Family Friendly Restaurants in Big Bear

When one thinks dining, they may think of exotic cuisine, varied tastes, the frequented corner restaurant or even fast food… During a vacation, food can be either the highlight or the most stressful aspect. Have kids? Little ones? I am pretty sure you know what I am talking about when I say dining out becomes a family affair.

Finding family friendly restaurant options on your vacation can be a headache – especially with Fido! Pet friendly dining is too little and far between when you are trying to wrestle the kids into eating healthy or even just eating out. Fear not Big Bear Lake visitors – I have the perfect family friendly (along with some pet friendly!) dining options just for you. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner covered during your upcoming or current Big Bear Lake adventure. If you’re heading up for snow or for the sun during Big Bear’s one of four popular seasons, the activities kids can participate in are endless! After all that hiking, sledding or ski lessons the kids and bound to be looking for grub. Here are some personal family friendly places my kids enjoy every season.

The most important meal of the day is breakfast – it has been proven! For any active child or family, a hearty meal is the only way to start the day. We like to head over to Grizzly Manor Cafe when we visit Big Bear – it has the perfect local charm! The “decorated” walls keep the kids entertained and the snappy waitresses keep you on your heels. They are famous for their delicious extra-large pancakes. Warning: You will have to pour your own coffee, so don’t expect to flag down the waitress. The cafe is tiny – get there early especially for a family of 4 or more. Come, hungry – the portions are huge and meant to be reckoned with.

My kids love the different places to eat in Big Bear Lake – lunchtime is their favorite time! Amangela’s Sandwich and Bagel House offers indoor and outdoor seating along with kid-friendly food such as tasty sandwiches and chips. The owners are good people who serve quality ingredients in their food and use organic and fair trade produce as much as possible. Located in the The Village downtown, they are just a few blocks away from the lake and local movie theater for some after lunch entertainment. Another lunch and kid friendly option located near the ski resorts is also Bear Belly Deli – a custom sandwich shop with fresh meats and cheeses – and the selection is huge! Sometimes getting away from the crowds in The Village and ski resorts is a good thing, and this Deli sure fits the bill as both family friendly and delicious.

For an old west experience, check out the Cowboy Express Steakhouse located just a small drive west of The Village. They advertise some of the “best grub on the mountain” and have a sociable atmosphere and as far as I’m concerned, a really good menu selection for everyone in your family! If you have fussy children, they even offer semi-private rooms and fun decor for the entire family to enjoy.

What kid doesn’t like pizza? And games? And laser tag? Noble Roman’s Pizzeria located in Big Bear’s Funplex game and kid zone offers the yummy brand name pizza at a great rate, along with the games and rides, you can get a great package. The lazer tag arena will help you burn off the calories faster than you can imagine, and, couple it with addictive video games and you have a surefire winner for entertaining a kid of any age. Next door to the Funplex is the Bowling Barn which has glow bowling (in evenings) for the kids along with added bumpers if needed as well as regular bowling for the adults to partake in. You can also try the bar food from their mini restaurant and karaoke if the kids have a Nanny along, allowing the adults to make the most of your evening out in Big Bear Lake.

If all else fails and you’re hosting a lot of kids and adults, check out Big Bear’s own personal chef  – with a flair of custom main courses and special desserts, you can’t go wrong! Chef Allan even caters to personal homes with kitchens.

Spring Break Trip Ideas

“Spring break! Spring break! Spring break!” That’s the excited voices of every young child, teen and college student in America. The extended vacation time is fast approaching, and with that comes a lot of trip planning over where you are going to stay, go eat and play during all the free time. Big Bear Lake is echoed as one of So Cal’s favorite spring break destinations because spring up in Big Bear means sunny, blue skies and snow to play in and slopes to shred across.

1609772_10152281878847176_668310728_nMy family and I started planning a month ahead of schedule, as to prepare for the exciting adventure with two college students, a toddler and one teen in tow. Having never visited the Big Bear community, I was unsure where to start on planning our spring break, much less where to eat or stay around this not-far-from LA mountain community. Research came first so, I checked out and learned that both of their popular ski resorts were open: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. I have been obsessed with checking the weather and noted that no matter what, during the winter season I would need to carry chains in my Honda – it’s the law! Looking up the mountain resorts, I knew my college kids were already proficient in their snowboarding abilities, but my toddler needed ski lessons.

