Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire, CA

  • Published 2021/10/28

South Central California’s Inland Empire (IE) is home to a large metropolitan area inland and near Los Angeles.

Did you know that when you combine the land area of the Inland Empire’s counties, it’s larger than the ten U.S. states?

Think of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, and West Virginia!

The former The Riverside Enterprise newspaper, now The Press-Enterprise, first coined the name “Inland Empire” in April 1914.

Local developers may have adapted the term “inland,” which came from the region’s position around 60 miles inland between LA and the Pacific Ocean to promote and emphasize the region’s distinctive traits.

Citrus orchards used to sit between Pasadena to Redlands during the first part of the twentieth century, earning the region the nickname “Orange Empire.”

Are you excited to know what activities you can enjoy in this metropolitan area?

Read on to find out the best things to do in Inland Empire!

Learn About Aviation History at March Field Air Base

March Field Air Museum by March Air Force Base

RozenskiP /

March Air Reserve Base is a well-known landmark for everyone who has ever been through Riverside.

Upon passing, you’ll see a large number of planes gathered around a long-surviving hangar with a striped roof.

The hangar is home to vintage military aircraft and exhibits on the history of aviation.

March Field Air Museum by March Air Force Base

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It also offers guided tours to tourists who are deaf or do not speak English as a first language.

For visitors’ convenience, there are many wheelchairs provided in the museum.

March Air Reserve Base houses March Field Air and the P-38 National Museums.

March Field Air Museum features approximately 70 antique planes and several historical artifacts from March Field’s past.

March Field Air Museum by March Air Force Base

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The main structure, completed in 1993, pays homage to vintage airplane hangars.

When you see this massive collection of military airplanes, you’ll be astounded.

The hot dog stand serves iced beverages and ice cream on weekends.

See the Cool Automobiles at NHRA Motorsports Museum

Front View of NHRA Motorsports Museum

NHRA Museum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you crave speed, visit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

It features everything from a 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster to a short-wheelbase, wall-seeking Funny Car.

There are also high-winding, 200-mph Pro Stock cars and tens of thousands of unique sportsman entries.

Meticulously curated, the 28,500-square-foot facility is a veritable throne in drag racing history, housing a staggering collection of automobiles.

It features classic drag racers to street rods to funny automobiles and several motorbikes.

You may also find memorabilia from over 50-year history of American motorsports, including images and awards and racing gear, including helmets, shirts, and ties.

Get Up Close and Personal With the Animals at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

View of Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Simone Hogan /

The 1,200-acre Living Desert Zoo and Gardens sits near Palm Springs, California, about 15 miles away.

This family-friendly destination is a breathtaking experience and a fantastic weekend vacation.

There is no better place for adults and children to learn about the majesty of wild animals and gorgeous desert plants than this exotic learning center.

View of Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Simone Hogan /

A vital part of the Living Desert’s mission is to preserve the desert’s diverse animal life while educating the public about the need to protect it.

Several paths are available for visitors of all skill levels to experience the area’s diverse environments and regions of the world.

View of  a Sign in Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Simone Hogan /

The North American trail showcases species that can be found only in the continent’s four deserts.

An Arabian camel ride across the Sonoran Desert’s diverse flora and animals is a popular feature at the Living Desert Zoo.

Museum docents tell stories from African and Native American folklore and ancient mythology to help educate visitors.

Go Camping at Table Mountain Campground

Table Mountain Campground lies in the San Gabriel Mountains, high above the busy roads and bright lights of Los Angeles.

It has a steep oak and pine forest with panoramic views and two vast meadows.

Its proximity to ski resorts in Wrightwood and Big Pines, as well as its 7,000-foot elevation, makes it an ideal summer getaway from the LA basin’s hot summer days.

Table Mountain has a variety of campsites with vault toilets, paved spurs, and fire pits.

If you don’t want to stay the night and only want to take in the sights, there are various nearby sites to explore.

You may also go mountain biking, hiking, birdwatching, driving along the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway, which meanders through chaparral, oak thickets, high desert vistas, and pine tree forests up the highest crest of the San Gabriel mountains.

