[[You guys might remember Hailey… she’s one of my best friends from USC who hosted my birthday weekend a few months ago. She also writes a very sarcastic, very enjoyable blog over at The Lavish Linguist, which I’d highly recommend reading.]]
I had just recently been to this sweet little mountain locale for a day trip on Black Friday with my mom, and desperately wanted to return to the snow and cabins in the trees. Plus, Hailey saw my instagrams and was pissed that I didn’t bring her the first time around, so I had to make it up to her.
Prior to a few weeks ago, I hadn’t been to Big Bear since I was 18. It had been the only place I’d ever snowboarded prior to my last couple trips to Park City. If you’re at all familiar with my athletic track record, you’d know that snowboarding is probably the opposite of my forte, but I love it anyway. This trip didn’t include action sports, since we were trying to take it easy and unwind a little… especially since I had just taken a standardized test, which – like snowboarding – is the opposite of my forte as well.
I also was super excited for the chance to take my big ol’ Nikon DSLR out for a trip, as I’ve been trying to brush up on my photography skills. Unfortunately, the old girl has a busted lens, so half the time the shots are beautiful and super crisp, and the other half they’re out of focus and blurry and making me very ragey. But until I happen upon a pile of money and/or new lens, it is what it is.A few things I should remember…
Note to self: DON’T pack for your trip minutes before departure/after taking the GRE on a whim. You will be scatter-brained and FORGET ALL YOUR COATS. WHICH ARE NECESSARY FOR FREEZING WINTER TEMPS. More on that later.
Note to self #2: Read Airbnb house rules ahead of time, or you will perhaps discover midway through your road trip that your cabin does not have linens or towels, and you’ll have to stop at a Target in Riverside where you’ll inevitably get distracted by Christmas things and spend money on food you’re not going to eat.I’d also like to let everyone know that I had every intention of getting up the mountain before sundown, as the roads emulate the structure of intestines and wind every which way, rife with blind turns, no streetlights or lights of any kind, treacherous sheer cliffs, and impending doom. Read: they scare the absolute shit out of me. Especially in the dark. So the game plan was to get up the mountain before the sun abandoned us and all hope of safety was out the window.
Unfortunately, our love for In-N-Out and the “minor setback” we had at Target ensured that our travels would be set in a pitch black environment, with 112% chance of anxiety. HOWEVER, with the help of Justin Bieber on repeat, we made it up safely, and I felt like a f***ing BOSS. Hailey may still have PTSD but it’s okay we’re all fine this is all fine.
Now that I’ve been completely transparent in what actually happened, here are some more pictures. Most of our trip revolved around eating, so I’ll outline a few great restaurants and things to do/see in Big Bear.
Big Bear is just a few hours east of LA/north of San Diego, which makes for an ideal weekend destination. It’s just across from Lake Arrowhead, which is another one of my favorite local escapes. In between the two is a town called Arrowbear, which really pisses me off. Someone had the opportunity to name this place Bearrowhead, and they blew it, choosing Arrowbear instead. Anyway.
Although there is an airport in Big Bear (which is shocking), the best way to get in is to drive. As I’ve mentioned, it is advisable to get up the mountain before dark, particularly if you’re afraid of the winding cliffside roads/other cars/all other perils. Check the time the sun is going down, and make sure you give yourself about an hour from the base of the mountain to your destination.
I will always recommend a pitstop at In-N-Out on any California roadtrip. We did so, and it was highly rewarding. Also perfect prep for us to watch the VS Fashion Show.
There are cabins allllll over da place in Big Bear. We opted for Airbnb this time, which was incredibly convenient and cost-effective. That said, we didn’t research too heavily, and we weren’t too choosy with our accommodations, thus ending up with a place that did not provide linens or towels.
I would highly recommend giving Airbnb a go – in my experience, it’s been safe, convenient, and has saved me lots of money. I love the community feeling that comes with it. Plus, there are tons of cabins in that area available on Airbnb. However, if you’re looking for a nicer hotel experience, there’s a 4-star hotel called the Snow Lake Lodge that you may want to check out.
