15 Free Things to Do in Rialto, CA

Free Things to Do in Rialto, CA
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Rialto is a California city belonging to San Bernardino County, 56 miles east of Los Angeles.

The city lies in South California, where civilization began as early as the 1500s when the Serrano Indians lived there.

Today, the city is a bustling economic hub in California.

It’s not particularly known for tourism, as it’s mainly the location of distribution centers from prominent brands such as FedEx, Staples Inc., and Amazon.

However, because of its high population and strong local economy, expect a ton of free parks and recreational spaces when you visit the city.

With its rich history and booming urban life, there are many free things to do in Rialto, California.

Enjoy the Greenery at Alec Fergusson Park

Alec Fergusson Park is one of Rialto's most popular recreational areas if you want serene views during your stay.

Full of well-maintained greenery, Alec Fergusson Park is a great place to kick back and relax or take the family out for picnics.

While a pretty park, the good news here is that there are a lot of other amenities for the more energetic kids, teenagers, and even adults.

Some activities here include tennis, skateboarding, football, and basketball.

If you’re looking for a convenient way to spend a lovely afternoon, Alec Fergusson Park is a great place, accessible along West Sunrise Drive.

Ride a Bike along the Pacific Electric Bike Trail

The Pacific Electric Bike Trail is a rails-to-trails project of Rialto that’s one of the best free things you can do during your stay here.

Well-maintained and nicely paved, this bike trail is an excellent spot for cyclists, joggers, or even those who want to stroll with their dogs.

It spans several miles and connects to the neighboring city of Pomona, giving you another means to check out nearby attractions without needing a car.

The trail is also a great starting point to do a bit of urban exploration while taking in the beautiful San Bernardino views of Rialto.

You can find the Pacific Electric Bike Trail’s starting point along North Cactus Avenue.

Get Active at Frisbie Park

Frisbie Park is one of the best places in Rialto to break a sweat as it’s teeming with all sorts of amenities with a bit of something for every family member.

Frisbie Park is not known as a relaxation spot due to its lack of benches, but it boasts a skatepark, a dog park, and areas for basketball and baseball.

There are also playgrounds for younger children and a paved trail if you want light jogging.

With sprawling amenities, Frisbie Park is one of the largest outdoor spaces in Rialto, making this a must-visit during your stay.

Frisbie Park is at the northern end of North Acacia Avenue.

Learn Local History at the Rialto Historical Society

Rialto Historical Society is a public museum where you can learn about the city's roots that date back to the 1500s, during the time of the Serrano Indians.

They have a nice-sized collection of artifacts in their exhibits that make Rialto Historical Society one of the best free things to do during your stay.

One of their prized displays here is military artifacts.

Rialto once served as the home base of the U.S. Army for ammunition storage to support the Pacific campaign during World War II.

Besides the displays, the Rialto Historical Society is also a great photo souvenir, as the building is a vintage structure that once served as a church and school.

With great volunteers to aid your museum tour, the Rialto Historical Society is a must-visit in Downtown Rialto along North Riverside Avenue.

Take Photos of Rialto Adobe

One of the cool things you can see in Rialto for free is the Rialto Adobe, the oldest standing building in the city.

As the name suggests, Rialto Adobe is an adobe-style building made from organic materials, most commonly mud.

It dates back to 1853 and has since served many purposes, but its rustic aesthetic remains, making for a fantastic photo souvenir.

As a tiny one-room house, Rialto Adobe’s look is further accentuated by artifacts that create a story, particularly farming tools during the 19th Century.

The Rialto Historical Society also manages Rialto Adobe, so ask about this unique house when you visit them.

You can find Rialto Adobe in Bud Bender Park, along North Lilac Avenue Corner West 2nd Street.

Take the Kids to Rialto City Park

Rialto City Park is another excellent recreational space that offers something different from the other two mentioned earlier.

In particular, this park is known to be kid-friendly for its sizable playgrounds and several other park amenities, making it a bustling area where many families congregate.

The community center here makes it an excellent place for you to mingle and immerse in the local community of Rialto.

A fitness center and indoor pool are also present, although you would need to spend a couple of dollars to use them.

Still, if you’re looking for one of the best free open spaces to excite younger kids, Rialto City Park is an excellent addition to your itinerary.

This park is in the heart of Rialto along East San Bernardino Avenue.

Read a Book at Rialto Branch Library

Rialto Branch Library is one of the best free places in the city if you want an indoor escape just to read a book or have some quiet downtime.

While not particularly large, the library has an excellent selection of books, especially for children.

There are also computers here if you need to get some serious work out of the way or surf the internet.

There’s also a used bookstore that you can rummage through if you want to read a book you’ve never heard of before.

Rialto Branch Library is located along West 1st Street.

Take a Stroll at Joe Sampson Park

Another highly-rated open space in Rialto is Joe Sampson Park, a pretty park with immaculate gardens and a modern playground for children.

The charm of this small park comes from being one of the newest and cleanest parks in the city.

Padded walking trails are further accentuated by the rich flora in this beautiful park, making it ideal for plant and flower photography.

Another unique thing is that it has gym equipment that adults can use for free.

