area and is moderately challenging to complete. The terrain gets a bit rough, and inexperienced hikers may have difficulty. 

Avid hikers looking for a unique adventure must include a trek up to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout. Cross country skiing fanatics will have fun getting out to this lookout during the winter months.

Visitors needing ski equipment can rent skis and accessories from Black Tie Ski Rentals. For a side trip, experience the Mountain and Desert Tour from San Diego or enjoy an Ultimate Lake Tahoe Self-Driving Audio Tour.

11. Lost Trail Lodge

Address: 8600 Cold Stream Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Lost Trail Lodge offers a mountain resort getaway, perfect for travelers looking for an authentic mountain vacation. All rooms are attached to the main lodge, with a private entrance from the deck, ensuite bathrooms, and gas-fueled parlor heaters. 

All rooms have various unique mountain resort-themed features, including a pet bed for your fur babies, a sunken jacuzzi tub, and plenty of comfortable beds for you and your guests. Each room offers the perfect oasis to return to after a long day of outdoor adventuring. 

The main living room area of the lodge has instruments, CD’s, a CD player, and many games. There is also an extensive reading library full of books for guests of all ages to take out on the patio or curl up with in front of the fire. 

The Lost Trail Lodge is set in the mountains, surrounded by the forest, with plenty of opportunities for sledding in the winter and after the snow melts, bike riding in the summer. Wildlife viewing is fabulous and enjoyable all year long. 

Contact Lost Trail Lodge today to learn more about booking your accommodations for your upcoming Truckee, California getaway. 

12. Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Memorial State Park in Winter

Address: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Nestled in the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is the Donner Memorial State Park. This legendary park offers various activities all year long for travelers to experience and enjoy. The leisure or recreation trail winds through the park and overlooks Donner Lake.

During summer, travelers can enjoy picnicking, boating, fishing, water-skiing, hiking, and camping at the park. The park’s winter months provide visitors access to winter sports activities, such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing on trails, and playing in the snow. 

The famous Pioneer Monument was built in honor of the California emigrants traveling west overs Donner Pass in the mid-1800s and is accessible all year long. 

The Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center houses the Emigrant Trail Museum, with exhibits, including the Emigrant Experience, the Donner Party, the Land of the Washoe, the Chinese construction of the railroad, and early adventures over Donner Pass.

Exploring Donner Memorial State Park will give you access to Donner Lake, for various water activities, including boat rentals. Donner Lake watersports and the West End Beach are perfect for summer visitors.

Take time to breathe in some fresh mountain air and enjoy the natural surroundings at this park There are various things to do at Donner Memorial State Park and Donner Lake, making this park one of the best things to do in Truckee, California. Don’t forget to stop by and cross nearby Donner Summit Bridge and the Mt. Judah Loop Trail.

Reservations are required for private tours and larger parties wanting to explore the park with a park ranger. 

13. Northstar California Resort

Address: 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161

The Northstar California Resort is one of the area’s most well-known ski destinations and is extremely popular during winter. The Northstar California Ski Resort offers plenty of year-round activities for guests of all ages to experience and enjoy, including a downhill ski area and scenic ski lift rides.

This ski resort becomes a downhill skiers’ paradise during the winter, with many skiing, snowboarding, and sledding opportunities. The resort has a ski rental company for guests looking to go downhill skiing.

Summer activities at this ski resort include mountain biking, picnicking, hiking, and more throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

No matter what time of year you are in the area, Northstar California Resort offers unique experiences that are sure to provide exciting enrichment to your Truckee getaway. 

If you plan to stay at the Northstar California Resort during your visit to Truckee, California it is best to book your accommodations early. Being one of the best places to stay, this resort fills up quickly, and rooms sell out quickly, especially during the winter. 

See Related: Best Things to Do in Lone Pine, California

14. Old Truckee Jail Museum

Address: 10142 Jibboom Street, Truckee, CA 96161

The Old Truckee Jail Museum is in historic Downtown Truckee, offering visitors something interesting to experience on the weekend during the summer and on Thursday evenings. 

