While Incline Village may be best known as the home of the famed Ponderosa Ranch and “Bonanza” television show, this small hamlet in North Lake Tahoe also has a rich history in cinema, celebrity, and beyond.

The Ponderosa Ranch opened as a theme park in 1967 at the height of popularity for the Western-themed TV series that aired on NBC for 14 seasons from 1959 to 1973.

Due to logistical challenges transporting actors to Lake Tahoe and costs associated with filming far from Hollywood, only 15 episodes across “Bonanza”’s final five seasons were filmed on location in Incline Village.

Still, the ranch thrived for decades thanks to its reputation as the “Bonanza” TV show location, serving as a fictional home to Ben, Hoss, Little Joe and the rest of the Cartwrights. The biggest attraction at the Bonanza Ranch was a replica of downtown Virginia City, which featured Wild West shows, shops, tours, and a restaurant that served three million “Hoss Burgers” over the park’s 37-year run.

By the early 2000s, the Ponderosa Ranch averaged 200,000 visitors annually before closing in September 2004 after being acquired by billionaire software entrepreneur and Incline Village philanthropist David Duffield.

Preserving Incline Village History Through the Bonanza Ranch

Nearly two decades later, the Bonanza Ranch lives on in the hearts of longtime locals through various exhibits and displays. In 2017, the nonprofit Thunderbird Lake Tahoe received much of the buildings and contents from the Ponderosa Ranch and has distributed material to cultural centers throughout Nevada, including the Incline Village and Crystal Bay Visitor’s Center.

In late 2020, the Nevada Commission on Tourism took an extra step by approving funds to relocate the ranch and film sets associated with “Bonanza” to Lamoille, a tiny community in Elko County a few hours east of Incline Village. The goal of the project is to create a cultural educational attraction that interprets Nevada’s rich movie and television heritage.

Tahoe Movie Filming Locations Include Incline Village

While only portions of “Bonanza” were filmed at the Ponderosa Ranch, three made-for-TV movies featuring the Cartwrights’ children were filmed there: “Bonanza: The Next Generation” (1988), “Bonanza: The Return” (1993), and “Bonanza: Under Attack” (1995).

Over the past century, countless big budget movies have been filmed across the greater Lake Tahoe region, notably “The Godfather II” (1974), “The Bodyguard” (1992), “Smokin’ Aces” (2006), and most recently — to much local fanfare and widespread critical acclaim — “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022).

Meanwhile, a handful of flicks have featured Incline Village/Crystal Bay, including:

“The Wizard” (1989)

This cult comedy-drama starring Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Beau Bridges, and Jenny Lewis centers on a group of kids trekking from rural Utah to Los Angeles to compete in a video game tournament. Many scenes were filmed across Northern Nevada, including a pair of at the Mt. Rose Highway Scenic Overlook, showcasing the spot’s unmistakable panoramic view of Lake Tahoe above Incline Village.

“The Deep End” (2001)

Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic and Jonathan Tucker star in this taught crime thriller about a woman (Swinton) whose life spirals out of control while trying to keep her son from being found culpable in a murder investigation. While much of the movie is set on Tahoe’s West Shore, key portions were filmed at the casino corridor in Crystal Bay.

“Christmas Reservations” (2019)

This Lifetime movie might not have the same Hollywood luster as other pieces of Tahoe cinema, but it’s nonetheless a charming holiday film. Set at the fictional “Treeline Ski Resort” in the Adirondacks, the movie starring Melissa Joan Hart (one of Incline Village’s longtime celebrity residents) is mostly shot at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village.

Incline Village Famous Residents from Past and Present

From billionaires to movie stars to professional athletes, several big names have lived here and owned Incline Village luxury homes over the years. The community has long been a popular landing spot for the rich and famous, considering Nevada’s tax-friendly climate for homeowners and business ventures.

A few of the bigger names to own residential real estate in Incline Village over the decades include Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Trent Dilfer, rock musicians Stu Cook (Creedance Clearwater Revival) and Mike Love (Beach Boys), and philanthropists and businessmen Michael Milken and Warren Buffett.

Here are five other Incline Village famous residents worth noting:


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Melissa Joan Hart

Hart, best-known for her leading roles in television series “Clarissa Explains it All” (1991-1994) and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1996-2003), has held ties to Incline Village since the mid-2000s when she purchased a vacation home here. She’s often seen around town during the winter season, and she’s constantly posting about her Incline experiences on social media.


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Jeremy Renner

The Oscar-nominated actor is one of Hollywood’s biggest names. Outside of the spotlight, Renner lives on a sprawling ranch near Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Renner is heralded across the Incline and Reno communities for volunteering at homeless centers and donating to causes through the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. The actor made headlines after being seriously injured in a snowplow accident on New Year’s Day. Thankfully, he’s on the mend.

Annika Sorenstam

The Swedish-born Sorenstam is considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game, having won 90 international tournaments as a pro between 1992 and 2008, including 72 LPGA tournaments and 10 major championships. The eight-time LPGA Player of the Year has lived part time in Incline Village for the past 25 years, where she recently launched a local cocktail line.

David Coverdale

The longtime local resident and lead vocalist for rock band Whitesnake sold his Incline Village luxury home in 2021. The English-born Coverdale, who previously was the front man for Deep Purple before founding Whitesnake in 1978, owned the home since 1988 and was often spotted around town, thanks in part to his trademark long blonde hair.

Larry Ellison

The billionaire business magnate and former CEO of Oracle is the seventh-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ellison, a former Incline Village luxury home owner, still holds a large stake in the community; he bought the Hyatt in 2021 for $345 million and the Cal Neva Resort in Crystal Bay in 2018 for $36 million.

Incline Village History and Celebrity Memories at The Cal Neva

Speaking of the Cal Neva, the North Lake Tahoe resort-casino that straddles the Nevada-California border might have closed in 2013, but it holds a robust celebrity-filled past.

The legendary Frank Sinatra owned the Cal Neva in the early 1960s, and it quickly became a getaway for the likes of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Marilyn Monroe and members of the Kennedy family, to name a few.

More infamously, the resort was rumored to be a gathering for mob activity during Ol’ Blue Eyes’ stead and was under fierce FBI scrutiny. According to the San Francisco Chronicle and other reports, there was even a rumor Sinatra’s substantial expansion plan budget — $7 million in 1962 — may have come from Jimmy Hoffa himself.

From the days of the Rat Pack crooning in Crystal Bay to the incredible impact “Bonanza” has to this day on Lake Tahoe to an impressive group of high-profile celebrities living here, there’s no question Incline Village’s place in pop culture is loaded with cherished memories.

If want to learn more about the Ponderosa Ranch and history in Incline Village and you’d like to stay up to date on prices of Incline Village homes and selling real estate and living in Incline Crystal Bay, email info@dicksonrealty.comwith the subject line, “Give me the Incline Village Inside Scoop!”

Whether you are buying or selling, Dickson Realty agents have the experience and innovative technology to help you. For more information, contact a neighborhood real estate expert at Dickson Realty today.

Featured photo: “Bonanza” TV show display at the Incline Village and Crystal Bay Visitor’s Center. Photo provided by Incline Village and Crystal Bay Visitor’s Center and Travel North Tahoe Nevada.