Lazy Bear Weekend isn’t just one of the world’s most popular bear events. It also has a purpose – raising over $2 million for charities!
The Lazy Bear story and fund
Every summer in the US, Lazy Bear puts on one of the largest, most successful and most inclusive bear gatherings in the world.
Lazy Bear began back in the 90s by Harry Lit. Even though he’s no longer at the reins of the organisation (these days it’s steered by Fred Bothe, Trey Sheldon, Steve Adams, John Jacob and David Barker), Harry and his partner Allen are still actively involved. Harry still shows up to help every day, giving advice and guidance on how to build on the legacy he founded.
Lazy Bear Fund has always been a grass-roots, nonprofit organization. All the profits that are raised from the weekend go directly to causes such as clinic, schools and food banks. They help a wide variety of people in the community – from help kids and seniors, people living with HIV and people struggling with addiction.
Lazy Bear Weekend is run by a small army of volunteers. Many of the people who you might encounter doring the weekend (such as those serving you a beverage or cleaning up after a party) are affiliated with the organisations that Lazy Bear donates to. This includes Organisations like West County Health Centers, The Positive Resource Center and Food for Thought, a local food bank.
The Lazy Bear schedule
Every year, Lazy Bear releases a brand new schedule of events including pool parties, dance parties, bonfires, live entertainment and amazing DJs. So far, the only details announced about the next Lazy Bear Weekend (in 2018) are the dates: 1-6 August.
Aside from the Lazy Bear activities, there’s so much to do and explore in the region as well. You can stay in local lodges, campgrounds and cabins, or avail yourself of any number of nearby towns and cities. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the gourmet restaurants, local diners, cookouts and unique pop-ups. Oh, and if you like wine, you’re covered too. Lazy Bear is located right in the heart of the world famous wine growing Sonoma region.
All the latest details will be made available on the Lazy Bear Weekend website and Facebook page closer to the date. (You can find links for both of these sites at the end of the article).
Getting to Lazy Bear
Lazy Bear Weekend takes place in Guerneville, California. I’d actually never heard of Guerneville before. It’s only about a 90 minute drive north of San Francisco. With a modest population of 3,500 residents, it holds the distinction for being the largest town along the Russian River.
Within the three block square downtown, you’ll find restaurants, shops, and taverns. A block or two off the main road, you’ll find a handful or resorts that cater specifically to gay clientele.
To get to Guerneville, it’s recommended to go by car. While you a can use public transportation, it’s not easy or convenient.
Once you get to Guerneville, you don’t necessarily need a car. But having one will help you explore the stunningly beautiful countryside. Rent a bicycle in town (available seasonally), but be aware that much of the terrain is very hilly and the roads are narrow.
There are no direct international flights into Guerneville, so your best option would be to fly into San Francisco. You can then make your way from there.
Directions from San Francisco:
- Take 101 North for approximately 72 miles.
- Take exit 494 (River Road) and turn left.
- Drive for 16 miles and you’ll reach Guerneville.
Where to stay for Lazy Bear Weekend
There are a number of accommodation options for Lazy Bear Weekend visitors. You can stay at one of the the nearby resorts. There are also a number of houses, apartments or rooms that are available for short-term rental.
One thing to keep in mind that in peak summer, the area is incredibly popular. Many places are booked out well in advance. Some also have requirements when it comes to minimum stays. The best advice would be to prepare early and book ahead.
To make things easier, the Lazy Bear organisers have created an online forum, connecting people looking for a place to stay with those who have accomodation on offer. (The forum is on the website. The link is the end of the article).
Lazy Bear Checklist (for first timers)
Going to any event for the first time can seem a bit daunting. Thankfully, the Lazy Bear Weekend organisers have got you covered. Here’s a checklist of some of the main things to look out for, and be prepared for, as you make your way to your first Lazy Bear Weekend.
Hot days/cool nights
The daytime temperature in Guerneville can range from 85°–95°F (29°–35°C). That’s why there are so many pool parties! So to be prepared for the long, hot summer days, make sure you bring with you a supply of sunscreen, sandals, hats, lightweight t-shirts, bug spray – and sexy swimwear of course!
You might also like to consider bringing a water float/tube/lounge/unicorn for relaxing on the Russian River (and for taking awesomely Instagrammable photos:-)
But while the days are warm, the nights are surprisingly cool. The night time temperature in Guerneville can range from 50°–60°F (10°–15°C). That’s why it’s a good idea to warm up at the bonfire, as well as cozy up to your new friends and old acquaintances at the River Theater or local bars.
To be comfortable (and not too cold) at night, be sure to bring along some jeans, sweatshirts, and, yes, maybe a knit cap.
Even though there’s so much to see and do (and new friends to make) at Lazy Bear, you might want to pace yourself. After all, it is called Lazy Bear!
