Family fun in Truckee

 When my family goes on a ski trip, we don’t always spend a lot of time in the area near the mountain we’re visiting; that’s because we tend to want to maximize our skiing. But a rainy day during our spring break trip to Northstar at Tahoe led us to explore the downtown area of nearby Truckee, California. We liked it so much that we returned the next night – which was easy to do, since the downtown area is only a ten-minute drive from the resort.

If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe, don’t skip Truckee.

To say that my children don’t like to shop is an understatement – it may be their least favorite activity and as such we don’t do it much when we’re on vacation. But the shops in Truckee hold enough treasure that even my boys were happy to spend several hours poking through them.

They were even happy to return for some more shopping before dinner the following evening, which turned out to be First Friday when merchants stay open late and you’ll find live music,

Truckee shopping

free drinks,

Truckee mulled wine

and activities throughout town.

Truckee First Friday painting

So which stores were our Truckee favorites?

You won’t find chain stores along Donner Pass Road, Truckee’s charming main street. What you will find are lovingly curated small galleries and shops full of art and decorations made locally. Here are some we especially loved:

Truckee Variety Company

This old-fashioned general store has a little bit of everything, so whether you are looking for yarn

Truckee Variety yarn

Or owls

Truckee Variety owls

Or fish-flavored candy

Truckee Variety gag gifts

Or hair clips

Truckee Variety hair clips

Or a large stuffed snake

Truckee Variety snake

You’re sure to get what you need.

Ten-year-old Tommy was a little disgusted to discover a “Smoke the Phillies” sign behind the counter, but not so disgusted that he didn’t purchase a baggie full of loose candy, which he chose carefully from the bins at the front of the store.

Truckee Variety baseball sign Truckee Variety Company candy

Sweets Homemade Candies

This store is a caramel mecca – you’ll find apples dipped in it and shelves stocked with bags of chewy candies. Tommy could have stood and watched the fudge being made all afternoon.

Sweets handmade fudge in Truckee


I loved everything in this store, from the vintage books to the handmade dishtowels to the pottery with a dash of inspiration and poetry.

Truckee Bespoke dishes

Since it was First Friday, the studio in the back was open and the boys got to both try their hands at making screen prints. They loved this impromptu opportunity to make art.

Truckee Bespoke printing

And best of all? We got a print bring home with us as a souvenir.

Truckee Bespoke print

Need affordable, family-friendly restaurants in Truckee?

Truckee Coffeebar

Coffeebar is the perfect place for a coffee and a snack. We plopped down on the comfortable sofas and enjoyed oatmeal cookies, smoothies, and beautiful cappuccinos made with organic, direct trade coffee. You’ll also find panini and crepes of both the sweet and savory variety.

Truckee coffee shop

For huge plates of inexpensive Mexican food, look no further than El Toro Bravo. This is also the place to get a generously sized margarita, if you fancy that kind of thing.

Dinner at El Toro Bravo Truckee

And if you’re feeling concerned that maybe you’ve indulged yourself in too much non-skiing fun, don’t worry about forgetting why you’re in Truckee. There are plenty of reminders from a snowboard-carrying matador

Truckee El Toro Bravo matador

To retro murals painted on the sides of buildings.

Truckee mural

Or maybe you just need to stop for a moment to admire the mountains.

Truckee mountains

Truckee is definitely worth coming down off of the slopes to visit if you’re staying and skiing in the Lake Tahoe area.

This post was written in conjunction with my relationship with Vacation Roost as one of their ambassadors. 

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  1. says

    Ahh, Truckee!! As a child, I loved the “variety store” (as we called it in the olden days) and could spend at least an hour browsing all the practical jokes and gag toys for sale. Glad to see it’s still around :)

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