Top things to do with kids in Big Bear Lake, CA.
By Mimi Slawoff
Dawn at Big Bear Lake, CA (Flickr: Rex Boggs)
Why Go: Located 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is a quick escape from city life. While best known for skiing and snowboarding, the small mountain resort has a bounty of recreational activities for enjoying four distinct seasons. Nestled at 7,000 feet in the San Bernardino National Forest, the area experiences brilliant fall foliage, snowy winters, blooming springs, and sunny summers.
On the South Shore are two popular ski resorts, a charming village, two marinas, a swim beach, an alpine slide, and a small zoo. The less developed North Shore is home to the Discovery Center, a good place to stop for area information and guided outings. Fishing derbies, summer concerts, Fourth of July Fireworks, Oktoberfest, and a Renaissance Faire are among the kid-friendly events.
Here are some of the many things you can do in Big Bear Lake with your kids.
Where to Stay
Lodging in Big Bear (Big Bear Cabins)
Choose from cozy cabins, condos, inns, campgrounds, and rental homes (including slope-side or lakeside). Rental homes are ideal for families who need space for kids and even dogs. Gathering the entire clan? Big Bear Vacations has a wide selection of homes for any budget. For example, the lakeside Eagle’s Nest house sleeps 14 people and has a recreation room and hot tub.
(MORE: Find more family-friendly hotels and lodging in Big Bear Lake.)
Best local tour: Action Tours (40754 Village Dr.; 909-366-0890). Ages 12 and older will find Segways a cool way to explore the village and residential neighborhoods. Friendly guides share fun facts and point out landmarks. For example, Big Bear’s first post office is a log house where President Richard Nixon and his family stayed on vacation. Segway tours operate year-round (even in snow!). Action tours also offers zip lining, fly boarding, and tree rope climbing.
Bike it: Bring bikes or rent them from Chains Required Bike Shop (41869 Big Bear Blvd.; 909-878-3268). Cycle through neighborhoods or hop onto the kid-friendly Alpine Pedal Path on the North Shore for lake views.
On the Lake
Mountain View of Big Bear Lake (Photo: Dennis Bentson)
The manmade lake is a reservoir that sparkles in winter and is a hub for water activities spring through fall. Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddling, jet skiing, wakeboarding, boating and narrated boat tours are among the many fun activities to enjoy with kids. There’s also a swim beach.
Best family boating: For hours of family fun, rent a pontoon from Holloway’s Marina (398 Edgemoor Rd.; 909-866-5706). Bring the kids, dogs, and a picnic to cruise around the lake in comfort. Pontoons are easy to maneuver and have padded seats and a canopy.
Cast a line: Catching fish is almost guaranteed (you can often see fish jumping in the water, especially in early morning). Boost your odds on a charter fishing outing with Cantrell Guide Service (400 Pine Knot Ave.; 909-585-4017).
On the Slopes
In winter, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are packed with skiers and snowboarders. Lessons, family terrain parks, restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere make this resort a fun place to carve up slopes. One ticket is valid at both resorts. Ski free on your birthday (show ID). The View Haus at the top of Snow Summit is a good place to stop for hot chocolate and a meal.
In summer, ride the Sky Chair for stunning lake views.
Plenty of on-the-slope attractions in Big Bear (Photo: Big Bear Visitors Bureau)
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. In winter, race down a snow tubing hill, then ride a covered magic carpet back to the top. Bobsleds operate year-round. More kid-friendly attractions include mini golf, water slides, and go-karts. Ticket prices vary by activity.
Find unique gifts, enjoy a meal, catch a movie, and pick up sweets at the North Pole Fudge and Ice Cream shop. Fire pits and sidewalk heaters ensure comfortable strolls year-round. For maps and local information, visit the Big Bear Lake Resort Association (630 Bartlett Rd.; 909-866-6190).
Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure. Game-loving and techie families will love this scavenger hunt that requires the use of a smart phone to explore the village while learning about its history. Register online.
Best local park: Tucked away in a residential area, Meadow Park (41220 Park Ave.) is where locals bring their kids. Here’s why: The 16.25-acre facility has a playground, tennis courts, volleyball court, horse shoes, two lighted ball fields, picnic pavilion, and restrooms.
(MORE: Find more kid-friendly attractions in Big Bear Lake.)
Hiking is one of the many family-friendly activities in Big Bear. (Photo: Dan McKernan)
In winter, strap on a pair of snow shoes to explore the forest. Sans snow, the forest and trails are blanketed with wildflowers. Hike along the Pacific Crest Trail for awesome lake views.
Discovery Center Campfire Program. Gather around the campfire for s’mores ($2 per pack) and naturalist-led programs. Drop by the dog-friendly center during the day for area information and guided canoe tours and nature hikes.
Big Bear Alpine Zoo. Black bears, bobcats, badgers and barn owls are among the critters that live in this rehabilitation facility that cares for injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals. Tickets: $12 adults, $6 kids
Ethnic cuisine: This rustic mountain town has numerous and diverse dining options. The Himalayan Restaurant (672 Pine Knot Ave.; 909-878-3068) serves authentic Indian and Nepalese dishes.
Cafe: There’s always a line out the door for Grizzly Manor Cafe (41268 Big Bear Blvd.; 909-866-6226), a hole-in-the wall eatery that serves large, tasty portions for breakfast and lunch.