Sure, you’ve heard of Big Bear for day tripping or weekend jaunts from LA for skiing and snowboarding and sure, the winter scenery and activities can’t be beat. But, here’s an in-the-know secret: the summer (and fall) may be even better. From mountain biking, water slides, rescue animals, hiking and of course, getting out on the lake, there’s so much to do with your kids, you won’t be able to do it all over a weekend. Check out all the cool things you can do below and plan on making lots of return trips.

Getting There

Just a 100-mile drive from Los Angeles and you’ll find yourself over 6700 feet above sea level, surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. Most of the drive is benign, just a flat, straight road headed east. That is, until you get to the 330 N. exit where you’ll begin a gradual climb to get to the top of the mountain. Those with car sickness or car sick kids, be prepared—but remember, it’s totally worth it. The views along the way are stunning (if you are brave enough to look) and once you get to Big Bear, surrounded by the pine and oak trees, you’ll immediately forget those winding roads.

Play & Explore

Tram to the Top
Undeniably, the main attraction (winter and summer) in Big Bear is Snow Summit. Such a gift to be able to explore this mountain sans skiis! Take in the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, lake, and forests on the way up. And once you’ve reached the top (8200 feet), grab some lunch from the grill, go on an easy hike (start with the simple 1-mile loop, or branch out on longer trails if the kids are up to it) or be super adventurous and hike (or bike!) your way down.

Mountain Bike to the Extreme
Speaking of biking, Snow Summit hosts extreme sports fans as young 5 who can get all the gear (helmet, pads, and bike) and take the tram to the top to explore over 60 miles of mountain bike trails. If no one in your family has mountain biking experience outside the city, you can take a lesson, which will also end up saving you money on bike rental, gear and sky chair tickets.

880 Summit Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA
Online: bigbearmountainresort.com

Paddles & Pedals
As the name suggests, the outfitter offers bikes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards for rent. Located on the northern shore, they have single, double and triple kyacks which means even the little ones and dogs can come along for the ride. We recommend going on non-breezy days (easier to navigate when you don’t have to fight the wind).

40545 N. Shore Lane
Big Bear
Online: bigbearpaddlesandpedals.com


photo: Teresa A. via Yelp

Ahoy Mateys!
Another way to get on the lake? Take a trip on a replica of a Spanish Galleon pirate ship (1/3 scale) for 90-minutes. Expect a fun bit of history, some entertainment, pirate shenanigans, and good old fashion swashbuckling.

Good to Know: There are no refunds and the boat may return to shore if rain or inclement weather occurs. Make reservations ahead of time to reserve your spot.

398 Edgemoor Rd.
Big Bear Lake
Online: bigbearhollowaysmarina.com

Slip and Slide
The best value for your buck and guaranteed hours of fun is The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. There are two waterslides, a bobsled track (kids 2-6 and under 48″ ride for free on an adult’s lap), go-karts, mini golf and a snack bar. Don’t be surprised if you spend over half the day here bouncing between the various activities.

800 Wildrose Lane
Big Bear Lake
Online: alpineslidebigbear.com

photo: Colleen L. via Yelp

Big Bear Alpine Zoo
This rehabilitation facility is less of a typical zoo and more of an animal sanctuary, as it saves and cares for injured, orphaned or imprinted wild animals. Kids can learn about the local wildlife and see bald eagles, wolves, black bears, bobcats, snow leopards (new!) and an arctic fox that was found on the rooftop in Beverly Hills! Every day from 11 a.m.—noon, there is a daily animal presentation in the amphitheater. In Oct., you can come at night for a Flashlight Safari!

43285 Goldmine Dr.
Big Bear Lake
Online: bigbearzoo.org

More Outdoor Fun
Big Bear is the fishing capital of Southern California, so if you’ve got young anglers, be sure to take them out on the lake. You can also hike, go horseback riding, or boating.

More Indoor Fun
If the nights are nippy in the fall, you could snuggle up in your cabin with some cocoa. Or you can hit the bowling alley or movie theater in the village, which almost always is showing the latest family flick.

photo: Andie Huber

Eat

Saucy Mamas
Hands down, if you’ve got kids, then go eat at Saucy Mamas. This popular pizza joint in the middle of the village has a great atmosphere for rowdy families, a good kids menu (not that you need an option past pizza!), a few salads and pasta options, and darn good pizza. If you’re here on a weekend, be sure to get your name on the list for a table a good 45 minutes before you think your kids will be ready to eat. There’s always a wait.

