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In sunny Southern California, beaches are a plenty and a short drive away, however, every year we anxiously await for snow in the mountains. Imagine the possibilities – sledding, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding. Forget the rest, the children just want to make snowballs and snow angels. We always have a blast. Sadly because it hasn’t rain all that much, we haven’t gotten much snow. (As I’m writing this, Big Bear received 6-8″ of new snow this week and they’re anticipating more.) Last year I wrote a post about how to prepare to go up there during a blizzard, but this year, the weather is so different, I am sharing how you can still have fun when there is limited snow. To much surprise, there were snow play activities where they can make snow which included snow tubing and the ski resorts.
Big Bear Lake is about a 2.5 hour drive from Orange County. To avoid the crowds, we always leave early in the morning. During peak season, it is the worst if you wait too long to get up there. If chains are required, mandatory pull overs will cause major delays. We have been up there when this happened, and friends that went at the crack of dawn were able to avoid most of it. This year, we set out on a Friday morning. The drive was leisurely and open. At one point, our anticipation for snow started to deplete as it reached 72 degrees at 10 am, and it looked dry. The closer we got, we started to see traces of snow melting along the side of the road which meant – it does get cold enough for it to snow overnight, but hard to keep it with our warm winter. We started to get excited again right when we reached the Lake. Our weekend included a variety of snow activities as well as non like a visit to the Alpine Zoo and Ziplining. A friend of mine jokingly said that we will get all four seasons in one day. It was true! We went tubing in t-shirts (some had shorts on), and we didn’t need all those layers for snowboarding. At night, we bundled up to watch the sunset by the lake and warmed up by the fire with hot chocolate. I bet Big Bear Lake is also beautiful in the summer.
I’ve listed a few places we tried below. A stop into Big Bear Lake’s Visitors Center in the village is a great way to start the trip. After a long car ride, you’ll want to get out to stretch your legs, and let everyone out to use the restrooms. Our condo rental wouldn’t let us check in until after 4 PM so it is also a good resting spot to change clothing if you needed to. At the information desk, you will find maps, brochures, activities, and dining information. They were also giving out “Live It Up Big Bear Lake” decals. It is also across the street from the popular eatery, Saucy Mama’s. We tried to go Sunday on our way home and there were a 1.5 hour wait. I regretted not trying it on day of arrival.
Big Bear Lake Visitors Center
630 Bartlett Rd.
Big Bear Lake, CA
Big Bear Visitors Center is right in the heart of the Village. The staff is friendly and helpful. If you need maps, directions, or anything at all, they are there to help. They will also provide help during times of emergency or during events to make traveling to Big Bear a smooth and enjoyable process.
Snow Tubing at Big Bear Snow Play
42825 Big Bear Blvd
Big Bear Lake, CA
When it is cold enough, they make snow for inner tubing. The Magic Carpet ride makes it easy to conserve energy to go back as many times as you want. My boys are old enough where they can pull their own tubes. During the summer, they offer kart racing. The cost is $35.00 per person day session. Children between the ages of 2 to 6 years of age are free with a paying adult, and ride on the same inner tube with the adult. One adult per child (between the ages of 2 to 6 years of age) are allowed to go pass the snow play gate. There is also NIGHT Glow Tubing. Please check their website for the most updated information for rates and operating hours.
Big Bear Alpine Zoo
43285 Goldmine Drive
Big Bear Lake, CA
Right across the street from Bear Mountain is the Alpine Zoo. You can’t tell from the street exactly how big it truly is, because it is on a downward slope. Located 7,000 feet above sea level, they are one of two Alpine Zoos in the United States. They provide rehabilitation services for injured and orphaned wildlife in the mountains. There are over 125 animals and they are either native species or native to an alpine setting. Snowy Owls, Arctic Foxes, Snow Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Fox, Birds of Prey (Eagles, Hawks, Owls), Raccoons, and Bob Cats just to name a few. Big Bear Alpine Zoo has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife since 1959. Those that cannot be released back into the wild are given a home for life. In the summer, they have a flashlight safari. They are also scheduled to move into their new home in August which is located down the way.
Big Bear Mountain Resort
880 Summit Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, California
844.GO2.BEAR / 844.462.2327
Big Bear Mountain Resort offers world-class skiing and snowboarding in the heart of Southern California. Between twin properties, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, there are 200 acres of Terrain Park, 50+ skiable miles, 63 trails, 26 lifts, 100 jibs, 100 jumps and 4 halfpipes. There are also night sessions at Snow Summit, a new 5,000 square-foot learning center, children and adult lessons, rock climbing wall and a tubing park.
183 Lagunita Lane
Big Bear Lake, CA
Lagonita Lodge is located right on the lake. It is an award winning RCI Silver Crown resort as well as Interval International 5-star resort with 98 uniquely designed, condominium-style accommodations featuring contemporary conveniences located on the Lake. Amenities include indoor heated pool and spa, work out fitness center, recreation room with pool tables, board games, and TV. Our suite came with a full kitchen, and there was a nearby laundry facility. They host lots of activities for their guests like a welcome reception with complimentary wine and refreshments, morning yoga, bingo night, dollar dogs on Saturdays, ice cream socials, nature hikes, and a pancake breakfast on Sunday (for a small fee). During the summer they have kayak rentals.
We had a comfortable stay, and made some of our meals in their full kitchen. It included dishes as well as pots and pans. We also had a dining table, fireplace, refrigerator, stove, oven, and dishwasher. The only thing is the furniture and the wallpaper looks a bit dated, but we didn’t care about that. It is right on the lake! See photos below!
Where To Eat
We didn’t eat out much when we were there because we made our meals in our kitchen but here are some eateries that were recommended by other readers. Several of them were mentioned more than once (Saucy Mama’s, Notthingham’s, Teddy Bear Restaurant, and Maggio’s). Someone also mentioned if you are looking for inexpensive, they have Little Caesars Pizza inside the K-Mart. If you go, please let me know if you agree!