One of the largest counties in California, there are endless fun things to do in San Bernardino. Located just east of Los Angeles, San Bernardino is great whether you love the city, the great outdoors, or a mix of the two.
As a San Bernardino local, I know the very best places to visit and stuff to do in the county and have narrowed the list down to 25. From some of the best hiking trails in California to amazing concert venues, San Bernardino is an entertainment mecca.
Oh, and if you need accommodation, be sure to bookmark my guide to where to stay in San Bernardino.
Table of Contents
- 25 Best Things to Do in San Bernardino
- San Bernardino National Forest
- Big Bear Lake
- Original McDonald’s Site
- San Bernardino Peak
- Deep Creek Hot Springs
- Mt. San Gorgonio
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy)
- Mountain Biking in Angeles National Forest
- Silverwood Lake
- Lake Arrowhead
- Santa Ana River Trail
- World Scenic Byway
- Glen Helen Amphitheater
- San Gabriel Mountains
- California State University, San Bernardino
- Victoria Gardens Mall
- Lytle Creek
- Toyota Arena (Formerly Citizens Bank Arena)
- Hortencia’s Restaurant
- Flo’s Airport Cafe, Chino
- San Manuel Stadium
- Glen Helen Regional Park
- San Bernardino County Museum
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25 Best Things to Do in San Bernardino
San Bernardino National Forest
Explore beautiful San Bernardino trails and pine forests
San Bernardino National Forest is one of the main attractions in the county. It encompasses a diverse environment of both arid desert and alpine mountain landscapes.
This Southern California national forest has hundreds of hiking trails and allows backcountry camping throughout almost the entire forest. Some places, like San Bernardino Peak, require an overnight permit that you can acquire at the ranger station.
If you are a California hiking, you must visit San Bernardino Peak, Anderson Peak, Jepson Peak, and San Gorgonio. All are above 10,000 feet and can even be combined into one long day hike. Don’t forget to bring your hiking gear when you visit this national forest and you will be entertained for days.
Big Bear Lake
Kayak, water ski, or lounge on one of the best-known lakes in San Bernardino CA
Big Bear Lake is one of the most popular things to do in San Bernardino California. It is the most recognized lake in Southern California and sees millions of tourists each year.
Big Bear is a favored hiking destination and is a part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Take a short yet scenic walk around the Big Bear Lake boardwalk or tackle the 7.5-mile Bertha Peak which has incredible views of the lake from the summit.
Summers in Big Bear are ideal for cruising on Big Bear Lake. Visitors are often seen kayaking, fishing, and swimming in the refreshing summer lake waters.
Original McDonald’s Site
Visit the first-ever McDonald’s restaurant site
Many people don’t know that San Bernardino CA is home to the original McDonald’s site. Now an internationally-famous restaurant chain, McDonald’s is a big part of San Bernardino history.
The first McDonald’s was founded in 1948 and has since been turned into a museum. If you are looking for free things to do in San Bernardino California, this museum should be on your list.
The Original McDonald’s Site Museum is full of memorabilia from the first days of the fast food restaurant and takes visitors down memory lane.
San Bernardino Peak
Hike to the top of one of the highest peaks in the San Bernardino mountains
One of my personal favorite hikes in the area, San Bernardino Peak stands 10,656 feet tall over San Bernardino CA. This hike is less traveled and offers a quieter and more pleasant Southern California hiking experience.
The total distance is 16 miles, meaning this hike is not for the faint of heart. You will need a permit to hike it, which is available online or at the Mill Creek Visitor Center.
Many hikers choose to camp at the scenic Manzanita Flats or Limber Pine campground 5.7-miles into the hike.
San Bernardino Peak suffered badly during a 2020 wildfire and will be recovering for a long time. The parts that were not impacted by the fire still make this hike a beautiful destination and one of the best things to do in San Bernardino.
Deep Creek Hot Springs
Soak in natural hot springs nestled between the San Bernardino mountains for ultimate relaxation
Deep Creek Hot Springs is a California local spot. Most tourists are unaware of this oasis, making it a must-see.