Explore California Citrus State Historic Park

Palm Trees at California Citrus State Historic Park

L.A. Nature Graphics /

When you arrive at this 250-acre historical park, the lovely scent of orange blossoms greets you as soon as you get out of your car.

Citrus plantations in the Inland Empire are gradually vanishing, but this park still has rows of orange trees.

On the highest point in the city, it is home to some of the city’s few remaining orange orchards overlooking the mountains.

Citrus was previously big business in this part of Southern California.

A plethora of Navel orange trees dotted the landscape for miles in every direction.

When you visit the park, you will find impressive exhibits and films about the history of citrus in California.

A gift shop sells books, crate labels, and other citrus-themed memorabilia.

The tourist center serves as the starting point for weekend guided tours.

After the walk, you will be able to sample some of the park’s many citrus varieties.

Try Different Fun Activities at Big Bear Discovery Center

Front View of Big Bear Discovery Center

Steve Cukrov /

The Big Bear Discovery Attraction opened its doors in 1998.

It is Big Bear Valley’s largest tourist attraction.

More than 190,000 people come here each year to participate in exhibitions, weekly activities, and eco-tours.

Visitors of all ages and ability levels will find much to do here year-round. You may ski, go snowboarding, play golf, hike, ride a mountain bike, and go horseback riding in this unique alpine paradise.

View of Big Bear Discovery Center

Steve Cukrov /

In its Amphitheater, you may attend unique events such as outdoor concerts, theater shows, and evening interpretive programs, among others.

Its goal is to make your visit to San Bernardino pleasurable while also raising your awareness so that you may become a more educated and responsible steward of this natural resource.

Buy Fresh Produce From Toms Farm

Located in the Temescal Canyon area of Lake Elsinore, Toms Farm is easy to get to from Interstate 15.

In 1974, Toms Produce debuted in a remote location.

The Farm has grown to include a wine and cheese shop, furniture store, duck pond, and several dining options throughout time.

The kid-friendly amusement section, which includes an old-time carousel and a mini train ride, has been a popular addition to the Farm.

Fresh produce, nuts, dried fruit, dates, candy, jelly bellies, and presents are also available within the produce shop.

You can’t leave Toms Farm’s vegetable booth without scooping up some sweets or nuts since the variety is so good.

Weekends are when things get going at the Farm, with families enjoying kid’s birthday parties, live entertainment, face painting, and all of the attractions being in full motion.

Pamper Yourself at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa

A Sign in Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa

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Glen Ivy is one of California’s most well-known spa brands.

This unique facility attracts visitors from all around.

The resort offers top-rated “Girls Getaways” tailored to your group.

Club Mud is a renowned Glen Ivy attraction.

Cover yourself in mud, let it dry, rinse, and enjoy the smooth, soft skin that results.

“Reiki” is another import from the East.

It is an ancient Japanese technique for directing your body’s energy (or “chi”).

The visitor stays wholly dressed and requires no oils or lotions.

These pressure sites on the body let energy flow more efficiently and to its required direction.

Shiatsu works on a similar principle to acupuncture. Instead of needles, Shiatsu practitioners use pressure to promote blood flow.

The spa also offers deep tissue and traditional massage.

Check Out the Victorian Mansions at Redlands

View of the Victorian Mansions at Redlands

Jim Feliciano /

Redlands in the eastern part of the Inland Empire is a popular day-trip destination for tourists looking to explore the sights, dine out, and learn about the local history.

Orange orchards and Victorian mansions dominate the landscape of Redlands.

Many of the original mansions still stand in this area.

To make space for new home developments, many of its orange orchards are now residential areas.

View of the Victorian Mansions at Redlands

Phil Scoville from Provo, UT, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kimberly Crest House is one of the well-known Redlands Victorian mansions.

It was built in 1897 and once belonged to a Redlands pioneer.

The estate got its name from Kimberly-Clark co-founder John Kimberly, who bought it in 1905.

Public tours of Kimberly Crest House are available on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

Kimberly Crest is available for special events like weddings and birthday parties.

Attend Jazz in the Pines

Do you enjoy listening to Jazz?

