Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in San Bernardino, CA

  • Published 2022/12/15

Known as the “The Heart of Southern California,” San Bernardino is the cosmopolitan seat of San Bernardino County.

It’s also famous for its location next to Route 66, illustrating the growth of American roads and civilization from skimpy dirt roads to superhighways.

It is one of the contributing factors to the economic boom of San Bernardino.

However, this isn’t the only factor that makes San Bernardino a fantastic place to visit.

The city is also filled with large green parks, historical museums, and events you won’t see anywhere else.

Luckily, most of these places are free to visit as well!

Find out the free things to do in San Bernadino, California.

Learn Business History at the Original McDonald’s Site & Museum

Exterior of the the Original McDonald’s Site & Museum

Michael Gordon /

McDonald’s is an international fast-food chain that almost everyone knows.

In 1940, Dick and Mac McDonald established the first location in San Bernardino, McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant.

Today, the site is the Original McDonald’s Site & Museum.

This is said to be the original site of the first McDonald’s restaurant.

It’s currently a museum housing a collection containing the history of the famous franchise.

Iconic golden arches of the Original McDonald’s Site & Museum

Michael Gordon /

Here you’ll see early McDonald’s artifacts and memorabilia, their first-generation products, and the marketing experimentation and efforts that turned it into a mega-successful corporation.

The Original McDonald’s Site & Museum is at 11398 North E Street at West 14th Street here in San Bernardino.

Signage at the Original McDonald’s Site & Museum

Mike Joson /

Learn about Firefighting at the Cal Fire Museum

The Cal Fire Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of firefighting here in San Bernardino.

This hidden gem showcases fascinating firefighting history, located at 3875 Genevieve Street North.

Check out the tiny museum and see their collection of firefighting memorabilia, photographs of old firefighters, fire demonstrations, and photos of old equipment.

They also feature out-of-commission vintage firetrucks that are perfect for taking photos.

If you want to learn more about the history of firefighting, visit the Cal Fire Museum in San Bernardino!

Discover History at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art

San Bernardino is abundant in beautiful museums, and the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art is a prime example.

The museum is on the San Bernardino campus of California State University.

It houses a world-class collection of artifacts from all over the world, from Italian pottery, African art, and Middle Eastern pieces to Asian ceramics.

The museum is famous for collecting ancient Egyptian artifacts, including mummy coffin lids, antique jewelry, and intricate figurines and statues.

The museum blends cultures and eras, with historical and contemporary exhibits flawlessly showcased alongside one another.

If you want to discover facts and history and admire beautiful artworks for free, visit the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art.

Join the Festivities at the Route 66 Rendezvous

People admiring a car at Route 66 Rendezvous

Don, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

San Bernardino is famous for being next to the famed Route 66, which they celebrate through the festival called Route 66 Rendezvous.

The rendezvous features a variety of car-related programs and shows, as well as live entertainment by world-class bands and talented performers.

Classic cars will also cruise down the streets, celebrating this historic road and the whole city.

To join the cruise at the Route 66 Rendezvous, you must register on their website.

The whole thing is free and an excellent opportunity to meet the passionate locals of San Bernardino.

The event starts at 1955 S Hunts Lane.

Check out the event dates on their website for your next trip!

Remember America’s Wars at the Inland Empire Military Museum

There’s no better place for military appreciation in San Bernardino than the Inland Empire Military Museum.

The small army museum at 1394 N E Street is a hidden gem for any visitor interested in discovering more about US military history.

Take a walk inside and immediately step back in time with the number of war memorabilia and old artifacts on display.

Their collection is quite vast for a small museum.

You can see America’s contributions and involvement in several foreign wars, a beautiful homage to the ones who sacrificed for the country.

If you want to see real stuff used by real heroes, visit the Inland Empire Military Museum.

See Breathtaking Mountain Vistas at the Rim of the World Highway

Scenic views at Rim of the World Highway

Steve Heap /

The Rim of the World Highway is San Bernardino’s gateway and popular driving route towards the San Bernardino Mountains.

This 110-mile driving route encompasses multiple highways along the mountain and the San Bernardino National Forest.

Its name, “Rim of the World,” refers to the spectacular views of the San Bernardino Mountains that showcase an endless number of stunning vistas.

The road of Rim of the World Highway

Rosamar /

The highway also has a lot of pull-outs for you to stop by to enjoy the view or, even better, catch a gorgeous sunset.

If you want to drive through the Rim of the World Highway, the entrance is by the Cajon Pass, which is a fantastic spot.

Mountain views along Rim of the World Highway

Steve Heap /

Enjoy a Barbecue Picnic at Perris Hill Park

If you’re in the mood for outdoor fun, why not go to Perris Hill Park?

Perris Hill Park is a popular park at 1135 E Highland Avenue, with lots of activities for visitors.

Spanning over 64 acres of scenic, lush grasslands and rolling hills, the park has tons of space for many fantastic activities.

One of the unique things you can do is a barbecue on their large number of pits.

As you sit in one of their many picnic areas scattered in the park, don’t forget to bring the food and equipment for cooking!

You can also watch your children play at two of their playground areas for free!

In addition to their large amphitheater that hosts a few events and special programs, they also have a swimming pool, though it comes with a small fee.

