Lake Arrowhead, at an elevation of more than 5,200 feet in the San Bernardino National Forest, has attracted generations of southern California families with its cool climate, mountain breezes and pristine lake. The original, circa 1923 Arlington Mountain Lodge, known for its beamed ceiling and granite fireplace, has evolved into the multi-purpose Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Being in such a lovely area, the resort accommodates a lot of family groups, not just conventions, and the range of recreational options encourages many families to celebrate milestones or reunions here.
Outdoors: From the Lake to Big Bear
Despite the presence of hundreds of private homes, Lake Arrowhead retains a feeling of wilderness. In the village, locals and kids we met said that waterskiing, fishing, going for hikes, and playing on the beach at the lake were their favorite pastimes, so we tried them all.
We joined an excursion aboard the Arrowhead Queen, a boat that went around the lake for 40 minutes. The captain was full of humor and told the history of Lake Arrowhead, its famous and not-so-famous residents, and shared real estate gossip as well. Sadly, we heard about the terrible 2007 forest fires that damaged much of the opposite side of the lake from our resort. Many of the homes that were destroyed have been rebuilt and we enjoyed an early morning hike around the lake’s south shore, guided by resort staff.
Other waterfront options are a 90-minute sunset cruise, a fun group cruise, or the hotel-organized private lake excursion which includes food and drinks and fishing gear. Catch and release fishing is also popular, and it’s easy to rent gear, tackle and bait; kids under 14-years don’t even need a fishing license.
Another day, the kids took a lesson at the Water Ski school on the lake. Being in the water and whizzing around the lake was yet another way to appreciate the environment. The watersports school had safety equipment for adults and children and the instructor was very good at working with kids. At night, that same beach is the site of s’mores making over a cozy group bonfire.
Exploring the Resort & Arrowhead Village
Lake Arrowhead Resort’s 162 spacious guestrooms (many connecting) and 11 suites use earth tones and some dark woods, granite and leather for a luxurious yet comfortable feel. In this homey setting, families will find flat panel TVs, designer toiletries, Italian linens, a coffeemaker and minifridge. There’s a spa where we found time for a soothing facial, a business center and WiFi access throughout, plus a lobby coffeebar and fine dining restaurant for times when the kids just want to stay in and hang out.
In addition to the on-site recreation, the resort organizes child-centered play options for late evening events, such as New Year’s Eve, Oktoberfest and 4th of July fireworks. Teens will appreciate the X-Box Gaming Room to be opened soon on the 4th floor (to be tended by a Gaming Butler who can play with kids), and private babysitting is available on request.
From the resort, we could walk to Arrowhead Village, which is architecturally designed and laid out like a town in the hills of Germany or the Swiss Alps. The Village has a large array of restaurants, shops, bike rentals and children’s venues to choose from. The resort’s concierge urged us to visit the Village’s Farmers Market, held on Friday, a real showcase for California agriculture and baked goods. The Village itself also sponsors a free outdoor concert series during the summer, kids’ activities like face painting, a July 4th celebration, Halloween and Winter Holiday parties, just to name a few, right in the center. Furthermore, the big grocery store, McDonalds, and a pizza parlor with arcade games to fulfill our children’s craving — all just steps away — made it by far the most convenient town center we’ve been in. But the big hit for all of us was Lollipop Park, where we found carousels, bumper cars, inflated slides, miniature golf and more midway games.
Out and Around the Lake Arrowhead Region
We spent an afternoon at Baldwin Lake Stables in Big Bear Mountain, approximately one hour’s drive from Lake Arrowhead. There were plenty of horses to choose from, with temperaments ranging from docile to wild. The employees at the stable have been raising and training horses their whole lives, and treated their horses like family. Our guide was a nice friendly lady who had been riding her whole life, too; she was very patient and thorough teaching our kids how to ride. We felt the horse trail was very safe, even for children as young as 6 who had never gone horseback riding, and we saw many beginners out for their first real ride.
The concierge gave us a local secret that provided one last adventure before leaving. Following his directions to an unmarked road off Highway 18, our quest led us to a mountain top communications relay (at 9,500 feet) which was straight out of the X-Files and offered breathtaking views in every direction, from the sea to the desert.
Trip Planning Details for a Lake Arrowhead Getaway
The Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa is located at 27984 Hwy 189 Lake, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92532. During the peak season from June to August, reservations far in advance are required. The best values at Lake Arrowhead are the weeknights from January to April during the cooler winter season. If you’re visiting then, try to take advantage of Snow Valley and the Snow Drift tubing park, both 20 minute’s drive from the resort, for some snowy family outdoor fun. A year round bonus: wilderness so near the big city is a wonderful surprise.
Note that there’s a $20 per room per night resort fee that covers use of the gym, yoga and workout classes, so those extra activities can mount up quickly when you’ve got a few kids. Check their website for frequent seasonal specials.
We’re so happy the resort’s beautiful lake view had the power to distract visitors and inspire homeowners to rebuild as the singed forest grows back. The kids just loved it!
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