A gateway to the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth Lakes is much more than a jumping off point to Yosemite. The mountain town, which sits at close to 8,000 feet (if you’re keeping track that’s about 1,600 feet higher than Lake Tahoe), boasts prime spring skiing, plenty of things to do off the slopes and kid-friendly restaurants galore. We recently took a family trip to Mammoth Lakes and discovered the best things to see, eat and stay with kids.

photo: Mammoth Mountain

Things to Do in Mammoth with Kids

You’ll never be short on things to do in Mammoth with kids. But, springtime especially is a great time to visit. Likely, most of the epic storms have passed, leaving in its wake sunny skies, fresh groomers and plenty of snow for non-skiing outdoor activities. Here are a few ways to occupy your days this spring in Mammoth Lakes:

photo: Mammoth Mountain

Go Skiing
Kids 4 and under ski free at Mammoth Mountain (and after May 28 ALL kids ski or ride for free!), and with dozens of beginner slopes that are wide and groomed, this mountain is great for beginners. Spring in Mammoth means mild conditions, a sunny apres scene and the chance to take advantage of the season’s massive snow fall. The mountain itself is huge and spread out, which means even on busy days, the crowds disperse throughout the mountain so you never feel too cramped when on the slopes. Kids group lessons start at three-years old and continue up through adult.

photo: Pennuja via flickr

Go Tubing
Bomb down the slick snow lanes at Woolly’s Tube Park for a thrilling good time. For those 42” and smaller who aren’t yet tall enough to enjoy the ride, Woolly’s has a fun snow park area and heated deck serving up hot cocoa and adult beverages. Access to the snow park is easy—simply take the red bus line here and you’ll be dropped off right at the entrance.

photo: Erin Lem

Go Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing
Take the orange line to Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center (it’s only 10 minutes from the Village) for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking. When we visited the snowshoe trail was packed down, so we ended up hiking the trail with kiddos in the Baby Tula front pack and a hiking backpack. There are 19 miles of trails to explore with lessons, rentals and guided tours available. Trails are dog-friendly and fairly flat so if you have a child who can trek it, this is a good spot for a beginner hike or snowshoe.

Where to Eat in Mammoth with Kids

From fine dining to grab-and-go eats, Mammoth’s dining options are much more diverse than you’d expect from such a small town. Most spots have high chairs and kids menu (or dishes pleasing to a kiddo palate) at the ready, lots have tableside crayons and all won’t bat an eyelash if you walk in at prime dinner hour with a gaggle of children. Expect a warm welcome from restaurants eager to serve families. Below are family-friendly places to eat in Mammoth:

Old New York Deli
One of our favorite spots in the Village is Old New York Deli—and, judging by the packed house we aren’t the only fans of this classic bagelry. From sandwiches to traditional bagels and cream cheese to baked goods galore, Old New York Deli is a prime spot to fuel up before a day of adventuring. 6201 Minaret Rd #105, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. Online: oldnewyork.com

Gomez Restaurant
Nosh on burritos, sizzling fajita plates and delicious enchiladas at this welcoming Mexican restaurant in the Village. Portions are incredibly generous and for those 21+ Gomez offers up 600+ different types of tequila. The restaurant sits at the base near the gondola and on a nice day grab a table outside near one of the fire pits. 6201 Minaret Road, The Village at Mammoth, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. Online: gomezs.com

If mama needs her coffee, make a quick stop at Starbucks in the Village to fuel up. The area is spacious inside with seating and room for strollers. 481 Old Mammoth Road, Minaret Village Shopping Center, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Burgers Restaurant
The name of this restaurant sums up its specialty: burgers! Across from the Village, Burgers dishes out generous portions of their comfort food. Not into the traditional burger? You’ll also find a variety of equally filling eats like veggie burgers, buffalo burgers, pork baby back ribs and more. 6118 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. Online: burgersrestaurant.com

photo: Erin Lem

Delicious food and a laid-back atmosphere makes Toomey’s an ideal spot to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner. Located in the Village, you’ll find dishes like their coconut mascarpone pancakes, fish tacos and a kids menu that includes chicken fingers, mini burger and fries and more.
6085 Minaret Rd., Mammoth Lakes, CA. Online: toomeysmammoth.com

Yoddler Restaurant and Bar
Located at the Main Lodge adjacent to Mammoth Mountain Inn is this old-school European restaurant serving up an authentic Bavarian menu (think brats, schnitzel and pretzels). The festive interior and super welcoming staff make for a memorable meal. 10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. Online: theyodlermammoth.com

Mammoth Rock ‘N’ Bowl
Take the red line or the town’s trolley to Mammoth Rock ‘N’ Bowl for a laid-back evening of bowling and eats from pizza to salads to poutine and tacos. Sit at a booth or have your food delivered to your bowling lane. You’ll also find a full bar and arcade, as well as a more upscale Brasserie upstairs for a date night-style dining experience. 3029 Chateau Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Online: mammothrocknbowl.com

photo: Erin Lem

On-mountain dining:
Eleven53 Cafe
Take the scenic gondola to the top to a take-your-breath-away 11,053 feet. Stunning views coupled with a grab-and-go meal make Eleven53 Cafe worth the trip. Bonus: Kids will love the free interpretive center where they can touch and feel animal pelts and learn about the area’s geography and history.

Broadway Marketplace and McCoy Marketplace
When the fun just can’t stop but you need to grab a bite, visit Broadway Marketplace at the Main Lodge or McCoy Marketplace mid-mountain for pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads and more.

