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:
- 🏆 Best Overall Hotel – Johan’s Village Haus
- ✨ Best Luxury Hotel – The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa
- 👪 Best for Families – Fox Farm Villa
- 👔 Best for Business – UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge
- 🛎️ Best Boutique – Spectacular Game Room Rental
- 🌇 Best Near Los Angeles – LuxHome Suites
- 💵 Best Budget – Dynasty Suites Redlands
- ⛰️ Best Mountain Cabin – Auld Fern
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
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
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Big Bear Lake
🍸 Where to Drink – Whiskey 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.
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
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Riverside
🎟️ 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 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
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Lake Arrowhead
🎟️ Top Attractions – Lake Arrowhead Village, SkyPark at Santa’s Village, Arrowhead Queen boat tour
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
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Redlands
🎟️ Top Attractions – Historical Glass Museum, Orange Street Alley, Prospect Park, Redlands Bowl
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.
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
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Temecula
🎟️ 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
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
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
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?
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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