Insider Tips To Find Family Fun All Year At Big Bear, California
Big Bear, California, nestled between the mountains within the San Bernardino National Forest, is a wonderful travel destination. A wide variety of outdoor activities are at your doorstep in this unique setting —everything from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to parasailing and fishing on Big Bear Lake in the summer.
But Big Bear isn’t just an outdoor paradise; the town offers everything you could want for the perfect family vacation! Delicious restaurants, a family-friendly Funplex, the Solar Observatory—there’s something for everyone to enjoy here, you just have to know where to look. Fortunately, we have all the insider knowledge you need to make sure your trip to Big Bear, California is a dream come true. Keep reading to learn how to conquer Big Bear like a local!
Bear Mountain & Snow Summit
Nature might not be all Big Bear has to offer, but it certainly is one of the biggest draws. With two popular mountains to ski on—Big Bear and Snow Summit—winter sport enthusiasts flock to Big Bear. In fact, Snow Summit has been around since 1948 and shows no signs of slowing down! At Snow Summit, you will find 14 lifts feeding 31 trails that cover over 240 acres, not to mention many designated fun zones filled with obstacles for expert riders to overcome.
Bear Mountain, the sister resort to Snow Summit, was purchased in 2002 by the owners of Snow Summit. Originally known as Goldmine Mountain, this resort is famous for its large learning area—the largest in southern California, in fact! Start your trip on the bunny slopes before graduating to the more challenging trails. Bear Mountain is also home to a superpipe for the most talented of athletes.
The best part about visiting these mountain resorts? Your pass is valid for both locations! For one low price, you can ski and snowboard to your heart’s content on either mountain. It’s hard to pass up such an opportunity!
Other Big Bear Outdoor Adventures
Before you finish sliding down the slopes for good, head to one of Big Bear’s most adventurous attractions: Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain! Open year-round, your experience changes based on what time of year you visit. During the summer, enjoy bobsledding down a concrete run on a Teflon-coated sled, or head to their waterslides for a refreshing plunge! In the winter, their sledding hill opens up, allowing riders of all ages to toboggan down the slope.
Outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to move under their own power will want to head out on one of the many hiking trails throughout the Big Bear area. Great trails in the area include Castle Rock Trail—named for the castle-like formation of rock along the path—Pine Knot Trail, and Woodland Trail. In the winter, these same trails are still open for travel thanks to snowshoes; be careful while snowshoeing around, as the trails can be much more difficult to follow!
Summertime outdoor fun in Big Bear tends to center around Big Bear Lake. Avid fishermen will love visiting the lake, as it is frequently stocked with rainbow trout by local hatcheries. There are also many marinas surrounding the lake from which visitors can rent jet skis, boats, take paddleboarding or parasailing excursions, or even book a pirate tour! The Time Bandit, famous for its role in the 1981 move “Time Bandits,” is a 1/3rd scale replica Spanish galleon that takes passengers on a themed pirate tour of Big Bear Lake.
Meet the Creatures of Big Bear
We aren’t the only ones who enjoy living in Big Bear. The area is home to many species of animals, many of which need our help to thrive. When visiting Big Bear, there are a few places you can go to catch a glimpse of local wildlife: The Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve, and the Big Bear Alpine Zoo!
The 145-acre Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve lets visitors view birds in a controlled environment where they are free from predators. Indeed, a special island was constructed in the Preserve to protect these animals. Visitors can stroll the wooden boardwalks to catch sight of osprey, bald eagles, pelicans and more. In addition, over 40,000 plants were planted here by local schools to help solidify the ecosystem. The best times to visit the Preserve are early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as this is when the animals are most active.
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo started in 1959 as a rehabilitation center for sick and injured animals. A forest fire wiped out a large swath of forest, burning away the homes of many wild animals and maiming others. The first inhabitants of the Moonridge Zoo, as it used to be called, were a baby black bear and two bobcats. Nowadays, the zoo has expanded to host wildlife from around the country while they heal, hopefully to release them back into the wild. Nearly 90% of the animals found at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo will eventually make their journey back to the wild.
Indoor Excitement in Big Bear
If you are more the indoor type, a trip to Big Bear will still be enjoyable for you! For those with families, the Big Bear Funplex should be the first stop on your Big Bear adventure. Housing everything from laser tag and ice skating to miniature golf and bowling, your competitive side is sure to surface when you visit the Funplex!
A more educational experience can be found at the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum, which details the history of the town. Did you know Big Bear got its start during the Gold Rush? Like much of California, the discovery of gold led to growth for this mountain locale.
Not interested in earthly endeavors? Not to worry, the Big Bear Solar Observatory lets you peer into the abyss! Open during the spring, visitors can take a tour of the facility and see the telescopes that are helping us map the cosmos. Children must be at least 10 years old to participate, and the arduous climb to the top of the observatory means this tour isn’t for those who are unable to climb long flights of stairs.
Where to Eat in Big Bear
All the exciting activities in Big Bear are sure to work up your appetite, so if you’re feeling famished, you might be looking for a place to settle in for a good meal and relaxing drink. Traditional American fare can be found at Grizzly Manor Café, Peppercorn Grille, and the local-favorite Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. The 21 and over crowd will especially love visiting Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, as this gastropub serves up their own spin on beer; try the Whispering Pine IPA, described as a smooth, medium-bodied beer, or the Winslow Chocolate Porter for a more robust flavor.
Nottinghams Tavern is a great spot for those who wish for a breathtaking view to accompany their meal. Reserve a table on the patio and prepare yourself for a gorgeous vista view. Their menu contains everything from steaks and salmon to burgers and pasta, plus they offer a great drinks menu for the older diners!
Big Bear, California Creates Memories
After all is said and done, you will be able to look back at your Big Bear vacation with nothing but fond memories. In fact, many people choose Big Bear as the location for one of the most important days of their life: their wedding! With incredible sights around corner and a multitude of options for indoor and outdoor activity, Big Bear makes the perfect vacation destination for all sorts of travelers. Plan your own trip to Big Bear and start making memories of your own!
About The Author: Tyler Fleck is an online travel blogger located in Arizona. He has written for a variety of publications across the web, and currently is a content provider and contributor for Big Bear Cabins. Click here to learn more about the area!
Photo Source: #1, #2, Wikimedia Commons, #3, #4, Pixabay, #5 Flickr via Wikimedia Commons