21 Things to Do in the Inland Empire in 2023 (By a Local)
You’ll never run out of things to do in the Inland Empire. Lying on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles, the Inland Empire is home to many family-friendly activities and events like hiking trails, lakes, and museums, and attractions.
As someone who was born and raised in the Inland Empire, or “IE” for short, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the eastern LA precinct.
The IE encompasses some of the best things to do in California, and I’ve done just about every fun activity there is to do in the IE. To help you out with your adventures, I’ve compiled the absolute best ones into this list. And, if you need accommodation, be sure to check out my guide to where to stay in the Inland Empire.
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire
- San Bernardino National Forest
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Big Bear Lake
- Fox Performing Arts Center
- Mission Inn
- Palm Springs
- Temecula Wine Tasting
- Lake Arrowhead
- Ontario Mills
- Riverside Art Museum
- Redlands Farmers Market
- California Citrus State Historic Park
- Silverwood Lake
- Lake Elsinore Outlets
- March Field Air Museum
- Southern California Railway Museum
- Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park
- San Bernardino County Museum
- Castle Park
- Mount Rubidoux Park
- FAQs About What to Do in the Inland Empire
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21 Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire
San Bernardino National Forest
Hike to some of the tallest peaks in SoCal
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 382-2600 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest is one of my favorite activities in Southern California. This dense collection of granite rock walls and forest pine receives far fewer crowds than the neighboring Angeles National Forest, which makes for a quieter, more pleasant outdoor experience.
San Jacinto and San Gorgonio are the most popular hikes in the national forest. San Jacinto is one of the coolest hikes in California and can be climbed via either Idyllwild or the Palm Springs Tram.
San Gorgonio is the highest mountain peak in Southern California, standing at an impressive 11,503 feet. Both of these beautiful alpine hikes can be accessed in the winter but you’ll need proper gear like microspikes, hiking poles, an ice axe, and crampons, depending on the severity of the conditions.
Get to know a quirky mountain town, its hiking trails, and downtown boutiques
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
Idyllwild is one of the quaintest little mountain towns in Southern California. Tucked away in the San Jacinto Mountains just outside of Banning, CA, Idyllwild is home to cozy cafes, hundreds of hiking trails, and an eclectic array of funky downtown stores. You’ll find tons of fun things to do in Idyllwild.
Travel 1 hour, and 20 minutes from San Bernardino to arrive at the perfect romantic CA weekend getaway. Rent a rustic cabin in Idyllwild or stay at the state park campground to ensure enough time to fully explore the mountain town.
I recommend hiking San Jacinto Peak while in town. You can access the trail via Marion Mountain, only a 10-minute drive from the state park campground.
Joshua Tree National Park
Capture a desert sunset between famous Joshua Trees
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 367-5500 | Website | Hours: 24 | Entrance: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
One of the most popular national parks in California, Joshua Tree National Park is a top contender for one of the best things to do in the Inland Empire.
Technically in the high desert, this San Bernardino County national park houses one of the largest concentrations of Joshua Trees in the world. There are a ton of things to do in Joshua Tree, and it’s a natural playground for hikers and rock climbers alike.
The nighttime sky is illuminated with stars over the national park at night, so be sure to stay near Joshua Tree to experience this astronomical magic.
Big Bear Lake
Carve some epic turns at the ski resort or refresh your kayak skills on the lake
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Big Bear Lake is one of the most family-friendly activities in the Inland Empire. This is the perfect escape destination from the big city that has something for everyone – whether that means participating in a variety of recreational activities or simply relaxing by a rental cabin fireplace with a good book.
There are so many activities to do in Big Bear like kayaking on the lake, the wildlife zoo, and skiing at Big Bear Ski Resort, which make this one of the top destinations in the IE. At only 2 hours outside of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is the ultimate day trip from Los Angeles.
Fox Performing Arts Center
Spend the night with some live performances
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 779-9800 | Website | Hours: 12 pm-4 pm Wednesday-Friday | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Visit this colonial Spanish-style performing arts center for an entertaining night on the town in the IE. The Fox Performing Arts Center is the main theater venue in Riverside and is worth checking out next time you’re in town.
Some current performances include comedy, theater, tribute nights, and concerts. Take your family or friends to the Taylor Swift sing-along or to a live mariachi performance for a night to remember.
Stay at one of the oldest and most elegant hotels in the IE
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 784-0300 | Website | Hours: Check In: 4 pm, Check Out: 12 pm | Entrance: Starting at $279 per night | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
One of the most iconic hotels in Riverside, the Mission Inn is the perfect location for photoshoots in the Inland Empire. What began as small adobe boarding in 1876 has now transformed into a flourishing, luxurious hotel in the heart of the Inland Empire.
