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For some rea­son, our San­ta Mon­i­ca beach fam­i­ly always went look­ing for snow and win­ter fun in Big Bear Lake, nev­er Lake Arrowhead.



big bear lake fun



In the sum­mers, it was always back to Big Bear, to try our luck at fish­ing, which nev­er seemed to change.





I was­n’t the adult, back then, mak­ing the deci­sions of where to take my fam­i­ly but now that I have a lit­tle more con­trol, I won­der. Lake Arrow­head is actu­al­ly about a half-hour, or approx­i­mate­ly 20 miles, clos­er to where we start­ed our road trip. That trans­lates to a half-hour less windy moun­tain road trav­el and a half-hour less of hav­ing to deal with my pesky lit­tle broth­er in the back­seat of our car and, today, my two fight­ing boys.



Mountain road to Lake Arrowhead

Moun­tain road to Lake Arrowhead







Where To Stay


Until my hus­band, boys and I were invit­ed to explore Lake Arrow­head, we had nev­er made the short jour­ney. So, we were a bit curi­ous and def­i­nite­ly excited.




The cen­tral­ly locat­ed, Lake Arrow­head Resort and Spa, is a com­fort­able and lux­u­ri­ous hotel to spend a week­end or hol­i­day break.  Our room had two queen-sized beds, a bal­cony over­look­ing the lake with ever­greens and glimpses of rust and gold­en oaks sur­round­ing it. We dis­cov­ered the Lake Arrow­head Resort and Spa is dog friend­ly, so we thought fond­ly of our Gold­en Retriev­er wait­ing with friends back home. The whole town is very dog friend­ly and we saw many tongues dan­gling from four-legged friends who brought their own fur! Snow was still a whis­pered promise when we vis­it­ed right before Thanks­giv­ing but it was still cold. How­ev­er, there was no way my boys were pass­ing up a heat­ed pool and hot tub. It did­n’t mat­ter that it was out­doors. They must have an ultra-thin, inter­nal lay­er of whale blub­ber to insu­late them. 

We love to use Tri­pAd­vis­er when book­ing our stays. Tri­pAd­vis­er will search for the best deal from all the online book­ing sites and you can read about the ameni­ties each hotel offers plus feed­back from pre­vi­ous fam­i­ly’s stays in case the one we stayed in isn’t a good fit for your family.


What To Do


Snow Tubing


We did see snow plows on the sides of the road, ready for action, for when the hoped for white pow­der arrived. For actu­al snow fun, near the hotel is Snow­drift Snow Tub­ing, SoCal’s largest and longest oper­at­ing inner-tube park. 



big bear lake snow tubing

snow tub­ing a few win­ters back



Skiing / Snowboarding


Also, about 27 miles up the moun­tain is Big Bear Moun­tain Resort, which com­bines super fun trails at Snow Sum­mit and Bear Moun­tain ski resorts for both begin­ners and advanced show-offs. This is where we go when we vis­it Big Bear to ski. Snow Val­ley is clos­er at about 14 miles from the hotel and great for beginners.





Spa Treatments


When you’re done adven­tur­ing with the kids, snow or no snow, don’t miss the Lake Arrow­head Resort and Spa’s 8,000 square foot Spa of the Pines, where treat­ments uti­lize essen­tial oils spe­cif­ic to a clien­t’s needs. My ther­a­pist offered four blends and I chose the one called Revive. My Sig­na­ture Mas­sage includ­ed hot stones that rolled my stress away and broke down all my knots. Final­ly, after she insist­ed our ses­sion was real­ly over, I drift­ed to the post-treat­ment relax­ation room, which was most­ly win­dows that opened to green swirls of for­est and calm lake.



Where to Eat


For din­ner, onsite restau­rant, BIN 189, has one of the best char­cu­terie plat­ters we’ve ever tasted.



charcuterie at BIN 189 Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa

pure joy



Also, their gua­camole was so fresh, we swore they must have had avo­ca­do trees grow­ing in their base­ment. Their crispy, home­made tor­tilla chips were the per­fect com­pli­ment. BIN 189 takes pride in local­ly sourc­ing their food and choos­ing ven­dors that don’t use GMOs. The boys loved their chick­en fin­gers and Cae­sar sal­ads and mom­my loved the bites she snuck from them.



BIN 189 lake arrowhead resort and spa

The chick­en had just the right amount of crunch, the sal­ad dress­ing was a divine com­bi­na­tion of salt-spiced parme­san cheese and tangy anchovies.



Also, a huge bonus, the restau­rant allowed my hus­band and I to split our two main dish­es, the Alaskan Hal­ibut and Camp­bell Riv­er Salmon, so we were able to enjoy the full expe­ri­ence of each dish, instead of just par­tial bites.



