Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa
27984 Highway 189
Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352
The resort's private slice of the lake
Summer, 2014 Review:
With all of the popular movies out today that tout time-travel as just a normal aspect of life, have you ever craved your own magical experience? I must admit, lately I have been feeling the urge to travel backwards in time to a less stressful age. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out the formula for time-travel, but I do have a little remedy that can temporarily do the trick for whisking you away to a better place. It’s so simple; make a trip to beautiful Lake Arrowhead in Southern California and stay at the majestic Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa.When I state that this resort is situated in Southern California, I mean “Southern California” in the loosest sense. While just a short drive from the overcrowded metropolis down below (90 minutes from Los Angeles), the mountain town’s elevation of 5,100 feet, burrowed into the San Bernardino National Forest, makes it feel a million miles away.
Visualize yourself in the midst of towering pine trees, walking in and out of surprisingly affordable shops in a serene village overlooking a deep blue alpine lake. Cool breezes from the lake keep the temperature comfortable as you sip your favorite beverage. On Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, we can add a musical feast to the equation with the popular Lake Arrowhead Village free concert series, consisting of a broad range of cover bands that play near the pavilion entrance. If you want to do more than just imagine such a place, plan a visit to Lake Arrowhead!
Now that you have imagined such an experince, let me tell you about my family’s actual experience this summer, 2014. It had been too long since we had visited the Lake Arrowhead area and especially the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, and my kids were begging for a return trip to a place that had given them a magical experience during our previous visit. Besides that, I was harboring a personal desire to escape my typical Southern California surroundings of suburbs, sprawling freeways, mass constructions zones, and repetitive strip malls. I longed to breathe in the fresh air, lounge beneath the shade of the mature trees, watch the boats sail across the placid lake, and enjoy a good book in the midst of the quietude. Certainly all Southern Californians deserve to experience this phenomenon just to maintain their footing. If you have read my earlier review of Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa from 2009 (scroll down), you will note that this resort rated well on all counts, so it is difficult to improve upon perfection. Since this last visit, the resort has joined the ranks of the prestigious Autograph Collection of hotels. As such, it was selected and renovated to meet the standards and guidelines of Marriott, while still retaining its own distinctive personality and sophisticated mountain style. I want to confirm that in June 2014, all the charm has in fact remained and has even been improved upon.
So, with anticipation, we made the fairly short drive from San Diego and noticed immediately upon our arrival that the resort now sports a forest-green exterior, perhaps attempting to blend with the multitude of surrounding trees, rather than the previous brown shade I remember. Lake Arrowhead has always been a dog-friendly town and the Three Dog Bakery in the village is still alive and flourishing, but on this trip, I noticed a plethora of resort guests walking their pooches, mostly small, well-behaved breeds like Chihuahuas, in the lobby. The same friendly, courteous service remained from the front desk clerk to the bellboys that greeted us as we walked through the large entrance doors.
Though some reviews on other websites stated that the rooms were dated, this was not our experience at all. The resort offers 162 newly renovated guest rooms and 11 suites, and our room was incredible. Our suite was replete with a private sauna, an almost complete granite-lined kitchen with a high capacity ice-maker, a spacious bedroom, a separate dining area, a two-sided fireplace, a large, comfortable living room, and a large deck with stunning views overlooking the lake and the popular pool. What more could anyone want in a vacation getaway? The room seemed to gently breathe relaxation into my family, as the cool lake breezes whisked in through the open patio doors.
Besides the room, the Restaurant, Bin 189, exuded relaxation, and especially when we ate outside on their extended porch, an incredible dining experience with the availability of exceptionally creative dining selections. Here, one is surrounded by trees and the ability to gaze at the sparkling lake while dining on amazingly well-prepared food. My family ate breakfast here each morning of our stay. I enjoyed the salmon stack- lox, with the salmon strips rolled into pretty flower designs, coupled with bagels, cream cheese, capers, onions, and tomatoes. My husband had the Breakfast burrito, which was very colorful with its red tortilla, stuffed with eggs, cheese, bacon, potatoes, and sour cream. My kids had a variety of delicious entrees, including smoked bacon and chicken apple sausage. Notably, my daughter ordered the Foster French Toast which boasted banana pecan compote with a rum and brown sugar glaze. On the last morning of our stay, the restaurant hosted a brunch, replete with waffles, bacon, sausage, yogurt, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. Each morning of our three-day visit, we had a different server, and each one was responsive and pleasant.
