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How to Enjoy a Trip to Mammoth Lakes (With Kids!)

My family travels to Mammoth Mountain many times a year, taking a grateful sigh of relief when we see the jagged outline of the Minarets, looming behind Mammoth Mountain -- our welcoming committee.
03/14/2016 02:34pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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The snow reminds me that Mother Nature has not completely forgotten to give us water.

The fresh air reminds me to breathe.

The cozy cabin reminds me to bond.

And the fireplace reminds me to drink something hot and sweet (with Baileys in it?).

My family travels to Mammoth Mountain many times a year, taking a grateful sigh of relief when we see the jagged outline of the Minarets, looming behind Mammoth Mountain -- our welcoming committee.

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Ten minutes later, we turn off the highway and cruise into the chic, yet cozy, Mammoth Lakes village.

The town is intentionally kept quaint, but has an obvious layer of modern influences and a thriving youth culture.

Mammoth is a prime multigenerational destination -- if you know how to navigate it:

Before You Leave Home:

Invest in good snow clothes. Nothing will ruin a trip to the snow quicker than frozen fingers, toes, and booties. Purchase waterproof pants, jackets, gloves, and shoes for yourself and your children. Then, bring multiple layers so you can dress up or down depending on the weather.

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Pack your favorite board (and car!) games and movies. Many cabins come stocked with a respectable supply of games and movies so check with your host beforehand to see how child-friendly their supply is -- then supplement with your own goodies.

Schedule in fun pit stops. Driving long distances with children can be... challenging. To break up the trip, and give your children space to shake their sillies out, select a few fun stops along the way (depending on how far you need to travel) so you can live by the cliché, "It's not the destination but the journey."

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Where to Eat:

Schat's Bakery: My family has the tradition of stopping at Schat's Bakery the morning we leave Mammoth. We soothe the sting of saying goodbye with sugar and butter. This famous bakery has a gorgeous (made fresh daily) offering of pastries, bread, breakfast (and afternoon!) sandwiches, high quality coffee treats, and candies.

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Good Life Café: One of our favorite breakfast stops, this family-friendly restaurant provides quick, delicious, and fairly-healthy fare. (Try the Gobbler Benedict!)

Zpizza: Who doesn't like pizza? And at the end of a long day of snow-slogging a delivered pizza will sound divine. Do it. The eclectic menu will allow you to please the taste buds of all involved.

Nevados: Did you bring along a babysitter, teen child, or Grandparent? Yes? Great. Treat yourself to a date night at Mammoth's premiere "fancy restaurant" that serves innovative American cuisine, yummy wine, and a great view. And yes -- you pay for it, but it's worth it.

What to Do In the Snow:

Skiing: (And sure, you can also snowboard.) Mammoth is a great mountain for families. If your kids are newbies, start at the Main Lodge and invest in lessons. Mammoth has steep peak-season rates- if possible, avoid visiting during "peak dates" (check the website for specific dates) to circumvent the crowds and high charges.

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Cross Country Skiing: This is the sport my adventurous pregnant family members prefer. We've had great experiences at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center. They provide equipment rentals, access to extensive trails, and guides (if needed.) I recommend a guide- especially if you're pregnant.

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Snow Mobile Adventures: Blasting across the snow is fun. Mammoth Mountain offers snowmobile rentals and guided tours at reasonable rates. The minimum age for riders is 5 and all drivers must have a driver's license.

Electric Tubing: If you're still buzzing with adrenaline at 5:30pm head over to Whooly's Tube Park. You can sled down lighted groomed slopes on a tube to the sound of decent DJ jams. AND they give you glow in the dark party favors, and hot cocoa- nuff said.

Side-of-the-Road Sledding: If you prefer "off roading it" while sledding, purchase a sled at one of the many snow sport shops and find a gentle slope on the side of the road where you can safely sled. Check out the area on foot first to ensure it is secure (and not too steep)- and don't travel too deep into the woods. Do a test run before you put your children on the sled.

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Sick of the Snow? Here are a few options:

Gondola Rides: Catch a (pretty epic) gondola at the Main Lodge, to the top of the mountain where you'll find the Eleven53 Interpretative Center where you and the kiddos can engage in interactive exhibits. And the photo opportunities at the top of the mountain are primo.

Wild Willy's Hot Springs: These natural hot springs are in close proximity to Mammoth Village and offer a spectacular view. If you're going with kids, I'd recommend going earlier than later to avoid the rowdier crowds. Click here for directions.

Caution: The high altitude can make some feel a little "off." To stave off altitude sickness make sure you and your family members each drink an 8 ounce glass of water per hour, and honor your need for sleep if you're drowsy.