BIN 189 at lake arrowhead resort and spa

A lit­tle of both. © Rina Nehdar



Menu for BIN 189 Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa



We decid­ed room ser­vice with a view of the lake was the per­fect way to start the next day.



 lake arrowhead resort and spa

Break­fast of cham­pi­ons with a cham­pi­onship view  © Rina Nehdar



Santa’s Village


After, we took a 10 minute dri­ve to Sky­park at San­ta’s Vil­lage, which is a com­bi­na­tion of hol­i­day tra­di­tion and moun­tain thrill. Depend­ing on the ages of your fam­i­ly and lev­el of thrill they’re seek­ing, there’s enough vari­ety of activ­i­ties to keep you enter­tained for a cou­ple days.



santa's village lake arrowhead



Snow Quest is a scav­enger hunt with a tube of mag­ic glit­ter and a crys­tal as the final reward but the real pay­off are the activ­i­ties along the way that are eas­i­er to dis­cov­er if you’re being guid­ed by a game. We found the Mag­ic Tree Boul­der­ing Room where the boys prac­ti­cal­ly skipped through the small, extend­ed plas­tic pieces set into the walls, while mom­my was remind­ed of her age from try­ing (see video below). Then, the boys raced against oth­ers on over­sized bikes, with snow tires, along a wind­ing track, shot arrows into bales of straw at Ser­ra­no Archery Range and flipped their hearts out at Blitzen’s Bungee. Ziplin­ers sped over­head and North Pole char­ac­ters beck­oned with home­made treats everywhere.



santa's village lake arrowhead

They’re gonna eat the gin­ger­bread man!



We saw kids rid­ing the free bal­ance bikes hang­ing on the wood­en rails out­lin­ing the park paths and adults jump­ing moun­tain bikes on pro­fes­sion­al­ly designed trails. The bikes are avail­able to rent from a pret­ty fan­cy look­ing shop.  There’s also a frozen pond for ice skat­ing, though it was­n’t quite frozen while we were there. There are trails to hike for next time and fly fish­ing clin­ics to learn how. Restau­rants and elf-filled vari­ety shows offered a lit­tle rest between all the fun.



Lake Arrowhead Village


Back at the resort, a 10-minute walk will take you to Lake Arrow­head Vil­lage.



Lake Arrowhead Village



There, you’ll find 50 lake­side shops, restau­rants and gal­leries to explore. We tried din­ner, our sec­ond night, at The Grill at Lake Arrow­head & Sushi Bar. It was the sushi that was the draw but, we dis­ap­point­ed­ly learned, they don’t serve sushi on Mon­days or Tues­days. Still, we found plates that came close enough, like the Thai Seared Tuna Sal­ad with Noo­dles, which was slight­ly peanut­ty and so good. Also deli­cious was the Poke Sal­ad, though they had run out of rice the night we went.





To make up for it, our wait­ress offered us a free dessert, which was more than enough.



 The Grill at Lake Arrowhead & Sushi Bar

It’ll do



Since there was so much to see at the Vil­lage, we went back the next day and ate break­fast at Bel­gian Waf­fle Works, which was worth every carb and gram of sug­ar, explored some of the shops and got a clos­er look around the lake with an Arrow­head Queen Boat Tour.




Lake Arrowhead Queen boat tour



Cap­tain Don showed us many celebri­ty homes around the lake and con­fid­ed sto­ries of famous peo­ple who’ve lived, loved and played on the shores of this pret­ty pri­vate lake. One fun­ny sto­ry we heard was about the habits of rac­coons, who seek shel­ter dur­ing the win­ter months inside the tent­ed boats, docked under canopies. The rac­coons find their way inside and start fam­i­lies. So, in the spring, own­ers have to chase them off by blar­ing rap music! Toward the end of the tour, Cap­tain Don let the kids dri­ve the boat, which made them feel very spe­cial, espe­cial­ly when he let them wear his hat.



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Lake Arrowhead Queen boat tour

Mini Skip­per  © Rina Nehdar



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After our ride, the boys found the arcade inside the Lake Arrow­head Deli, Piz­za and Arcade  which was fun for every­one because it was the first time we got to play pin­ball with them, which they’d nev­er seen. Also fun in the Vil­lage, but only on week­ends dur­ing win­ter, is Lol­lipop Park, where kids can ride a carousel, bumper cars and, of course, eat lol­lipops! We missed this since we came dur­ing the week, in the ear­ly win­ter, but now that we are Lake Arrow­head vet­er­ans, we can’t wait to try out the kayak­ing and water­ski­ing avail­able in the sum­mers and who knows? Maybe I’ll have bet­ter luck fish­ing in Lake Arrow­head than I did in Big Bear. Cer­tain­ly can’t be worse.



Getting There


Lake Arrow­head is about a two-hour dri­ve from Los Ange­les via the US 101‑S and CA 60‑E or the US 101‑S and I 10‑E




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