The Inland Empire is rich with history, arts, culture, sports, and easy access to nature that escapes it all. San Bernardino teems with life situated between the bustle and opportunities of the Los Angeles area, and the solitude of mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest.
Relax with a ball game or meander through museums. Hike mountain trails or splash in lakes and springs. Fill your evenings with wining, dining and the performing arts theatre, and your days with shopping, brunch and the movie theater.
Couples, families, or friendly getaways just for the boys or the ladies. San Bernardino has more than enough of whatever you're searching for -- an Empire's worth.
San Bernardino is about an hour due east of Los Angeles, so wise travelers will plan around traffic. But fear not – the controlled chaos of the 5 freeway will be water under the bridge once you reach your destination. Head over to I-80 E and use the right two lanes to merge onto I-580 E toward CA-24/Hayward/Stockton. Continue south toward I-5 S/Fresno/Los Angeles until it turns into I-5 S.
Follow the signs to stay on I-5 S until you hit Exit 161A for I-210 toward Pasadena. Cruise down I-210 for about 25 miles, keep right at the fork, and then left, following signs to I-210/San Bernardino/Ventura/CA-134. From here, keep left to merge onto I-210 E.
You’re only about 30 miles away, and you’ll be breathing that sweet mountain air before you know it. Take Exit 74 for I-215N/S toward Barstow/Riverside and keep right to merge onto I-215 Southbound. Take Exit 44 for West 5th Street toward good ole CA-66. You’ve made it! Get ready to unwind and let loose.
The Econo Lodge San Bernardino is a no-frills hotel for travelers on a budget. The rooms are clean, and the 24-hour front desk is manned by friendly, knowledgeable staff. The accommodations may be simple, but these guys really get it right. Make sure to book well in advance because rooms go quickly. With a central location that is convenient to top attractions and just 24 miles from Big Bear Lake, this top-rated hotel is a surprisingly pleasant choice. Some rooms have a sitting area and all feature free Wi-Fi and cable TV.
This iconic motel is not your traditional square building with cookie cutter rooms. Each is an authentic wigwam. This is a great choice for families – your children will be thrilled by the kitschy accommodations. Grab a drink from the on-site bar while the kids frolic in the outdoor pool. The owner is a delight and the wigwams are comfortably appointed with modern amenities like free Wi-Fi, refrigerators, and cable TV. This is an experience you’ll never forget. Located just six miles from Glen Helen Raceway.
The Residence Inn by Marriott San Bernardino is a casually upscale property that’s perfect for families. All the rooms are suites, and feature fully-equipped kitchens, flat screen TVs, and free wi-fi in guest rooms and common areas. There’s an indoor pool, a fitness center, and even a convenience store and dry cleaning on-site. Enjoy a great night’s sleep on Marriott’s world-famous, super comfy mattresses and then take advantage of their scrumptious breakfast. Centrally located, just a 10-minute drive from the Orange Show Speedway.
Locals will tell you that Carrie’s is the real deal for down home cookin’. The tiny restaurant might not be the fanciest place in town, but if you want to chow down on the best ribs and brisket that money can buy, then this is the place for you. Just leave room for sides because the potato salad is out of this world. Service is efficient, but you don’t come here for ambiance. The real magic happens on the smoker and in the kitchen. Moderately priced, open daily.
You’re not going to find an extensive menu here and the wait for a table can stretch hours on weekends, but it is absolutely worth the wait. The birria is hands-down some of the best in Southern California. Scoop up the tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat with hand-made tortillas and wash it down with a refreshing horchata or cerveza with lime. The food is a bargain and the owner is a delight – your stomach will thank you. Open for breakfast and lunch most days, cash only.
The Castaway has been voted Inland Empire’s Most Romantic Restaurant and it definitely lives up to its reputation. Nestled in the gently rolling hills of the San Bernardino Valley, you’ll enjoy spectacular views through floor-to-ceiling windows or on the terrace. Book a table at sunset for the ultimate experience. The interior is charmingly old school and the servers really know how to take care of guests. Perfect for a date or any special occasion with family and friends.
The thermal hot springs in Deep Creek are essential to the diverse flora and fauna of San Bernardino National Forest. But they’re also a relaxing – and unique – experience for visitors. This attraction is not exactly easily accessible. You’ll want an SUV to navigate the rocky roads to the access point at Bowen Ranch, and the two-mile hike to the springs can be brutal, so bring plenty of water (the spring water is not safe for consumption). The thermal hot springs are clothing optional, but you’ll be so distracted by the spectacular views that you’ll hardly notice. Soak up the restorative waters and let the world melt away.
No visit to San Bernardino would be complete without a stop at the ultimate Americana destination. This museum might be small, but it’s packed full of memorabilia that shows the evolution of McDonald’s from its humble origins to the global phenomena that it became under the leadership of Ray Kroc. Adults will get lost in the nostalgia of simpler times and children will delight in the impressive collection of Happy Meal toys. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is free. Unfortunately, there is no restaurant on-site.
The sweeping vistas, rolling hills, and majestic peaks of San Bernardino National Forest have been designated National Park land for over a century. The scenery here rivals any in the West and even the world. The elevation reaches as high as 11,502’ at the crest of Mount Saint Gorgonio, but the foothills offer ample opportunities for camping, hiking, skiing, or simply relaxing lakeside at Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead. Not into communing with nature? Just get lost on mountain roads to take in the scenery without leaving the car.
Speaking of not getting out of the car … Rim of the World Scenic Byway is a 110-mile trip along the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains. The road narrows to two lanes after the turn-off at Crestline, but you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Pull off at a roadside park to take in the view or stop in one of the picturesque towns along the route. Skyforest and Running Springs have adorable mom-and-pop shops and restaurants to grab a quick bite. The highlight for most is Keller Peak Lookout, where the stunning views have been known to bring visitors to tears.
The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art on the Cal State campus has established a reputation as one of the major cultural centers in Southern California. Its best known static exhibit is a renowned collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities ranging from the Predynastic through Greco-Roman periods. You’ll also see ceramic vases from Pre-Columbian America, Asia, and Europe, as well as a carefully curated selection of West African Art. The museum is open Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.