Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Emil Backup
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Are you planning to visit the Inland Empire? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the Inland Empire. These activities and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Ahh the Inland Empire—Southern California’s hidden gem that’s brimming with untapped potential for adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. Nestled between the bustling cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, this region offers a refreshing escape from the urban jungle. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone who simply loves to unwind, things to do in the Inland Empire ensure there’s something for everyone.

From the rugged beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains to the lush vineyards of Temecula Valley, the Inland Empire is a diverse landscape waiting to be explored. Imagine ziplining through canyons, sipping on world-class wines, or diving into the rich history of California’s citrus industry—all in one weekend! And let’s not forget the plethora of shopping destinations, art galleries, and music festivals that add a dash of urban flair to this predominantly rural region.

So, if you’re pondering where to go for your next weekend getaway or extended vacation, look no further. The Inland Empire beckons with its unique blend of natural beauty, historical landmarks, and modern amenities. Get ready to discover the best attractions in this captivating corner of California. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Inland Empire.

The best things to do in the Inland Empire right now.
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Best Places to Visit in the Inland Empire

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Inland Empire? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this eclectic vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Inland Empire places to visit.

Are you looking to hike scenic mountain trails to explore historic sites? Or would you prefer indulging in shopping and dining experiences? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Inland Empire can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Inland Empire that you should know about.

1. Oak Glen

If you’re on the hunt for coolest activities in the Inland Empire, explore Oak Glen. Situated in the scenic San Bernardino Mountains, this quaint locale is a paradise for those who appreciate the simpler things in life. Picture yourself strolling through apple orchards, the air crisp with the scent of fresh fruit and foliage. It’s a sensory experience that’ll make you forget you’re just a short drive away from the hustle and bustle.

But wait, there’s more! Oak Glen is also a hub for artisanal crafts. From homemade apple butter to handcrafted jewelry, the Artisan Village is a treasure trove of local gems. It’s not just shopping; it’s a journey into the heart of the community.

Best places in the Inland Empire? Oak Glen ranks high, not just for its natural splendor but also for its vibrant local culture. It’s a destination that offers more than just pretty views; it’s a place where you can truly immerse yourself in the local lifestyle.

Compiling a list of the Inland Empire places to visit? Make sure Oak Glen is right at the top. Trust us, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Through the lush canopy of oak trees in Oak Glen, casting a golden glow on the forest floor.
Through the lush canopy of oak trees in Oak Glen, casting a golden glow on the forest floor.

2. Temecula Wine Country

When it comes to unique places in the Inland Empire, Temecula Wine Country is a must-see. Nestled between rolling hills and lush vineyards, this destination offers a sophisticated escape from the everyday. Imagine sipping on world-class wines as you gaze out over the picturesque landscape. It goes beyond a mere wine tour; it’s an encounter that heightens your senses.

Temecula isn’t just about the wine. The area is also home to a variety of outdoor activities. From hot air ballooning to horseback riding, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Inland Empire when you’re in Temecula. And let’s not forget the charming Old Town, where you can stroll through historic streets, shop for unique gifts, and dine in gourmet restaurants.

Looking for the best places to go in the Inland Empire? Temecula Wine Country is undoubtedly on that list. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply someone who appreciates the finer things in life, Temecula offers a blend of elegance and adventure that’s hard to beat.

3. Joshua Tree National Park

Seeking for the coolest things to do in the Inland Empire? Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park. This iconic desert landscape is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Picture yourself hiking through rugged terrains, dotted with the park’s namesake Joshua Trees, and you’ll understand why this place is a natural wonder.

For the rock climbers among us, Joshua Tree is a paradise. With countless rock formations and climbing routes, it’s a playground for both beginners and seasoned climbers. And if you’re not into climbing, no worries! There are plenty of other activities right here. Think stargazing, bird-watching, and even horseback riding.