See San Bernardino from a New Perspective at Blair Park

Blair Park is the best place in the city to relax and commune with nature.

Blair Park is one of the most excellent parks at 1466 W Marshall Boulevard in San Bernardino.

It offers over 34 acres of land for you to discover, and it’s also a fantastic spot to appreciate the natural beauty of San Bernardino.

The park also has sports facilities, a small playground, and a cool skatepark.

While all that is cool and typical for a park, the focal point of this park is the lovely and relaxing trail and hike up the hill for a gorgeous view of San Bernardino.

This is the perfect spot to sit down and take in the view you certainly don’t see every day.

Blair Park is a must-visit to see the city from a different perspective.

Go Fishing at the Seccombe Lake Park

Bridge over the waters of Seccombe Lake Park

Robotics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Seccombe Lake Park is an excellent downtown park with a lake in San Bernardino.

This huge 44-acre park is at 160 E 5th Street, in the heart of downtown San Bernardino.

It’s a fantastic escape from the loud urban city, a beautiful community park packed with stunning views, rich wildlife, and many things to do.

Trees at Seccombe Lake Park

Robotics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are sports facilities for baseball and volleyball, three playgrounds for kids to enjoy, and a large lake where you can fish!

The government restocks the lake with fish, so expect lots of bass and other fish varieties here at Seccombe Lake Park.

A gazebo at Seccombe Lake Park

Robotics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ride a Bike at the Santa Ana River Trail

If you’re in the mood for a long and fantastic biking session, try going through the beautiful Santa Ana River Trail.

The Santa Ana River Trail is a multi-use trail complex that stretches alongside the gorgeous Santa Ana River.

This asphalt-paved path is divided into two lanes so that cyclists can go both directions without fear of collision.

While still not close to its goal of 110 miles from Sand Bernardino to the Pacific Ocean, it stretches 30 miles and is still a great bike freeway.

The trail currently starts behind the County Hall of Records in San Bernardino.

Watch the Trains at Cajon Pass

Aerial view of Cajon Pass

jcookfisher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cajon Pass is a fantastic spot if you’re a train enthusiast or simply interested in trains.

The Cajon Pass is a scenic mountain passage between San Bernardino and San Gabriel.

This is a major transportation route and hub for both vehicle and rail traffic, making it quite possibly one of the country’s best spots for railroad fans.

More than a hundred trains pass the route daily.

It is easily accessible by several dirt roads, trails, and footpaths towards the pass for a good view of the vistas and the trains that pass through.

Another fantastic thing about Cajon Pass is that it’s not only an attraction.

It is also the gateway towards other gorgeous attractions, meaning this spot is a must-visit anyway!

Take Your Dog to Speicher Memorial Park

The Speicher Memorial Park is one of San Bernardino’s favorite yet unassuming parks.

Located at 1535 Arden Avenue, there is much to do here in this 28-acre park.

There are sports facilities for baseball, basketball, and softball and paved walking tracks for a stroll.

In addition to the lovely playground area, there is also a large skate park for beginners to experienced skaters.

It’s also an excellent place to bring your dogs.

The Speicher Memorial Park has three separate fenced areas where you can walk your dog on a leash and socialize with other puppies.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Learn about Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine

Exterior of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine

BZK Photos /

The historic Lincoln Memorial Shrine is a 15-minute drive from San Bernardino at 125 W Vine Street in Redlands, California.

This 1930’s structure museum commemorates the life and humble beginnings of Abraham Lincoln.

It’s the only museum west of the Mississippi River dedicated to showcasing the collection of manuscripts, artifacts, diaries, and images related to the former president.

Entrance door of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine

BZK Photos /

Although the former president has been gone for hundreds of years, he continues to be an inspiration and hope for people worldwide.

The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is an excellent place to learn more about the former president for free!

Take Your Family to the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center

After an 18-minute drive from San Bernardino, you can visit the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center at 7621 Granite Hill Drive in Riverside, California.

This nature-focused public museum features a towering giant mammoth sculpture on the property’s hills.

It was founded in 1967 by scientists and local philanthropists.

You can see exhibits of various rocks, fossils, and ten massive steel dinosaur structures here.

You’re also free to visit all nine acres of the botanical gardens containing lots of cacti and an old yet beautiful succulent garden over 50 years old.

Likewise, check out an Iris Garden showcasing the plants and trees mentioned in the bible.

Visit the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center.

It’s not only a fun discovery experience, but it’s also free!

Work up a Sweat at the Historic Rialto City Park

Take a 12-minute drive from San Bernardino to 130 E San Bernardino Avenue in Rialto, California, to arrive at the fabulous Rialto City Park.

What makes this park so unique is its facilities and historical elements.

The park was the local’s favorite community hub, dating back to 1973.

Nowadays, the park is still famous for its various sports facilities and fields, performing arts theatres, and the occasional special park events.

One most notable parts of Rialto City Park is the fantastic outdoor gym amenities right next to the playground, with active gym classes.

You won’t feel lonely while you work up a sweat at this park!

Final Thoughts

San Bernardino is a truly wonderful place to visit, with many fun activities and places to discover and try.

This list of free things to do in San Bernardino should help shape your itinerary for your next trip!

Plan your next vacation today!

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