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Big Bear, California, is a four-season destination renowned for its amazing natural beauty and rich history. Originally a hub for gold mining, Big Bear Lake played a role in California’s Gold Rush from 1860 through the early 20th century. Although Big Bear’s first hotel opened in 1888, it didn’t become a popular vacation destination until the 1920s, when skiing and tobogganing were introduced as winter activities.

Today, winter activities remain a huge draw to the area. In fact, many folks claim that Big Bear has Southern California’s best skiing. And that’s not all. From skiing and snowboarding to zip-lining and bald eagle watching, Big Bear offers a variety of things to do, see and experience, making it one of the premier winter vacation destinations in the U.S. Whatever your favorite winter activities may be, you’ll find this area to be a winter wonderland that’s perfect for your next getaway.

The Winter Weather Is Great

CC BY-SA 2.0/John Murphy/Wikimedia

Winter is one of Big Bear’s two peak seasons. It gets plenty of glorious sunshine, and the temperatures typically range from the mid-20s at night to the mid-40s during the day. Plus, Big Bear gets around 120 inches of snow every year, making it the ideal playground for skiers and snowboarders. If you love to shred, you might want to head to Bear Mountain, where you can do everything from learning the basics to honing your expert, big-mountain skills. Bear Mountain attracts plenty of skiers too, with its big mountain terrain, challenging bump runs, and a number of terrain parks. If you’re looking for more of a traditional, more casual mountain experience, Snow Summit might be your new favorite, with its quiet trails and easy bumps and jumps.

There’s More than One Way Down the Mountains

CC BY-SA 4.0/Lewis Hulbert/Wikimedia

Not a skier or snowboarder? No problem. If shredding the slopes isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for an activity to help you mix things up, consider snow tubing at Big Bear Snow Play or taking a ride on the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Ride the magic carpet up, and then laugh your way down for family fun that’s sure to put a fine point on your trip.

Go Bald Eagle Watching

CC BY-SA 3.0/Big Bear Mountain Resort/Wikimedia

For those new to the magic of Big Bear vacations, the number of bald eagles flying overhead can be surprising. Winter is a great time to see these majestic birds and learn more about them. Visit the rescued bald eagles at Big Bear Alpine Zoo, or join a guided eagle walk that’s run by volunteers who record the winter bald eagle count at Big Bear Lake. It’s tough to beat the thrill of watching an eagle swoop down to snag a fish from the lake while you’re trudging through the snow.

Feel the Adrenaline

Some people get a rush from flying down the mountain on their boards or skis. Others prefer flying over the treetops at warp speeds. Take your winter vacation over the top with a zip line ride high above the snow with a three-hour experience from one of the local companies. After you clip into your harness, you can fly through nine different courses, each ranging in length from 120 feet to 860 feet. Zoom over serene, snowy scenery and an awe-inspiring suspension bridge for a jolt of adrenaline and views of Big Bear that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

Is there anything more peaceful than being in the middle of the woods with freshly fallen snow and the people you love close by? If that sounds like your idea of a good time, snowshoeing in Big Bear might be the activity for you. Snowshoeing offers the ideal opportunity to explore Big Bear’s backwoods and its tranquil, untouched beauty while gliding through the snow. Enjoy the Zen-like environment while watching for wildlife, tracking animal prints and getting your blood pumping in the great outdoors. Most people rave about snowshoeing in Big Bear. It’s fun, stimulating, soothing and an effective way to get a little exercise into your schedule without feeling like you’re working out.

You Have Plenty of Spots to Warm Up around Big Bear Lake

Your Big Bear family vacation rental (more on this in a moment) isn’t the only place to get out of the cold. You can warn up with the exotic dishes at Himalayan Restaurant, which specializes in dishes like palak aloo, redolent with garlic, ginger and spices. Or, you can hit one of Big Bear’s beloved après-ski spots like Le Dolce Vita Tasting Room or one of Big Bear’s amazing restaurants like Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, where you can get a good taste of the area’s craft beer; pet-friendly Evergreen Restaurant; or Captain’s Anchorage, which specializes in steak and seafood.

Big Bear has myriad Lodging Options during the Winter

CC BY 2.0/Ian D. Keating/Flickr

From cozy, family-friendly vacation rentals to ski-in, ski-out accommodations, you have many different lodging options to pick from, making it easier to find the one that’s right for you. Choose from charming cabins and lodges, ranch-style accommodations, cozy rooms at hotels or private vacation rentals suited for small groups and large families. It’s also easy to find weekend or weeklong rentals that house bigger groups of people.

So Where are you supposed to stay in Big Bear?

A vacation rental with a hot tub of course….

A hot tub in your vacation rental immediately adds a certain something to your experience. Not only does it feel like a luxury add-on, it can actually provide welcome relaxation after a day on the slopes. Big Bear vacations are usually filled with physical activity. An on-site hot tub at a rental home completes the circle of active and relaxed.

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Après-Ski Fun

Hot tubs in ski cabins provide an easy way of keeping your whole group or family entertained after a day on the slopes. Soaks can soothe any muscle aches or pains from minor tumbles taken on a tough run and get everyone primed for another day of skiing. This amenity also gives kids something to look forward to and provides groups of grown-up friends with an easy central hang-out spot at the rental cabin. The contrast between the snow on the ground and the inviting hot water of the tub makes for a luxurious way of relaxing after a day of fun.

CC0/Free_Photos/Pixabay

Staying Cozy Outdoors

Bring the outdoors indoors with the ability to enjoy the night sky in comfort, even on the coldest of winter nights. Stargazing is a notable activity in Big Bear, with the elevation and lack of city-adjacent light pollution providing a much clearer view of the sky than what you can probably get at home. It’s such a prime location for astronomy that the New Jersey Institute of Technology even operates a solar observatory with a massive telescope off of Big Bear Lake.

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With a hot tub, there’s no need to bundle up the kids or cut an outdoor stargazing session short due to cold weather. You can sink into the tub and gaze up at the stars with binoculars or your naked eyes and see the Milky Way, shooting stars and a gorgeous view of the moon.

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Finding the Right Big Bear Rental

There are other ways to stay entertained après-ski, of course, with board games and movie nights being favorites. But having a hot tub available for use adds a special element of out-of-the-ordinary vacation entertainment. The combination of skiing and hot tubbing is popular enough that cabin rentals often include decks with hot tubs, but it’s not a guaranteed feature of rentals in Big Bear. When you’re planning a trip, make sure to look out for this feature specifically, using search filters whenever possible to narrow down options to focus on available units with this option in the properties around this winter vacation destination.