From hosting U.S. presidents to movie film crews, the Mission Inn is a historic Riverside landmark that you don’t want to miss. The most popular time to visit this site is during the Christmas holidays when the hotel is beautifully decorated in extravagant lights.
See where famous Hollywood celebrities live when they’re incognito
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 346-5694 | Website | Hours: 8 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $29.95, adults, $19.95, children, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Palm Springs is a low desert destination is home to extravagant homes, Hollywood movie stars, luxurious resorts, and boutique shopping.
The Living Desert Zoo is one of the coolest attractions in Palm Springs. Witness native flora and fauna in this thriving environment in the San Jacinto Mountains and learn more about SoCal wildlife. I recommend visiting the Living Desert Zoo on a Thursday when the night farmers market is in full swing.
To get planning, see our guides to things to do in Palm Springs and where to stay in Palm Springs.
Temecula Wine Tasting
Leave the kids at home to discover the rich reds and whites of Temecula Valley
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Enjoy the rich flavors of the Inland Empire on an adults-only excursion. Temecula is two hours outside of Los Angeles in the rolling hills of the Santa Ana Mountains with seas of grape-bearing vineyards.
With 50 wineries to choose from, you’re sure to find a Temecula winery that suits your taste buds. There are even Temecula winery tours that take you winery hopping and show you the best of the best.
Get planning with our guides to things to do in Temecula and where to stay in Temecula.
Putt putt around the lake on a boat rental
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
Lake Arrowhead is one of the most luxurious mountain towns in Southern California. Just less than 40 minutes from San Bernardino, Lake Arrowhead offers solitude away from the chaotic city life below.
Exploring this small lake town is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino, with activities ranging from boat rides around the lake to boutique shopping and golfing. There are so many cute rental cabins around the lake, you’ll need to make subsequent trips to experience each unique one.
Shop for killer discounts just outside of LA
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 484-8300 | Website | Hours: 10 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-9 pm Fridays & Saturdays, 11 am-8 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
Ontario Mills is one of the most popular malls in Southern California. You can find everything you need at this outlet mall, all within budget. There are also two movie theaters and a kiddie play zone at Ontario Mills, making it a top leisure hangout spot.
The food court and surrounding restaurants are more than abundant at Ontario Mills as well. This is the perfect lunch meet-up spot in the Inland Empire.
Riverside Art Museum
Get inspired by some local IE artists
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 684-7111 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm daily, Closed Mondays & Tuesdays | Entrance: $15.95, adults, $10.95, children & seniors | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Located in Riverside’s Historic Mission Inn District, the Riverside Art Museum is the best place in the Inland Empire to view local Southern California artists.
This museum primarily focuses on social issues, which sets it apart from other IE museums. Current exhibits include Tracing Acculturations, Life Logistics, and The Other Side of Memory. The Riverside Art Museum also offers art classes for both children and adults.
Redlands Farmers Market
Buy fresh produce, a vegan dessert, or a homemade tamale at this local market
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 798-7629 | Website | Hours: Saturdays 8 am-12 pm | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking
Source all your fruits and veggies locally from the Redlands Farmers Market. There are a few farmer’s markets throughout town during the week but my favorite is the Saturday market on Sixth Street.
From fresh produce to vegan pastries, tamales, and stir-fry bowls, the Redlands market has everything you need to satisfy an empty stomach. There are also local cafes and breakfast spots lining the market, making this area the perfect late-morning activity in the Inland Empire.
California Citrus State Historic Park
Discover more about California’s rich history in the citrus industry
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 780-6222 | Website | Hours: 8 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $7 per vehicle | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
This open-air museum pays tribute to California’s early history as a citrus-producing state. The state park explores the significance of the citrus industry in Southern California with interpretive tours, fruit tasting, and an annual Citrus Tasting Festival.
The 2023 festival will take place March 4th from 11 am-2 pm and is free of charge, except for the $7 parking fee.
Spend an afternoon fishing on the lake for potential dinner
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 389-2281 | Website | Hours: 7 am-7 pm daily | Entrance: $10 per vehicle
For a small fee, the whole family can enjoy a fun day under the sun at Silverwood Lake. With a fishing rod, your bathing suit, and a packable lunch, you won’t know where the time has gone with the fun you’ll be having at Silverwood.
This is where a lot of Inland Empire locals hang out, so be prepared to make some friends. Lake Silverwood is one of my favorite places to go on an idyl day in sunny California.
