Often only thought of as Southern California’s place to play in the snow, Big Bear also has a wide array of activities luring visitors throughout the year. As the heat of the summer sets in, Big Bear is the perfect escape. Nestled high in the mountains on the banks of a lake, Big Bear offers cooler temperatures during summer. From water activities to exploring the beautiful scenery, Big Bear is an outdoor lovers dream. I recently had the opportunity to visit Big Bear to learn more about the summer offerings, and I have to say that I was pretty excited with everything there is to do, especially for families. It really is the perfect family vacation destination.
Big Bear Discovery Center
The Big Bear Discovery Center is the prefect afternoon retreat for families looking to learn more about the local area. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, families will enjoy checking out the stuffed animal exhibits inside as well as the hands on play area outside in the Nature Discovery Zone. The new outdoor adventure space is designed for children 2-7 years old and their families to explore and reconnect to nature. The Discovery Center is also where you can purchase your Adventure Passes allowing easy parking access throughout the mountains. Pick up trail guides and chat with volunteer docents about the area’s local plants and animals before heading out.
Captain John’s Boat Tour
One of the best ways to enjoy Big Bear during the summer season is to get out on the water. There are a variety of activities available for active families, but one of the best ways to passively take in the surroundings is through a boat tour. Captain John is a legend in Big Bear. He is one of those people that you can sit and listen to for hours. He has been conducting tours of the lake since the lat 1970s, witnessing famous people come and go through the different homes surrounding the lake. And he has all the gossip ready to share! Tours are about an hour and a half, costing only $20 per person. Tours leave most days at 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm. Call ahead ((909) 366-5109) to make sure a boat will be heading out. This is a great way to get acquainted with the lake, the different areas surrounding it as well as the history of the people and animals who call Big Bear home. If you like live music, ask him where he is playing that night. He’s a pretty amazing ukulele player!
There are a lot of great family friendly hikes in Big Bear, but one of our favorites is Castle Rock Hike. The 2 mile trail offers incredible views of Big Bear Lake from the top, as well as plenty of opportunities for the littles to practice their rock scrambling skills! The climb isn’t for the feint of heart though as some of the trail is very steep. The steep section so very short though, so don’t worry! The western side of the trail at the top offers the least challenging way in getting all the way to the top. This is a beautiful hike, only minutes off of Hwy 18, making it super accessible. If you need something a bit more mellow, head for the Woodland Trail, which is an easy 1.5 mile stroll.
Big Bear Alpine Zoo
Another great family friendly activity in Big Bear is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. I had heard of this zoo on my previous visits but wasn’t sure it was worth the time to devote to it. Now I know, that it definitely is! We had such a great time exploring the small zoo that is filled with rescued animals. Primarily, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo operates as a rehabilitation facility for injured or orphaned wild animals. More than 90% of the animals they treat are returned to the wild, with those who are unable to survive on their own staying permanently at the zoo. It’s a fantastic experience for all ages.
Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit
I’m a total chicken when it comes to heights, but the ride up the scenic chair lift at Snow Summit was worth the butterflies going crazy in my stomach! During the summer, the chair lift takes visitors up to the top of the mountain through peaceful sounds and smells of the forest. It was our real life version of California Adventure’s Soaring Over California ride! The ride up takes about 10 minutes, which is perfect for families with small kids. There is a restaurant at the top where you can grab lunch or a drink while soaking up the view. You can potter around at the top for a while or check out the Mountain Top Trail Loop. You can then take the chair lift back down or hike down on one of the trails. I prefer walking down as you really get the chance to take in all of the beauty of the lake and town below.
These are our favorites, but if you have more time to spare, check out Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain for an exhilarating ride down the side of the hill or Big Bear Funplex for bowling, miniature golf and laser tag.
Regardless of what you end up doing, a holiday in Big Bear will leave your family rejuvenated, relaxed and most importantly cooled down in the hot summer months!
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