When Big Bear Alpine Zoo opened in 1959, it wasn't a zoo at all. It was a makeshift rehabilitation center for animals affected by a devastating fire that ripped through the San Bernardino National Forest. Among the facility's first residents were two bobcats and an orphaned 30-pound baby black bear.
Since then, the operation has stood as a safe haven for injured, orphaned, and imprinted wild animals. While the zoo is home to a variety of animals that cannot be released back into the wild as they would not be able to survive, most of the animals that are brought in for rehabilitation can be released. In fact, 90% of the zoo's animals get released back into the wild once they're healthy enough. Today, Big Bear Alpine Zoo is home to more than 85 species, including foxes, eagles, and yes, even bears. Weather permitting, visitors can visit the zoo's residents throughout the year except for Christmas Day. Visitors can get involved in the zoo's efforts by volunteering, becoming a member, or bringing in items from the wish list, saving the animals a trip to the grocery store.
From the shores of Big Bear Lake and Dana Point, it's not uncommon to see someone flying high above the waves. But they're not using a hang-glider or an albatross on growth hormones. They're riding one of Action Aqua Flight's flyboards, contraptions that allow their riders to shoot into the air and cut through the surf atop plumes of water. A board beneath the rider's feet thrusts them upward via two massive jets, while two arm-based streams allow the wearer to stabilize and turn. All the while, an instructor follows behind on a jet ski, supplying the board with pressurized water and relaying instructions via headset. Sessions are bookended by calming cruises aboard a pontoon boat, and riders can opt to have their flights recorded for posterity.
All across California, Western Bowling Proprietors Association sends pins scattering at a network of bowling alleys, each with its own personality. In addition to open bowl on automatically scored lanes, many locations host special events that heighten the experience with enhancements such as vibrant lights, lively music, and laser systems that do double duty protecting the alleys' diamond collections. The alleys also house refreshment facilities, pro shops, and diversions that range from arcade games to billiards.
UltraStar Cinemas cossets moviegoers in cushy seating as they enjoy Hollywood hits alongside buttery servings of popcorn. Film buffs can peruse the current showtimes to handpick an action-packed flick, romantic comedy, or chilling thriller featuring inexplicably aggressive hamsters. The concession stand outfits moviegoers with snacks, drinks, and buckets filled with warm kernels, keeping stomach grumblings to a minimum during showings and providing crunchy projectiles in case of sudden younger-sibling attacks.
Along the northern edge of Big Bear Lake sits Fawnskin Harbor, a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Captain John's Fawn Harbor & Marina calls this serene alcove home, housing boats and doling out rental watercraft. From the harbor's docks and moorings, visitors launch pontoons, speedboats, canoes, and kayaks toward Grout Bay, a bald-eagle nesting site that also teems with great blue herons, osprey, and beavers. The wildlife sanctuary can also be infiltrated via standup paddleboard, a Hawaii-born craft that delivers a challenging core workout. Tours on an electric boat cruise the boulder- and tree-ringed bay area while passengers explore the lake, learn local history, and glimpse the lake's namesake surreptitiously brushing his coat.
Cabins4Less creates homes away from home on the edge of Big Bear Lake. Their lakefront suites set the mood for adventure with rustic wood interiors and private decks, but maintain a sense of comfort by providing pillow top mattresses and kitchenettes. That dual approach to camping ensures that guests get to experience the beauty of the outdoors without its inconveniences.
Not content merely to provide lodging, Cabins4Less keeps its guests busy during daytime by renting out kayaks, bikes, and fishing poles. Thusly equipped, visitors can stroll or roll through the mountains or set out from the adjacent marina to paddle around the lake or catch some fish. A local bowling alley and restaurants make the nearby village a good place to wile away the time after friendly aliens flick off the sun's light switch.