Amidst the chaos of everyday life, it’s nice to find a place, less than three hours away, to escape among the trees in Lake Arrowhead. Truly, an amazing vacation spot to get back to nature and enjoy many of your not so typical adventures. We were greeted warmly when we checked into the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa and found our spacious guest room stocked with a mini fridge, coffee maker, king-sized comfy bed, pull-out sofa, large closet, and outdoor balcony with a table and chairs. It overlooked the inviting pool and two Jacuzzis, in addition to a private beach just beyond, with inviting Adirondack chairs and kayaks to enjoy.
With a welcoming lobby, complete with a massive fireplace and faux deer head donning sunglasses on the wall, we dined at the resort’s restaurant Bin 189, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The view on the patio was unbeatable and our dinner selections were the Beef Short Rib with crispy onions, mashed potatoes, and locally sourced seasonal vegetables, as well as the Farm Raised Salmon with chipotle BBQ sauce, coupled with brown rice quinoa, and the locally sourced seasonal vegetables. Both were as well presented as they were delicious. We topped off the evening with a delicious slice of homemade carrot cake, made on premises. Executive Sous Chef Heath Miller came to chat with us, and was personable, soliciting feedback, to which we gave the meal and overall experience glowing reviews. The other restaurant, Aromas Cafe, located in the lobby, is perfect for grab and go coffee, beverages, pastries, and sandwiches.
Get in the Zen zone with one or more offerings of massages, body scrubs, and facials, at Spa of the Pines, on the resort’s lower level. The tranquil area features lockers, complete with showers, steam rooms and a Roman bath. I enjoyed a superb massage from Noreen, who used hot stones to relieve the knots from my shoulders. The expansive Fitness Center offers a full complement of state-of-the art equipment for cardio and free weights. There is also a line-up of fitness classes including yoga and Pilate sessions, HIIT classes, and sound healing meditation.
Built in 1982, the Lake Arrowhead Resort is nestled in the trees at a 5,174 ft elevation, and has an elegant mountain vibe, with 173 rooms, 11 suites, and 20 event and meeting spaces, from the reservable Magnum Dining Room, to ballrooms, and lakeside lawns. We were told that they host many events and conferences, including weddings almost every weekend, and that is understandable in such a beautifully wooded setting. Check out the special offers of up to 20 percent off now through December 31, 2022, and all the amenities at www.lakearrowheadresort.com.
On our explorations, we discovered Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company, located just down the hill from the resort. They offer a variety of locally made beers from Off Road Amber Ale, Strawberry Peak, A-frame Coffee Stout, as well as several IPAs and non-alcoholic Hop Water. We enjoyed the vibe of Arrowhead’s first craft brewery, but found there are no food or nibbles to purchase, but patrons are allowed to bring their own food and sit on the shady patio, featuring several framed igloos that offer protection from the elements. Located at 329 Villa Way in Lake Arrowhead, see hours and details at www.lakearrowheadbrewingcompany.com.
Many of you may have fond memories of Santa’s Village, originally opened in 1955, sadly closing in 1998. It was purchased and reopened in 2016 as SkyPark at Santa’s Village, which is an absolute must-do for families with kids of all ages. Nostalgia prevails as the original cabin-like buildings have been updated and transformed into a host of new activities. The Bike Park offers a variety of options for bike enthusiasts of all levels, from little ones on pedal bikes, to intermediate trail cyclists to hard core riders. The wooded trail network features technical terrain, berms, and ladder bridges.
Watch for Northwoods characters who greet guests and perform shows throughout the day. I met friendly conductor and actor Armand LeSage on the Northwoods Express Train Ride, who took guests on a tour of Meadowlands. Santa’s Village Mining Company offers a chance to uncover arrowheads, gemstones, and minerals. You can also check out Santa’s Toy Test Track, Northwoods Sharpshooter Gallery, Princess Evergreen’s Archery Range, King Celwyn’s Ax Challenge, Floki’s Frozen Falls Climbing Tower, Magic Tree Bouldering Room, Arrow’s Adventure and Magic Portal, fly fish on Ladybug Pond, Skating Bells Arena, and Discovery Playscape. Coming soon is a Bee Ride, where guests will be able to pedal on a suspended bike above the village. Definitely a fun way to spend the day together.
Food options are remarkably delicious and affordable. We shared a brisket bowl at Billy’s BBQ House, filled with fresh veggies, brown rice, beans, and delicious barbequed meat. Other options include Kringle’s Coffee and Gifts, The Lunch Box for sandwiches, The Gingerbread Bakery & Sweet Shoppe, which smells as good as the cookies taste, St. Nick’s Patio and Grille for burgers and other fare, and The Pedal Pub for craft brews and tasty bites. I met bartender Roger Riley, who has a photo of himself at 18 months enjoying the original Santa’s Village, so he is a wealth of information. Quaint shops feature bike clothing and gear, as well as unique gifts and holiday items.
