View of a balcony with cozy outdoor seating area and illuminated stringed lights at one of the top choices for where to stay in the Inland Empire

Where to Stay in the Inland Empire (Best Places in 2023)

👉 Jump to: Best Places to Stay in Inland Empire | Neighborhoods & Areas | Tips | FAQ

As a base for exploring the best of Southern California, the Inland Empire is perfect. If you need to know where to to stay in the Inland Empire, I’ve got you covered in this guide.

There are so many great places to stay in the Inland Empire like humble mountain cabins and homesteads in the middle of lush vineyards.

As an Inland Empire local myself, I know all about the best things to do in the Inland Empire, and where you should stay to get the most out of your trip. In this article, I’ll help you choose the best cities and hotels to stay in the area. Let’s dive in!

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Best Places to Stay in the Inland Empire

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in the Inland Empire? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in the Inland Empire: 

5 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in the Inland Empire

The Inland Empire comprises nearly 40 cities in the eastern valley just outside of Los Angeles. This area hugs mountain bases, flourishes on either side of the Santa Ana River, extends all the way to the low California desert and rests in the belly of the Southern California basin.

Big Bear Lake

Interior view of the living area of Auld Fern's accommodation
Photo of the Auld Fern accommodation

👉 Best Area For Family Entertainment | ✨ Best Big Bear Lake Hotels: Auld FernJohan’s Village HausFox Farm Villa

With so many outdoorsy things to do in Big Bear Lake, it’s easily one of the most visited cities in the Inland Empire.

There’s something for everyone in Big Bear Lake including couples spas, hiking trails, downtown shopping, mountain biking trails, lake kayaking, skiing and snowboarding, and more! Big Bear is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in California with kids due to the sheer number of fun activities available.

Affordable Big Bear Lake hotels are a great option but I prefer to rent a cozy cabin on the mountain for a true outdoorsy experience.

Pros of Staying in Big Bear Lake:

  • Plenty of outdoorsy activities are available
  • Many restaurant and bar options
  • Affordable accommodation

Cons of Staying in Big Bear Lake:

  • Hotels can be pricey during peak season
  • There can be traffic on the weekends
  • Downtown can be noisy at night

📚 Big Bear Lake Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Family Entertainment
Google Map

✨ Best HotelsAuld FernJohan’s Village HausFox Farm Villa

🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Big Bear Lake

🍽️ Where to Eat Teddy Bear Restaurant ($$), Peppercorn Grille ($$), Oakside ($$)

🍸 Where to DrinkWhiskey Dave’s, Murray’s Saloon & Eatery, Big Bear Bar & Grill 

🎟️ Top Attractions – Big Bear Alpine Zoo, Big Bear Ski Resort, Boulder Bay Park, Big Bear Snow Play

👉 My Favorite Gear: Hiking is a top Big Bear activity. Make sure you bring your comfortable hiking shoes before hitting the trails. My favorite pair is the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-tex Hiking Shoes.


Aerial view of the historic downtown Riverside at sunset
Aerial view of Riverside

👉 Best Area For City Amenities | ✨ Best Riverside Hotels: Straight From the VineThe Mission Inn Hotel and SpaLuxHome Suites

Only 50 miles east of Los Angeles, Riverside is the biggest city in the Inland Empire. This is the best place to stay if you’re traveling with children or like to be near major city amenities and entertainment. 

Riverside was industrialized during the California citrus industry era and today hosts historic sites and landmarks. This famous Southern California city is home to a bounty of museums, restaurants, bars, and the like.

Riverside is conveniently located near top Inland Empire activities like Castle Park, UC Riverside Botanical Gardens, and Mount Rubidoux Park.