I noticed I could call 800-424-4232 (or 800-424-4232) for some local guidance and booking knowledge, but instead I decided to see how far I would get on my own. Starting on, I looked into various lodging types in Big Bear: resorts, lodges, Bed and Breakfast’s, mini cabins and plenty of personal homes to be rented. I noted the various specials and deals and noticed a few package ideas that could work in my favor, and decided to call 800-4-BIGBEAR. Luckily, I spoke with an informative and speedy Big Bear local whom informed me that due to our party size and needs (we wanted to be close to restaurants for the hungry kids) that perhaps best location would be the village area (downtown) which is only a few miles away from both ski resorts. We learned that Big Bear is less than 20 miles in length and almost everything we needed was just around the corner. I couldn’t wait to explore! Another tip I learned was our lodging was close enough to just drop my kids off at the ski resorts for their ski lesson or to snowboard and drive back the short distance to my accommodations or enjoy another activity. Sounded great!

Since we were opting to stay 3 days in Big Bear, we needed a plethora of spring break trip ideas. While speaking with the agent, he mentioned a great “Adventure Package” that would discount my stay and be able to book an activity with the “Action Tours” company. This adventure company specializes in zip lining courses, segway tours and tree rope climbing. During the times the lake in Big Bear is open to the public, they also offer flyboarding tours. I decided to sign myself and my teen up for the afternoon zip line tour on the same day my college kids planned to snowboard along with my toddler, whom my husband would have his hands full with without mom around. I wanted to have fun too! I whipped out my credit card and paid over the phone for my stay and activities. The experience was super friendly and super easy!

After a lot of contemplating, my spring break plan was as follows: Start driving from Los Angeles (a little less than two hours away) with the family in tow for our Big Bear Lake three day adventure. I hoped to hit minimal traffic by starting around 7 or 8 AM to have the kids on the slopes by the half day ticket time and myself and my teen in line and ready for the Action Tour at around noon. The Big Bear agent had told me over the phone to dine in town at one of the many places that served home-style breakfast (hopefully it will include a much needed mimosa). My toddler was signed up in advance for the ski school, and my husband planned to watch her from the deck area of the resort while enjoying the fresh air. After our activities, we could check-in to our accommodations at in the later afternoon. Of course, with it being spring break, we expect this quaint resort town to be busy and populated but, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a relaxing time, especially, when you take note of the various things to do around town. Besides the skiing, zip lining and dining I also had the weekend packed with fun items to do, nobody on this spring break adventure was going to claim they were bored! We had a hike or two we wanted to take, some fish to catch and a concert event (at The Cave) to see during our trip. We knew that we would walk away with a few souvenirs to take back home including a stuffed toy bear at some point and planned ahead to bring cameras, lots of sun block and extra groceries. I was also well aware that the pristine weather could change at any time and planned to take a few extra blankets, socks and, of course, marshmallows to roast.

With a little pre-planning and an eye for adventure, anyone can have the time of their life in Big Bear Lake. I hope my spring break trip ideas help with your research and maybe we will see you there, enjoying the fun and the snow in Southern California!

Big Bear Valentine’s Day Getaway on a Budget

Big Bear is a magical place this time of year, making it the perfect vacation spot for your Valentine’s Day weekend. If you are looking to enjoy an enchanting getaway without breaking the bank, here are budget recommendations.

What to Do:

Many of Big Bear’s activities are year long, with the addition of several winter specialties.

Where to Eat:

Big Bear has a great section of restaurants, but if you are looking to save on extra food costs, consider these options:

• Pack a picnic & hot cocoa.
• Go to a bar and enjoy appetizers with a view of the lake, close to or at the ski resorts or in the Village.
• Rather than go out for dinner, just go out for dessert! Big Bear has a dozen restaurants serving up spectacular desserts. If you are looking for dessert on the go, check out the Gelato shop.

Inside Big Bear CabinWhere to Stay:

Hostels are one of the most affordable options in Big Bear. And at the Big Bear Mountain Adventure Lodge, they take affordability to the max with free home cooked dinners and breakfasts. With private room options, they offer the perfect budget escape.

If you are wanting a cabin experience, try one of our romantic and unique cabins located in the forest, lakefront, near the Village or close to the ski resorts. Big Bear offers a variety of affordable lodging to suit each visitor’s needs.

