Originally, we wanted to celebrate Dan's 40th in Hawaii, but due to lack of vacation time, we had to pick something a bit more local. Dan loves Big Bear, so we booked up a three day weekend with tons of activities.
Unlike Lake Arrowhead, which has the very lovely Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, we couldn't immediately pin-point the nicest resort in Big Bear. Although filled with beautiful homes and amazing restaurants, Big Bear seems to have a lack of luxury resorts. After many hours of internet research and recommendations from friends, we picked the NorthWoods Resort as our home for the weekend.
We were initially put off by the lack of a lake view, but what NorthWoods lacks in view, it makes up for in proximity to the village. This is the place to stay if you want the ability to walk to great restaurants and more importantly drink without having to worry about choosing a designated driver! The walk-ability factor was huge to our enjoyment of the weekend.
The decor in the hotel is rustic, cozy and cute. I had an great initial impression with the lobby and while waiting to check-in, I overheard a very enthusiastic front desk clerk giving out tips to another couple regarding local hiking trails. The staff was wonderful at NorthWoods, quick to make suggestions and generally ready to see that our needs were met.
We arrived very early on a Saturday morning and the early check-in fee was only ten dollars. Most things in Big Bear are far less expensive than in Los Angeles, so we spent the whole weekend suffering from reverse sticker shock.
Here are some of my NorthWoods first impression pictures.
Our room had cute woodsy decor touches, like towel racks that looked like tree branches. As far as hotels go it fit our basic needs. The room had standard amenities (coffee/hairdryer/iron/nice toiletries) and was roomy.
NorthWoods definitely had some negatives. The walls were paper-thin. We heard every bit of the conversations going on in the rooms surrounding us. The bed wasn't very comfortable, it was springy. The television wasn't in widescreen and as we were watching the news, the newscaster was often only on half on the screen. It was actually kind of funny. The biggest let-down was the pool, which was small and located in the parking lot. We didn't even bother to use it.
As I previously mentioned, NorthWoods' great location is what makes this resort a stand-out. We will likely return here to take advantage of its proximity. Minutes after dumping our luggage off in our room, we walked to the marina for our pontoon boat rental.
In summer, the marina books up their rental equipment very quickly. We reserved our two-hour pontoon boat ride three weeks in advance, but all of the people that were trying to book same-day or same-weekend rentals, were being told that they were out of luck. Book early!
As part of their contribution to Dan's birthday weekend, his parents paid for the boat trip. Thanks Jan and Dave! We had gone on a shorter pontoon trip when they visited us last September and it was something that Dan had wanted to do again.
I had packed a picnic for the boat, but unfortunately I had forgotten it in the car. The marina has a small selection of snacks, so we bought a bag of M&M's and bottled water.
We saw a funny little boat in the marina. It was so low in the water, that it looked like it was sinking.
Also near the marina was the Action Aqua Flight. It's a new thing that the Action Tour Company is offering this summer. It looked potentially fun, but also really hard to do. I'm not sure that I would want to get into the icy lake water to try it out!
It was an overcast, chilly morning on the lake. We found a small patch of sun on one side of the lake and joined a ton of other boats that were also taking advantage of the warmth.
Friday night had been a late evening spent kicking off Dan's birthday weekend with a few friends and we were running on empty having only gotten a fews hours of sleep before driving up the mountain. We parked the boat in the sun and took a much needed nap.
Dan took this beautiful panorama picture of the lake.
Sooner than we would have liked, our two hour rental was nearly finished and we had to head back towards the marina, through the cold part of the lake. We saw the Time Bandit pirate ship, something that we want to do on our next Big Bear trip!
For dinner, we walked to the village and found an amazing Mexican restaurant called El Jacalito Grill. The place was packed, but we managed to snag a high-top in the bar. I previously mentioned the stick-shock in Big Bear for those of us visiting from Los Angeles. El Jacalito was ridiculously inexpensive. We each had a large Coronarita (for the uninitiated- bottles of Corona in a Margarita).
We shared our main course, which was an enormous shredded beef burrito. The burritos are bigger than the ones at Chipolte. We left full and happy that we had the foresight to share. El Jacalito also has a salsa bar to accompany the tortilla chips, which was a fun touch. The total for our bill was around twenty dollars. Amazing!
Another Big Bear Village value is the cinema. It's a small four screen theater and anyone who lives in a big city will feel like this is a flash back to the eighties. It's older. That being said, we saw The Wolverine on opening weekend during peak movie times and it was only eight dollars a ticket. That's cheaper than the matinee at our local theaters. We joked (half-joked) about driving up to Big Bear just to spend a day watching movies to save money on our cinema habit. What did I think of The Wolverine? Stay tuned for a review coming at the end of the week.
With the exception of bars, Big Bear is a town that shuts down early. It was eerily quiet walking back to our hotel after the movie, around nine-thirty. We ended our night with Irish Coffees at the bar in NorthWoods, Stillwells.
Stillwells is a great addition to NorthWoods. It fits in with the rustic decor and the bar had a warm vibe. I really liked the bartender, who was from England and was chatting with us. NorthWoods really had great staff, everyone from check-in to cleaning staff to the bartenders, were very friendly. Again, we marveled at the low drink prices.
We called it an early night and headed to bed to wake up for Dan's Birthday and morning Segway tour!