The history of Lake Arrowhead Village began back in 1920, when The Arrowhead Lake Company, Little Bear Lake (the original name of the area) and its surrounding region spent $8 million developing Lake Arrowhead. Nowadays, it’s recognized by Angelenos and Southern Californians as an upscale resort destination to escape the urban stress of city life. It’s located just an hour outside LA up in the mountains.
Over the years, Lake Arrowhead has served as a mountaintop respite for LA elite — but the village itself actually fell into disrepair and became a fire hazard over the decades leading up to 1970. In the late 1970’s a month-long “Burn to Learn” exercise was conducted by the Lake Arrowhead Fire Protection District. Along with the San Bernardino County Fire Department and Air Corps watching over, essentially the entire village was burned down in a controlled burn so they could rebuild the village from the ground up.
On Memorial Day Weekend of 1981, the Grand Opening of the “new” Lake Arrowhead Village took place. Nowadays, Lake Arrowhead and its village still draw on average, over 3 million visitors annually. Its population doubles on summer holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, and it’s still a mecca for Hollywood celebrities to have their second homes.
Here’s how to make the best of a weekend in Lake Arrowhead, California.
[Note: As of the time of this story’s publishing, outdoor activities are permitted in California, but as always, be safe and protect yourself and others from transmitting COVID-19. Remember to wear a mask, stay six feet from other people at all times, and be respectful of local regulations.]
Grab a (Coffee) Brew at the Tea and Coffee Exchange
The Tea & Coffee Exchange is a quaint coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead Village that offers an enormous selection of teas and espresso drinks alongside pastries, small bites, smoothies, and sweet and savory crepes. Visitors can grab a brew to go and explore the European-style village, or sit outside to soak up the California sunshine next to the lake (even in the winter!).
Indulge in a Hearty Breakfast at Belgian Waffle Works
Established back in 1982, Belgian Waffle Works is located dockside at Lake Arrowhead Village. Onsite specialties include waffles made with a specially curated waffle mix (and love). This full-service restaurant serves a variety of the tastiest waffles ranging from sweet to savory. The dockside patio is open during summer months and winter weekends with cozy heaters and a waterside view.
It doesn’t matter what time it is when you’re on vacation — you can have dessert for breakfast with the “Belgian S’more” (Belgian Waffle ice cream sandwich with chocolate ice cream, topped with marshmallow, chocolate sauce, graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream) or the “Caramel Apple (Belgian Waffle ice cream sandwich with salted caramel ice cream, topped with warm spiced apples, caramel sauce and whipped cream). I have a sweet tooth.
Those who prefer savory options can try choices like the classic “Brunch Belgian” (Belgian waffle served with applewood smoked bacon or pork sausage patties) or the “Brussels Belgian Monte Cristo style waffle” (waffle stuffed with ham, turkey and swiss cheese, served with strawberry preserves and cream cheese).
Explore the Lake Arrowhead Village
Dating back to the 1920s, this historical gathering spot has served as a communal hub for local residents and travelers to grab food, drinks, and to shop. Today, it’s still the “downtown” area, with a grocery store as well as a variety of over 50 waterfront stores, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Visitors can spend an entire morning exploring the area and browsing the many diverse stores.
Take a Ride on the Arrowhead Queen
One of the best ways to get to know Lake Arrowhead firsthand is via a narrated tour on the The Arrowhead Queen. This old-timey style boat departs from the Lake Arrowhead Village waterfront hourly (depending on the season) and offers a 50-minute expertly narrated tour of Lake Arrowhead with insight from hilarious local captains on the “who’s who” of the lake.
It’s fun, engaging, and gives a detailed history of the area with insider info such as what Hollywood celebrities own (or owned) lakefront homes, and what films have been filmed in the area. Tickets are $23.95 per adult and $18.95 per child (12 and under).
Visit the Skypark at Santa’s Village
SkyPark at Santa’s Village is an Outdoor Adventure Park offering year-round mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing and open air activities in the Skyforest section of Lake Arrowhead. This 230-acre natural forest offers meadowlands, ponds and an apple orchard to play in — but it’s best enjoyed in the winter during the holiday season, when Santa comes to town…
Over the holidays from early November to early January, the village transforms into a nostalgically themed “Christmas in the Woods.” setup. There are interactive theme park houses characters as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus with their dog — “Arrow!” There’s traditionally a holiday-themed entertainment every day — from breakfast with Santa, to a “dress-up” Tea with Mrs. Claus, even making crafts with Santa’s elves.
Lunch and a (Beer) Brew at Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co.
Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co. is a trendy, new(ish) lakeside brewery located in a converted warehouse right next to the beach by Lake Arrowhead Resort. The brewery’s overall mission aims to “offer non-pretentious beer in a destination that brings people together for good times and good conversation.” There’s a spacious outdoor patio and plentiful beers on tap. I ordered a flight and every single taster was delicious. It didn’t matter that it was 35 degrees, everyone and their dog was out to enjoy a brew.
Enjoy a Cozy Sunset Cocktail on Lake Arrowhead Resort’s Lakeside Bin 189 Restaurant
It’s scenic lake views,microbrews and wines by the glass with ample heat lamps and my favorite thing: cozy cocktails. What does this mean? It means I enjoyed watching the sunset with a spiked hot chocolate in my hand (overflowing with whipped cream of course).
As someone who gets cold pretty easily I stand by Bin 189′s spiked hot cocktail menu as the best way to warm up on a chilly winter evening by the lake.
Dinner at The Lakefront Taproom Bar and Kitchen on the Outdoor Patio
This waterfront restaurant in the village features hearty American fare & craft brews alongside ample patio seating with views of the water (because again, that’s most likely why you’re here…). There’s a seasonally changing gastro-pub style menu and a full bar plus forty two taps and over 100 beers total. You can come back every night you’re in town and never order the same brew and burger combo twice.
Overnight at Lake Arrowhead Resort
Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is the perfect home base for spending a weekend in Lake Arrowhead (and as previously mentioned, for grabbing a fabulous spiked hot cocktail) because it’s within walking distance of Lake Arrowhead Village. Our room had a view of the lake which I never got tired of looking at, and since I was working remotely from the resort I was glad to have a space that offered a sense of being connected to the outdoors even when I was trapped inside the entire day.
Traditionally there’s a hot tub, pool, and spa services offered onsite too — it’s just a cozy place to spend an evening indoors looking out at the winter wonderland of snow and being glad you’re not the one who has to get rid of it…
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