Big Bear, with its near perfect weather all year round is a small town with a population of a mere 5,000 located just under 100 miles northeast of Orange County. The town is nestled on its namesake lake – Big Bear Lake – and hailed as a premier four season mountain escape with nearly 100,000 people visiting on any given weekend.
What do you think of when you think of Big Bear Lake California? Do you imagine snow covered pine trees just begging for a good snowball fight? Or do you imagine a different type of skiing that involves zipping around the lake behind a boat? Maybe you have fond memories of strolling through the village gazing at the vibrant foliage colors? Whatever picturesque scene you have unfolding in your mind is most likely exactly what you can expect!
This area was once inhabited by the Serrano Peoples but grew rapidly during the California Gold Rush from 1861-1912. Later, In the 1920s Big Bear Lake became a favorite vacation spot for film stars such as Shirley Temple and Ginger Rogers. Besides a vacation area for the stars, the Hollywood film industry has utilized this area as a backdrop for various movies and television productions such as Old Yeller, Gone with the Wind and Better Off Dead.
Big Bear Lake is still a popular getaway destination and a perfect weekend escape for Southern California residents. Here is your all season guide to truly enjoy this all season destination.
A Winter Wonderland
The weather is a crisp and clear 47 degrees on average in Big Bear Lake during the winter months. A great place to stay during winter is in one of the cabins on The Grey Squirrel’s vast 3-acre wilderness property. When staying at this gorgeous resort the first decision of the day is either to cook your own breakfast fare in the cabin’s own kitchenette or to partake of the resort’s complimentary continental breakfast provided for guests.
The must-do activities on a winter day all revolve around the Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort. The resort’s mountain location sits at a brisk elevation of 8,200 feet. That’s almost 2,000 feet higher than Big Bear Lake proper! Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort provides an opportunity to explore the two crowning jewels of Snow Summit Peak and the slightly taller Bear Mountain. This ski resort has 438 developed acres, 26 lifts, and more than 55 runs. All ranging from beginner level skiers to advanced level snowboard shredders. If you want something a little more low key make sure you check out Grizzly Ridge Tube Park. There you can choose from one of the two 300-foot tubing lanes to speed down.
First time skiers will appreciate the on-property gear rental options. With various in-resort locations for pick up and drop off you can try out some of the latest gear in snow sports. Plus there are ski lift and gear rental packages available to simplify the process and amplify the fun. After you collect your gear make sure you book a lesson with one of Big Bear Mountain Ski Resorts instructors. They provide tailor made lessons for all ages, levels, and terrain!
After a full day of snow play head back to The Grey Squirrel Resort to unwind in the cabin’s private jacuzzi and delightful views of the snow capped mountains.
The first thing to catch your eye at the Big Bear City Airport is the bright yellow helicopter sitting on the tarmac. Although the weather is beautiful all year long, spring is arguably the most delightful with its highs in the 60s and nights only dipping into the mid 40s. It is on a day like this with such a crisp and clear spring day where a helicopter tour above the Big Bear Valley is the perfect way to experience the area. Helicopter Big Bear offers various tours starting at $55 per person for an 18 mile, 11 minute tour but can extend up to as long a ride as you desire. From the safety of the helicopter’s cockpit you will get a unique perspective as you fly over the numerous mountain lakes, the Mojave Valley and Big Bear Lake.
After your personal helicopter tour, hop over to The Pines Lakefront for a beautiful lakeside outdoor dining experience. The lunch menu ranges from classics such as a BLT with a side of sweet potato fries to more haute fare such as the Pines Kobe Burger. Make sure to not miss out on indulging in Dr. Jerry’s Special Bread Pudding. You will enjoy your lunch spread all while taking in views of Big Bear Lake.
Slide Into Summer
Summer at Big Bear Lake is not summer without a trip to the notorious Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Located in the Magic Mountain Recreation Area, the Alpine Slide begins with a ride up the chairlift to the top. Once there, riders are given their own sled complete with Teflon runners to control on one of the two cement ¼ mile long tracks zipping back down the mountain. As you speed along, completely in control with hand brakes, you can take in the picturesque surroundings of Big Bear Valley, or just scream. You can also just scream.
After your Alpine Slide ride try Magic Mountain Recreation Area’s newest attraction called The Soaring Eagle. This ride will certainly land your heart in your throat as you begin your journey with a backwards vertical 100- and 500-foot long pull to the launch tower. From there, sitting in your eagle flanked chair you are catapulted forward at speeds clocking in at 28 miles per hour. Also at the park is a Go Kart track, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a twisty tube water slide and two sun decks to enjoy the 80-degree weather.
After a day of fun, settle in at a suite at The Club at Big Bear Village. These luxury condos are available with two, three, or four bedroom suites. All complete with large soaking tubs, full kitchens, private balconies or porches complete with grills and large living rooms with rustic fireplaces. The Club property also has two pools – a children’s and a heated pool, a billiards room, and a fitness facility. A perfect place to unwind after a day of action packed fun.
For 50 years Big Bear Lake has proudly hosted the vibrant and somewhat quirky Oktoberfest. What is Oktoberfest you ask?
The festival originated on October 12, 1810, in celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Since that date this holiday has become an important symbol of Bavarian culture for centuries. Starting in Munich, Germany, countries and cities all over the world now celebrate this holiday modeling after the original Munich event. Oktoberfest in Big Bear Lake is no different with its weekend events beginning in October and lasting throughout November.
Oktoberfest is a mix of high energy German entertainment, good food and massive pints of beer. Each year Big Bear Lake hosts bands traveling all the way from Germany such as Mat’s Infinity and Aalbachtal Express to bring zany music as well as local DJs who mix traditional tunes and today’s favorites.
While partaking in the Chicken Dance and various contests, feast fare includes delightful options such as roast chicken to more German classics such as Steckerlfisch (roast fish on a stick), Knödel (potato dumplings) or the very favorite Würstl sausages. The feast of kings and queens complete only with a robust pint of German beer.
When the party dies down snuggle up in your very own Oktoberfest Big Bear Cool Cabins. With more than 350 options ranging in size and prices but all with views of mountains, you will find the perfect home to sleep off das Bier.
Big Bear Lake may be small but is massive with memory making and exploring. Enjoy this lovely village all year around.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus