After a quick two-hour drive east from our home in Los Angeles, my family and I found ourselves in the serenity of the mountains at Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa. We could feel our shoulders drop as the car climbed 5,000 feet above sea level to the tiny mountain town, which sits within the San Bernardino National Forest. The 173-room property, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is set on pristine and private Lake Arrowhead, surrounded by Douglas fir, cedar and pine trees.
The onsite pool, a small private hotel beach at the foot of the lake and a 50-minute private boat tour on the water made for great activities and excursions, but still left plenty of downtime for card games, naps, spotting woodpeckers and blue jays in the trees, and even tie-dying T-shirts. After a busy few months and with the school year drawing to a close, this meaningful family time was exactly what I was craving, and the mountain and lake setting couldn’t have been more conducive to that.
Named for a nearby rock formation resembling an arrowhead, Lake Arrowhead is 12 miles around and 176 feet deep, home to lots of trout and carp. It was originally dammed to supply water to local orange growers, but that idea went awry and a lodge was built in its place. That original hotel, which opened in 1923, burned to the ground in a fire in 1938 but was quickly rebuilt. Memorabilia and artifacts from those early days are displayed in the lobby, including photographs from some of 330 films that were shot on-property.
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In 2006, the hotel began an $18 million refresh, so the lobby and rooms feel contemporary but still retain some of that rustic mountain aesthetic. (Our kids couldn’t get over the four-poster bed made out of tree limbs in our suite.) At 791 square feet and with two balconies, our lake-facing Cedar Ridge suite was gargantuan, with a deep soaking tub in the bathroom that easily could have served as a swimming pool for our kids. Half of the property’s rooms and suites face the water, while the other half look over parking areas, so it does make a difference to request or upgrade to a lake view.
The suite configuration works well for families with younger children, especially since the living areas feature pullout sleeper sofas. Our children both loved sitting on the balcony while they had a snack and counted the birds flitting by.
The hotel’s dinner-only restaurant, Bin 189, was recently revamped and offers a wide menu ranging from charcuterie and mango-papaya salad to burgers and mushroom risotto. We couldn’t resist ordering a batch of truffle fries, which were, of course, a hit with the kiddos. This is also where the plentiful breakfast spread — pastries, pancakes, an egg station, fruit and more — is served.
While the property is not set up to be a full resort complete with kids club, there are still plenty of activities for both adults and children. We really loved the idea that we had come up there to slow down and just be, rather than pack our days chock-full. We hit the pool area one afternoon and the small beach by the lake another, and did some walking about with our older daughter while our son napped. It was sweet to see her run back and exclaim, “We saw this tree called Douglas fir,” or that the mallards with the green heads on the lake were the boy ducks.
Our private 50-minute boat ride around the lake was definitely a highlight. The hotel’s boat is only a few months old and our cruise along the water was very relaxing as well as informative, with our captain sharing some history on the lake and the community’s origins.
There are also weekend afternoon activities for kids, such as potting plants, bingo and s’mores, for a small additional cost. Our crafty 5-year-old was so excited to make her own tie-dye shirt and wore it proudly later that week. And for adults, the onsite spa offers fantastic treatments such as a moisturizing honey body wrap and massages incorporating birchwood sticks and basalt stones. There are also daily yoga and fitness classes.
Heaps Peak Arboretum is a 10-minute drive from the hotel and an ideal nature walk for families, since it’s about a 1-mile loop around the entire thing. Our son was in our jogging stroller for part of it and we had no trouble maneuvering him. We stopped in on our way back home and really enjoyed starting our morning amid pines and sequoias, listening to birds and watching the occasional lizard scurry off.
Driving back home, past cliffs covered in yellow wildflowers, we felt we really had had a restorative weekend. Best of all, we didn’t have to go very far to achieve it.
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Editor’s Note: Tanvi received a media package in order to review Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa for Ciao Bambino. As always, all opinions are our own. Photos by Tanvi Chheda.
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