DIY Gifts:

For some couples, the experience is the gift. But if you were looking to add an extra touch, consider making your gift. The best part is that all these are easily packable, and you can tuck them away in your suitcase so your significant other won’t find them (well at least most of them).

• Personalized coupon book (special desserts, favorite meals, extra help around the house, pre planned date night- get creative!)
• Handmade card
• Handmade Flowers (as simple as tissue paper and cardstock)
• Decorate your room with paper dollies
• Baked goodies
• Photo montage or album

Celebrate the Weekend After

If your weekends are flexible, book your getaway the weekend after. Skip the crowds and hit up Big Bear over the 21st. You’ll enjoy the same scenery, many times at a discount. For even more savings, check out midweek deals.


More than just a Valentine’s Day getaway, Big Bear is a romantic getaway destination of choice all year. Each season brings its own charms, giving you an excuse to visit all year.

Must-do Activities in Big Bear for Your Family Reunion

Not only offering a 300 days of sunshine and 22 miles of shoreline to explore, Big Bear’s scenic mountain resort community provides a variety of activities for the entire family. So for this year’s family reunion, bring out the entire clan to explore Big Bear’s sapphire-blue lake and scenic mountain surroundings to create lasting memories.

Gold Rush Mining Adventures

Family Reunion Mining for GemstonesThere’s gold in those hills! Reenact the rich mining history of Big Bear through unearthing buried treasure. Mining activities are great for all ages, so young and old alike can revel in the fun. With three different mining options, the Giant Water Wheel & Sluice, the Quick Running Water Flume and Dry Panning, you and your family can enjoy the complete experience. With a covered sluice, this activity is great for all seasons, rain or shine. Looking for a little more hands on action? Check out the Geode breaking. For the aspiring archeologists, discover sea fossils and shark teeth in your kit.

If you have artifact or rock enthusiasts in the family, explore the Gold Mine Gift Emporium to see unusual gems, discover fossils, find geodes or encounter dinosaur artifacts. Make sure to check out the dig kits or panning kits to extend the fun.

Zip Lining

What could be better than the thrill of soaring through the trees! Ziplining tours are an incredibly unique way to glide over the trails, sail above the lake and take the forest by storm for the most exciting way to experience Big Bear. Take in the stunning view of the valley, all while being guided by highly trained staff for the most memorable experience yet. A great activity for groups, all zip liners must be over 75lbs.

Hiking or Biking

Lazy jaunts, mountainous treks and moderate excursions, Big Bear offers trails for all skill levels and endurance levels. No matter if you and your family are beginner or veteran adventurers, you can find the perfect trail for you from the over 100 miles of trails and forest service roads wandering through the Big Bear region. A mountain biker’s heaven, there is an entire trail system to bike without ever getting into your car. Complete the full loop starting at the lodge’s driveway. Make sure to bring a camera to capture the forest sceneries, changing leaves, mountain views and sunsets along the lakes.


Family Reunion Kids Trout Fishing Some of the best tales out there are fish stories, and no better way to create your own fish stories than an afternoon fishing on the lake. Cast in a line from a kayak, take out a pontoon or try out fly-fishing at the edge of the lake. Looking for an inside scoop on where the fish are biting? Take a guided fishing trip, drastically improving your odds of actually bring home a fish as opposed to just tales.

A timeless pastime, fishing creates countless opportunities for generations to bond together, passing down hobbies and creating memories. Children 15 and younger don’t need a fishing license.

Friendly Competition

Nothing defines a family reunion better than a little good friendly competition. Take up an afternoon with a volleyball match, hold a seed-spitting contest or challenge everyone to a Ping Pong tournament. Looking to go a little old school? Pack a few big old woven sacks for potato sack races!

The Big Bear Mountain Adventure Lodge gives the ability to host all these friendly family competitions, complete with a volleyball court, horse shoe pits, archery course, a ping pong table and big open spaces for all your family games. We even offer space to get creative, with our outdoor amphitheater and large rustic gathering room next to the fireplace. Pool table and hot tub coming soon! Maybe seeing who can tell the best ghost stories will become the new family tradition.

Laser Tag

If you want to up the ante on the competition, take the whole crew to Laser Tag. Fun for the whole family, laser tag not only gets your adrenaline up, but also gets the entire family active. Whether you are young or just young at heart, fuel your competitive drive and see which family member reigns supreme.