Pros of Staying in Riverside:

  • Near many entertaining activities
  • Plenty of accommodation options are available
  • Public transportation is easy to navigate 

Cons of Staying in Riverside:

  • The downtown area can be busy at night
  • Not many rural activities or accommodations are available
  • Rideshares can be pricey

📚 Riverside Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for City Amenities
Google Map

✨ Best HotelsStraight From the VineThe Mission Inn Hotel and SpaLuxHome Suites

🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Riverside

🍽️ Where to Eat Heroes Restaurant & Brewery ($$), The Salted Pig ($$), Market Broiler Riverside ($$)

🍸 Where to DrinkPixels Bar & Eatery, W. Wolfskill, Lake Alice Trading Co.

🎟️ Top Attractions – Castle Park, UC Riverside Botanical Gardens, Mission Inn Museum, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, California Citrus State Historic Park, March Field Air Museum

Lake Arrowhead

View of the lush green trees and docked boats at the Lake Arrowhead
(photo: FiledIMAGE / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Fresh Mountain Air | ✨ Best Lake Arrowhead Hotels: Garden in the SkyUCLA Lake Arrowhead LodgeLake Arrowhead Resort & Spa

Lake Arrowhead is one of my personal favorite places to stay in the Inland Empire. Nestled in the carved-out San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead offers adventurous travelers the luxurious yet solitary escape they didn’t know they needed.

I love to rent a tiny cabin, ignite the fireplace, and settle down during the winter with a good book and a sharp glass of cabernet sauvignon. 

The inviting downtown Lake Arrowhead Village hosts frequent live music performances on the outdoor stage. Dogs aren’t allowed in the venue area so I recommend snagging an outdoor spot at The Grapevine wine bar to listen to the live music, one of the coolest things to do in San Bernardino County.

Pros of Staying in Lake Arrowhead:

  • Many cozy cabin rentals are available
  • Live music weekly in the downtown village
  • A quiet atmosphere and a peaceful night’s rest

Cons of Staying in Lake Arrowhead:

  • Restaurants and bars can be pricey, even compared to Big Bear
  • Accommodation can be expensive
  • You’ll need a rental car to get around

📚 Lake Arrowhead Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Fresh Mountain Air
Google Map

✨ Best HotelsGarden in the SkyUCLA Lake Arrowhead LodgeLake Arrowhead Resort & Spa

🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Lake Arrowhead

🍽️ Where to Eat The Grill at the Antler’s Inn, Papagayos ($$), Jetties Waterfront Kitchen & Drink ($$)

🍸 Where to DrinkDogwood Tavern, The Lakefront Taproom Bar and Kitchen, Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company 

🎟️ Top Attractions – Lake Arrowhead Village, SkyPark at Santa’s Village, Arrowhead Queen boat tour


View of the orange trees and the clouded snow mountains in the background
An iconic view of the San Gabriel mountains and famous CA citrus from Redlands

👉 Best Area For Varying Activities | ✨ Best Redlands Hotels: Ayres Hotel RedlandsDynasty Suites RedlandsFrench Chateau Style Home

Redlands is a good place to stay for travelers who prefer a city experience. This IE city is one of the most family-friendly things to do in the Inland Empire with fun activities like weekend farmers markets, the San Bernardino County Museum, the Redlands Bowl, and many craft California breweries (for family members over 21).

Settled on the outskirts of San Bernardino, Redlands is the gateway city to many mountain towns like Crestline, Running Springs, and Lake Arrowhead. Redlands is a great place to stay if you prefer to day trip into the mountains rather than staying overnight in the forest environment.