Where to visit in the Inland Empire for celestial viewing? As the sun sets, the park transforms into one lovely view. The lack of light pollution makes for an awe-inspiring night sky, filled with stars, planets, and the occasional meteor shower.

So, when you’re considering where to go in the Inland Empire, make sure Joshua Tree National Park is on your list. It’s a destination that offers a distinct blend of adventure and tranquility, making it perfect for a day trip or an extended stay.

Where rugged rock formations meet the iconic Joshua trees under a brilliant desert sky.
Where rugged rock formations meet the iconic Joshua trees under a brilliant desert sky.

4. Lake Arrowhead: A Mountain Retreat

Lake Arrowhead is one of those cool destinations in the Inland Empire that you simply can’t miss. Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, this alpine lake offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Picture yourself lounging by the water, the mountain air filling your lungs, and you’ll understand why this spot is a local favorite.

For those who love water activities, Lake Arrowhead is a haven. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating are just a few of the Inland Empire things to do that you can enjoy here. And let’s not forget the fishing opportunities; the lake is teeming with trout and bass, making it a fisherman’s dream.

The surrounding forest offers hiking trails that range from easy to challenging, providing something for every level of outdoor enthusiast. And if you’re into winter sports, the nearby ski resorts turn this area into a winter wonderland.

As the day winds down, consider taking a scenic boat tour. It’s one of those must-see in the  Inland Empire attractions that offer a different perspective of the lake and its stunning surroundings.

Make sure Lake Arrowhead is on your list of places to visit in the Inland Empire. It’s a versatile destination that offers a mix of relaxation and adventure, perfect for any getaway.

A tranquil mountain escape perfect for relaxation and outdoor adventures.
A tranquil mountain escape perfect for relaxation and outdoor adventures.

5. The Riverside Art Museum: A Cultural Gem

Wondering what to do in the Inland Empire that’s a bit off the beaten path? Consider a visit to the Riverside Art Museum. This isn’t just another museum; it’s a cultural hub that celebrates the artistic spirit of Southern California.

The museum is housed in a stunning Mission Revival building, a work of art in itself. Inside, you’ll find a diverse collection that spans various mediums and styles, from contemporary installations to classic oil paintings. It’s one of those unique places in the Inland Empire where you can immerse yourself in creativity and maybe even discover a new favorite artist.

Art classes and workshops are also on offer, making it a dynamic space for both artists and art lovers. Whether you’re into painting, sculpture, or photography, there’s something here to pique your interest.

As you stroll through the galleries, you’ll realize this isn’t just a place to look at art—it’s a place to experience it. Interactive exhibits invite you to become part of the creative process, making your visit a truly engaging experience.

Don’t overlook the Riverside Art Museum when listing down the Inland Empire places to visit. It’s a cultural treasure that offers a rich, enlightening experience, making it a must-visit for anyone in the area.

Exploring the best things to do in the Inland Empire wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Riverside Art Museum.
Exploring the best things to do in the Inland Empire wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Riverside Art Museum.

6. March Field Air Museum

Ready for a high-flying adventure? March Field Air Museum is one of those unique things to do in the Inland Empire that you simply can’t miss. Located in Riverside, this museum is a tribute to the rich history of aviation and the heroes who took to the skies.

The museum features over 70 aircraft, from World War I biplanes to modern-day fighter jets. It’s not just a walk through history; it’s a journey through the evolution of aviation technology. One of the Inland Empire attractions, the museum offers a range of interactive exhibits that make learning fun for all ages.

Ever wondered how it feels to sit in a cockpit? Well, here’s your chance! The museum offers cockpit Saturdays where you can actually sit in the pilot’s seat of select aircraft. Talk about an Instagram-worthy moment!

And let’s not forget the knowledgeable guides who bring the exhibits to life with their engaging storytelling. They’ll share fascinating tidbits that you won’t find in any textbook. It’s an experience that will elevate your understanding and appreciation of aviation.

A hidden aviation treasure in the Inland Empire offers visitors a captivating journey through the history of flight.
A hidden aviation treasure in the Inland Empire offers visitors a captivating journey through the history of flight.