Make it the Ultimate Family Adventure

Family vacations create priceless memories, and many memories come from unexpected places. Like the impromptu karaoke session the cousins started, the three-hour marathon of poker your uncle instigated or when grandma taught all the youngsters how to play cribbage. What do all of these have in common? They happened because the family was all in the same place.

To set your family reunion apart this year, rent out International Travelers House’s (ITH) entire Big Bear Mountain Adventure Lodge and see what memories you can create this year that will last a lifetime. Spend the mornings enjoying the fresh mountain air on a brisk hike, the afternoons adventuring out on the lake or exploring the charming village and the evenings nestled next to the colossal fireplace telling stories.

The ITH Big Bear lodge can accommodate up to 36 people, but is completely customizable to your needs. If you only have 20 guests, ITH has the ability to set-up the rooms specifically for your reservation.

Whatever activities make it into your family reunion this year let Big Bear and ITH make them happen for you!

Big Bear Offers A True Cabin Experience

Big Bear Lake has some of Southern California’s biggest and greatest adventures, and there may be more adventure in where you may stay in Big Bear Lake than in most any other resort community. If you are looking for a break from the basic hotel or motel lodging options, nothing can beat the experience of renting a private cabin for a charming getaway or a longer stay any time of the year. Private home rentals offer you the warmth of home but the experience of a new, exciting location to make all your own for your vacation – away from the city hustle, work and daily grind of life.

Inside Big Bear CabinI wanted to have easy planning and little heartache when booking my vacations for my extended family, which included very picky aunts and uncles and don’t forget Grandma’s opinion! We can all relate to the difficulties of making someone happy, especially your family, and a vacation is not any different than any other family gathering. Big Bear Lake was our destination of choice and we wanted the full cabin experience.  The private home experience is something new to us and I had no idea where to start! After checking out Big Bear’s website,, I decided my ambitions to plan our vacation on my own was too stressful and I felt overwhelmed by the amount of options afforded to me. After glancing over the website (and finding a plethora of great activities!) I decided my best bet was to call the toll free number listed on the site, 800-424-4232, for some expert advice.

Much to my surprise, I was placed in touch with a person who lived in the Big Bear Lake area. We chatted for a while about my expected arrival dates, guest size and wish list. We spoke for a long time and she answered all my questions I had about the weather and local happenings. We sorted through a small list of private homes and I decided I wanted to investigate a little more into the companies of private homes/cabins that offered. It was not an easy task, but I began to note the many and varied selections offered by the private home rental companies.

It seems that Big Bear Cool Cabins and Big Bear Vacations offered the largest selection of all, over 300 cabins each, the latter including a luxury home with a pool! We did not need anything quite that fancy for our vacation, but if YOU do, they seemed likely to have it, along with smaller dwellings. Village Reservation also offered me a varied selection of over 125+ properties in various areas of town.

Gold Rush Resort Rentals offered me several home choices and the added amenity of FUN – next door to their office, they run a gold mining experience for gold and gems that both children and adults will love participating in. You can take home both the treasures AND the treasured memories.

RS Vacations and Big Bear Luxury Properties have a list of homes inside and around central Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City. You can find homes with grand foyers, hot tubs and even luxurious converted game rooms! Resort Town Rentals offers a friendly front desk and even a huge home topping off at 9 bedrooms! It seemed like any one of these places would provide me with a true paradise in the Big Bear Valley.

Big Bear Lake offers resort cabins too, and some of those companies manage larger personal homes adjacent or near their resorts, including Grey Squirrel Vacation Homes and Cal-Pine Chalets. What so great about that? You have the luxury of using the resort onsite facilities AND staying in a private Big Bear cabin typically just blocks away. Grey Squirrel even has a seasonal pool! Resorts can offer you and your guests BBQs, washer and dryer access, concierge services and even a playground for the kiddos. If you want a private home with the bonuses of a resort community, this may be the route for you!

After reviewing the amount of information, needs, locations and bedroom layouts, I finally decided on a rental and it was worth all the emails, time and even money spent to secure the perfect vacation for my family.

