We decided to take the gondola ride even though I have difficulties with heights. Am so glad I did! The ride was not scary as I thought. Get off at the platform about half way up on the ascent, since it does not stop there on the way down, because that is where the most gorgeous views are. They have set up a very nice observation deck with tables and chairs that even I was able to enjoy. There is a gift shop that also sells beverages and souvenirs. I had left my bottle of water on the ticket counter down below and went into the shop to pay an outrageous sum for another bottle. THEN I noticed that there was a water dispenser outside the shop on the platform. There is also a snack shop around the other side of the platform. Didn't buy anything there so can't comment. We paid the additional $8 for the gondola ride/lunch combo ticket for the Tamarack Lodge at the next stop up the mountain which was a nice savings. We did continue on up to the Lodge. Nice alpine setting and lovely LEED certified building. Food was very good (including gluten free bread options!). Don't expect Taco Bell prices, but definitely not outrageous. The savings from the combo ticket helped. Nice bar as well. Got a Starbucks coffee with "flavorings" that you don't find at Starbucks. ;^) All in all it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon at Tahoe. It was warm the day we went, but suggest strongly that you anticipate cooler temps then at the basin and take along a jacket or sweater.