SkyPark day passes are $59 for adults and $49 for children for all access, with monthly memberships and annual passes also available. A variety of seasonal events include Pumpkins in the Pines from October 8 through 30. Look for lots of holiday experiences at Santa’s House and North Pole and throughout the park, including Tea with Mrs. Claus, Breakfast with Santa, and more. For details, check out skyparksantasvillage.com.
There is also SkyPark Camp + RV Resort across the street with full hookups, wide spaces, scenic views, and a kids’ play area. Bring your small or large RV, trailer, or tent, or rent one of the vintage Airstream trailers. For more information, visit skyparkcamprv.com.
Lake Arrowhead Village offers a variety of shopping and food options, from necessities at Stater Brothers or Rite Aid, to adult and children’s apparel boutiques like Tattle Tails, candy stores, Coach, Mr. G for Toys, The Grapevine, Big on Bears, and other collectible shops. I got a jumpstart on Christmas gifts in the Village. To see the directory, check out www.thelakearrowheadvillage.com. We ate at Jetties Waterfront Kitchen www.jettiesla.com, and enjoyed a turkey club sandwich with scrumptious truffle parmesan French fries and a grilled peach and warm burrata salad, complete with unparalleled lake views.
We appreciated the narrative from Captain Eric on the Arrowhead Queen. This is the best way to see the lake, since it is private and can only be accessed by Lake Arrowhead residents. We learned that Lake Arrowhead is a manmade lake built in the early 1900s that took 10 years to fill up after the dam was finished, and contains 13 miles of shoreline. Captain Eric, who learned to waterski on the lake at age five, pointed out the many past and present celebrity homes, including Jay Leno’s with a 23-car garage, Shirley Temple, Michael Eisner, Nicolas Cage, Goldie Hawn, and Liberace. It was interesting to learn about the movies filmed here, from Rock Hudson in the “Magnificent Obsession” to Lindsay Lohan in the “Parent Trap,” and more. You will have to go on the boat tour to discover the rest of the star power in these lakeside houses, many with private beaches, and some with funiculars running from the beach up to the homes. We learned that about 40 percent of the homes are lived in full time, with the majority for vacations. One of the most unusual homes, located in the exclusive Hamiltair Estates, had a two boat garage with indoor access. Lake Arrowhead is a stocked lake, with outstanding fishing for trout, bass, and bluegill. We saw the dock for the McKenzie Waterski School, which was established in 1947, and is the oldest water ski school in the US. It is only open Memorial Day through mid-September, so we didn’t get to see any lessons in action.
The year-round Lake Arrowhead Queen runs hourly starting at 10 am, with the dock located in the village. Tickets are $26.95 for adults and $24.95 for seniors (65 and up) and special pricing for children. Tickets can be purchased at LeRoy’s Boardshop. For details, call 909-336-6992 or visit www.lakearrowheadqueen.com.
Lake Arrowhead offers a plethora of hiking opportunities from the Heaps Peak Arboretum, Mill Peak Trail, Lake Gregory, Will Abell Memorial Trail, to the Children’s Forest Exploration Trail and many more. Hiking, biking, and fishing are all activities that should be on your list here. There are also a few quaint mountain towns; on the way up is Crestline, where we stopped to have lattes at Higher Grounds. I must mention Jeannine’s Home Furnishing Décor, as you come into town at 292 S. Highway 173, for their array of unique décor, gifts, accessories, and holiday items. Surrounding communities include Blue Jay and Running Springs, where Snow Valley, the closest ski resort is located. Big Bear, with the larger Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts, is approximately 26 miles away.
Lake Arrowhead is a beautiful place to visit year round, with each season offering unique adventures. The summer and fall are filled with art, wine, music, and craft festivals. The fall colors were just starting to turn when we were there, and the area will soon turn into a winter wonderland with colder temperatures, which we are all craving right now.
A few other things we didn’t visit, but looked interesting include the Wildhaven Ranch, an animal rescue sanctuary, open for tours on Saturdays. The Mountain Skies Astronomical Society Astronomy Village offers a variety of space programs, designed for budding astronomers of all ages.
We found Lake Arrowhead to be a very doable driving distance retreat for a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, with unique year round adventures nestled among the woods. We highly recommend it for an interesting destination for families, with kids of all ages, and are already planning our next visit.