Some simple, tried and tested advice: Slow down, enjoy yourself, take a nap or sleep in, plan your itinerary and don’t burn out too soon.
You’re coming to the woods
If you’re an urbanite used to modern conveniences, such as fast internet access, you might want to sit down for this. Guerneville does not have great cell phone reception/connectivity. And the town seems to want to keep it that way.
I personally think is a really good thing. Look at it as a self-imposed digital detox. Getting off social media and apps can be a god thing for most of us who spend way too much time connected to our devices.
You’re in a beautiful part of the world. Enjoy it. There are hundreds of guys for you to meet. Be present and enjoy the moment. You can take a photo and upload it to Facebook when you get back. That’s what Throwback Thursday is for, right? :-)
That’s not to say there isn’t any online connectivity at all. There is. For those who arrive earlier in the week, you’ll be pleased with speeds. Later in the week, as more Lazy Bears arrive, the more difficulty you may have.
Is the river safe?
The Russian River is clean and safe for swimming. The water is tested frequently to ensure its integrity. Summer visitors to the area also enjoy kayaking, canoeing or just floating down the river on an inflatable raft. Just be careful and exercise all the usual precautions you normally would anyway.
It’s cash only
If you’ve only just recovered from the shock of slow internet speeds, you may still need to sit down for this.
Because of the slow connectivity, the Lazy Bear bars (at the West Sonoma Inn Pool Parties and Bonfires, Johnson’s Beach and River Theater) are CASH ONLY. The organiser realise this is an inconvenience and would love to take your credit cards, but the service would take too long.
There are however, four 24-hour ATMs in Guerneville:
- Wells Fargo at Safeway
- Bank of America on River Road
- West America Bank on River Road
- Community First Credit Union on Armstrong Woods Road
There’s also an ATM inside the R3 Hotel and possibly inside the local liquor stores and other businesses. So you do have options. Just be sure to manage your finances accordingly.
So, this tip piggy-backs on the advice to relax. Unplug if you can and bring some cash with you to the pool parties, dances and bonfires. Hopefully knowing this in advance will make your experience in the woods lots more fun.
Share the space
This is a broad message to all attendees, with a nudge toward those who head out early and put their towels down on lounge chairs and then disappear for hours (you know who you are!)
Everyone comes to Lazy Bear to have fun, so when the situations arises, consider being willing to slide on over and let someone share your space with you. Yes, that might mean you may have to put your towel down on the pavement/deck – and there’s plenty of space to do that.
There are multiple daily options for pool parties from Lazy to Mild to Wild. There’s also a daytime location where you’ll find your comfort zone. Whether it’s in the thick of the action on 4th Street or Brookside Lane or up the hill or down at the river.
It’s a weekend of camaraderie and fun. And be sure to extend a watm hello to the solo traveler – we’ve all been there before. Invite someone you’ve just met to share your dinner table, or more.
A word of advice on sharing too much (publicly). Some have been known to sneak off into the woods for some extracurricular fun. Please note: there’s Poison Oak in the woods. Know what it looks like and take precautions. At night, just don’t risk it; no one wants to wake up with an itchy rash?
Here are a few identifiable aspects of poison oak. Look for the 3 leaves. This time of year, the leaves may be green or reddish green or red. Don’t touch it!
Poison oak is transmissible through the oils from the plant. You can’t get it from touching someone with it, you actually have to touch the plant/oil itself.
If you do think you might have a poison oak rash, some quick remedies will be available in the Safeway Pharmacy or you may plan on taking some of the following with you: cold compresses, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream or tea tree oil.
And, if any illness befalls you at Lazy Bear, please consult your physician or a health care provider at the Russian River Health Center when they’re open.
Prepare for FUN
Exhale. Relax. Be comfortable in your own skin. Say hello to strangers. Take photos. Tag #LazyBearWeekend and #LBW on photos you upload to social media to show the world the great time and revelry that comes with the experience of being at a Lazy Bear Weekend.
Here’s some useful, general advice for all vacationers (all the time) – Try not to let the small hiccups bother you. It’s easy to set high expectations for something, especially if you’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, or spent time and money to get there.
It’s natural that you want to have a good time. So does everyone else who’s attending. But it’s so good to whatever happens – the good and the bad. It might be in one of those so-called ‘bad’ situation that you might a great new friend. It’s impossible to understand that mysterious ways that life works.
Know in advance that there may be lines/waits for entry to restaurants, events and bars. Rest assured that the organisers and a dedicated army of volunteers are doing their best to ensure that the events under their control will run smoothly.
Lazy Bear Weekend Photos
OK, so you’re hopefully getting more of an idea about Lazy Bear by now. But as they say, a picture says a thousand words. Here are just a few images from Lazy Bear Weekends gone by to give you a small idea of what you can expect.