While Big Bear Lake is mostly known for skiing and other fun winter activities, it is beautiful and special all year around. Over the last few years Nick and I have performed, hiked and relaxed in this quaint mountain town (pop. 5,200) several times and witnessed its charm through all the seasons. This time, we were here in the very end of August to perform at The Cave - a cool concert venue with national acts coming through on a regular basis. We shared the stage with Super Diamond, a fab Neil Diamond cover band.
Despite the 106F degree heat (OMG, the heat!!!), the drive wasn't all bad. Thanks to Bill Nye's new audiobook (Everything All At Once), the three hours flew by.
I always look forward to the last 30 minutes of the drive up to Big Bear because it is simply spectacular: the winding mountain roads, the incredible rock formations, the trees and the sky! As we ascended, the temps dropped from 106 to 80. Hallelujah!
Situated at an elevation of 6,700 feet, Big Bear Lake is a beautiful and rustic mountain resort town. The mountain air is fresh (it smells so good!) and the natural scenery (and the village itself) is really pretty. Established in the mid 1800s during the Gold Rush, this town has a lot of history (make sure to look it up on Wiki and on the official Big Bear Lake website). You can shop, hike, rent a boat, walk by the lake, or just chill at your cabin and do... nothing! :)
Nick & I stayed at a very cool boutique mountain lodge called Noon Lodge at Mallard Bay (highly recommend!) It is located on a quiet residential street near the lake, only a mile away from the Village which houses the main part of town with shops and cafes.
We loved it. As advertised, it is a mixture of old and modern. Built in the1950s, it's been recently purchased by a nice couple and spruced up.
Our cabin (#16) was a studio, and according to the photos I saw on NoonLodge.com, it is one of the smaller cabins (which was fine). The overall vibe felt like a wonderful trip in time as I pictured people visiting Big Bear in the 1950s, staying in these cute cabins on a weekend getaway. A true Americana experience.
What I loved about this hotel: This is a very unique, beautiful lodge with private cabins that include kitchens. The decor is charming and rustic. There is a lovely vibe about the whole place, its inviting grounds, great location, very friendly staff (extra thanks goes out to Lex for making us feel welcome), easy parking and extremely easy check in/check out (they even give you a special Noon Lodge compilation CD as a gift!) There is a swimming pool and bocce ball but we didn't really have time for any of it (boo!!) as we were performing.
The only downside was that our kitchenette smelled a bit of natural gas. Nick said it reminded him of his great grandma's kitchen, haha (and we ended up having a nice conversation about his great grandma). Also, as in most cabins & hotels in Big Bear, there was no AC (not really needed most of the year), but opening windows at night let the fresh cool mountain air come in, and it was just perfect.
We arrived, checked in, changed and went to The Cave for our soundcheck.
After some technical difficulties (darn that feedback - watch your language, Marina!), all was finally sorted out (thanks to Steve, our sound guy). Nick and I left our stuff in the green room (which is a nice trailer with AC!!), said hi to the guys from Super Diamond and went to walk around the village and get dinner. It was a Saturday night and every restaurant either had a wait or was too loud. As a singer, I have to be careful with my voice so I usually avoid loud places like the freakin' plague. I just can't afford to hurt my voice trying to talk over the noise. Yes, I can use gestures and not talk at all, but it is really weird to be silent during the whole dinner (been there done that).
We went to a restaurant that appeared the least crowded/noisy: Paoli's, right across from The Cave. I didn't absolutely love the food (I had half-portion Ceasar salad with salmon and Nick had fettuccine Alfredo. Don't get me wrong, our food was not bad, just kind of average (and a bit pricey for what you get) but the patio was very nice and we had a good time. It was 75F and a very agreeable (as Brits would say) summer evening.
After dinner, we walked around the village (flowers everywhere!) for half an hour (had to walk off that average dinner, haha).
And then it was time to get ready for the show.
I did my makeup in the car (best light there, and it is also where I gather my thoughts before the show) and changed into my stage clothes in the green room. The Super Diamond guys wished me good luck, and Nick and I performed an hour set. It was soooo much fun! The crowd was great, they sang and clapped along when I asked them to, and were very attentive listeners. Several people I knew drove from far away to see me perform, which was really nice. I couldn't ask for more, really! It had been a few months since I performed in public (aside from performing at Dinner And Concert At My House and online concerts throughout the summer), and it felt sooooo good to be back!!
[Thanks to Bill & Vicki Heppe for the photo!]
After the show, Nick was taking the gear offstage and I immediately went to sell merch, as always, and to say hi to the people. Per usual, there was no time to change out of my kind of sweaty stage clothes (those stage lights are merciless!) or freshen up, but.. you gotta do what you gotta do! :) My merch table was right by the bathrooms, so I joked onstage that I'd be hanging out by the bathrooms like a pervert, if anyone wanted to say hi or buy a CD :)
Funny moment was when I got my check from the venue (yay for getting paid!), they accidentally gave me Super Diamond's check. I didn't even notice until AFTER I had signed the back of it (Nick was going to deposit the check via app on his phone). Oops :)
We watched Super Diamond, sang along to our favorite Neil Diamond songs and had a great time hanging out with the guys in the green room afterwards.
We got to our lodge after midnight. It was so quiet and nice. We opened all of the windows and slept well with fresh mountain air. I forgot to put my earplugs in which resulted in us having to wake up to loud voices from "normal" (non-performing, haha) people who got up way too early on a Sunday morning. We didn't get to sleep in as we were hoping but it was a beautiful day outside. We got up, showered, checked out and went to get breakfast. I researched in advance and found a place we hadn't yet tried and it was the best breakfast I have ever had in Big Bear! It's called Blanca's Restaurant. Highly recommend! I had poached eggs with biscuits, gravy and potatoes, yum! They bake all of their own bread/buns/pies, too!
After this huge mountain breakfast we spent an hour walking around the Village. It was the most perfect day, weather-wise! We also ran into a friend (a wonderful musician, Mike Cross). We wanted to get home early so we left around 1:30pm.
That's our little working weekend in Big Bear. Have you been here? What did you do? What are your favorite places? If you end up staying at Noon Lodge, eating at Blanca's or checking out music at The Cave, I'd love to hear from you!
P.S. A little tip: the high-altitude mountain air is very dry. Remember to hydrate and use chapstick. :)