Pros of Staying in Redlands:

  • Close to mountain towns and hikes
  • Affordable accommodation is available
  • Many restaurants and bars in the area

Cons of Staying in Redlands:

  • Not many attractions in town
  • Far from hiking trails
  • Not the greatest nightlife scene

📚 Redlands Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Varying Activities
Google Map

✨ Best HotelsAyres Hotel RedlandsDynasty Suites RedlandsFrench Chateau Style Home

🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Redlands

🍽️ Where to Eat The State ($$), Thai House Restaurant ($$), Tartan of Redlands ($$)

🍸 Where to DrinkThe Redlands Underground Restaurant and Bar, The District, Taylor’s Bar & Grill 

🎟️ Top Attractions – Historical Glass Museum, Orange Street Alley, Prospect Park, Redlands Bowl


View of the patio area with lounge chairs, lush green trees and a swimming pool
Photo of the Creek Water accommodation

👉 Best Area For Wine Tasting | ✨ Best Temecula Hotels: Creek WaterSouth Coast Winery Resort & SpaTemecula Creek Inn

Welcome to Southern California wine country. Comparable with top Napa Valley wineries, Temecula, California produces some of the region’s best wines.

The rolling hills and plains-sweeping vineyards set Temecula apart from most other towns in California. Stay at a winery villa or rent a mansion in Temecula for the whole family without breaking the bank.

Get planning with our guides to things to do in Temecula and where to stay in Temecula.

Pros of Staying in Temecula:

  • Many opportunities to go wine tasting
  • The town caters to couples
  • Lavish accommodation for reasonable prices

Cons of Staying in Temecula:

  • The town isn’t very kid-friendly
  • There aren’t many entertainment options
  • You will need a rental car to get around

📚 Temecula Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Wine Tasting
Google Map

✨ Best HotelsCreek WaterSouth Coast Winery Resort & SpaTemecula Creek Inn

🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Temecula

🍽️ Where to Eat The Goat & Vine ($$), Bluewater Grill ($$), Cork Fire Kitchen ($$)

🍸 Where to Drink – Old Town Pub & Grill, Thornton Winery, Miramonte Winery  

🎟️ Top Attractions – Temecula Valley Museum, Old Town Temecula, Town Square, Temecula Balloons, Outdoor Escape Room

👉 My Favorite Gear: This wine tote bag is the perfect accessory for visiting the Temecula wine country and can easily transport your favorite bottle of wine back home with you. 

Tips for Staying in the Inland Empire

Figure Out What Activities You Want to Do

View of a woman's back acnd a dog hiking

Where you stay in the Inland Empire depends on what activities you want to do. If you want cheaper accommodation but still want to be close to LA, I recommend staying in Riverside.

If your main priority is hiking and being immersed in nature while you’re in the IE, I recommend staying in either Big Bear Lake or Lake Arrowhead.

Rent a Car

It’s almost impossible to explore California without a rental car. Rent a car from Discover Cars to navigate through the Inland Empire with ease. 

This way, you don’t have to wait around for public transportation and you may end up saving on a vehicle in the long run. 

Know Where to Go According to the Season

View of a tall pine tree and snowy mountains with a clear blue sky in the background

Although all of the Inland Empire cities are relatively close to each other, they still vary slightly in climate. If visiting the IE during the summer, you may want to steer clear of the high desert areas like Apple Valley, as temperatures frequently surpass 100 degrees.

Similarly, the IE mountain areas experience below-freezing temperatures in the winter months. Unless you like colder temps, you may want to avoid these areas at this time.

For more, see our guide to when to visit California.

FAQs About Where to Stay in the Inland Empire

View of the cozy open living and kitchen area with a fireplace

What are the boundaries of the Inland Empire?

The Inland Empire is bounded by both Los Angeles and Orange County on the west and San Diego on the south. The area also extends all the way to the high desert in the north. 

Where are the best places to stay in the Inland Empire?

The best places to stay in the Inland Empire are in the mountain areas of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. The Mission Inn Historic Hotel in Riverside is another classic accommodation option in the IE.

What cities and towns are in the Inland Empire?

There are nearly 40 cities in the Inland Empire. The most notable are Riverside, Redlands, Upland, San Bernardino, Lake Arrowhead, Apple Valley, and Big Bear.


You made it to the end of my complete guide on where to stay in the Inland Empire! For more insider tips on all things California, also check out my best things to do in California guide before your upcoming trip.

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