Big_Bear_BikingImagine your kids ditching their electronics in lieu of biking, hiking and other outdoor activities. While it may be hard to picture them happily switching gadgets for exercise (at least for a few hours), they may like it more than you think. Mine did. Especially when they found out they could win prizes while enjoying various sports in Big Bear Lake.

Located in SoCal’s San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is onboard to help battle childhood obesity with its program, “Kids. Get Outdoors. Win.” The campaign is designed to promote healthy lifestyles that continue long after families return home from Big Bear.

Big_Bear_CanoeingMy family and I participated in this and had so much fun together (my kids even left their cell phones behind). Here’s how the program works. Upon arriving in Big Bear, pick up an interactive stamp booklet listing several activities, such as mountain biking, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and wakeboarding. These booklets are available at participating businesses – called Outdoor Fun Spots – and include sporting good shops, marinas and the Big Bear Visitor Center (630 Bartlett Road, Big Bear Lake).

Each time you complete an activity, get your booklet stamped. After one stamp, you get a 20 percent discount for your next activity. Two stamps earn you a free go-cart ride or mini golf game. The more stamps you collect the bigger the prize. Collect six stamps for a chance to win a new mountain bike, snowboard, ski season pass, or an all-inclusive trip for four people to Big Bear. The campaign runs through Sept. 12, and grand prize winners are announced Sept. 17during Oktoberfest (it’s not necessary to be present to win). For each completed stamp book, you get two free tickets (one child, one adult) to Oktoberfest.

Fortunately, my kids enjoy sports so it wasn’t hard to lure them to the lake and slopes. We brought our Lab, Trooper, to pet-friendly Big Bear so he could play in the forest too. On our first day, we joined a canoe tour with Big Bear Discovery Center guides. Paddling on the lake, we saw fuzzy baby ducks, a beaver’s nest cradled in reeds and coots skimming the water. Later that afternoon, we hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail. Trooper trotted ahead of us, sniffing pine trees, wildflowers and pinecones.

Big_Bear_PontoonThat evening, we ate at the Himalayan Restaurant (, popular for its fabulous Nepalese Indian cuisine. Fresh herbs and spices embellish tasty (and healthy) dishes like baigan aaloo (eggplant, potatoes), Himalayan mixed grill (lamb and chicken skewers), chicken saag (chicken, spinach) and a creamy chicken masala.

The next morning, we went to Holloway’s Marina ( for stand up paddleboarding. We saw fish splash out of the water as we paddled by boats and lakefront homes. By noon we were ready for a relaxing day on the lake (this doesn’t count in the stamp booklet but it’s sure fun!). At Pine Knot Marina (, all of us (including Trooper) boarded a comfy pontoon equipped with a canopy. We brought a cooler packed with sandwiches and beverages and cruised around the lake, soaking up sun while watching jet skiers and parasailors.

The sun was beginning to set behind towering pines as we returned to the house we had rented through Village Reservations ( Named “Robin’s Nest,” it’s as cozy as it sounds. Two bedrooms, updated kitchen and two baths, a
large back deck and front deck – all gated so Trooper could run around safely.

Big_Bear_Robins_NestOn our third and last day in Big Bear, we geared up for mountain biking. At Blauer’s Ski & Board Shop (, we rented Cannondale bikes and peddled to Snow Summit. We rode the Scenic Sky Chair (our bikes went up first) to the top. From there, we alternately peddled and braked along pine-scented trails, relishing the bumpy but exhilarating ride. My kids said this was their favorite activity.

With another stamp in our booklet, we now get a free go-cart ride or mini golf game, free boat tour and all-day waterslide passes at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. But the rewards are much more. Our family spent quality time together enjoying some of our favorite sports. And it didn’t even feel like exercise.