“How far is Truckee, California, from here?” I ask the guy behind the counter.
And just like that time my preorder of Tay Tay’s 1989 downloaded a night earlier than it was supposed to, I squealed and called everyone I know to let them know that Truckee was a guest setting in the novel I was reading. And yes, I did get a few people to remind me that calling at one o’clock in the morning about a book does not constitute an emergency wake up call. (Sorry again, Mom and Dad.)
Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, Truckee is a real place. Located an hour north from Lake Tahoe, it is quaintly nestled in the mountains. (Perfect romance novel setting, IMO.) And here’s my little confession: I actually don’t live there. My cousin, Dana has been a Truckee girl for 20 years, and she would have it no other way. And because of her residency, every summer I reap the rewards of Truckee, California when I visit.
For many, the draw is Its mix of historical landmarks and contemporary amenities. For me, Truckee is that place that immediately feels like home, that welcomes you with open arms and in a matter of hours, you no longer feel like a tourist but like a local. The mountain town is one of those places that will make you wonder why you never discovered it earlier and why you have to leave.
So, while Bekah gave you an insider’s view of a day in Philadelphia and Anne was your guide to Lexington, and as we come to the beginning of summer, I thought I would strap on my fanny pack filled with maps, trail mix, and bandaids and give you a day in Truckee, California. Get ready to fall in luv.
Where to Stay when visitng Truckee
Okay, I’ve only stayed in one place in Truckee, it’s completely free and awesome. I call that the family discount.
Since you’re probably not a part of my family (your loss by the way), where do you stay in Truckee? There’s a slew of hotels/motels/Holiday Inns (Say what? I couldn’t help it.). All kidding aside, there are a few places to rest your head. So, here’s two options on the high and low end of the Yelp scale.
The Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court: Calm down, Outlander fans. This is not those Highlands. Although I’m fairly certain they would be happy to host an annual Outlander fling complete with bagpipes, haggis, and men in kilts.
If you know anything about the Ritz-Carlton, you know you are not paying Motel 6 prices. I’m fairly certain that a Ritz-Carlton towel alone costs the same amount as a Travelodge extended stay. But, if you are doing only one night and you’re all about Treat Yo’ Self 2015, this is the place for you.
Plus, even God saw this view and high-fived Himself.
The River Street Inn: If you can’t Treat Yo’ Self, or you believe in a budget, The River Street Inn is perfect.
Located in Downtown Truckee, this bed and breakfast allows you to explore the shops and restaurants all in walking distance. Plus, when I get to the places to find spirits (and I don’t mean ghosts), you’ll be drunk tweeting me your thanks for this recommendation.
Your Morning Pick-Me-Up
Sure, you could go to the millionth Starbucks in California, add a star to your Rewards account, and have some teenage kid misspell your name on your grande-double-shot-coconut milk-sugar free vanilla-no whip-half the chocolate-mocha. (Seriously, is it that hard to make this drink?) Or you could venture over to Jibboom Street and go to one of the greatest coffee shops that would make Seattle weep tears of coffee grounds: Coffeebar.
Yes, Coffeebar has mochas, lattes, and machicados, but for this establishment, espresso is an artform. Grab a caffé marocchino because I have one word: Nutella. I think that’s all I need to explain. And since it’s summer, don’t grab and go. Get your drink, grab something to read, and go sit outside. Trust me: it’s not cliche. Their outdoor seating area beckons you to pull up a seat and relax.
Breakfast of Champions
One thing you’re going to notice about Downtown Truckee is the absence of food chains. Yes, there are McDonalds but you’ll have to travel for that. Hoping for a sausage-egg-cheese bowl from Carl’s, Jr.? Sorry. You’ll have to find your saturated fat/heart attack inducing breakfast someplace else.
But what you will get from Downtown Truckee’s restaurants is local produce, fresh food, and meals that have been featured on Food Network. One of the best spots for breakfast is one of the newest places: Marty’s Cafe.
This place is actually great for anytime, but their breakfasts are the reason why people say it’s is the most important meal of the day. My suggestion? Get the fried egg sandwich, sunny side up. This is not the fried egg sandwich you made during those late college nights. Hello, bacon and gruyere. Meet my stomach. I think you two will be the best of friends.
The Great Outdoors
It’s a mountain town, so you should probably explore…I don’t know…the mountains. I’m the first to tell you I’m not the most outdoorsy traveler, but going to Truckee changes all of that. This girl takes off her high heels and puts on a pair of sneakers that typically only feel the persistence of a treadmill.
Ask any local where to go for a hike or to just sit and experience the beauty of Mother Nature, and they will point in any direction because that’s just how awesome this place is. My favorite is Donner Memorial State Park.
