Big Bear is a small city in Southern California with a history that dates back to 1845, at which time it was called Yuhaviat. A group of twenty men, chasing Native Americas, rode into the Yuhaviat Valley but to their surprise the valley was swarming with Grizzly Bear and so renamed the land Big Bear. Although the Grizzlies have moved on there are still plenty of surprises in store at Big Bear City to keep an entire family entertained. Let’s look at the top ten…
1. Rent a pontoon boat on Big Bear lake
The best way to take in all of the sights of this 7mile (11km) long natural lake is to rent a pontoon for a few hours. There is plenty of room on the pontoon for the children to safely run around on. They are also easy boats to access the water from, with a small decking area at the back. Although be careful not to swim near the shore due to underwater obstacles.
Big Bear Lake pontoon rental
Address: 398 Edgemoor Road,Big Bear Lake, California, 92315
Price: from 50 USD
Website: Pontoon Rental
2. "Argh shiver me timbers" on the Pirate Ship Cruise
Whilst you’re around the Big Bear Lake area, you should also take a stop off at the pirate ship aptly named the Time Bandit. Offering daily tours, on-boat live entertainment (expect to be welcomed aboard by some friendly, or not so friendly, pirates).
The Time Bandit is a 1/3rd scale replica of a Spanish Galleon and was built in the late 60s by a father and son duo, in their back yard (as you do!). It had its moment of glory in the 1981 film Time Bandit and was later used as a tour boat in Los Angeles before finding its way to Big Bear Lake,
The tour times vary from day to day and differ depending on who your captain might be, but generally tours all last for 90 minutes giving you plenty on time to find your inner pirate with the kids!
Address: 398 Edgmoor Road, Big Bear Lake, California, 92315
Price: 22 USD
Website: Time Bandit
3. Get adventurous on Big Bear Mountain
Perhaps your little ones like to be a bit more active, then these two options should keep them satisfied and wear them out! We’ve bundled these two activities together because they are sister companies and are located on the same mountain. First up, at 7000 feet (2.13 km) we have Bear Mountain Resort offering biking trails, zip-wiring, climbing wall, trampolines and a short free-fall bungee for kids. All whilst the adults can enjoy a few rounds of golf!
The second resort is Snow Summit Ski Resort which offers alongside skiing and snowboarding, also tubing. Thats right; tubing! Put your kids in a rubber doughnut and send them flying down a mountain side, they get a free hot cocoa at the end! For first timers we suggest taking part in lessons at the ski school before letting anyone on the mountain slopes.
Snow Summit is also home to Southern California’s premier gravity fed bike park which is accessible for all ages and abilities. Similarly to to the Bear Mountain Resort, Snow Summit also has a climbing wall, zip line, trampolines and plenty of hiking trails in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest.
Big Bear Mountain Resorts
Address: 880 Summit Blvd Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Website: Big Bear Mountain Resorts
4. Tour The Big Bear Solar Observatory
Something a bit different for number four on our list, and this is one to inspire your children about astrology and astrophysics. The Big Bear Solar Observatory has three telescopes on site, and since 2016 has been offering limited, small group, free public tours which need to booked in advance. This unique site uses its telescopes to monitor the sun, so an informative day out for children interested in things not on this planet.
The Big Bear Solar Observatory
Address: 40386 North Shore Lane, Big Bear City, California, 92314-9672
Opening Times: Tours will be the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 2-3PM.
Booking: Contact [email protected]
Website: The Big Bear Solar Observatory
5. Explore nature on the Castle Rock Trail
Not really suitable for very young children due to some of the steep and rocky terrain, but this hike should be interesting for children and teenagers who like being outside. At just 1.3 miles (~ 2km) it takes in great views over Big Bear City. It is fairly steep from the start but man-made and natural granite “stairs” make it a bit easier and then half way along the route there is a great resting spot with views over Big Bear Lake. Finally, reaching the top you’ll catch your first glimpse of Castle Rock; a large natural rock formation.
Castle Rock Trail
Address: Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Website: Castle Rock Trail
6. Get locked in at Mountain Room Escapes
Now for many families, no matter how much you love each other, being locked in a room together may not sound like the perfect way to spend a few hours, but we promise that this is an exception. Classed as “family friendly with puzzles and challenges that are appropriate for all ages” this logic-testing escape room offers the experience of (hopefully) escaping from a ski lodge high in the mountains during one of the worst blizzards of the century. It apparently should take 1 hour and 13 seconds to complete the challenge, so why not see if your family has what it takes.
Mountain Room Escapes
Address: 1121 W Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear, CA 92314
Price: from 30 USD
Website: Mountain Room Escapes
7. Big Bear Discovery Centre
There are lots of events, exhibits and activities taking place at the Discovery Center everyday. We particularly love the amphitheater that is on site and offers outdoor concerts, productions and night-time interpretive programs. With over 190,000 visitors each year it’s a firm favourite on our list.
Big Bear Discovery Centre
Address: 40971 North Shore Drive/Hwy 38, Fawnskin CA 92333
Opening Times: Monday, Thursday and Friday 9am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 8:30am-4:30pm (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
Website: Big Bear Discovery Centre
8. Take a stroll and grab souvenirs from Pine Knot Village
Be sure to stop by Pine Knot Village which is also known as Big Bear Village to pick up souvenirs from your trip. A nice relaxed activity after all of the excitement from our previous options. There are over 120 unique vendors and your children will enjoy walking around the stores and picking out gifts to take home! There are also some fantastic eateries to treat them to.
Pine Knot Village
Address: Pine Knot Ave, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Website: Pine Knot Village
9. Have some fun in the Historical Museum
We love this fun interactive museum where children can learn about the local history whilst having a go at some past time activities such as lassoing and gold panning! Its true American, family-friendly fun and a fantastic way to learn about the area which you are visiting.
Address: 800 B Greenway, Big Bear, CA 92314
Website: Historical Museum
10. Race a bird whilst ziplining over Big Bear Mountain
Ok, lets finish this list with a bang…or a scream…or a giggle? However your children will react we’re sure that they’ll enjoy the zipline tour, for which you must be 8 years old or over. This 3 hour tour takes you high above the trees, as you whisk past birds, over a series of nine exuberating ziplines!
Address: 41693 Big Bear Blvd. Suite A, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Cost: 129 USD
Website: Zipline Tour
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