7. Big Bear Lake: An Alpine Adventure Awaits

Big Bear Lake is the epitome of outdoor fun and one of the best places to go in the Inland Empire. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, this year-round destination offers a plethora of activities that will make your heart sing.

In the winter, the area transforms into a snowy wonderland, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and even snowshoeing. Come summer, the lake becomes a hub for water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, making it one of the must-see in the Inland Empire.

But it’s not all about adrenaline-pumping activities. Big Bear Lake also offers serene hiking trails that meander through lush forests and lead to breathtaking viewpoints. The Castle Rock Trail is a local favorite, offering panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Foodies, you’re in for a treat too! The area is dotted with charming cafes and restaurants that serve everything from gourmet burgers to fresh trout. And for those who love to shop, the village offers an array of boutique stores filled with unique finds.

Big Bear Lake is among the Inland Empire places to visit that offers something for everyone, making it a perfect getaway no matter the season.

Hiking the Castle Rock Trail is one of the best things to do in the Inland Empire for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Hiking the Castle Rock Trail is one of the best things to do in the Inland Empire for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

8. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the diverse flora and fauna of the desert landscape. It’s one of those unique places in the Inland Empire where you can get up close and personal with animals like cheetahs, giraffes, and mountain lions, all while learning about desert conservation.

The zoo offers a variety of interactive experiences, from feeding giraffes to watching live animal shows. But it’s not just about the animals; the gardens are a spectacle in themselves. Stroll through the cactus and succulent gardens, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a different world.

For the adventure seekers, the zoo offers a behind-the-scenes tour where you can learn about animal care, veterinary facilities, and even get a chance to interact with some of the animals. It’s one of the best things to do in the Inland Empire, especially for families with kids.

And if you’re a fan of hiking, there are nature trails that offer stunning views of the Coachella Valley. These trails vary in difficulty, making it accessible for hikers of all levels.

When thinking about what to do in the Inland Empire, make sure The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is on your list. It’s a day of adventure and education that you won’t soon forget.

A captivating blend of wildlife and desert beauty in the Inland Empire.
A captivating blend of wildlife and desert beauty in the Inland Empire.

9. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is not just a place to rest your head; it’s a journey through time and a feast for the senses. This iconic Riverside landmark is one of the best places in the Inland Empire to experience history, luxury, and a touch of European charm without leaving Southern California.

As you walk through its grand archways and intricate corridors, you’ll be transported to a bygone era. The hotel is a living museum, adorned with antiques, hand-painted frescoes, and stunning stained glass. But don’t let its age fool you; modern amenities like a world-class spa and fine dining options make it a perfect blend of old and new.

For those looking to tie the knot or celebrate a special occasion, the hotel’s chapels and ballrooms are nothing short of magical. It’s no wonder it’s a popular spot for weddings and other milestone events.

Now, if you’re gathering a list of the Inland Empire places to visit, this historic gem should be right at the top. Whether it’s a romantic weekend getaway or a day trip to explore its architectural wonders, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa promises an unforgettable experience.

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa: A historic oasis in the heart of California.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa: A historic oasis in the heart of California.

10. Auto Club Speedway

Rev up your engines and get ready for an adrenaline-pumping experience at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. This is one of those coolest activities in the Inland Empire that you simply can’t miss. Whether you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan or new to the world of racing, this venue offers something for everyone.

The speedway features a D-shaped oval track that stretches for two miles, and it’s here that you can witness some of the most exhilarating motorsports events. From NASCAR Cup Series to drag races, the roar of the engines and the speed of the cars is nothing short of electrifying.

The speedway also offers driving experiences where you can get behind the wheel and feel the rush of speeding down the track. Talk about a bucket-list activity!

When talking about the Inland Empire attractions, Auto Club Speedway is a standout. It’s not just a place for racing enthusiasts; it’s a venue that promises a day filled with excitement, thrills, and unforgettable memories. So, mark your calendars for the next big event and make sure you’re there to feel the rush!