618 Pine Knot Ave.
Big Bear
Online: saucymamaspizza.com

photo: Andie Huber

Oakside Restaurant
After a day of splashing, riding, hiking and biking, it’s nice to clean up and head to town for an upscale dinner that (YASSS) caters to kids. Grab a patio seat and enjoy the live music and the people watching while you relax with a glass of wine or one of the many craft beers. The kids can have the usual (burgers, pizza, chicken fingers, pasta) and you can dive into a poke bowl, steaks, salads or a truffle grilled cheese. Definitely make reservations otherwise you’ll most likely have to wait to eat at this popular spot.

40701 Village Dr.
Big Bear Lake
Online: oaksiderestaurant.com

Amangela’s Sandwich and Bagel House
For breakfast or lunch on the go, this is your go-to. Bagels make every kid happy for any meal of the day and this conveniently located spot in the middle of the village also serves fresh fruit smoothies and veggie/gluten free options.

ADVERTISEMENT

40729 Village Dr.
Big Bear Lake
Online: amangelas.com

Himalayan Restaurant
Recommended by everyone and touted as “worth the drive from LA for the best Indian food around,” the Himalayan Restaurant is a gem of a restaurant. The Indian and Himalayan specialties are delicious, and even the pickiest kids can happily fill up on naan and items from the “Baby Plates” which include fried rice and house-made chow mien noodles. But you also might find them sneaking too many bites of your curry, masala, and vindaloo.

672 Pine Knot, Suite 2
Big Bear Lake
Online: himalayanbigbear.com

photo: Andie Huber

Sweets & Treats

Ben & Jerry’s
Always a family favorite, this iconic outpost is located in the village and will give your kids that much-needed energy boost after a long day of playing in the water and sun. Go for the sprinkle dipped waffle cones…you’re on vacation!

652 Pine Knot Ave.
Big Bear Lake
Online: benjerry.com/bigbearlake

North Pole Fudge & Ice Cream Co.
Worth the wait for fudge, you can see that the fudge is made on the spot and is better than your taste buds can imagine.

618 Pine Knot Ave.
Big Bear Lake
Online: northpolefudge.net

The Copper Q
Stop here for coffee, freshly baked pies, scones, waffles on a stick and homemade marshmallows in the hot chocolate, you can also pick up gourmet jams, sauces and popcorns to bring back to your cabin (or LA!).

645 Pine Knot Ave.
Big Bear Lake
Online: copperq.com

photo: Andie Huber

Big Breakfasts

There are two breakfast joints in town that are worth seeking out but you need to get there early (like before 8:30 a.m.), otherwise, you’ll end up waiting 45 plus minutes for a table (a vacation fail in any parent’s book). So take advantage of early risers and head to one of these hot spots for hot cakes, hot coffee and more first thing in the morning. PS: They are both cash only.

Teddy Bear Restaurant
583 Pine Knot Ave.
Big Bear Lake
Online: teddybearrestaurant.com

Grizzly Manor Cafe
41268 Big Bear Blvd.
Big Bear Lake
Online: grizzlymanorcafe.com

 photo: Andie Huber

Stay

Cabin Rentals
If you’re spending more than a day or two or traveling with friends and extended family, we suggest renting a cabin of your own. You can find private cabins and homes to rent (many with fireplaces and Jacuzzis) that accommodate from your family up to over 16 people. It’s nice to be able to relax in a space, stock the fridge with your family’s favorites and hang out on the decks enjoying that cool mountain air while the kids sleep soundly in their rooms.

Wow Rentals make check-in and check-out easy, they walk you through the house and show you how to use everything and someone is readily available for any questions or needs you may have.

Online: wowrentals.com

The Lodge at Big Bear Lake
This reasonably priced Holiday Inn has everything you need when traveling with kids: it’s has all the amenities of a big hotel, walkable to the Village and lake plus a pool and spa.

Online: thelodgeatbigbearlake.com

photo: Andie Huber

Special Festivals
Keep an eye out for special festival weekend events. We caught the Cranks and Crafts fest at the base of Snow Summit and it was a blast! Rock climbing, jumping, zip-lining, and festival rides were just some of the highlights.

Good to Know
Sunblock and hats are a must for everyone as you are at least one-mile closer to the sun. The air is also super dry so load up on chapsticks, hand lotion and a saline nose spray isn’t a bad idea. Bloody noses aren’t uncommon in the dry mountain air.

Note: This trip was paid for by Big Bear Visitor’s Bureau, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer. 

To see what Red Tricycle Editors are up to this month, follow us on Instagram!

—Andie Huber

RELATED STORIES:

50 Things To Do This Summer

Dive Into LA’s Best Public Pools

6 Swimming Spot That Are Wet, Wild & All Natural

Best Beaches For Your Beach Babe

Try Casitas Water Adventure To Splash and Chill