California is a physically large state with so many beautiful places to visit. Yes, of course there are tens of millions of people, traffic is insane in major metros, and we are now rated as the number one least affordable place to live in the nation, but if you can get past all of that, there really are some terrific things about this place.

Take Big Bear, for instance; it’s tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains a little less than 3 hours from Los Angeles (on a good traffic day). I recently spent a few days up there and thought it was absolutely charming. The people were super friendly, the weather was just perfect (74 during the day and 54 in the evening) even enjoying the thunder storms, and the views were spectacular. Now, summer is off-season for this place, so it wasn’t terribly crowded. We also planned our visit during the week to minimize any weekend congestion that occurs.

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Big Bear Lake looking south

Since this trip was a “get-away” trip, we took advantage of biking around town, fishing at the lake, and just hanging out at local restaurants. The cabin we rented was charming, very clean, and really affordable since it was mid-week (under $80 a night). We found a local bar that served $2 drafts and most of the food costs were similar to what we pay in Los Angeles. My recommendations below:

Where to eat: The Cowboy Steakhouse. Delicious food! A little pricey, but definitely worth it. The pork chops with apple and maple glaze were amazing.
Where to stay: Cozy Hollow Lodge. Right off highway 18. Very affordable and nice.
What to do: The Alpine Bike Path on the north side of the lake – a nice, flat, paved 3 mile path. Boating (we didn’t have a chance to boat this time around) – you can rent a fishing or pontoon boat at the Pine Knot Marina. Fishing – we fished from shore, and though we didn’t catch anything (even though the fish were jumping out of the water!), it was incredibly relaxing.

The Village at Big Bear

The Village at Big Bear

One thing that surprised us about Big Bear is that the housing is so much cheaper than L.A. Passing a realtors office we saw homes for under $200,000! They weren’t huge, but there is absolutely NOTHING for sale in Los Angeles county for under $399,000. We could only reason that housing is so much less because this is really a vacation town. Their main economy is based on tourism, especially skiing (census population is around 20,000 including Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake, but a million people visit this area each year!). The types of jobs are limited, which limits incomes, and many of the homes in that area are second/vacation homes that are rented through Home Away as vacation rentals. Real estate in Big Bear is definitely something we want to investigate a little more.

We had such a great time, we’re hoping to visit one more time before it gets too cold.