After a substantial breakfast, one of the best things to do in Lake Arrowhead is to wander into the Village, and from the resort, you are just a block away. The Lake Arrowhead Village is composed of a cluster of shops, mostly outlet shops , with a smattering of candy and coffee stores to meet your every need. I was able to get a latte from quaint place called the Tea Exchange, while my kids sought souvenirs and other treasures from the toy store, Mr. G's. Inside this store, they played a hit-the-mark game with a swinging rope and all of my kids were excited to win a piece of candy when they hit the target. My 14-year old daughter meanwhile moved on to browse Claire's, and my husband found some golf gear at Izod. Some of the other notable shops within this enclave include Coach, Van Heusen, Jockey, and the dog bakery, Three Dog Bakery, which serves treats for kids and dogs.
At the end of the line of shops is a mini amusement park that sits right at the edge of the lake called Lollipop Park. This amusement park offers a miniature golf course, a carousel, some bumper cars, go-carts, and a few other rides for the younger kids, such as a small train ride, fun mirrors, a swing ride, and a candy store. My kids (junior high and high school aged) played miniature golf and drove the go-carts for about two hours, and had a great time.
When we went back to the resort in the afternoon, my kids spent time in the spacious resort pool which is in the shade of the large trees and also overlooks the private lake. They also enjoyed the sauna while I got in a few laps.
Lake Arrowhead is a private lake, open to only to the few homeowners with lake rights, as well as guests of the resort. The resort owns its own small "beach" area, open only to resort guests, complete with sand so kids can build sand sculptures, fish, and play in the very gentle waves, or just relax in the many deck chairs available. The best part about the beach is its private ambiance.
At night, we joined in a resort activity called Campfire S'mores in which the resort provided the fixings for S'mores for a small fee (marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, and roasting tools) for the kids to roast over a roaring, beach-front bonfire. During my previous visit, the resort provided a “Mountain man," dressed in buckskins, to lead the discussion. This time however, we got to experience a younger version with our chipper new buddy, Evan. My kids really liked this young man who led their “Fireside Chat" which involved actual animal furs that represented indigenous animals of the area. The kids got to learn about local animals while roasting marshmallows over the flame. What a relaxing way for the kids, and in fact the whole family, to conclude the day. Other activities include sky watching and night swims.
The next day, my kids wanted to visit the resort's game room, which is located on the 4th floor. Most guests don't know that there even is a fourth floor and only one of the elevators leads to it. This game room sports a racing game, a super hero fighting game, and a candy machine. The resort activities list, mentioned earlier, highlights daily activities available at the resort. I did discover that due to financial cuts in the government sector, the Forest Service no longer has a presence at the resort. However, guided hikes around the lake are still offered and guests may book with Enjoy the Mountain for guided hiking, ATV, Jeep tours and mountain biking. Bin 189 on occasion features live music by the Lounge fireplace, and the Spa of the Pines also offers various classes and activities.
If you want to venture outside of the Lake Arrowhead area from the resort, we discovered many cute and interesting towns in the vicinity. The next biggest tourist destination is Big Bear, which is also great for boating and of course in the winter, Big Bear is one of Southern California's primary ski destinations with Snow Summit. We looked at some different towns this time, including Green Valley Lake, which is a smaller lake that hosts some camp grounds and is equidistant between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. We also discovered the nearby quaint town of Blue Jay that features a local cinema for visitors and locals and a variety of antique shops. Lake Gregory is a nearby lake located in Crestline with a variety of activities for kids including waterslides and floating play structures. There is enough to do within Lake Arrowhead, including taking a water-ski lesson or a paddle boat tour, or any of the other activities I mentioned that my family participated in there. But it is fun to explore the surrounding areas as well.
That night my kids settled into the room to watch an On-Demand movie. In summer, 2014, the hottest new movie was Divergence, and this was their pick. I watched the movie on and off, while intermittently wandering off to the balcony to absorb the night views of the serene lake.