The hike to the springs is 2.5 miles one-way from the Bonita Ranch parking area. You will need to cross the Colorado River just before the hot springs so be prepared to get your hiking shoes wet.
Many Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers soak at these San Bernardino CA natural hot springs. The area is busy from April-June when they typically pass through so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
I recommend going early in the morning and during the weekdays because there are only 5-6 pools to soak in that can fill up if you get there too late.
A trip to the Deep Creek Hot Springs is the best way to relax in San Bernardino California.
Mt. San Gorgonio
Climb to the top of the highest peak in the San Bernardino mountains
Mt. San Gorgonio is the highest mountain in Southern California at 11,503 feet. Two main trails lead to the summit, the 19-mile Vivian Creek trail and the 21.3-mile South Fork trail.
Because both trails are long, many hikers choose to camp on the mountain with a permit. The night stars from the 11,503-foot summit are the most vibrant in all of San Bernardino CA.
The towering San Gorgonio mountain is also a great winter mountaineer climb and backcountry ski spot when there is snow.
You will need technical gear to climb this mountain in the winter, so please only attempt it if you are experienced.
Joshua Tree National Park
Rock climb or hike scenic trails at this California desert gem
Located in San Bernardino County, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular California national parks. Joshua Tree is full of activities, and avid rock climbers travel to Joshua Tree from all over the United States to climb some of the park’s famous routes.
If hiking is more your forte, Joshua Tree National Park offers plenty of hiking trails suitable for any level. You will find easy desert plant loop trails and harder mountain summit hikes in the park.
The wildlife sightings and the sunsets in Joshua Tree National Park are the highlights of a trip. Look for coyotes, road runners, mountain lions, bobcats, jackrabbits, and rattlesnakes.
You will also witness the most magnificent sky colors in many areas of Joshua Tree.
Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy)
Hike the tallest mountain in Los Angeles County
Mount San Antonio, also known as Mt. Baldy, is located in San Bernardino California but borders the eastern LA border. It is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Southern California and draws thousands of hikers to its trails each year.
Hike to the 10,064-foot summit in a grueling 4,000-foot climb. The mountain is a hot spot for bighorn sheep, deer, and black bears.
After you’re done hiking, stop by the Mount Baldy Lodge for an ice-cold beer in the summer or a hot chocolate by the fireplace in the winter.
You can tent camp at the Manker Flats Campground or stay at one of two mountain lodges in the area.
Mt. Baldy is also a popular climb in the winter. Technical climbing gear is required, however, so only attempt a winter climb if you are experienced. Mt. Baldy is in the top 10 deadliest mountains in the United States because many inexperienced people attempt the winter climb without the right gear.
Mountain Biking in Angeles National Forest
Bike through scenic national forests on singletrack trails
Angeles National Forest offers many great mountain biking trails. Just a short drive from San Bernardino CA, this national forest attracts true mountain biking lovers.
Mt. Wilson is a popular singletrack route that has 5,000 feet of descent. El Prieto is another top mountain biking route. It is a mixed singletrack and switchback route that is mostly descent through a canyon bottom.
Bikes aren’t allowed on all Southern California hiking trails, so do your research before you start biking.
Wakeboard or water ski on a popular San Bernardino CA recreation lake
Silverwood Lake is a day-use recreation area. It is mostly used for boating and water sports but plenty of visitors love to fish and camp at the lake as well.
Located just off the I-15 freeway, Silverwood Lake receives many local visitors a year. The lake usually fills to capacity from April to October, so get there early if you want a spot on the lake.
Depending on what time of year you visit California, this could be a great place to cool off. San Bernardino and Los Angeles locals often escape the summer heat with a trip to Lake Silverwood.
Enjoy the quaint Lake Arrowhead Village shops and restaurants
Lake Arrowhead is a charming residential and tourist town in the San Bernardino National Forest. When planning an itinerary around fun things to do in San Bernardino, many visitors include Lake Arrowhead because it has many activities for the whole family.
