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When most people think of Southern California they think of warm weather and the ocean. However, in a culture that favors beaches, breezy warm weather, and flip flops, there is something exotic and adventurous about having a beautiful mountain range so close by. As a native Californian, Big Bear is somewhere that I frequented throughout my entire life. So I can tell you that it is no secret- Big Bear is Southern California’s Mountain Treasure! Whether you like off-roading, hanging out on a lake, fishing, hiking, or strolling around just to shop, eat, and take in the local sights…. Big Bear needs to be on your California bucket list.
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If you are planning a getaway during the warm weather, the following tips will help you get the most out of your trip.
- Try to head up on a Thursday (anytime) or Friday morning. The traffic up the mountain, from the base to the top, can turn the trip from 30 minutes into a few hours on a Friday afternoon..
- Drive cautiously but use the turnouts. Some of the curves can be narrow and sharp, but there are many locals that are accustom to these roads who travel up and down the mountain daily. So be courteous to other drivers and pull aside.
- There are 2 grocery stores in Big Bear, but pack all that you can before you head up. On weekends, you can easily spend an hour or more wasted in those busy stores just for some sunscreen and a case of water.
- Big Bear is a beautiful town and a close-knit community, however please lock your doors. There is still theft that happens occasionally.
- Beware of bicyclists. They tend to be everywhere and don’t always utilize the bike lanes. The roads are already small.
- Be prepared for traffic on weekends, especially if it is a holiday weekend. Plan accordingly and be patient.
- Don’t leave trash just anywhere. You would be surprised how many tourist do this. There are 2 free trash sites centrally located in Big Bear for tourist’s convenience.
- A smile and a simple “hello” go a long way with the locals!
- Most of all- Take Pictures! It is such a beautiful place and every season is memorable.
Top 3 places to stay:
- Robinhood Resort– This is a centrally located hotel resort with affordable prices (and military discount). They are right across the street from the lake and on the outskirts of the village. This resort has a variety of rooms and styles (My personal favorite includes a fireplace and Jacuzzi tub).
- Grey Squirrel Resort– This resort runs many small, individual cabin sites in Big Bear as well as a few vacation rentals. This gives their customers a variety of options, styles, and amenities. We loved the Lily Bear Cabins, which were pet friendly.
- Destination Big Bear– If you are looking for a company to rent a vacation rental from, D.B.B. is great. They are friendly and easy to work with. They offer a variety of rental homes throughout Big Bear and can cater to the location you want to vacation at. Whether it is lakefront or tucked away in a secluded community- they have something!
Top 5 places to eat:
Food is one of my favorite things about vacations. I love exploring new restaurants and splurging on yummy things and it is no surprise that Big Bear offers a wide variety of restaurants.
- Village Pizza– This pizza joint is hard to miss if you are coming in from the South Highway 18. There is plenty of seating room and is, hands down, the best pizza on the mountain. Plus the decor is super cute!
- Azteca– It may not look like anything fancy, but this restaurant is the best Mexican food you will find in Big Bear Lake. It is a bit small and can get pretty busy (a sign of their delicious menu), so make sure to show up a little before the rush dinner hour. They make a pretty good Cadillac Margarita too. Oh, and there is a delicious bakery right across the parking lot for dessert!
- Himalayan– Indian food from Nepal. Wait, don’t shun this away if you haven’t tried it! I didn’t think anyone in our family would enjoy this cuisine but everyone did. They even offer some basic chinese food, just in case.
- Get The Burger– If you want a good burger then you MUST go here! No where else on the mountain compares. Their burgers are all named in a Hollywood theme. Just be prepared to wait a little. After all, this isn’t fast food. However, they make some delicious milkshakes while you wait.
- Teddy Bear Restaurant– This is a cute little spot in the Village. I will admit, I haven’t tried most of their menu, but it is the perfect breakfast spot and the most friendly staff. Oh, and their pie- you have to get a slice of pie! It is cash only, but they do have an atm.
Top things to do:
- Make a stop at the Discovery Center.
- Have a picnic at Juniper Point and enjoy a walk along the shore.
- Take a drive around Baldwin Lake.
- Make a stop at the Baldwin Lake Ecological Preserve.
- Visit the Eye of God.
- Visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo and support their great cause.
- Walk around the Village and enjoy their shops, food, and entertainment.
- Take a stroll at Meadow Park & Swim Beach.
- Stop by the Big Bear Funplex or go bowling.
- Take a ride down the Alpine Slide and water slide.
- Take an unforgettable off-road tour with the B.B. Jeep Experience (or on your own with a 4×4)
- Dare to take a ride on some of Big Bear’s best ziplines.
- Hike along one or more of the many beautiful hiking trails.
- Visit Bluff Lake and talk to the ranger on site (you will be thankful you did).
- Take a hike to the the Champion Lodgepole Pine Tree.
- Take a ride on the Pirate Ship.
- Spend the day on a rental- boat, kayak, or paddle board.
- Try your luck and see how many fish you can catch.
- Visit the Boulder Pay Park.
- Find the old Dam Keeper’s House.
- Take a ride to the Holcomb Valley and explore its wonders (like the Gold Fever Trail)
- Check out some of the seasonal events and festivities.
- Enjoy the sunset and other beautiful scenery.
Click on the photos to see in full & view captions.
From camping, to shopping and eating, as well as all of the activities to do and events they hold throughout the year… Big Bear is somewhere you must go if you live in or are visiting Southern California. I could go on and on about why Big Bear is so special, But I think that is something you will have to discover for yourself!
If you are looking to vacation during the winter, have an extended trip, or find some really unique things to do I encourage you to plan ahead and really search the web. There are a few unique hidden gems that I, myself, have to go back and find.
Keep an eye on my upcoming posts from the beautiful Big Bear, California. See how we made the most of the snow season, explored the Holcomb Valley & its treasures, the history of the Eye of God, Our favorite off road trails, and how we made Big Bear our home for a period of time!