Ditch the car & explore Tahoe by bus


Story & photos by Jamie Wanzek


Explore Tahoe and Truckee on the local TART buses ·

For the last two years of living in the Tahoe Basin, I have shamefully used my 1997 Subaru Outback for my day-to-day commutes around the North Shore. While my commutes to work and skiing include the windows rolled down and my favorite jams, I often kick myself for not using public transportation offered across the community. It is cheap and an efficient form of transportation that also allows visitors and locals easy access to the area’s beaches, sightseeing, shops and eats.

Therefore, to relieve my carbon footprint, wallet and take a tour of my neighborhood via public transportation, I left my Subaru in the driveway and went for an adventure on the Tahoe Area Regional Transit (TART).

TART is our local transit system that offers reliable transportation for the North Lake Tahoe community with routes on the North and West shores from Incline Village to Tahoma, Northstar and Olympic Valley. While this public transportation system is not free, there is a minimal fare for using this transportation system. For single rides it cost $1.75, $3.50 for 24 hours, 10 rides $14 or pick up a 30-day pass for $53.


Spend the afternoon wandering through Tahoe City, including Commons Beach on Lake Tahoe · 

For the day, I decided to use the TART system to travel around the North Shore. In walking distance from my home in Incline Village, there are three TART bus stops (Raley’s, the skate park and the Hyatt). Out of the three, I walked to the Raley’s bus stop in front of Rookies Sports Bar. According to the schedule, there is a bus every 30 minutes at each stop along the route.

As I waited for the bus, I was accompanied by a local couple who were avid users of the TART system and spoke highly of the service. As we waited for past our expected arrival time, (understandable with the traffic and roadwork around the lake), they proceeded to tell me the extent of their travels from Tahoma to Incline and the afternoon they had planned at Crystal Bay Casino.

After waiting, we boarded the large white bus. The amiable bus driver greeted us as I inserted my $3.50 into the fare machine to receive my day ticket. Before taking my seat, I grabbed a TART schedule map. As I admired the classic, picturesque drive around Crystal Bay from Incline Village, I examined the map planning my adventure around the North Shore. I decided to take the Incline to Tahoe City route for the day.

Traveling from Incline Village east toward Tahoe City, the transportation routes allows visitors to exit and experience the North Shore’s renowned beaches, restaurants and shopping.

Crystal Bay | While making a stop in Crystal Bay, one can exit in front of the Tahoe Biltmore and enjoy an afternoon at the Crystal Bay Casino, Tahoe Biltmore or Nugget casinos gaming and gambling. Then, enjoy lunch (on the weekends) and a drink at Mellow Fellow.


Kings Beach | The next stop is Kings Beach outside the Grid Bar and Grill, and Kings Beach is a great place to enjoy an afternoon. Within walking distance of the bus stop, there are numerous local stores and restaurants. One can enjoy a sandwich at any number of local eateries, including several on the beach. After strolling the local shops, enjoy time at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area with the largest sandy beach on the North Shore, where local shops rent kayaks, canoes and other water toys.

Tahoe Vista | After hopping back on the bus, Tahoe Vista offers another great stopping point with several public beaches including Moon Dunes and the Tahoe Vista Recreation Area.

Carnelian Bay | Heading across the North Shore, Carnelian Bay is another great place to exit the bus and enjoy local restaurants. From this stop, visitors can enjoy classic pizza at CB’s Pizza or a renowned Wet Woody with a gorgeous view of the lake at Garwood’s Grill and Pier. Or, head over to Patton Landing for some beach time, to hunt for carnelian stones or to rent a standup paddleboard at Waterman’s Landing.

After enjoying a peaceful bus ride along the North Lake, I got off the bus in Tahoe City for lunch and shopping. I decided to exit the bus in front of Fat Cat Bar and Grille in the heart of Tahoe City. Tahoe City is an excellent place to spend the afternoon or evening engaging with local dining, shopping and history.


Savoring a smoothie and sandwich from Syd’s Bagelry with a view of Lake Tahoe from Heritage Plaza · 

Exploring Tahoe City
During my trip to Tahoe City, I enjoyed shopping at Tahoe Dave’s Board Shop and lunch at Syd’s Bagelry and Espresso. At the quiet cafe, I ordered lunch, talked with the friendly employees and went outside to savor my smoothie, sandwich and view of Lake Tahoe from Heritage Plaza.


Take a tour of Watson Cabin, built in 1909 by Robert Montgomery · 

After lunch and shopping, I wandered over to the Watson Cabin in hopes of a history lesson about Tahoe City, although I was in town on one of the days they are closed. Built in 1909 by Robert Montgomery, Watson Cabin is the oldest building in Tahoe City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cabin is open for tours from Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. through September.

From the Tahoe City Transit Center located on the east side of town at the wye, one can continue along the TART routes south to Tahoma and Sunnyside or north to Olympic Valley, Truckee and loop around to Northstar.

I had to cut my adventures short after spending time in Tahoe City and heading to the Transit Center where I picked up the bus back to Incline Village. My day spent along the TART route was a local, cheap and convenient way to experience the North Shore.

For more information on public transit and for schedules, visit truckeetahoetransit.com