During Jazz in The Pines, an annual two-week festival and popular fundraiser in Idyllwild, renowned faculty members lecture and perform in Idyllwild Arts Academy campus and local venues.

The first Jazz in the Pines Festival took place in the Holmes Amphitheatre in 1994 and featured wine tasting and jazz. Marshall Hawkins, a jazz instructor at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, is the creative leader and sponsors the event.

Idyllwild Arts may use the festival to link seasoned musicians and the future generation of jazz musicians.

Students and well-known jazz professionals perform to entertain guests from in and out of the community throughout the day and evening.

Go Winetasting at Temecula Valley Wine Country

View of Temecula Valley Wine Country

Patricia Elaine Thomas /

Temecula is Southern California’s most well-known wine-tasting destination.

Temecula Valley is home to more than 30 wineries, making it one of California’s premier wine regions.

As a result of the calm Pacific Ocean winds blowing in from nearby San Diego, the area has an ideal environment for outdoor activities and grape farming.

Thus, the Temecula Valley has evolved into a wine region comparable to Napa Valley in the south of California.

You’ll start to wonder where the vineyards are while you pass rows of subdivisions.

As you near the Temecula wine region, you’ll finally make your way out of the suburbs.

There are too many vineyards to visit to do it in a single day.

It may appear like there’s a winery around every corner, choosing which vineyard to visit is quite a challenge.

Shop at Ontario Mills

A Landmark Sign in at Ontario Mills

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This shopping complex is the granddaddy of all outlet malls, including over 200 retail establishments.

Ontario Mills Outlet Mall’s weather is always excellent, even if you live in Southern California, where the sun shines nearly every day of the year!

Not just retail stores, but also restaurants, entertainment facilities, and outlet stores are here.

The rest have prices lower than typical retail stores, except for twenty original anchor businesses.

Front View of Ontario Mills

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It has everything from clothing to handbags to sunglasses to lingerie to luggage, not to mention all of the traditional major outlet shops.

Customers looking for great discounts and excellent service will find it all at this racing track-inspired shopping center.

The track configuration is ideal for carrying on the spirit of the adjacent Ontario Motor Speedway.

Get Extreme at Skull Canyon Ziplines

View of Skull Canyon Ziplines

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Situated along the I-15 in sunny Corona, Skull Canyon Zipline has been operating since 2009.

All skill levels are welcome, including children.

The company has a stellar safety record and provides the required safety equipment.

Given Skull Canyon’s outstanding reputation, it should come as no surprise that it’s a famous filming location for several TV series and commercials.

View of Skull Canyon Ziplines

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Flying in the warm, clear air, you’ll see stunning vistas of the rugged country below you.

Several adventurers opt to hire a helmet-mounted GoPro camera.

The finest memento you can take from Skull Canyon is a video recording of your journey.

Drive Along Ortega Highway 74

Dubbed as “Ortega Highway,” California Route 74 connects scenic San Juan Capistrano with expanding Lake Elsinore Valley across about 21 miles.

A fire trail and an Indian footpath along San Juan Creek inspired the two-lane highway built by the California Department of Transportation, the Orange County Transportation Authority, and the Riverside County Transportation Authority between Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano, California, from 1929 to 1933.

Today, the roadway is well-traveled, and traffic may be heavy at times, particularly on weekdays, since it serves commuters going into and out of Orange County and the Inland Empire region.

Because of the numerous tight corners and elevation changes, motorcyclists and sports car fans favorite stretch of road.

However, there are frequent turnouts where drivers may stop for a break or snap photographs of the countryside.

Wander Around UCR/California Museum of Photography

A Sign at UCR/California Museum of Photography

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In this museum, which stands in the heart of UCR’s ARTSblock in Riverside, California, hundreds of Zeiss Ikon and Kodak Brownie cameras tell the story of photography through the ages.

Whether they feature contemporary or historical photos, the exhibitions are always of the highest quality.

It includes a permanent collection of photographs by Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, and more.

Final Thoughts

Amidst Southern California’s hustle and bustle, Inland Empire is a hidden gem with appealing locations and undisturbed wilderness.

With its vast land area, it’s best to spend a week or two exploring what Inland Empire has to offer.

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