Snow Sports and Outdoor Adventures Await

Big Bear is filled with treasures; the gorgeous mountains, the shining sun, towering pines and the fresh air. Treasures of Big Bear Lake extend to the offerings in Big Bear’s grand and popular winter season, which include a variety of snow sports and outdoor adventures. Spending a weekend or enjoying a longer trip in this charming mountain destination is always on my winter list!

To start, check out the extensive zip line experience offered by Action Tours. When the snow hits or before, see Big Bear suspended high in the air and soaring through the pines. You’ll get the best view in town! Guided daily (weather permitting) you’re certain to enjoy the forest and all the sights, sounds and excitement of wintertime. After checking out those stunning aerial and forest views, you may want to start playing in the snow! Take a short drive down to Big Bear’s downtown or Big Bear City and tackle the friendly and safe snow play areas, The Alpine Slide or Bear City Snow play, specifically setup to maintain the runs and areas for you to play in several feet of fresh powder. Typically, the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is open from Thanksgiving weekend to April and Big Bear Snow Play is currently operating daily to April, both kids and adults will have a blast tubing down the snowy hillside or sledding down the icy toboggan run. If you enjoy a few rides or a hundred, checking out this designated snow play area is the place for you!

Segway Tours in Big BearSegway tours are also offered during the winter season, giving you a quick and relaxing off road or city tour via motor powered segways. Guided with friendly local experts, the segways are for both adults and kids and offer a quicker-than-on-foot way of seeing several of the high points throughout the valley, especially if there has been recent snowfall to marvel at. Tours can be made over the phone or at the village office in Big Bear’s downtown, and will accommodate your group all winter long.

Big Bear Lake has a variety of indoor activities for visitors who may be trying to entertain themselves or children during the more stormy days and nights of wintertime. Big Bear’s Funplex offers exciting laser tag, arcade games, amusement center, black light miniature golf and pizza for the whole gang to enjoy. Just across the street, you’ll find a local favorite – The Bowling Barn. The kids can enjoy several games of glow bowling toward the evening and the adults can enjoy the bar and karaoke open late. Enjoy the old fashioned fun and games as a storm or colder weather passes through – you’ll be thankful for that cup of hot cocoa!

Do you enjoy westerns? Ever dream of a horseback riding adventure? How about horseback guided tours? Check out the Baldwin Lake stables, offering horseback tours all year long. In the summer sun is one tour, and the winter affords you a whole new experience! Dress warmly for the adventure and prepare ahead by booking reservations in advance.

Big Bear Snow PlayThe Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly The Moonridge Zoo) is a favorite visit among many new or return vacationers, especially in winter where visiting the animals in their more natural environment brings out better reaction and play time for the creatures that call Big Bear their home. Admission to the local zoo is low cost and goes toward the organization that assists the rehabilitation of animals in the local mountains and beyond, every season. Your whole group will remember viewing the animals in the snow for years to come and when the snow clears you can return to the zoo in summer or fall to visit your new animal friends.

As you can see, Big Bear Lake’s array of activities in wintertime extend beyond the sports of skiing and snowboarding and can take you on a new adventure or two during the months when Big Bear can turn into a winter wonderland.

Enjoy your stay!

Kelly Garfield

Big Bear Winter Flash Sale – 48 Hours Only

Big Bear Winter Flash Sale$25 Lift Tickets and 25% OFF Lodging On Sale Now

Do you feel the chill in the air? That’s right, the winter season is fast approaching! It’s time for you to think about your next skiing or snowboarding trip to Big Bear. Once in a while a special deal comes your way that you just can’t pass up. Starting today, November 12th at 10 a.m. t0 Friday, November 14th at 10 a.m., you can take advantage of a WINTER FLASH SALE on, which will get you $25 ski tickets with the purchase of discounted lodging at 25% off! That’s right, you read that correctly, ski tickets will be $25 each during this 48 hour sale and this low price will get you access to both parks, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain!

Keep in mind both mountains have their benefits. Snow Summit offers family friendly areas and runs, while Bear Mountain caters to the young adult crowd with their high energy resort. The popular Bear Mountain offers a trick park consisting of jibs, jumps and ramps perfect for testing your shredding skills. Want to experience a more relaxed vibe? Check out Snow Summit’s runs, all in the same day for $25 a ticket – access to both mountains can’t be beat!