This legendary resort was originally built in 1923 as the Arlington Lodge. At that time, it drew celebrities from Hollywood and several films were shot nearby including Just for Youwith Bing Crosby, Ethel Barrymore and young Natalie Wood in 1952. Also filmed near this resort wereI’ll Take Sweden with Bob Hope, Frankie Avalon, and Tuesday Weld in 1965 and A Summer Without Boys with Michael Moriarty, Barbara Bain, and Kay Lenz in 1973.
One can easily understand why celebrities would be drawn to this unique resort with its adjacent lake and forest-filled ambiance. I have not yet been here in the winter time, but I can imagine it as a mystical winter wonderland with the snow on the densely wooded landscape. In the fall, Lake Arrowhead hosts its popular Oktoberfest. Spring and summer are my favorite times to visit. All of the activities described here are wonderful, but my favorite thing to do in Lake Arrowhead is just to sit quietly, watch the boats on the lake, and write. This resort is the perfect place for creative activities—reading, drawing, scrapbooking, song-writing, poetry, taking photos--whatever your outlet may be. As the richer oxygenation reaches your lungs from the trees, and the lake whispers its secrets, you will find your own creative landscape unfolding during any season here. Whatever the focus or season of your visit, this is a beautiful and refreshing location that will leave you feeling replenished by the time you have to leave and sadly wind back down Highway 18 to once again confront real life.
Summer, 2009 Review:
It is reassuring to know that the folks at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa recognize a few realities about today’s economy. Then-manager, Steve Boswell, has noted that while in the past parents may have vacationed by themselves and then taken a second vacation with the kids, monetary constraints have caused many families to unite these two trips into one. This mountain resort has adjusted itself to pack in appropriate activities for all members of the family including the pets! Younger, older, and furrier travelers can all expect full rejuvenation at this quaint mountain resort which, in 2007, completed an extensive $18 million renovation of all guest and meeting rooms, public spaces, restaurant, bar and spa.
My family’s visit to Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa was on a beautiful, warm weekend in June, 2009. Driving up the mountain is quite an adventure because Lake Arrowhead is located at 5,100 feet above sea level surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. It is situated in a relaxing alpine setting that revolves around the lake and the shopping enclave of Lake Arrowhead Village. The village complex is comprised of cute specialty shops, outlet stores, various restaurants and a mini amusement park called Lollipop Park. Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa is conveniently located within a short walking distance from the center of this village and right on the lake, which makes this a true destination resort. After your car is parked in the resort’s lot, you can forget about driving for the next few days since everything is located within arm’s reach of you. In the winter months, this situation may differ slightly because skiers will want to hit the slopes at Big Bear, about 30 minutes away, or at Snow Valley, only 20 minutes away, and the resort offers Snow Valley ski packages in the winter. However, in the warm months, we found everything we needed right there. Although the resort’s sense of quiet ethereal beauty makes it feel galaxies away from the mania of southern California, it is actually only 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles and it can be reached within about two hours from most points of southern California.
Lake Arrowhead is a very kid-friendly and, to me, a surprisingly dog-friendly village. I noticed immediately that the resort caters to this pet reality as I was checking in and saw the jar of dog treats on the front desk counter amidst the lobby’s rustic, mountain décor. Many guests were walking their dogs through the lobby and by the pool. In the village, several stores had put bowls of water out front for the pooches, had provided “pooch hitches,” and the big doggie destination is the Three Dog Bakery near the shore of the village complex. If it is important to your family to bring along your dog, this resort and surrounding village will truly pamper your four-legged friend.
This special resort simultaneously offers both serenity and boisterous activity, as difficult as that might be for less talented resorts to master. The visitor seeking peaceful, quiet moments can amble off to the resort’s private “beach,” as the resort owns an exclusive slice of Lake Arrowhead available only for resort guests. Along this section of the lake is a private tree-lined path laced with the resort’s hammocks for true cloud and star gazers. The resort also offers a private boat and fishing opportunities, both guided by the resort captain.
Alternatively, for kids, teens, and adults seeking a more social scene, the pool and two jacuzzis are bustling with activity and it would be easy for kids to make some pals as they play. People sit around this pool all day and gaze at the lake below.
