July 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Our First Family Vacation

Main lobby of Lake Arrowhead Resort & SpaOur little wonder bundle just turned two, and my spouse and I realized we had not had a vacation � not counting holidays at the in-laws � since before our son was born. Desperate for a getaway, but nervous it could all be for naught with a fussy toddler, we planned an overnight to get our feet wet as family vacationers, at nearby Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa.

Only 90 miles from our home in Los Angeles, we figured the car ride would be manageable if we scheduled it around naptime, so we headed out after breakfast. Our little one snoozed soundly, waking just in time to be wowed by the view of giant pines along the gently winding roads leading up the mountain. We rolled down the windows to breathe in the fresh mile-high air. A great beginning.

Our reservation agent told us that we would find the Our little city boy greetsresort very family friendly, and indeed the entire staff was welcoming and accommodating. The soft lighting, fireplace, wood plank floors and rustic-yet-luxurious leather library chair clusters of the newly renovated lobby � part of the hotel�s recent $20 million transformation � added to the warm, inviting surroundings.

Our room was spacious, featuring a desk and sitting area, panel screen TV, and a sumptuous king bed with a billowing designer comforter and fluffy down pillows, all in keeping with the upscale mountain lodge decor. The large bathroom was tastefully tiled in earth tones with a glass-enclosed walk-in shower. Our room offered a wondrous view of the lake, and to our toddler�s giddy delight, a squirrel sat perched on a stump just outside our window to greet us.

As we unpacked and relaxed after our One of the three bears sits in chiar at Wildhaven Ranchdrive, room service provided us with a bit of sustenance in the form of a delectable cheese and fruit plate and a giant cookie and milk for our little cookie monster. A perfect pick-me-up before heading out to explore the grounds.

The pleasant and knowledgeable head concierge, Jill Willinger, gave us directions to the adjoining Lake Arrowhead Village (http://lakearrowheadvillage.com) and the children�s Lollipop Park. Though my other half is generally shopping-intolerant, I was able to sneak in an hour�s outing into several of the boutiques and factory outlet stores at the village, including Coach, Bass and Pendleton Woolen Mills, where I snatched up some cute hoodies and cashmere-blend sweaters at bargain prices.

We also picked up some yummy souvenir treats at Three Dog Bakery for our golden retriever. Though we left our pooch with Grandma for this trip, I should note that the resort made it clear they not only welcomed four-legged family members , they treat them like royalty, with gourmet pet treats, doggie room service menus, spa treatments and even canine cruises on the lake.

Lollipop Park is where the real fun began for our son, who had almost the entire park to himself. As our visit was midweek, there were no lines for the carousel, choo-choo train, pirate ship swing or other amusement rides. In fact, the friendly teen attendants opened up rides just for him, and they let the rides go a few extra rounds since no one was waiting. Around the village he also enjoyed the wildlife sculptures, though we cringed when our city boy exclaimed �Chuck e Cheese� when he spotted the raccoon wood carving.

For us, the relative quite of the resort and village was both good and bad, as we enjoyed having the place to ourselves, but then again it would have added more vibe and excitement if there were more people around.

Dining at the hotel�s restaurant, BIN189 �named for its 4,400-bottle cellar and California 189 address, was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, with the sophistication and touches of a fine dining establishment along with excellent, personable service. We came equipped for dining with a two-year old with a purse full of toys, and our server, a mom, was quick to bring out juice in a sippy cup. For our own libations, we choose the organic Heron pinot noir from Limoux, France from the expansive and impressive wine list.

We started our meal with crispy calamari with a sweet chili dipping sauce and lime cilantro that we swore was the best seafood sauce we had ever tasted. Our budding epicurean, who loves spice more than any toddler I know, concurred. For our entrees, we ordered Maine diver scallops, served with pancetta, green grape reduction, Brussels sprouts, king trumpet mushrooms and cauliflower polenta, and the center cut filet mignon, prepared with a Roquefort reduction sauce, blue lake beans and potato-leek gratin. Both dishes were delicious, though the scallops were especially luscious.

The kids menu offered tasty kids staples such as Mac n� Cheese with rigatoni noodles. We went with the junior size cheese pizza, which was a hit. Additionally, Executive Chef Jim Lindfors, whose own son has special dietary restrictions, offers a personalized menu for children with food allergies when notified in advance — a real treat to kids and parents who usually have few options when dining out.

Breakfast at BIN189 was equally a pleasure. Our son found a new favorite in the steel cut oatmeal, served with brown sugar and dried cranberries, and we all enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth homemade cinnamon sugar donuts. My spouse and I enjoyed the BIN189 omelet with bacon, avocado, tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles and the traditional eggs Benedict served with sausage patties and hash browns. A very satisfying breakfast for all, especially overlooking the lake, the resort�s private beach and the San Bernardino National Forest from the restaurant�s patio balcony.

A cruise on the lake arranged by the hotel provided us with a panorama of stunning views as well as some local history and flavor. Our captain, John, who had come of age in the town, extolled the wild 70s on the lake when he and other unsupervised juveniles made mischief with their Sea-Doos and leapt from the 195-foot tower in the middle of the lake. He told tales of the lavish dock houses with plasma TVs and air conditioning where henpecked husbands retreat from their wives and pointed out lavish B-list celebrity homes (remember Pam Dawber and Marc Harmon?).

Speaking of Hollywood, I learned that one of my fave classics, Heidi, had been filmed there, and I kept wondering where was it was that Heidi uttered the famous line, �You smell like cheese,� to her goat milking friend.
Speaking of animals, one of the highlights of our trip was a short hop to Wildhaven Ranch, a nature sanctuary just 10 minutes away from the resort. The non-profit wildlife park hosts a variety of orphaned, injured and rehabilitated animals, from an assortment of birds of prey to Wiley the coyote, Lexus the bobcat and Snickers, Little Bear and Misha Tikvah, three rescued bears housed in a one-of-a-kind enclosure that enables guests to sit just a few feet away to watch them nuzzle and play with their keeper. The incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated staff were proud to show off the animals, happy to answer questions and eager to promote their urgent need for donations to care for all the creatures brought to them. Learn more at www.wildhaven.org.
Back from the ranch, we intended to visit the spa and fitness studio, which we were assured was world class, but with all the activities we crammed into our two-day visit there wasn�t time. We didn�t stress over it, because we are sure we will go back again.

K. Pearson Brown is a writer and a mom living in Los Angeles. She is currently finishing her first novel.

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