If you need help booking or want more information, pick up the phone and dial directly at 1800-424-4232 (1-800-4-BIGBEAR) and speak to a local vacation specialist about this awesome deal. This is the lowest price in years! We’re talking about 60% off the regular rate, and it may never happen again! The sale started today, Wednesday, November 12th at 10 a.m. and ends on Friday, November 14th at 10 a.m.

Availability will be limited, and restrictions may apply, including blackout dates and holidays. This offer cannot be used with other promotions or specials.

Unique Lodging Options Found at Big Bear’s Top Resort Lodges

Crisp air. Fresh pine. Cool water. Perfect sunshine. Awake your senses at 7,000 feet! Big Bear Lake offers an expensive playground high above in a picturesque landscape just perfect for escaping the daily grind. In order to start your adventure, one of your first thoughts may be: where will I find lodging? If you are a single person looking for a weekend adventure, a couple looking for a romantic getaway or a family looking for fun – you’re bound to find a place to stay at Big Bear Lake’s Resort Lodges.

Just like Big Bear’s various seasons, you’ll find that each lodge has their own unique, friendly vibe and atmosphere. Resort Lodges are typically mountain-style resorts with studio rooms and larger suites, some even featuring similar themed resort cabins on the same land. You’ll encounter friendly front desk staff, typically landscaped grounds, well-equipped amenities and most locations are centrally located.

Take Honey Bear Lodge, for instance. Located just behind the Village – Big Bear’s dining and shopping hub – is this charming lodge complete with bridge entry way and hospitable owners who take care of their facility and make it more charming with each passing year. Just across the way in downtown, is The Big Bear Village Lodge which offer suites in the heart of downtown’s most popular area, customized with larger beds and spas. Just next door, you’ll find the unique Robinhood Resort, which offers a full service restaurant and bar (with a lake view!) and has the capacity to combine their other two resorts on the same property – the newer Sherwood Forest and the classic Wishing Well Motel, perfect for a casual stay if you’re looking to snowboard during season or hike in the summertime.

On Big Bear Blvd you’ll find The Fireside Lodge, offering suites with kitchens, separate bedrooms and even a seasonal pool! If you’re looking for a more intimate atmosphere, the hosts of the Kleine Haus Lodge offer deluxe rooms with jetted spa tubs and private balconies – all within a short walking distance to beautiful Big Bear Lake – a great choice for couples celebrating a special occasion. Should you be looking for an affordable stay for yourself and friends, Motel 6 or The Travelodge may better appeal to your budget. If you have a large group or retreat planned, The Guhos Ranch and their grounds will offer you a fantastic escape from the city dwelling life.

Located just west of The Village and walking distance to the Alpine Slide (fun for both kids and adults!), you will find the charming Hillcrest Lodge whose kind owners will make your stay comfortable with newly redecorated rooms and décor, opting for mountain charm and easy access to location and activities.

No matter the season, Big Bear Lake offers a gorgeous view – stay lakefront at Big Bear Lakefront Lodge in a lakeside room and allow the view to take your breathe away. You can also stay at Lakefront For Less, where you will find perfect studio suites walking distance to downtown.

Clearly, your options are varied but the results are the same: a memorable trip to THE destination located in your So Cal backyard.

Here’s Why You Should Consider Staying at One of Big Bear’s Hostels.

Many people spend their days working, only to dream about their next vacation. With tight budgets in the forefront of most people’s minds, sometimes finding an affordable vacation that works for you can be tough! Well, Big Bear Lake has the answer: Hostels.

No, we’re not talking about the scary, 2005 film directed by Eli Roth which features hostels as nightmare hunting grounds. What we are talking about is a family friendly, couple friendly or a single person friendly lodging option complete with knowledgeable hosts, fun grounds and an array of activity ideas.

The experience of a new or familiar destination changes everything and secures new memories for all involved. For many, the more unique the locale or experience, the anticipation for a return visit heightens. Guests choosing to vacation in Big Bear Lake CA will typically find it a charming and unique destination in itself; featuring four gorgeous seasons, a lake, two ski resorts and fall colors along with many outdoor activities for all to find enjoyment year round. Big Bear Lake is also a short drive away from major Southern California destinations, such as Los Angeles and San Diego, making it perfect for anyone looking for a quick getaway.

