Our new series on weekend road trips aims to inspire you for what's to come as we slowly return to travel.
Covid-19 Disclaimer: Make sure to check the status of the states, regions, and establishments in which you’re planning to visit prior to travel. Many regions continue to see high infection rates and deaths, while many states and counties remain under varying stay-at-home orders. Those traveling from areas with high rates of Covid-19 should consider avoiding travel for now in order to reduce spread.
While Los Angeles is incredibly appealing with its sunny weather, popular beaches, and eclectic neighborhoods, it’s only a matter of time before nature comes calling. Thankfully, Big Bear Lake is just a hop, skip, and jump away from the City of Angels and it’s a year-round kind of destination. Whether you’re picnicking on a boat with friends, ingesting that crisp mountain air on an early-morning hike, or cozying up in a lodge with hot chocolate for a few days, here’s a perfect weekend itinerary for Big Bear Lake.
From Los Angeles, take I-210 east to CA-330 north/CA-18. Your drive time should be approximately two hours. The number of scenic stops on The Rim of the World (CA-18) may make your head spin. Feel free to pull over, grab a selfie, and drink it all in.
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If you’re leaving (Downtown) Los Angeles on Friday at 10 a.m., expect to arrive at Big Bear Lake around noon. Stop for lunch at the hearty Grind and Grill Café (you’ll need your energy for all that walking you’re about to do!). If seating is limited or you find service temporarily suspended check out the equally, old-fashioned (yet offbeat) mom and pop vibe that is Grizzly Manor. Today’s main activity will familiarize you with the town: Take a walk and go shopping in Big Bear’s Village. There’s no shortage of stores to pop into—Artisans ETC, The Bath Workshop, and Gems of the West are just a few of many that are worth your time! Also, depending on the month, A Christmas Store ‘N’ More is something you should consider spending some time in. If you’re a nature lover, or would just like to bring home a souvenir, don’t miss Chirp Nature Center or Bear Essentials.
Cool off with a libation at the Big Bear Lake Brewing Company (which has a few notable cocktails in addition to the obvious variety of brews), and if you choose not to stay for dinner, get dolled up and head to The Pines Tavern on the Lake and dine fine for your first night in town.
Start out your morning with a cup of coffee at the relaxed, lodge-style Stillwells Restaurant or the diner gem that is Alpine Country Coffee Shop. Both open early, which is great because you should plan on being active. If you’re heading to Big Bear Lake in the summer months, getting outdoors as much as possible is ideal, so choose to hike either Alpine Hills or Alpine Pedal Path, two of the best options for hikers in the area. In the winter months, skiers and snowboarders (beginner or otherwise) should check out Big Bear Mountain Resort—you can save up to $200 right now on season passes for this year and next year; with the passes, you can also score rental discounts and discounts on group lessons! For lunch, the Resort has a variety of dining options—Clubhouse Grill, Skyline Taphouse—which you can snag a discount at with the season pass, but if you’re looking to venture out, the cozy (great-for-large-groups) Nottinghams Restaurant offers steaks, seafood, and more.
After you’ve wrapped up lunch, head to Big Bear Marina—if the weather’s warm enough—and, depending on the size of your group, pick a boat to catch some rays and hang out on for a couple of hours. Alternately, the Bowling Barn (complete with arcade games) is fun for the whole family.
It’s been a long day, and now that we’re coming close to the end of it, you deserve a nice meal. Peppercorn Grille’s offerings—we’re talking pastas, chicken, and lamb—will warm your tummy, while its elegant atmosphere will make you feel like you’re truly treating yourself among the pines. Or consider the family-owned Sweet Basil Bistro, where the Italian dishes are a favorite in the local community.
For a hearty breakfast, put your trust in Mountain Munchies, which has been serving (happy) customers All-American food since 1980—we’re talking waffles, French Toast, biscuits and gravy, and more. Another reliable eatery to start your third day off right is BLT’s Restaurant, which has quite a few specialty omelets to choose from.
Today, you’ll be flying through the air at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain—whether that be in the form of zip lining or going on their new ride called Soaring Eagle (where you’re catapulted forward at 28 mph) is up to you. In the winter months, Alpine Slide is also a go-to for its famous snow tubing hill, which is a delirious, wholesome hoot for all ages. Lunch is brought to you by way of Tropicali—a Hawaiian eatery, where poke bowls and sushi are a hit with customers. Teddy Bear—established in 1944—is another solid lunchtime pick, where the family-style dining includes homemade mashed potatoes and chili. If you have the time, try to fit in a stop at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, whose mission is to “enhance the human understanding and respect for the value of the ecosystem through rescue, rehabilitation, and education.” If the zoo is not your scene and you’re, perhaps, looking to make a dent in that bucket list, there’s always the option of taking a helicopter tour of the area!
Before your trip back, stop at The Captain’s Anchorage—a fine-dining lodge-like steak house—or the casual (but equally delicious) Maggio’s Pizza.
WHERE TO STAY
You’d be remiss not to strongly consider a cabin rental as part of your forest-filled vacation. Albeit more upscale, Bluegreen Vacations is indeed here to please your inner cabin lover. The quaint Hillcrest Lodge is convenient and utterly charming. Another family-owned option (aside from Hillcrest Lodge) is the Grey Squirrel Resort which was built in the 1950s and has 19 rustic cabins guests can call home for their beguiling stay. And the lakefront Lagonita Lodge offers a bevy of onsite amenities—including a sundeck and a fitness center.
WHEN TO GO
While there’s never a wrong time to enjoy Big Bear Lake, plan your trip between early July through Labor Day weekend (everybody loves an outdoors-y summer getaway) and/or from the middle of December to the middle of February when ski season (and other winter sports) is in full swing.