Lake Elsinore Outlets
Purchase discounted clothes and shoes at this less crowded outlet mall
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 245-0087 | Website | Hours: 10 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday, 10 am-7 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Located farther north of LA than the Ontario Mills Outlets, the Lake Elsinore Outlets should be on your Inland Empire Itinerary if you want to score some major shopping deals while in town.
There’s also an extensive array of eateries at the Lake Elsinore Outlets, making it the ideal way to spend a SoCal afternoon.
March Field Air Museum
Learn more about California aviation at this Moreno Valley museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 902-5949 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $15, adults, $12, seniors, $10, children | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
This Moreno Valley aviation museum is one of the coolest museums in California. View 107 aircraft and over 30,000 aviation artifacts at the March Field Air Museum.
The bombers, sleek fighters, and cargo aircraft are sure to fascinate visitors of all ages. This is the perfect day excursion for tourists who are staying at the Mission Inn or are in the area to catch some live music at the Fox Performing Arts Theater.
Southern California Railway Museum
Visit a historic railroad museum that highlights California railroads
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 943-3020 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $12, adults, $8, children | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Situated in Perris, a city known for skydiving, the Southern California Railway Museum was founded more than 60 years ago and pays homage to California’s railway history.
This huge, 100-acre museum is home to a vast collection of locomotives, racecars, trolleys, model trains, and more. Learn more about the impressive railroad trade from an educated docent at the Southern California Railway Museum, open daily.
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park
Get some exercise amid the rolling hills of this wilderness park
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 826-2596 | Website | Hours: 5 am-8 pm Sunday-Friday, 7 am-10 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park comprises nearly 1,500 acres of open wilderness terrain. This is the perfect place to walk your dog, get in a quick run before brunch with the family, or have a romantic date in the Inland Empire.
The Ameal Moore Nature Center is a popular gathering place within the wilderness park and hosts family-friendly events like nature-based crafts and group hikes. This is also the perfect place to bike and go bird-watching, but watch out for the infamous California rattlesnake, a long-term inhabitant in the wilderness park.
San Bernardino County Museum
Fill your idyl IE day with a trip to this cultural museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 798-8608 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily, Closed Mondays & County Holidays | Entrance: $10, adults, $8, seniors, $5, children | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Learn more about Southern California culture and natural science at the San Bernardino County Museum. This museum is located right off the Redlands Freeway and is a great way to learn about local IE culture.
They have a variety of permanent and rotating exhibitions, and their event calendar is overflowing with fun.
Give your kids a fun afternoon to remember at this affordable amusement park
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 785-3000 | Website | Hours: 12 pm-8 pm Saturdays, 12 pm-7 pm Sundays | Entrance: $24.99, adults, $14.99, children | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Castle Park is one of the best local theme parks in California. This Riverside amusement park has rides, miniature golf, and year-round fun.
Go on rides like Ghost Blasters, the FireBall coaster, Merlin’s Revenge, and Dragons Tower for a rush of local Inland Empire adrenaline. Because of the incredibly affordable price, this is one of the most popular theme parks in the IE and is sure to be your child’s new favorite thing to do in SoCal.
Mount Rubidoux Park
Hike an easy trail to a spectacular lookout of Riverside
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 826-2000 | Website | Hours: dawn-dusk | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor
Mount Rubidoux is one of the most popular hikes in the Inland Empire for both hiking and mountain biking. Located just outside of Downtown Riverside, the 3.2-mile loop takes hikers on a paved road to a cross marking the summit of the trail, with 260-degree views of the town below.
Mount Rubidoux Park is also a popular place to trail run, walk your dog, or enjoy your morning cup of coffee on a slow morning.
FAQs About What to Do in the Inland Empire
What can you do for free in the Inland Empire?
Hiking is one of the main free activities in the Inland Empire. You can also browse around the outlet malls or a local farmers market for free.
What is there to do on a Sunday in the Inland Empire?
Farmers Markets are the best activity to do with the whole family on a Sunday in the Inland Empire. Hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains or to San Juan Creek are other popular activities.
What is the Inland Empire known for?
The IE is known for its many hiking trails, outlet malls, wine tasting, and museums like the Mission Inn Museum and the California Citrus State Historic Park Museum.
What places are in the Inland Empire?
Temecula, Riverside, Redlands, the San Bernardino National Forest, Rancho Cucamonga, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Idyllwild, and Joshua Tree National Park are all in the Inland Empire.
Thanks for reading my ultimate guide on the best things to do in the Inland Empire. Check out my guides to the best things to do in Orange County and where to stay in Orange County to maximize your stay in SoCal!
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