This article was written and produced in partnership with Visit California. All opinions expressed within are my own.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: One of the things I love most about California is how diverse the state is. It’s got virtually everything a traveler could be looking for, from beaches and deserts and mountains to big cities, quaint towns and everything in between. Because I live in Los Angeles with my family, we spend most of our time by the beach but when we’re looking for a getaway, there’s no shortage of options. Our latest adventure: A drive up into the mountains to Big Bear.
Big Bear is situated about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles and it’s one of the most scenic routes I’ve ever driven. It’s a bit of a twisty drive as you make your way about 30 miles up the mountain but if you take it slow and use the many turnoffs to let cars pass you if needed, you will be treated to some of the most spectacular views of California you’ve ever seen. At one point, we were up above the clouds and it was soothing, serene and surreal.
If you’re planning a trip to Big Bear, here’s a guide to places to stay, play and eat while you’re there:
BIG BEAR: WHERE TO STAY
There are tons of accommodations options in Big Bear. Below, check out the awesome place where we stayed, Colorado Lodge. But for more places to consider, from bed & breakfasts, resort cabins and condos and townhouses to vacation homes, hotels, motels, lodges and hostels, click here.
A cabin in the woods is the ultimate place to stay when you’re up in the mountains. Colorado Lodge offers guests the perfect marriage of modern amenities in cabins that gives off all the cozy vibes. Our particular cabin (C4) had two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen (equipped with all the essentials), laundry facilities, a hot tub and a fireplace. The bathrooms were both divine, one quite modern with a shower I never wanted to get out of and the other, with wood-panelled walls and a clawfoot tub – the ultimate in cabin chic! The cabin was fully renovated in 2020 and Baltic birch lines the walls, giving it a truly modern, Nordic style. Most importantly, the cabin was very family-friendly with low, soft furniture and few sharp edges to worry about. Rates for smaller cabins begin at $222 a night but go up considerably during popular times.
Colorado Lodge, 606 Jeffries Rd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, thecoloradolodge.com
BIG BEAR: WHERE TO EAT
There’s no shortage of great places to stop and grab a bite to eat in Big Bear. Here are some noteworthy places to check out:
Old Country Inn
This is a family-run restaurant and bar that serves up traditional American fare (salads, sandwiches and burgers) with some German favorites as well (schnitzel, sauerkraut and sausage plates). On weekends, check out their brunch menu for a variety of brunch favorites.
Old Country Inn, 41126 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, oldcountryinnrestaurant.com
Craving Mexican food? Sonora Cantina offers up an exhaustive menu featuring any Mexican food you could possibly want. Check out the traditional Mexican combos, served with rice and beans or create your own combo.
Sonora Cantina, 41144 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, sonoracantinarestaurant.com
The Bone Yard Bar & Grill
The Bone Yard Bar and Grill offers up delicious pub grub and a kids menu for the littles. It has over 40 beers on tap and an impressive cocktail menu and wine list, too.
The Bone Yard Bar & Grill, 560 Pine Knot Ave, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, theboneyardbarandgrill.com
Royal Thai Café
Royal Thai Café’s menu offers up favorites like Thai noodles, curries, stir fries and soups. With fresh ingredients often sourced from local Southern California farms, Royal Thai Café delivers solid Thai food, whether you dine-in or take out.
Royal Thai Café, 40766 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake, California, 92315, royalthaicafebigbear.com
Amangela’s Sandwich and Bagel House
Located right in the village, Amangela’s is a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch. On the menu, you’ll find sandwiches made with homemade breads, bagels, fresh fruit smoothies and vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. Guests can enjoy free WiFi inside as well.
Amangela’s Sandwich and Bagel House, 40729 Village Dr., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, amangelas.com
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BIG BEAR: THINGS TO DO
Up in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear offers year-round fun for the whole family. Of course, skiing/snowboarding is one of the most popular activities but Big Bear is also home to hundreds of miles of trails and miles of lake shoreline. Here are some family-friendly activities to enjoy while you’re there:
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is open all year and offers visitors an authentic bobsled experience. It starts with a chairlift ride that offers sweeping views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains. Riders control their own sleds to go down the quarter-mile long track. While this is great fun for kids, keep in mind that riders must be a minimum of 36” tall. Children who are 36” to 48” tall ride with an adult 18 years or older. But the alpine slide isn’t the only thing to do here. Open all year, there are family-friendly activities year-round, like the water slide (which opens on Memorial Day weekend), a Soaring Eagle Ride, Go-Karts and mini golf. In the winter, snow tubing is a favorite activity for the whole family.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, 800 Wildrose Ln, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, alpineslidebigbear.com
Big Bear Alpine Zoo
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo isn’t just any zoo. It has a special purpose, rehabilitating indigenous wild animals that are unable to return to the wild. Here, you’ll find a wonderful variety of animals that are either native to the Big Bear Valley or who respond to the well to the environment, including black bears and bobcats, mountain lions and snow leopards and many others. The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is an extremely educational experience for kids and adults alike and if interested, you can support the zoo by donating or sponsoring or adopting one of the animals, something kids are sure to love.
Big Bear Alpine Zoo, 747 Club View Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA 92314, bigbearzoo.org
Big Bear Snow Play
Snow tubing might be one of the most popular attractions at Big Bear Snow Play but if you think that’s cool, then you’ll LOVE glow tubing. After dark, the inner tube tracks are lit up with red, blue, green and black lights for an extraordinary and unforgettable snow experience. In the summer, the mini race car speedway is open for thrill seekers and the ropes course offers adventurers an exhilarating aerial experience balancing on ropes, crossing bridges and climbing through obstacles. Children under 42” not permitted and kids 42”-48” must be accompanied by a paid adult 18 years or older. (Note: At the time of publication, the ropes course is temporarily closed.)
Big Bear Snow Play, 42825 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, bigbearsnowplay.com