This location is one of the few surviving 19th-century jailhouses of its kind in the Western USA and one of the few remaining buildings original to the area. The jailhouse was used from 1875 until May 1964 and has survived many wildfires and other natural disasters which swept through the site in the town’s early days. 

Since then, the historical society has offered exciting tours of the location, allowing visitors to see what life was like back in the 1800s. In addition, local artifacts and photographs showcase and preserve Truckee’s history, sharing it with current and future generations. 

Additional exhibits at the museum include relics and photographs from lumbering, box manufacturing, ice harvesting, bootlegging, gambling, and the film industry. In addition, some exhibitions include artifacts from the area’s early winter sports era, including skiing equipment and several historical images. 

The Old Truckee Jail Museum is a rare gem in this area and part of Truckee’s historical celebration of the area’s past. Anyone who loves history will not want to miss seeing the exhibits and displays at this location. 

Getting around Truckee, California

With so many places to visit in Truckee, California, it is vital to have a plan on how to get around and navigate the town.

Truckee offers visitors access to the public transit service known as TART. The TART bus stops at various locations, including Regional Park, Gateway Shopping Center, Crossroads Shopping Center, Donner Memorial State Park, and Downtown Truckee. Dial-a-Ride service in the area is also available, offering door-to-door service year-round for the public, with priority service for seniors and persons with disabilities. 

Transportation services provide travelers access to shopping, dining, recreation, and the downtown area. 

Though not necessary when visiting Truckee, car rentals are available for visitors wanting to explore the area on their schedule instead of relying on public transportation. Car rentals in the area are available from Go Rentals and Enterprise. 

Truckee is served by Greyhound and the North Lake Tahoe Express, offering access for travelers to come to the area and leave to explore other notable cities and towns, including Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach, Soda Springs, and Doth Lake Tahoe. 

The Truckee Tahoe Airport provides service for daily private and charter flights. 

FAQ

What are the best things to do in Truckee, California, with kids?

Kids will have a blast exploring the great outdoors and the many parks throughout the area, including Truckee River Regional Park. Downtown Truckee also offers several exciting things for visitors to experience.

KidZone is another popular thing for kids to enjoy, providing an environment that encourages kids to be kids while interacting, learning, and using their imaginations. Kids may also enjoy exploring Truckee Bike Park.

What are some fun things to do in Truckee, California, when visiting Lake Tahoe?

The area is home to many arts, outdoor activities, recreational centers, shopping centers, restaurants, and more. These offer unique opportunities to have fun, experience the city, and have an exciting mountain getaway set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Additionally, exploring the Donner Memorial State Park and historic downtown Truckee are fun and exciting things to experience. 

What are some things to do in Truckee when it’s raining?

Though Truckee has more sunny days than rainy days, it is always best to have a backup plan for those rare rainy days, especially when attractions, such as the Truckee Bike Park, get muddy from rain or snow melting. When it starts to rain, popular things to do in the area include exploring the KidZone Museum or the Old Jail Museum. 

If you are looking for an excuse to go shopping, the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association retail member stores, and shopping centers provide plenty of opportunities.

What are the best Truckee, California, tourist attractions?

Truckee River Winery is famous for visitors looking for a unique experience at California’s highest and coldest winery. The North Star California Resort is a popular skiing destination where many snow-sports enthusiasts visit and stay. 

Another popular tourist attraction in Truckee is the Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum, showcasing Donner Summit exhibits and the detailed history of the experiences of the Donner Party in the 1800s.

What is Truckee, California, known for? 

Truckee is most famous for the Donner Party who attempted to make their way through the area now known as Donner Pass. Several attractions in the area, such as Donner Lake, Donner Memorial State Park, and Donner Summit Bridge, are named in remembrance of the Donner Party members.

If you are wondering “Is Truckee, California, worth visiting?” The many things to do, including the activities in Historic Downtown Truckee and visiting nearby Lake Tahoe or Soda Springs, ensures this is definitely a getaway worth planning.

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