Peppercorn Grille: Consistently rated by Yelp and TripAdvisor as the top restaurant in Big Bear. I came here for lunch with my mother, and I can assure you that Peppercorn Grille is the perfect place for just that: lunch with your mother. Think about splitting the baked brie and grilled salmon with your mom on a leisurely afternoon of quality bonding time. You know what I’m sayin? Those vibes. Food’s amazing, atmosphere is charming and clean. Bistro/brasserie-esque. $$
The Pines Lakefront: This adorable little place is a little fancier than Peppercorn, with a similar vibe. It’s larger, and has big stretching windows for you to enjoy the view of the lake. Hailey and I also went for the salmon (Pacific only… I can’t do Atlantic. I’m not picky I just care about myself too much for that), which came with sauteed veggies and mashed potatoes. It was real nice. Also, a community of elderly women was having their Christmas luncheon/white elephant exchange at the same time, which was hilarious and fun to watch. $$
Teddy Bear Restaurant: The Teddy Bear Restaurant is next door to Peppercorn and BBLBC (below), and it’s exactly what you’d expect: quaint, cozy, old-school diner vibes. The chicken pot pie was made from scratch (and it was massive), and the steak and eggs portion (Hailey’s) with biscuits and country gravy was enough to feed two people, or one very hungry Hailey. We also split a piece of blackberry pie, which was amazing. Inexpensive, but cash only – make sure you have some on hand, or the ATM will charge you $3 in their lobby. There’s no Chase bank in Big Bear so I wasn’t super stoked. $
Big Bear Lake Brewing Company: I’ve been here twice now, and both times got the seasonal Pumpkin Spice ale, with a cinnamon-sugar rim. OMG, I’m not even a beer drinker and I love this stuff. Hailey and I came back for the beer and a Chocolate Porter brownie with housemade whipped cream and caramel sauce, and just typing this out is making me salivate… PLEASE, someone take me back right now. It was absolutely incredible – warm and chewy, not too sweet, but perfectly decadent. I’m crying. I have to move on right now because I’m getting upset. $$
Black Diamond Tavern: Although I’ve had several great dining experiences in Big Bear (as you can see), this one was my favorite. The atmosphere is like an upscale log cabin, with high vaulted ceilings and wood beams, and a dim but warm light. I wish we had the chance to try more on the menu, because it all looked incredible. We split the burrata salad – which was like a deconstructed bruschetta, with arugula and tomatoes, a jar of fresh burrata and pesto, and warm garlic toast – and a prime rib dip sandwich with sweet potato truffle fries. Yes, you read that correctly. SWEET POTATO TRUFFLE FRIES. Also, their drink menu was killer – check their Libations Menu here. I got the Lake Shore, which was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had in my life. I know I don’t really drink so my opinion is not that valuable, but this was seriously refreshing, smooth, light, and not “alcoholy” (idk how else to put it). The price was moderate, the service was friendly, and overall it was my favorite restaurant. $$Oak Fire Grill – Snow Summit: this is a glorified cafeteria. I should’ve known when the website spelled après-ski “apre’s ski” that I was in for trouble. We came to see people snowboard, which was nice; food is mediocre at best, making the ‘moderate price range’ seem very, very expensive. $$
Most people head to Big Bear in the winter to snowboard or ski. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are the two big resorts, and just outside of town there’s a place called Rim Nordic Ski and Snow Valley, although I haven’t been to either of those places. Tobogganing or sledding is also a pretty popular option. It’s not always naturally snowy in this area, so be prepared for manmade snow in some of these activities.
We used our time to craft, relax, attempt to bake (which was a challenge since our cabin had no oven… turns out cookies on a pan IS a thing), make s’mores, learn how fireplaces work, watch Home Alone and the VS Fashion show, drink too much cocoa, and just unwind. And also snapchat.However, feeling disgusting from all the food we consumed, we did make time to be active, and checked out Castle Rock Trail for a 2.7 mile hike in the snow. There’s parking on the side of the road if you’re heading west, here.
The hike was stunning. Once you get close of the top, you get gorgeous views of the lake. It was so nice to get away from the shops, traffic, and people for a little bit and have a nice quiet trek through the outdoors in a very different setting than what we have at home.
Market – very close to our cabin was Community Market, which had Firewood, food, etc. Looked like a nice ice cream selection, too… and an ATM. The hours weren’t posted anywhere online. Fortunately, there’s also a Vons, a Stater Bros, and lots of 711 and Circle K type convenience stores and mini markets around.
Starbucks – there is one in town, and it’s on Christmas Tree Lane. Dreams. It also has a drive thru.
Gas – plenty to be had, and not jacked up in price like in Big Sur. Don’t worry about the price, it’s the same as it is anywhere else in LA and San Diego.
Sporting goods – There’s a Big 5 and tons of boardshops, if you forgot socks (like me) or any other winter/sporting accessories.
As aforementioned, don’t be like me and leave packing to the actual last minute. Post-exam. Here are some staple things that I love bringing to the snow:
Sorel Boots: one of the greatest investments I’ve made. I bought the kids version because I’m tiny and they’re cheaper. If you wear a size 7.5 or under you can typically opt for a kid’s version of a shoe. The adult version is here. They’re essentially identical, as far as I can tell. The child-sized boots are $40 less.
North Face Snow Jacket: this trip was warm enough for me to get by without the coats and jacket I forgot at home. HOWEVER the last trip definitely called for a heavier snow jacket. I got mine for my first trip to Utah a couple years ago and it’s been great for snowboarding and just being in the cold. Mine is obviously an older style, but I think it’s the Apex, or at least very similar.
Red Lipstick: If you can’t tell, I’m obsessed with my Chanel Rouge Allure in 99 Pirate. I’ve said it before: it’s the Ferrari of lipsticks. MAC also makes a ton of beautiful reds at a much lower price. It’s just fun to wear red lipstick around Christmas when you’re in the mountains with snow and pine trees.
Black Leggings: I snagged those full-on Luon High Times pants from lululemon, and I’m so happy I did. They were warm and functional, and I didn’t have to pack a bunch of pants.
Cozy PJs & UGG boots: if you’re doing what we did and getting a cozy cabin to hang out in, you’re going to want some snuggly loungewear. I got mine from Target and J.Crew. My UGGs were a gift last Christmas, and I looooove them I don’t even care if that makes me basic.
Miscellaneous: Cocoa, marshmallows, skewers, s’mores materials, a lighter to get your fireplace going. We also brought Christmas candles, cookie dough, waffles, and snacks for the house. Our cabin did not have an oven, so we tried to make cookies on the stove…
Happy holidays and happy travels! If you’re off to the mountains or to Big Bear, I hope this was a helpful little travel diary, with way too many snapchat screen grabs.
P.S. As always, a little musical afterthought – went to the Odesza show on Sunday night at the Shrine and it was MAGICAL. It was the second time I’ve seen them, the first being at the Belly Up a couple years ago for my birthday… so they’ve come a long way, quickly. If you haven’t seen them live yet, make sure you get to a show soon! Listen to them here. My favorite songs are Big Girls Cry and Open Wound.