Having opened its revamped doors in 2014, “The Mountain Adventure Lodge” ITH (International Travelers House) Hostel located in central Big Bear Lake offers a spot to enjoy the mountains with their facilities in an inviting and pleasant atmosphere, all within an affordable nightly rate! Offering shared or private rooms, free meals (breakfast and dinner – plus a sack lunch if you ask) along with free entertaining activities during the evening (poker tournaments and jam sessions) and daytime (they will soon have a spa) catered to their current residents, which hosts James and Bob treat like family. As your hosts and tour guides, they showcase the best of Big Bear Lake: downtown, eateries, bars, zip lines, boating, camping, hiking and more. They have insiders’ tips for everything to make your getaway and trip to Big Bear Lake more than a vacation, it becomes an EXPERIENCE! Guests also staying at the lodge will be centrally close to The Village and Lake if you prefer to spend the day soaking up the rays or finding a local massage parlor. The grounds offer free WiFi, fresh towels, yummy hot tea and even musical instruments to play! Children are welcome at the Big Bear location, as long as they are accompanied by parents.

Inside The Lodge, guests can take advantage of lounging in front of the oversized fireplace and speaking to others about their travels. If you prefer to stroll outside, there are plenty of gardens and local wild life to occupy your interest. The food offered is excellently prepared: blueberry waffles, homemade pizza, grilled sausages, breakfast sandwiches, garden salads and vegetarian options as well as roasted dinners. Care is taken with everything, even The Lodge is cleaned twice a day and the kitchen is well preserved and fresh. Speaking of fresh, many of the produce edibles offered are straight from the on-site garden. Hosts James and Bob also run the San Diego Adventure Hostel and are frequently updating their amenities and service ideas as well as combining the two hostels to create frequent off-the-mountain trips depending on your length of stay and desired adventure.

The Hostel offers lockers, access to a washer and dryer, iPads to use, private parking and even a full kitchen if you would like to cook your own meals (seriously though, check out their awesome meal offerings). You’ll feel secure and at home at the hostel location and each room is issued a private key code when you check-in. There are a total of 5 bathrooms on-site, some being shared (the usual set-up with any hostel) and some are privately connected with rooms. Don’t worry, there is plenty of privacy!

Travelers touring Big Bear Lake will soon learn that this smaller, welcoming city is a gem among tourist destinations – not only in Southern California, but beyond. In cold weather destinations, very rarely can you ski Big Bear’s slopes in the morning and surf the San Diego beaches all in the same day, and when you return to Big Bear Lake after an exciting adventure, you’ll find a breathe of fresh air awaiting you (and probably a cup of hot cocoa).

The ITH isn’t the only hostel in town to enjoy your vacation – also consider The Big Bear Hostel, another low-key and low-cost lodging source. In consists of two larger, renovated cabins. Many guests return yearly with favorable things to say about the hosts (Grayson and staff), the cleanliness and the central location near Big Bear’s Village area. This hostel features price friendly crash pads, private bedrooms and group quarters complete with bunk bed setups. They even have a special “Penthouse” styled room featuring an epic lake view other resorts would make you pay a pretty penny to stay in, but not this hostel! Rates are affordable and you’ll be staying in a fun and spontaneous environment.

The Big Bear Hostel can also house larger groups up to 50! Maybe its time to start planning your family reunion or retreat because this is THE place to enjoy Big Bear Lake year round. Pacific Crest Trail hikers are also frequent and friendly guests, stopping along their travels of the iconic trail via Big Bear Lake’s North Shore. You can also inquire with their staff about staying all season in accordance with their policies if you really want to get away from it all and snowboard or ski or work at the famed slopes of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. The goal of The Big Bear Hostel is to provide a friendly world for folks looking to have fun and chill out among the pines, slopes or lakeside environments Big Bear has to offer.

As stated above, if you’re looking for a lower cost but FUN and convenient lodging, a hostel is the way to go! Besides, you’ll never know who you will meet and what you’ll learn during your stay. I hope to see you there!

In Search for the Best Location to Capture Big Bear’s Fall Colors

My favorite season is fall, for many reasons,  you’ve got pumpkin flavored items and scents in abundance, fall colors, cool weather, warm-toned skies and the high amounts of eager anticipation before the holidays.

As a frequent visitor to Big Bear Lake, I check their website weekly for new contests, specials and their infamous Flash sales and I happened to notice a new contest being promoted online, a photo contest that best captures the gorgeous Fall Colors of Big Bear Lake running through November 1, 2014. The contest gives anyone a chance to capture the best of Big Bear’s Fall season.

