By: Melanie Warner

Big Bear Lake is in Southern California approximately 2 hours from Los Angeles. It’s one of the few natural escapes from the concrete jungles of the City of Angels. I recently visited with my kids (16, 12, and 4). It’s always a challenge to find activities that they all enjoy, but they all love animals and they all love the outdoors. We found plenty of both in a concentrated area on the North shore of Big Bear Lake.

We started with a kayak tour at the Fawnskin Marina. This is a branch of the Southern California Mountains Foundation that supports youth development through conservation initiatives for forest and outdoor lovers. Being in a kayak was a first for 2 of my 3 kids, but they took to it naturally and paddled their own. They loved the ability to be right on the water and learn about the lake. We saw a beaver dam and looked for American Eagles as we paddled around coots and mallards.

Then we went to the Big Bear Discovery Center for an educational tour that included the chance to see many animals and even touch their skins. Where else can you pet a real grizzly bear or put your head in its jaws or play with its teeth or touch a raccoon pelt? These were certainly “firsts” for all of us.

Just outside is the New Discovery Nature Zone with outdoor activities for kids that include mining for gold, art projects with nature, playing natural instruments, and more. The kids interacted together and had a fun time discovering many “firsts” on this trip. We will be back!