Auto Club Speedway: Where speed and excitement come to life in California.
Auto Club Speedway: Where speed and excitement come to life in California.

11. Claremont Village

Situated in the heart of the Inland Empire, Claremont Village is the epitome of small-town charm meeting big-city culture. This is one of those unique places in the Inland Empire where you can stroll through tree-lined streets, explore boutique shops, savor artisanal eats, and discover a range of things to do in the Inland Empire all in one day.

The village is a hub for art lovers, boasting an array of galleries, murals, and public art installations that add a splash of color to every corner. From handcrafted jewelry to one-of-a-kind paintings, the local artisans make sure there’s always something new to discover.

But the cultural experience doesn’t end there. Claremont Village is also home to a variety of eateries that offer a culinary journey from farm-to-table American to exotic international dishes. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you.

For those who love the great outdoors, the nearby Claremont Hills Wilderness Park offers hiking trails that provide stunning views of the surrounding area. It’s a perfect way to wrap up your visit.

Exploring Claremont Village ranks among the best things to do in the Inland Empire.
Exploring Claremont Village ranks among the best things to do in the Inland Empire. Photo credits: discoverclaremont.com

12. San Bernardino National Forest

Ah, the great outdoors! San Bernardino National Forest is the epitome of nature’s grandeur, offering a plethora of coolest activities in the Inland Empire. Picture this: towering pine trees, crystal-clear lakes, and trails that meander through scenic vistas. It’s a paradise for anyone who loves to be one with nature.

Fishing enthusiasts will find the forest’s lakes to be a haven, teeming with a variety of fish. Cast a line and feel the thrill of the catch; it’s an experience that never gets old.

For the adventure seekers, the forest offers a range of activities from mountain biking to zip-lining. Feel the wind in your hair and the adrenaline in your veins as you conquer the forest’s rugged terrains.

What about those who prefer a more laid-back experience? Worry not! The forest is also home to several picnic spots, perfect for a family day out. Pack a basket, bring a blanket, and enjoy the serenity that only nature can provide.

As the sun sets, the forest transforms into a celestial wonderland. Stargazing here is unlike any other, making it one of the must-see in the Inland Empire.

When you’re planning about the Inland Empire places to visit, make sure San Bernardino National Forest is right there at the top. It’s not just a forest; it’s a sanctuary where you can escape, explore, and experience the best that nature has to offer.

Where natural beauty and outdoor adventures converge in the heart of the Inland Empire.
Where natural beauty and outdoor adventures converge in the heart of the Inland Empire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the IInland Empire? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Inland Empire:

What is the Inland Empire known for?

The Inland Empire, often referring to the region in Southern California, is known for its diverse characteristics. It’s recognized for its suburban and urban communities, agriculture, scenic landscapes, and cultural attractions. The area encompasses cities like Riverside and San Bernardino and is known for its proximity to mountains, deserts, and major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

How far is the Inland Empire from Los Angeles?

The distance between the Inland Empire and Los Angeles can vary depending on the specific locations within each area. Generally, the Inland Empire, which includes cities like Riverside and San Bernardino, is located about 50 to 80 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The actual travel distance will depend on your starting and ending points within these regions.

Where can I take my kids this weekend in the Inland Empire?

Looking to make some epic memories with the kiddos in the Inland Empire? This region is brimming with family-friendly activities that will have your little ones talking for weeks. Here are the top kid-friendly activities in the Inland Empire:

