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Big Bear Lake Dam at Night-7040756401Source: Flickr

Southern California is known for its mild climate and sunny weather. But when the locals and tourists are craving a change of pace, they head to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. Located a mere 96 miles from Los Angeles and less than three hours from the beaches of Santa Monica, it seems like an unlikely destination for snow sports. But during the winter, over 100 inches of snow falls here.

Big Bear Lake is an incredible place to visit in any season. The rural, mountain resort community is a nice change of pace from our bustling cities and even our beach towns. It’s easy to see why this is an incredibly popular destination for Californians.

Big Bear Lake-4713006224Source: Flickr

If you enjoy outdoor recreation, you’ll love Big Bear Lake. There are over 300 days of sunshine here, so fishing, boating, and other water sports are very popular. And of course, if you enjoy snow sports, the Bear Mountain Ski Resort and the Snow Summit are the best places to be when the snow starts to fall.

But there is more to Big Bear Lake than just outdoor activities. If you’d rather just enjoy some local amenities, eat a few good meals and relax in a picturesque mountain setting, this is the perfect place for you. Make sure you also set aside some time to shop when you’re in town. Stroll around the shopping district, Big Bear Village and you’ll find charming boutiques, specialty stores and gift shops.

oSource: Yelp

The dining scene here, like many California vacation destinations, is spectacular. The family-friendly Teddy Bear Restaurant is a great place to go for a hearty breakfast, and the Peppercorn Grille is an excellent steakhouse. The Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a popular spot for their beer and casual food. And if you’re craving pizza, Saucy Mama’s never disappoints.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 8.09.09 PMSource: TripAdvisor

Big Bear Lake is home to one of the country’s only alpine solar observatories, and it happens to have the largest aperture and highest resolution telescope. It’s only open on select dates and times, with free tours being offered on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 2-3PM. But even if the observatory is closed when you’re there, the area is great for walking along the lakeshore.

Some other worthy attractions in the Big Bear Lake community include a public zoo, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, and a relaxing nine hole golf course. The zoo is open year round with more limited hours when it snows. The golf course is located on the Big Bear Mountain Resort property in the Moonlight meadow area.

Needless to say, there are some great hiking trails in this beautiful area. Castle Rock Trail is a popular one for visitors, especially since the two mile trail is good for all skill levels and has some breathtaking views.

Put a trip to Big Bear Lake on your California bucket list. Like most people who see it, you just might fall in love with the area.