Where to Stay in Mammoth with Kids

Condos and hotels abound in Mammoth Lakes, and with the town’s free public bus system you really can’t go wrong with your accommodation choice. Still, traveling with kids means convenience—and proximity to shops, dining and activities—can mean the difference between a happy tear-free afternoon and an epic toddler meltdown. Here are three places to stay in Mammoth that cater to families:

photo: Yelp The Village Lodge

The Village Lodge Mammoth
Best for: ultimate convenience to shops and dining
For accommodations that feel more like home book a condo at The Village Lodge Mammoth. Options range from studio condos to three-bedroom deluxe condos. Condos come equipped with kitchens or kitchenettes stocked with coffee, tea, pots, pans, dishware, a full-size fridge, stove and more, which is a huge perk if you want to whip up food for your child or store leftovers. A swimming pool is open daily (even in winter!) with cribs available upon request.

photo: Erin Lem

The Village Lodge offers a free shuttle service anywhere within a 5-mile radius in Mammoth and you’re steps from dining, shopping, most of the major bus lines and the Canyon Village gondola. For those kiddos obsessed with things that go, ask for a room that looks out to the gondola—your child will love watching them come and go all day long. Online: thevillagelodgemammoth.com

photo: Yelp Mammoth Mountain Inn 

Mammoth Mountain Inn
Best for: ski in and out
If being slopeside is your jam, stay at Mammoth Mountain Inn. Located just a few steps from the lifts at the Main Lodge, the Inn offers both hotel-style rooms and condos, with the latter featuring kitchenettes. Nearby you’ll find the Yoddler Restaurant and Bar, Sierra General Store and Mountainside Bar and Grill. Because the Inn is slopeside, this area does get a bit quieter once the lifts close and the apres crowds have dispersed. Online: themammothmountaininn.com

photo: Yelp Westin Mammoth

Westin Monache Resort Mammoth
Best for: great views
Located in the Village, Westin Monache Resort Mammoth boasts mountain views from every room. Each room is equipped with a kitchenette, small fridge and microwave. Step out of the hotel and walk down the steps to the gondola. The Westin offers a ski valet so you don’t have to schlep your ski equipment back and forth every night. Like The Village Lodge Mammoth, the Westin offers a free shuttle bus service, which is built into the resort fee cost. Online: westin-monache-resort-mammoth.mammoth-lakes-hotels.com

Tips for Traveling with Young Kids

If your kids are too young for ski school or you have babe you’re not ready to hand over to the slopeside childcare, here are some tips and things to do with young kids in Mammoth:

• Ride the Canyon gondola. Bonus: it’s free and if it’s not crowded, you can easily wheel your stroller on and off it for an easy ride.

photo: Erin Lem

• Ride the town’s buses. Mammoth is only four miles across, which means you won’t be lost for hours on the different routes. Bonus: this is also free and we found makes for great white noise if you have a baby who loves naps in the frontpack. Download the transit app in advance so you know exactly what time the bus will arrive and where it’s taking you.

photo: Erin Lem

• Take a walk around the Village. Peruse Mammoth gear, load up on coffee at Starbucks or grab a happy hour drink at one of the many kid- and dog-friendly patios (see above on great places to eat). The area is all paved and perfect for a leisurely stroller walk.

photo: Mammoth Mountain

• If you need a place to set up camp slopeside, we found that the level at the Main Lodge behind Broadway Marketplace is emptier than most and is used as a base camp for other families whose parents are trading off hitting the slopes.

• Every Saturday in the Village in Winter join Woolly and his friends for a parade and dance party. If you miss Woolly in the Village, you might catch him on the slopes or in one of the lodges handing out high-fives and hugs to his pint-sized fans. Beyond the winter Woolly parade, Mammoth Mountain hosts a variety of monthly happenings. Check their events calendar here for details.

The Logistics: Insider Tips

How to get to Mammoth:
Bay Area families who flock to Tahoe know the headaches associated with I-80 traffic, especially when chain control is in effect. In winter, fly directly from SFO to Mammoth—flight time is a cool 35 minutes. If you opt to drive, it’s about 5-6 hours from the Bay Area, which realistically can be the time it takes to trek it up to Tahoe. Not from the Bay Area but still want to experience this hidden gem? Catch one of the daily flights from LAX that operate year-round.

photo: Erin Lem

The Lay of the Land:
Unlike some ski towns you might have visited, there isn’t just one central lodge or downtown area. Mammoth is fairly spread out in the sense that there is the Village, Main Lodge, Old Mammoth and Main Street (this article breaks down the areas a bit more). The free buses or your hotel’s shuttle will get you anywhere you need to go. And, the fact that it’s a bit more spread out means areas won’t be jam-packed and overwhelming for the littles.

photo: Mammoth Mountain

Best Time to Go:
There is never a bad time to visit Mammoth, but if you’re looking for a stress-free spring skiing experience go now! The resort will be open at least through July 4 (yep, you read that right!). Fewer lines and sunny spring conditions we hope will translate to building a love of skiing or boarding with your kids—because getting them out there in frigid, snowy conditions isn’t anyone’s cup of tea. Not convinced yet? Here are a few more reasons to book it to Mammoth now:

• Kids ski free after May 28

• If you plan to buy an IKON ski pass for next season then you can ride for free now starting April 8, 2019. That adds up to three free months of access to the mountain.

• Snag a lift and lodging combo deal. They start at $108/per person per night. Get the details here.

To Bring (or Not to Bring) the Car Seat:
If you’re flying in, you may not need a car or even car seat. Check with the accommodations you booked to see what their shuttle service is like. For instance, The Village Lodge Mammoth offers a courtesy shuttle anywhere within Mammoth Lakes, as well as a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport. If you do drive, park and take advantage of the convenient and free bus transport system.

Learn more about Mammoth and everything this spring skiing destination has to offer by clicking here.

—Erin Lem

This trip was paid for by Mammoth Mountain but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.



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