  1. Castle Park in Riverside: Think mini-golf, arcade games, and carnival rides. This amusement park is a hit with kids of all ages and offers a fun-filled day without breaking the bank.
  2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert: A unique zoo experience that focuses on the desert environment. Your kids can learn about animals from deserts around the world while enjoying interactive exhibits.
  3. Big Bear Lake: Whether it’s summer or winter, Big Bear offers a plethora of outdoor activities. Think boating and fishing in the summer, and skiing or snowboarding in the winter. It’s a nature-filled getaway that’s perfect for active families.
  4. March Field Air Museum: Located in Riverside, this museum is a must-visit for any young aviation enthusiasts. With more than 70 aircraft and tons of interactive exhibits, it’s both educational and entertaining.
  5. Tom’s Farms in Corona: This is more than just a farm; it’s a full-day experience. From a petting zoo and pony rides to magic shows and a mini-train ride, your kids will be entertained from start to finish.
  6. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Take a thrilling ride up to the San Jacinto Mountains and enjoy some of the best views in Southern California. Once you’re at the top, there are plenty of hiking trails and picnic spots.
  7. Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center: This is a fantastic spot for budding geologists and dinosaur lovers. The center offers a range of educational programs and even has a Dinosaur Mesa where kids can dig for fossils.

Is the Inland Empire safe to visit?

The safety of visiting the Inland Empire, like any area, can vary based on location and time. Generally, many parts of the Inland Empire are safe for visitors. However, like in any urban or suburban environment, it’s wise to exercise common sense, stay aware of your surroundings, and follow local guidelines. Researching specific neighborhoods and using caution, especially at night, can contribute to a safe and enjoyable visit.

Exploring the Vibrant Vibes of Southern California.
Exploring the Vibrant Vibes of Southern California.

What is Inland Empire famous for?

What’s the Inland Empire famous for? Let’s start with the great outdoors. With the San Bernardino Mountains to the north and the Santa Ana Mountains to the south, this region is a haven for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re shredding the slopes in Big Bear, hiking through the San Bernardino National Forest, or exploring the Joshua Tree National Park, the Inland Empire offers a smorgasbord of outdoor adventures.

But it’s not just about Mother Nature. The Inland Empire is also a hub of economic activity, with booming logistics, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors. Cities like Riverside and San Bernardino are steeped in history and offer a range of cultural attractions, from museums and historic sites to theaters and art galleries.

And let’s not forget the food! With its diverse population, the Inland Empire is a melting pot of culinary delights, offering everything from authentic Mexican cuisine to farm-to-table eateries that celebrate California’s bountiful produce.

So, whether you’re an adventurer looking to conquer new trails, a history buff eager to explore California’s past, or a foodie on the hunt for your next gastronomic adventure, the Inland Empire has something for everyone.

What is the best time to visit the Inland Empire?

The best time to visit the Inland Empire in Southern California is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is generally pleasant with milder temperatures compared to the hot summer months. It’s ideal for exploring outdoor attractions, hiking, and enjoying local events. Summers can be hot, while winters are usually cooler but still relatively mild compared to other parts of the country.

Are there family-friendly activities in the Inland Empire?

Absolutely, the Inland Empire offers a range of family-friendly activities. You can explore attractions like the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, visit family-oriented museums such as the Riverside Children’s Museum, enjoy water parks like Splash Kingdom Waterpark, and hike in scenic areas like the San Bernardino National Forest. Additionally, there are events, festivals, and parks that cater to families throughout the region.

Is the Inland Empire worth seeing?

Absolutely, the Inland Empire is worth seeing for its wide range of attractions and activities. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone who enjoys fine dining and shopping, the region has something to offer. From stunning natural landscapes to cultural landmarks, it’s a destination that caters to diverse interests.

Concluding Thoughts on Visiting the Inland Empire

The Inland Empire is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From the adrenaline-pumping adventures to the tranquil retreats, it offers something for everyone. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a culture vulture, or someone looking for a peaceful escape, the Inland Empire has got you covered. So, Where to go in the Inland Empire? The answer is simple: everywhere! Each destination offers its own unique charm and set of activities, making the Inland Empire a versatile and exciting place to explore.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the Inland Empire. We hope this guide has inspired you to pack your bags and experience this incredible region for yourself. Happy travels!

Best things to do in the Inland Empire for all types of travelers.
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