Arrowhead Village is a short trip from Los Angeles and is a great place to stop for lunch and shopping. There is even an outside stage concert venue that hosts concerts year-round.
Rent a boat or take The Queen boat tour around Lake Arrowhead on a sunny day. Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company is a must-visit after a long day on the lake.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Lodge in Lake Arrowhead vacation home is the perfect getaway accommodation. The cozy mountain home has a balcony and a fireplace to make you feel right at home.
Santa Ana River Trail
Bike from San Bernardino California to Huntington Beach and back
Biking enthusiasts in the Inland Empire Region cycle all 50.3 miles of the Santa Ana River Trail. Section cycling the trail is another good option if you aren’t yet ready to tackle all 50 miles in one day.
The Santa Ana River Trail goes through San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties and ends at Huntington Beach. You will need to pre-arrange transportation if you only want to bike the trail one-way.
The Santa Ana River Trail is wheelchair accessible and offers one of the best ways to exercise in San Bernardino California.
World Scenic Byway
Enjoy breathtaking views of San Bernardino CA on an incredibly curvy World Scenic Byway road
The Rim of the World Scenic Byway traverses the San Bernardino mountains along highway SR-18. The drive offers stunning panoramic views of the valley below, surrounded by towering peaks over 8,000 feet high.
Drive the World Scenic Byway with a friend so you can look out at the beautiful scenery as they navigate the winding road. The byway is also open year-round, but chains may be required in the winter months.
Glen Helen Amphitheater
Rock and roll the night away with some of your favorite artists
Just off the I-15 freeway, this outdoor concert venue in San Bernardino California is a perfect summertime activity.
There are assigned seat options close to the stage and general admission standing areas at the back. You can bring your own chair or blanket to have a picnic in the back grass while listening to some of your favorite artists.
Big-name performers at the Glen Helen Amphitheater have been the Stone Temple Pilots, Chris Stapleton, and Kid Rock.
San Gabriel Mountains
Hike iconic Southern California mountain peaks
The San Gabriel mountains are a famous Southern California mountain range shared by northern Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County. The highest mountain is Mt. Baldy at 10,064 feet followed by Pine Mountain at 9,648 feet.
There are 9 San Gabriel peaks in the Mt. Baldy area alone and another large majority is accessible from Wrightwood. You can follow maintained trails to the San Gabriel summits or create your own traverse with the close connecting mountains.
The higher San Gabriels receive snow in the wintertime so if you aren’t accustomed to snow hikes, stick to the lower elevation mountains like Potato Mountain (3,422 feet) and Mount Lowe (5,703 feet).
California State University, San Bernardino
Visit the most popular university in San Bernardino California and enjoy the free museums
San Bernardino State University is the top college in San Bernardino CA. Most students at this school are from the Inland Empire but CSUSB receives its fair share of out-of-state and international students as well.
Campus tours are available during the school year for prospective students. If you only want to visit the campus, it is open to the public. Non-students can enjoy California State University San Bernardino’s picnic areas and the public Museum of Anthropology.
Victoria Gardens Mall
Shop from a diverse selection of stores at this outdoor mall in San Bernardino California
This Rancho Cucamonga shopping center was one of the first outdoor malls in the Inland Empire. If you like shopping, Victoria Gardens is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino for you.
There is a huge selection of restaurants at the mall including the Cheesecake Factory and the fancy The State restaurant for drinks
After you’re done shopping, take a break from shopping at the sit-down food court or enjoy an air-conditioned AMC movie.
Cool off from the hot Southern California summer heat with a dip in Lytle Creek
Lytle Creek is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino for the whole family. Bring your bathing suit to the creek in the summer and cool off from the California desert heat.
Many locals visit Lytle Creek to have a barbeque with the family and relax in the water. Not many tourists visit this San Bernardino California gem, so you are sure to have a local experience.