Beautiful trails surrounded by lush forests. A crystal clear lake that begs for a kayak or paddle board. Okay. Yes, that Donner is the infamous Donner Party where the main course was most likely Cousin Jebediah’s’ ass. But fast forward over a hundred and sixty years later, and Donner Lake is still one of those places that you think to yourself, “Not a bad spot when you’re feasting on the dead flesh of your relatives.”
The cover of my poetry anthology: Converse, Donner and a Can of Bud
If time permits or later in the day, jump in your car and head towards Tahoe City for Eagle Rock.
The hike provides just enough of a workout for those legs without making you feel too winded. But the best part? The panoramic view of Lake Tahoe. Don’t rush this and make sure you perfect your panoramic setting on your IPhone. Plus, you can tweet Sam Heughan about this munro (I don’t think it qualifies, but whatever) with the hashtag #MyPeakChallenge. I bet he would finally respond.
See You at Jax
Chances are, you’ve worked off your Marty’s Cafe breakfast. If not, make some room. Jax at the Tracks is one of the best places for the most interesting menu choices. First of all, the restaurant is an old diner…from Philadelphia, and made its home in Truckee in 1995. Since then, Jax has been one of the hot spots for food and my go-to place at least once (okay, sometimes twice) during my visits. My suggestion? Get the Crab Cake Sandwich. Seriously. One of the best sandwiches of all time.
Also, shout out to Jax for recognition on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. I think Guy Fieri wishes his Time Square restaurant could be half of what this place is.
Keep Truckee Local
What’s the best exercise you can have after a meal at Jax? No, not run. Hello, elevation.
Walk down to Donner Pass Road and step into some fantastic boutiques and shops. The Cooking Gallery makes you want to start your own cooking show or register for everything even if you’re already married or not even close to it. Need a new outfit? Dressed, Mo Jo & Zoe, and Nox are stellar fashion boutiques that believe your wardrobe should have something unique. One of my favorites to venture into is Bespoke, which has a little bit of everything for home or for yourself. And what’s cool about the place is their support of local artists and vendors.
There are Spirits Everywhere
It’s Happy Hour. And no place puts the happy in that hour more than Truckee. Take a little detour back to Jibboom Street and pop into The Pour House and get your inner sommelier on with some wine tasting. Go back to Donner Pass Road and pop into the Bar of America, which was once – Are you ready for it? – a Bank of America. (Insert gasp.) But my favorite place hands down for a great glass of wine and good conversation is Moody’s. Get there early because the bar gets packed quickly. Also, tell Sherry that I say hi. I love her, and so will you.
Little fact that’s not so little? Paul McCartney came through Truckee a few years ago, stopped in Moody’s and held a free impromptu concert. Don’t believe me? Go to the bathroom. Trust me.
TN Tip: As someone who does enjoy a good pinot noir or a margarita, I find that the Truckee scene is the perfect setting to enjoy that pastime. But be careful: Truckee’s elevation is over 5800 ft., and that just makes the alcohol hit a little faster and stronger. And you don’t want to be that tourist.
Truckee After Dark
Food is love, right? In Truckee, the answer is yes. So, if you’re looking for dinner options, get ready to fall deep and madly in love.
Venture over to Pianeta Ristorante and get my favorite: the antipasto misto. Make sure you get reservations for this place, it’s intimate and fills up quickly. If you’re on a budget, walk down to Burger Me (another Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives recommendation) and get ready to create the world’s best hamburger.
But the place that has indelibly left its mark on my heart is The Cottonwood.
While anywhere in Downtown Truckee, look up and you will not be able to miss it. The Cottonwood is one of the nation’s oldest ski lodges that has been converted into one of the nation’s best restaurants. Since it’s summer, try to get a table on the deck, perfect for its sprawling view of Truckee and a place to watch the sunset over the mountains. One of the best items on the menus is the caesar salad, which is perfect for large groups. And while in Rome…eat it sans silverware. I’m not joking.
And don’t be in too big of a hurry to rush off. First of all, what makes these restaurants great is the fact they want you to enjoy your meal and don’t push you out for the next group. So, sit back, eat your salad with your fingers, and have another glass of wine. You deserve it.
TN Tip: Try to go to Truckee on a Thursday and stay for Truckee Thursday. It’s a farmer’s market, food and merchant vendors, and beer garden spectacular. Almost all local shops are open and many of them serve amazing drinks. (Try Bespoke, who gave guests mango margaritas in jelly jars. I may or may not have gone in multiple times.)
So, that’s my Truckee. What will be your Truckee? Hope to see you there this summer, and if you do go, say hi to Dana. She, like any other person in Truckee, would welcome you with open arms.
Need help planning your Truckee vacation? Need a tour guide? Want to meet Dana? (JK, D!) Leave a message or send us a tweet. Happy travels!