Big Bear is a year-round travel destination in California that offers numerous activities for families to enjoy. While many associate the mountains with ski hills and snow, they are also perfect for boating, water sports, and enjoying time in nature. My family took our first trip to Big Bear during the summer months so we could explore the area and take in the sights and sounds of nature together and found so many great things to do in Big Bear, especially for family.
If you are like me, it may be hard to figure out where to stay when traveling to a new destination. We prefer to rent a homes so we have more space and a kitchen to eat some meals at “home” and found that Resort Town Rentals had a wonderful selection of properties available in Big Bear. The owner is fantastic and truly takes care of you throughout your stay as well and you can find cabins in many areas.
1. Ride Aboard the Miss Liberty Tour Boat
One of the things we enjoy most about traveling somewhere that is new for the entire family is the experience of discovering together. Since the Big Bear Lake area was completely new to us, starting our trip with the Miss Liberty Boat Tour was perfect! It was a great way to learn about the history of the lake and community. It’s a tour of the stars but not the kind that happens under the evening sky. Not only did we find the Big Bear area to be a well needed retreat, but celebrities do as well. The lake is home to many celebrities who escape the business of Los Angeles for the solitude of the tall pines in Big Bear.
The history learned on the tour gave us all an appreciation of the area. We especially loved the jokes compliments of the captain and learning about how trees were removed when they sprouted up above the water line when the dam was built.
It is best to purchase tickets ahead of time and be sure to arrive fifteen minutes prior to departure. 95% of the seating is covered making for a comfortable ride regardless of the temperature.While the land temperature was over 95 degrees, we rode comfortably and enjoyed the shade and the breeze in the mid-afternoon. Plus Miss Liberty is the only boat with bathrooms and a bar!
2. Ride the Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit
If views and the peace of nature are what you want, Snow Summit is a must for your travel itinerary. The Scenic Sky Chair allowed us to sit together as a family of four on the lift and take in the sounds of nature with unparalleled views of the lake and valley. The ride up took about ten minutes, which was perfect for the kids and then we grabbed lunch at The View Haus when we got to the top.
The restaurant does stop serving food around an hour and a half before Snow Summit closes so be sure you plan appropriately. Another travel tip is to sign your e-waiver for the Scenic Sky Chair ahead of time to save time when you arrive. The ride itself was incredibly quiet and smooth which allowed us to relax and appreciate the surroundings; even the kids were completely quiet! We ended our trip to Big Bear with this experience and found it the perfect ending to a family vacation.
3. Get in Some Water Sports
The early morning waters of Big Bear Lake are calm and peaceful which is perfect for stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. We rented one of each at Paddles and Pedals and paired off with a child so they could experience both sports and it made some of the best family memories of our trip. The wind picks up as the day goes on so be sure to get out early.
If you are looking for more of a thrill, head over to North Shore Landing to experience the lake on a wave runner. This was a first for the kids and me, and the lake was the perfect environment to learn in. The staff at North Shore Landing were all so patient and understanding with Calvin and Ava as they taught them how the wave runners worked and the traffic rules of the lake. Their style put both kids at ease and ultimately made for a successful outing.
4. Take a Guided Fishing Tour
There is perhaps no better way to teach children – and yourselves – about fishing than with an expert guide who has been doing it for over twenty years. Jack Cantrell of Cantrell Guide Service is one of four guides on the lake and brought a sincere appreciation of nature and Big Bear to our outing. As we cruised the lake, I think we were each filled with a sense of gratitude for our surroundings.
He worked so hard to make sure both Calvin and Ava caught a fish and that each experienced the joy of their own “catch”. Fishing is back to the basics in so many ways which we find so beneficial for children and it fit perfectly with the surroundings of the Big Bear area.Please enter the url to a YouTube video.
5. Visit Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
Alpine Slide is truly a unique ride and despite Ava being initially timid, as most seven-year-olds would be, we each rode it again and again. You ride a chair lift up to the top so get some snuggle time with the kids on the way up and then grab a sled and roll it over to the track for the ultimate luge experience. The sleds are easily controlled with one lever that serves as a brake and acceleration when pushed forward. Calvin is ten and was able to ride alone with total ease while Ava rode with one of us.
Magic Mountain also has go karts, miniature golf and quite spectacular water slides so be sure you bring your swimsuits. The slides were in an instant hit with the children and as parents, we loved the layout of the water slides. The area was large enough for children to be entertained for hours, but not too large that they were scared to go on their own. Both slides land in a safe pool that is surrounded by a deck area and another covered area just down the stairs. Both areas offered a direct view of the slides and our kids, allowing us to relax and even have an uninterrupted adult conversation. How’s that for a perfect family vacation?
6. Dine on the Patio at The Cowboy Express Steakhouse
After a full day spent in the outdoors, we wanted a nice family restaurant where everyone could get some food they enjoy. There are plenty of dining options in Big Bear but we loved the ambiance offered at The Cowboy Express Steakhouse. It is worth the wait for a seat on the patio; the views of the lake under the tall trees are such that you can’t find at just any restaurant. Toss a sweatshirt in the car as you head over just in case it cools down as well.
Our family favorites? You can’t go wrong with the burger and onion rings or fish and chips.
7. Have Family Fun at Big Bear Funplex
A favorite activity for both Calvin and Ava was Funplex – a barn exterior filled with an arcade, eatery, laser tag, miniature golf and even skating. Perhaps what made Big Bear Funplex so perfect is that all of this fun took place in a smaller space so we could safely keep an eye on the children and give them the freedom to explore. Glow-in-the-dark miniature golf followed by laser tag was a true high for Cal while Ava was overjoyed to skate independently for the first time on their wax rink.
Moments of nostalgia were prevalent for me in Big Bear, as many things brought back memories of my days of going to our cabin in upper Wisconsin as a child. With how fast paced life has become, it was wonderful to focus on family during our entire trip and truly take in the experiences and memories we were making together.