When my family walked toward the entrance of SkyPark at Santa’s Village, past the giant candy cane and over to faux alpine houses to sign our activity and COVID-19 waivers, we weren’t sure what to expect. The parking lot for the outdoor adventure park was slowly filling up with riders and mountain bikes with enough suspension and fat tires to get any outdoor enthusiast's heart rate up.
The cool breeze through the surrounding pine trees was a welcome respite from the searing heat we had been enduring in mid-August in the valley below.
Anticipation was high, after all. For our sons, 7 and 10, the options surpassed those of Disneyland or Legoland: archery, BB guns, ax throwing, rollerskating, rock climbing and fly fishing! We hadn’t even stepped into the park, and I was already relieved we opted to camp across the highway at the newly opened SkyPark Camp + RV Resort, perched on the edge of the mountain, to give ourselves two days of fun. It was clear we were going to need the time.
While the Christmasy kitsch was just enough to hint at the retro alpine village-themed amusement park that generations of Californians loved before, it wasn’t off-putting. The park opened in 1955, six weeks before Disneyland made it's debut, according to the website. Something got us in a wintry mood — maybe it was the red "Letters to Santa" mailbox or Santa’s house — that lured us into Kris Kringle’s Coffee Shop for some warm beverages as we worked out our plan for the day.
First priority was pedal cars and archery for my youngest, fly fishing and BB guns for my oldest. My husband and I wanted to try out the 10 miles of mountain bike trails behind the park. So we did what I imagine many families do: tag team to ensure each of us had a chance to pursue our varied activities. Although, to be clear, I was game for it all.
Not only did we have gobs of fun hitting what seemed like every inch of the 230-acre park, we learned a thing or two that, for a parent, was worth every bit of the $49 admission price. In short, traditional roller skates are preferred over inline (and ice skating sessions have been requested); mountain bike trails are a bit too scary for my youngest; and fly fishing, which provided a full three hours of joy, is second in line after bait fishing. Despite the second-place preference, my son was ecstatic to get some lessons.
And for the adults? Mountain biking through forest trails was a highlight, but another pastime provided thrills too. It turns out that ax throwing is meditative and addictive, and if the option to join a team arose, I’d be ready with my hatchet. Quite honestly, unless you are a full-grown adult Disney fanatic, I don’t know of any other place that offers so many options for every age — and good food to boot.
After we had worn ourselves as thin as Santa’s elves after Christmas Day, we went across the street to our campsite, which had just opened a few weeks before. Not knowing what the tent site situation was, we opted for an RV spot (site 40) that ensured a spectacular view looking out to San Bernardino and across the Los Angeles basin. When the sun started to set, there wasn’t another place I’d rather be than at the edge of our site, looking west toward the setting sun, just as the city lights started to twinkle below.
While wood campfires are not allowed at the campground, there are three community fire pits, where we melted marshmallows. (These might be closed because of fire risk in the area.) As a family used to primitive camping deep in the woods, we were happy to find SkyPark a pristine destination with showers, laundry facilities and WiFi. If you opt for a tent site, be aware they are all walk-in, and bring your own folding tables and shade, as both are sparse.
The beauty of this setup is that you can enjoy the park, or any other delights of the Lake Arrowhead area, and continue the adventure into the evening, complete with a sunset, s’mores and a sky full of stars. We’llcertainly be back when ice skating and snow are additional attractions. Though you might not find us then in a tent.
If you go
SkyPark is open daily but reservations for admission ($45 for adults, $35 for children 4 to 12) are required. Some attractions, including the bouldering room, puppet shows and ziplining, are currently closed because of COVID-19 restrictions. Social distancing protocols are enforced within the park, and masks are required for all visitors except when exercising. Frequently touched items, such as bows and arrows, are disinfected between each use.
Campsite prices range from $25 to $35 for tent sites, and $63 to $110 for RV sites (not all RV sites are good for tent campers). You can choose a site and amenities at skyparkcamprv.com
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.