Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

  • Published 2022/12/08

Located in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains, Rancho Cucamonga is the 28th most populous city in California.

It’s part of San Bernardino County, near major highways and airports.

Its location has attracted many big companies, such as Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay.

The first settlers in the area were the Kukamongan Native Americans in 1200 AD, who was part of the Tongva indigenous people.

The name Kukamonga is derived from the Tongva term “sandy place.”

Incorporated as a city in 1977, it ranked 42nd as the “Best Place to Live” in the 2006 Money Magazine ranking.

The city has a rich agricultural and wine-making history, historic sites, museums, and many other attractions that have drawn many tourists worldwide.

If you want to take a budget-friendly trip, here are the free things to do in Rancho Cucamonga, California!

Drop by the Historic Cucamonga Service Station

Front view of Cucamonga Service Station

Mark Roger Bailey /

Located on the north side of the historic U.S. Highway 66, the Cucamonga Service Station was a gas and automobile service station.

It was operational until 1971, the only surviving service station with a Spanish Colonial style, which architect Henry Klusman built in 1915.

In 2009, the city council designated the station as a city landmark.

Vintage ford car exhibited at Cucamonga Service Station

Mark Roger Bailey /

After a storm destroyed it in 2011, the service station was converted into a small museum in 2015.

Since its conversion, the museum has received awards, including the Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation.

In 2018, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

You can drop by the historic Cucamonga Service Station off Foothill Boulevard.

Admire the Local Artwork at the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in Chaffey College, the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art showcases a temporary artwork exhibit of campus artists.

The students and faculty staff made most of these artworks, including sculptures and paintings that raise the bar in contemporary art.

The museum aims to enhance, promote, and support local contemporary artists by showcasing their masterpieces.

The Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art also conducts public engagements and dynamic programs to foster visual literacy and critical thinking.

If you’re in town, visit the museum to see the fantastic contemporary artwork.

You can find the museum on Haven Avenue.

Hike up the North Etiwanda Preserve

To enjoy your early morning hike, head to the North Etiwanda Preserve, which offers unique exploring trails.

You’ll be face-to-face with a beautiful green space and challenging trails, including one that takes you to a beautiful cascading waterfall.

The preserve houses endangered species and other wildlife such as lizards, cougars, and snakes-all have caution signs along the way.

The terrain is challenging, and there are many rocky hills to explore, so wear proper hiking shoes or boots.

There’s a small picnic area at the preserve entrance if you’re packing a lunch.

Otherwise, you can go straight to the trails and enjoy the scenery.

Established in 1998, the North Etiwanda Preserve is at the north end of Etiwanda Avenue.

Read a Book at Paul A. Biane Library

A panoramic view of Paul A. Biane Library in Victoria Gardens cultural center

JWut89LA at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best things to do in town is to find solitude in Paul A. Biane Library, where you can read a book without hassle.

The public library features a vast collection of books in different genres, DVDs, audio materials, and games for kids.

Whether you’re dropping by for quick research or reading a book in a peaceful environment, the library has it for you.

The library also conducts free events and activities for all ages.

The Paul A. Biane Library opened in 2006 in the Victoria Gardens off Cultural Center Drive.

Enjoy Biking at the Pacific Electric Trail

As an easy route with around 20 miles of a mostly paved path, the Pacific Electric Trail passes Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, and Rialto.

The Rancho Cucamonga section has a paved trail for cycling and a granite path for walking, jogging, and horseback riding.

You’ll see flowers, trees, wildlife, cacti, parks, schools, and communities along the way.

Families with their little children also enjoy the trail, especially since it’s kid and pet-friendly, where anyone can spend a lovely morning or a fine afternoon.

If you’re cycling, the 2o-mile trail can take up to six hours to bike, with lots of beautiful pit stops.

The Pacific Electric Trail also follows the old Pacific Electric Railway.

Walk around Victoria Gardens

Exterior view of Victoria Gardens

The Image Party /

Rancho Cucamonga’s downtown center, Victoria Gardens, features restaurants, shops, movie theaters, and many known retailers.

It’s home to many local events open to the public, such as the holiday season activities and car shows, which many tourists attend.

The center is also home to Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, where the Paul A. Biane Library and a performing arts center are.

Interior view of the food court at Victoria Gardens

The Image Party /

If you’re in town, visiting the center would be an excellent stop for sightseeing and witnessing free shows and events for all.

Victoria Gardens officially opened in 2004 off North Mainstreet.

Enjoy a Picnic at Day Creek Park

If you’re visiting Rancho Cucamonga with your family or friends, you can spend some time at Day Creek Park.

The park features picnic shelters with grills for barbecue for a picnic while enjoying the park’s scenic views.

The kids can play at the playground or watch friendly games at the park’s sports fields.

There’s also a nice walking trail to follow, where you can see occasional wildlife and beautiful flowers.

Its green space is enough to have a little bit of nature while at the park.

You can find Day Creek Park on Banyan Street.

Get Your Daily Exercise at Red Hill Community Park

Whether up for a run or a walk, Red Hill Community Park offers one of the best exercise trails in the Cucamonga Valley.