👉 Pro Tip: Parking is limited and fills up fast on the weekends. Visit Lytle Creek during the weekdays for a less crowded experience.
Toyota Arena (Formerly Citizens Bank Arena)
Enjoy the best live entertainment in San Bernardino CA
A live performance at the Toyota Arena is one of the most entertaining things to do in San Bernardino California. Just off of the I-10 freeway in Ontario, the Toyota Arena can hold 10,000 fans.
Besides live concerts and comedy entertainers, the Toyota Arena in San Bernardino CA is also home to the Ontario Reign professional hockey team. There have also been monster truck events at the stadium as well as boxing events and indoor soccer games.
If you are planning to visit San Bernardino California, make sure to check the upcoming schedule at the Toyota Arena to not miss out on your favorite performers.
Dine at a fancy mountain restaurant overlooking all of San Bernardino California
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 338-4466 | Hours: 9 am – 9 pm daily, 8 am – 9 pm Saturday & Sunday
Plan your next San Bernardino California date night at Hortencia’s at the Cliffhanger restaurant off the CA-18 highway in Crestline.
This fine dining Mexican restaurant sits on a cliff and overlooks all of San Bernardino below. Many proposals happen at Hortencia’s because the atmosphere is intimate and romantic.
The popular dishes here are chili rellenos and fish tacos.
Visit an old ghost town in the heart of the San Bernardino desert mountains
Pioneertown is a rejuvenated ghost town just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in San Bernardino California. Walk along old wooden structures and channel your inner cowboy at Pioneertown.
Pappy and Harriet’s is a popular biker bar, restaurant, and concert venue in the area. The inside is decorated like an old western saloon with wooden embellishments and photographs of old-timey performers.
You can find an old western film museum in Pioneertown, a small petting zoo, and leather and vintage shops.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Pioneer in Pioneertown is the best accommodation option in the area.
Flo’s Airport Cafe, Chino
Eat a delicious diner breakfast on an airport strip
Flo’s Airport Cafe in Chino is one of the most underrated things to do in San Bernardino California. Eat a delicious breakfast at Flo’s while watching small planes take off from the nearby landing strip at the Chino Airport.
Flo’s Airport Cafe famous menu items include biscuits and gravy and mouth-watering omelets. Many of the customers at Flo’s are Inland Empire regulars who have been eating at Flo’s for decades.
If you find yourself in the Chino area, you must stop by Flo’s to experience some of the most authentic American breakfast foods.
San Manuel Stadium
Cheer on the local San Bernardino minor league baseball team
San Manuel Stadium is home to the Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino. Attending a baseball game is a fun thing to do for the whole family throughout the week.
There are themed nights throughout the week like $2 Tuesdays and Thirsty Thursdays.
If you are traveling with your dog, you are allowed to bring your pet to the games every Waggin’ Wednesday. San Manuel Stadium is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino with the whole family.
Glen Helen Regional Park
Relax at the biggest park in San Bernardino CA
Glen Helen Regional Park comprises 1,340 acres of land with a multitude of activities for your entertainment. There are also scenic views of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains from the whole park.
Facilities at Glen Helen Regional Park include two lakes, a swimming pool, water slides, picnic tables that can accommodate 300 people, the Glen Helen Raceway, and the Glen Helen Amphitheater.
Go for a bike ride, stroll around the park, or play soccer in the large fields. You will never run out of things to do in Glen Helen Regional Park.
San Bernardino County Museum
Learn about San Bernardino history
The San Bernardino County Museum is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino in your free time. There are exhibits on local California culture and natural science and there is also a live animal center and a cactus garden.
Founded in 1957, the museum is devoted to showcasing its appreciation for local regional identity. Stop by this Redlands museum on your trip to learn more about San Bernardino history.
Now that you know all about things to do in San Bernardino, it’s time to explore! Be sure to check out this awesome guide to the best Los Angeles beaches if you’re looking for some more coastal fun!
I hope I helped you find some fun things to do in San Bernardino!
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