Hiking and stargazing are big at this resort in the warm months. For hiking, the resort provides maps of the trail surrounding the lake. Also, volunteers from the San Bernardino National Forest Association (SBNFA) will take guests out on the lake trail for an hour or an hour-and-a-half long walk. These walks are offered four times a week in the summer and are open to all ages. My family participated in this walk on the Sunday morning of our stay. It is a tame “hike” around the privately accessed lake where hikers can see some of the houses, docks, and different parts of the lake up close. The resort also offers a stargazing program led by a SBNFA astronomer year-round. My kids also participated in this outdoor 30-minute slide show presentation of various stars and constellations after having dinner in Bin 189 and the audience was mostly comprised of other young kids.
The resort restaurant is Bin 189 and, for quite an elegant restaurant with an extensive wine list, my kids enjoyed themselves immensely eating dinner on the balcony perched above the lake. They were especially entertained watching a wedding party in the adjacent lounge. When a wedding is not in progress, the resort offers entertainment in the lounge every Friday and Saturday nights and a monthly comedy night. A notable feature to me was the magician entertainment as you wait for your dinner table in the lobby. Magic Jay approached my family as we were waiting for our table. He did a card trick on me which I am still pondering as to how he figured out the card I mentally picked and had it turned upside down and colored differently in the same deck he was holding!
While I pondered this enigma, I noticed that the restaurant menu offered many excellent adult choices including appetizers such as foie gras and shellfish chowder and entrees such as grilled Idaho trout, pan roasted Atlantic salmon, Maine scallops, stuffed shrimp, sea bass with tomato risotto, bouillabaisse, duck breast, rib eye steak, grilled tofu steak. The kids menu included chicken fingers, grilled cheese, cheese pizza, burgers, macaroni and cheese, and tomato soup. The kids’ dessert menu contained chocolate chip cookies and milk, the creative entrée of “dirt and worms,” root beer floats, and vanilla ice cream. Both nights of our stay, the waiters and the maitre’d were very attentive to my kids, providing them with coloring pages and crayons and making sure they were comfortable.
I had the seabass the first night and the scallops the second night, and both meals were preceded with olive and cheese breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar accompanied with coffee made in a French press. The food quality, prepared thoughtfully by executive chef Jim Lindfors, rivals that of some of the larger city restaurants reviewed in this site such as in Los Angeles and San Diego. Kyle Davies, a regular waiter at the restaurant, said that breakfast is their most popular meal for kids in the restaurant and this meal is usually comprised of 30% kids.
The room service was prompt and the kitchen did get the details right for my picky eaters (i.e. fruit placed on the side of the waffles, etc.). The breakfast menu suits both kids and adults alike with homemade cinnamon sugar donuts, grizzly granola, tropical fruit salad, toasted bagel and smoked salmon, heuvos rancheros, and griddle classics: buttemilk pancakes, French toast, Belgian waffles. There were also omelette selections such as ham and cheese, Spanish, and veggie delight varieties.
If you choose to eat in, the room has entertainment options including Nintendo, in-room movies, and board games from the front desk. My kids played Chutes and Ladders, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit on the large patio that overlooked the pool and the lake further beyond.
A unique and memorable touch the resort offers that I have not seen anywhere else is their nightly beach-front campfire lead by a local known as the Mountain Man. On the second night of my stay, my family sojourned down to the private beach for the campfire lead by the Mountain Man and his daughter, dressed in leathers. He entertains guests with tales of his trapping adventures and brings along some animal skins for the kids to feel. The resort provides marshmallows for the kids to toast on the bonfire as the Mountain Man talks about the history of the mountains and Native Americans. How fun for the kids to retain this memory!
Besides being very pet-friendly, the town of Lake Arrowhead also offers hours of entertainment for kids. Lollipop Park, mentioned earlier, offers a horse carousel, swing ride, swinging pirate ship, choo-choo train, go carts, a fun house with optical illusion mirrors and a mini golf course. My kids had fun at this park as well as feeding the ducks in the lake. Duck feed is available from many of the local shops for 50 cents a bag and once the kids begin tossing them some feed into the lake, the ducks and the kids are all happy. Finally, the Arrowhead Queen is a Louisiana-style paddle wheel boat located dockside on the village. The captain takes passengers around the lake while narrating the history of Lake Arrowhead and pointing out the houses where celebrities have lived and movies that have been filmed there.
There is as much or as little activity as one wants at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, but either way, this is a very special retreat that enjoys four distinct seasons and where you will want to return with your family again and again.