Joe Sampson Park is an excellent addition to your Rialto itinerary, accessible along West Randall Avenue.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Reach the Etiwanda Falls

The waters of Etiwanda Falls
Futurexwifetheoryy / Shutterstock.com

If you want an outdoor and scenic spot that’s a little closer to the city, Etiwanda Falls should be on your list, as it takes only 22 minutes to reach from Rialto.

You can find it in the city of Rancho Cucamonga.

What makes this a popular place for families and couples is not only is it beautiful, but the hike going here is also easy.

Elevations are mostly consistent, and you won’t experience a lot of steep climbs to see the beautiful Etiwanda Falls.

Hiking trail of Etiwanda Falls
Futurexwifetheoryy / Shutterstock.com

It’s also relatively fast for a hike, as the trail is only three miles long.

Etiwanda Falls is free to see, but its parking lot charges a fee; the good news is that there are several other parking areas if you plan to bring a car.

Explore the Mt. Baldy Wilderness Preserve

One of the most exciting things you can do for free near Rialto is hiking along the Mt. Baldy Wilderness Preserve, which only takes 34 minutes to reach.

One of the several mountains surrounding Rialto to the north, Mt. Baldy Wilderness Preserve, is teeming with all sorts of flora and fauna.

You can enjoy a simple trek along the trails there, but there are also other attractions you can check out, such as Stoddard Peak and Mt. San Antonio Peak.

Still, enjoying the preserve and its various terrains and wildlife is enough to make this a must-try.

Mt. Baldy Wilderness Preserve offers an authentic California outdoor experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

This preserve is in Claremont, California.

Explore the University of California Riverside Botanic Garden

Flora at University of California Riverside Botanic Garden
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Found in neighboring Riverside, California, the University of California Riverside Botanic Garden is only 27 minutes from Rialto.

Donations are welcomed, but this beautiful garden is free for everyone to see, sprawling with all sorts of beautiful plant life.

You’ll see various flora from climates, ranging from cactuses to wild roses.

A gorgeous flower at University of California Riverside Botanic Garden
Therodrigoc / Shutterstock.com

There is also a butterfly garden present, along with several other sections with walking trails that make it great to explore.

Intimate but awe-inspiring, the University of California Riverside Botanic Garden is an excellent place for families and couples.

Trail at University of California Riverside Botanic Garden
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Visit the First Original McDonald’s Museum

The First Original McDonald’s Museum is only 12-15 minutes from Rialto, located in San Bernardino, California.

As the first-ever location of the iconic McDonald’s chain, this historical site is one of the unique treasures in San Bernardino County.

The McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant here in 1940.

It started as a barbecue restaurant that quickly rose to fame for its hamburgers instead.

While the original building is long gone, remnants of the first chain remain here.

The museum boasts an extensive collection of vintage McDonald’s collectibles, such as toys, memorabilia, and authentic tableware used in the restaurant.

First Original McDonald’s Museum is conveniently located along Route 66, making it a no-brainer to visit during your trip to Rialto.

Relax at the Mary Vagle Nature Center

Pond of the Mary Vagle Nature Center
Ftr745, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another scenic spot near Rialto is the Mary Vagle Nature Center in Fontana, California, which is reachable within 18 minutes by car.

Mary Vagle Nature Center is a vast expanse of land with plenty of ponds, trails, and wildlife.

Ducks are ubiquitous here because of the water, but you can spot hawks and hummingbirds, too.

Daytime view of the Mary Vagle Nature Center
Ftr745, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s one of the best places to conduct nature photography, so if you’re into the hobby, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this nature center.

You can also visit their museum with educational information about the ecology of the nature center.

Step Back in Time at San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum

San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum are one of the best free nearby places in Rialto that’s a quick ten-minute drive from the city.

It’s set in a former train depot that dates back to the early 1900s, giving it a vintage aesthetic worthy of many photos.

The building facade of the train station itself is a sight to behold, but the authentic charm of this place is the rail tracks you see inside that transport you back in time.

There’s also a gift shop here if you want a souvenir during your trip to Rialto.

The San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum should be first on your Rialto itinerary as a place that can easily take up most of your afternoon.

Hike Box Springs Mountain Reserve

Mountain views from Box Springs Mountain Reserve
Advythr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Box Springs Mountain Reserve is an outdoor haven in Moreno Valley, California, a 37-minute drive from Rialto.  

Box Springs Mountain Reserve is a massive ecological park with elevated peaks that offer panoramic views of San Bernardino County.

This free-to-trek mountain reserve also has something quirky about it, as you will see hordes of donkeys roaming its many trails.

There are a lot of varied terrains here, giving you an authentic California wilderness experience.

Box Springs Mountain Reserve also has beautiful sunsets when you reach its peak, making this one of the best spots near Rialto where you can spend an entire day.

Final Thoughts

While Rialto is more of an economic hub and residential area rather than a tourist attraction, it still boasts various parks and a few historical places that you can enjoy for free.

Moreover, the city is surrounded by many other cities in San Bernardino County, giving you all sorts of options to diversify your travel plans.

Before your trip, revisit this list of the free things to do in Rialto, California, for the ultimate budget-friendly itinerary.

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