The winning photo gets published in the 2015 Big Bear Lake Visitor Guide and also receives a $50 Shell Station gas card. Immediately, I called 1-800-424-4232 and a friendly local specialist helped me pick lodging that suited my budget and my newfound adventure. The staff had some ideas on great photo opportunities in the San Bernardino Mountains; including a zip line tour which I made reservations for. We also discussed various scenic hikes, dining options and great spots to best photograph Fall colors at their finest in Big Bear Lake.

The contest is for novice and professional photographers alike and the photo can be taken with your choice of equipment – digital, film, Smartphone, tablet or any other device that allows photos to be shot at high resolution. All images must be submitted via hashtag (#FallForBigBear) through either Instagram, Twitter or Facebook so it makes it easy to enter and you can even enter as many photos as you like! When I started my journey to Big Bear I arrived armed with my Nikon digital camera, iPhone, toy camera and plenty of location choices. I started my morning by walking the Alpine Peddle Path on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake. If you are not familiar with this trail, it is mostly paved and runs along almost 2 miles of gorgeous shoreline.

In preparation for winter, the trees have started to scatter their pine needles everywhere and I captured a great shot of the sun peeking through their branches. The surrounding mountaintops hold their own majestic glory and I spent a great deal of time finding the perfect display of colors to shoot. I spent lunchtime in The Village area, Big Bear’s popular downtime location. The Village has a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, tours and fire pits with seating areas for people watching. The local trees in the area were golden yellow and orange, so I spent time collecting more shots for the contest.

I ran into a couple of other casual photographers who told me that local trail “Castle Rock” would make an excellent photo opportunity. I had hiked the location years ago, so it was about time I revisited the spot with one of the best views in Big Bear Lake! I purchased an “Adventure Pass” at the Visitor’s Center on 630 Bartlett Road in The Village and headed west toward the trail off of Highway 18/Big Bear Blvd and parked in the suggested turnout just past Talbot Road. The trail consists of a path among boulders and trees, taking you up to a higher elevation where you can take a look at the entire valley, the lake, the serenity, the mountains. Castle Rock Trail offers a view unlike any other in town or in Southern California, for that matter. After capturing several shots of the spectacular mountain range and the various colors dotting the tree line, I retired to my lodging in Boulder Bay to prepare for my morning zip line tour.

The following morning, I charged my camera and headed to The Village for a quick bite to eat and a few shots of the falling leaves in Veteran’s Park. Afterwards, I headed to the Action Zip Line offices on Big Bear Blvd where the friendly tour guides greeted me and the rest of the group with basic training and equipment use. After the quick session, we headed off to their private property to go zip lining! I was greeted by a wealth of warm colors and an array of scenic shots upon arrival. Of course, I had to put my camera away for much of the tour in order to safely zip line but there were plenty of stop-and-go moments for me to capture the fall colors many feet in the air. The array of colors in Big Bear is amazing and awe-inspiring; at every turn you’re greeted with a new kaleidoscope of color. The zip lines featured several different tour stretches with majestic views, colors galore and inspiring landscapes. Quite frankly, it was an experience unlike any other. I plan to make it a yearly trip!

When I returned to my lodging, I uploaded over 200 photos to my laptop! I spent a couple of hours picking out the best fall photos from my experience and narrowed it down to three that I submitted to the’s official Instagram contest using #FallForBigBear when I got home. I was surprised at the varied amounts of colors and scenes I captured in just two days in Big Bear Lake’s picturesque mountain community. Everything from kids playing in a pile of leaves, colorful tree branches, shades of colorful foliage and flowers, sunsets and sunrises. Big Bear runs the gamut of bountiful color schemes to capture, not just in fall, but year-round too! My Big Bear vacation was a great experience and I was able to get away from the City and spend time in a more personal, nature dominant community complete with small town charm. Capturing fall colors, family moments and going on an adventure is just a part of the enjoyment, it’s the memories that will keep you coming back to experience all of the beauty Big Bear Lake has to offer more than once. Capturing photos comes easily to some and in this contest it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, the colors and scenery in Big Bear speak for themselves and creates the ultimate photography experience for any age participant. Join the contest and join the fun!

Kelly Garfield