The one-mile trail follows a path with exercise areas and beautiful old trees, making your daily workout more exciting with a slice of nature.

There’s also a pond with ducks and turtles, which is also great if you’re taking the kids, especially since there are nice playgrounds where they can play.

It also features a theater where free summer concerts are held.

You’ll also see people playing friendly games at the baseball and soccer fields.

If you prefer to picnic after exercising, you can also use the shaded picnic areas and enjoy watching people wander past you.

Established in 1985, Red Hill Community Park is off Vineyard Avenue.

Catch a Free Sports Game at the Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter

View of Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter

No machine-readable author was provided. Scottthezombie assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Home to the Quakes baseball team, the Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter can seat more than 6,000 people and has held many sports events and other activities.

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you can watch a friendly game that’s also open to the public.

Local athletes gather for friendly games that don’t require tickets or passes to watch.

For a warm afternoon, you can catch a game and see how the famous stadium holds sports games like the MLB.

The Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter is owned and operated by the City of Rancho Cucamonga.

It officially opened in 1993 on Rochester Avenue.

Get in Tune with Nature at Cucamonga Canyon

Don’t miss outdoor adventure in Rancho Cucamonga, especially when you’re close to Cucamonga Canyon.

It’s a great stop to snap photos, explore, and hike the trail for a more challenging outdoor excursion.

There are hilly steps, sketchy slopes, rocky paths, awkward downclimbs, and slippery crossings, which make the hike more fun.

Wear sturdy hiking boots to enjoy the hike, as this will be challenging.

However, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with nature, especially with gorgeous mountain views.

What makes the trek more memorable is the beautiful cascading Sapphire Falls!

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

The fun and adventure don’t stop in Rancho Cucamonga, as its neighboring places also have pleasant attractions.

As soon as you get past the city limits, you can see some of the best attractions in the Cucamonga Valley!

See the Historic Madonna of the Trail Monument

Monument at the Madonna of the trail

Johnwayne Stroud, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historical monument Madonna of the Trail in Upland, California, is one of 12 identical monuments in 12 states.

The monument is on Euclid Avenue and represents California’s four historic trails, including Canyon Road.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution commissioned the 12 monuments to honor the courageous pioneer women in the U.S.

German-American sculptor August Leimbach designed the monuments in 1928.

Upland’s Madonna of the Trail was designated California Historic Landmark in 1998.

This historical and creative pit stop is only nine minutes from Rancho Cucamonga.

Browse the Artworks at Chaffey Community Museum of Art

Different rotating exhibits and a permanent collection of artworks await you at Chaffey Community Museum of Art in Ontario, California, 16 minutes from Rancho Cucamonga.

With five fantastic art galleries, you can see the local and regional artists’ masterpieces in each gallery.

The museum aims to preserve, maintain, and showcase its permanent collection and provide an excellent venue for promising artists.

It was founded in 1941 by Francis and Helen Lines, who had a collection of artworks from famous artists.

They started the museum following the death of their daughter Barbara, who lent her name to the Barbara Line Memorial Collection.

You can find Chaffey Community Museum of Art off South Lemon Avenue.

Take Scenic Walks at the Ye Bridle Path

As soon as you see the Madonna of the Trail monument, you can choose to head out to the Ye Bridle Path for strolls with a peaceful vibe.

The three-mile dirt trail features foliage of canopy trees, getting you closer to nature.

Take a quick stop to check out the historical monument and see some old mansions along the trail.

The Ye Bridle Path is also one of Upland’s most-visited trails, as it’s mostly flat and suitable for kids and families.

It’s also nine minutes from Rancho Cucamonga.

Celebrate the Upland Lemon Festival

Food stalls at Upland Lemon Festival

William X Brown /

One of San Bernardino County’s most prominent festivals is Upland Lemon Festival, celebrated every June.

The three-day festival celebrates the city of Upland’s citrus industry, highlighted by a three-day event, and is open to the public.

Free music shows, lemon pie eating contests, and other fun activities are held at the festival.

It’s also a great way to join the neighborhood in celebrating the festival.

The festival started in 1997 in Upland, only ten minutes away from Rancho Cucamonga.

Check Out the Historic Locomotives at Railgiants Train Museum

The historic train collection at Railgiants Train Museum in Pomona, California, is worth the 23-minute drive from Rancho Cucamonga.

The museum features SP #5021 and UP #9000, two of the four surviving three-Cylinder steam locomotives.

It also houses Centennial, which is Union Pacific’s largest diesel locomotive.

The museum used to house the Union Pacific 4014, also known as “Big Boy,” until it was moved out for restoration in 2014.

The Arcadia Depot, freight and passenger cars, and other exciting historical stuff to check out.

RailGiants Train Museum is maintained by the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, founded in 1921.

You can find the museum on West McKinley Avenue.

Final Thoughts

With a rich history and culture, the city of Rancho Cucamonga prides itself in having lots of the world’s best trails, iconic structures, and many more.

If you have a pending trip to the valley, don’t miss out on this vibrant city.

Have a blast with the free things to do in Rancho Cucamonga, California!

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