20 Things To Do In San Bernardino

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East of Los Angeles, although you’ll find lots of things to do in San Bernardino, the bustling city is a less touristy escape from LA. San Bernardino is both a city and a county, so there are huge amounts to do even after exploring downtown and the main attractions, plus it has the same great weather, restaurants and beautiful nature you’ll find along the West Coast.

Set against a backdrop of mountain peaks, the city unsurprisingly has outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling to get stuck into, however, the city centre also offers some fascinating museums, sports venues, and historic sights. San Bernadino is also particularly famous for its location on the original Route 66, which form a significant part of its history and you’ll find events, shops and bars celebrating the famous road – if you’re planning to drive it, you definitely can’t miss stopping here on your way.

San Bernardino, California

20 Things To Do In San Bernardino

1- Visit The Original McDonalds

You might never have considered that before being a worldwide fast-food chain, there was just one small McDonald’s restaurant, and it’s still standing in San Bernardino.

The restaurant is now a State Historic Site and has become a museum filled with hundreds of unique pieces of history and McDonald’s memorabilia.

Aside from seeing years’ worth of cute Happy Meal toys and learning about the rise and rise of the company, the best part is that the museum is completely free, and there are docent-led tours, so it’s a unique and fun place to visit if you’re in the area.

2- Get Outdoors At Joshua Tree National Park

things to do in san bernardino joshua tree
Exploring Joshua Tree National Park is one of the things to do near San Bernardino.

Joshua Tree National Park is not only San Bernardino’s most famous place to go but is one of the top US national parks.

The park is about an hour and a half from San Bernardino and costs $35 for a vehicle to enter.

Joshua Tree is instantly recognisable and famous for its unique desert landscapes and thousands of Joshua trees scattered everywhere you look.

Within the park, you can set up at a campsite, head out on one of the many trails, or go bouldering or rock climbing, and naturally, photography trips are very popular in the area, as is star gazing due to the lack of light pollution.

3- Visit The San Bernardino County Museum

Unless you live nearby, you likely don’t know much about San Bernardino or its fascinating history.

To get to know everything about the area, head to the San Bernardino County Museum, which has over 2,000 artefacts on display, along with exhibits and information about the culture and natural history of the county.

The museum is in Redlands, about a 15-minute drive from downtown, and holds lots of programmes, events and workshops, so it can be a great place to take kids.

While there, don’t miss the Hall of Earth Sciences, which has cool prehistoric objects and fossils.

4- Explore San Bernardino Downtown

san bernardino ca
Looking for things to do in San Bernardino, California? Here are some options.

Like most cities, San Bernardino’s downtown neighbourhood is the buzzing heart of the area and where all the best shops, galleries, restaurants and bars are located.

The neighbourhood is also an arts hub, with lots of art galleries, artisan shops and cool murals on the walls.

Explore on foot to check out some of the cafes and boutiques, or you can even rent a bike to cover more of the city.

Once a week, downtown also hosts the San Bernardino Farmer’s Market, which sells delicious local produce, hot food, handmade crafts and plenty of locally made orange juice.

5- Drive The Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Admiring the views along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway is another thing to do from San Bernardino.

Sitting at the base of a mountain range, something you must do while here is to go in search of epic views of the city.

The Rim of the World Scenic Byway encompasses Highways 18, 13 and 138 and is the entrance to the stunning San Bernardino Mountains.

The best views are along State Route 18, where you’ll enjoy incredible views over the valley below from one of the many pull-in areas and the surrounding peaks, some of which are over 8,000ft.

It’s worth driving this road as it leads to many of the city’s other sights, such as Big Bear Lake and San Bernardino National Forest.

6- Walk Around Big Bear Lake

big bear lake
Exploring the outdoors at Big Bear Lake is one of the fun things to do in San Bernardinio.

Big Bear Lake is one of San Bernardino’s most popular outdoor destinations, located around an hour’s drive into the heart of San Bernardino Forest.

While the lake is beautiful, and it is possible to picnic, swim, kayak and fish, the whole area of Big Bear receives millions of visitors each year who come to hike and camp nearby.

Walk around the lake to familiarise yourself, or attempt the tricky Bertha Peak trail, which offers amazing views over the lake from the summit.

Big Bear is also a part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail, so you’ll likely spot avid hikers on their way through.

In winter, Big Bear becomes a white wonderland with lots of slopes to ski and cute holiday cabins you can stay in.

7- Watch A Game At San Manuel Stadium

It might not quite be the Dodgers Stadium of neighbouring LA, but San Manuel is San Bernardino’s minor league baseball stadium and home to the Inland Empire 66ers.

If you’re visiting between April and September, catching a game is an unmissable experience.

Although there are 5,000 seats, this is far less than the extreme crowds you’ll find at larger stadiums, so there is a far more local feel.

Tickets are normally affordable, the in-game entertainment is fun and the stadium hosts theme nights every week.

Try and visit on a $2 Tuesday to get cheap tickets, hot dogs and drinks.

8- Relax In Glen Helen Regional Park

Glen Helen Park is a scenic escape just a short drive from the city but spans more than 1,340 acres (542 ha).

It lies between two mountain ranges, so the views across the lake are stunning, plus you can go fishing, swimming and even play golf.

If you’re taking children, it has its own lagoon area with slides and a playground, or you can enjoy the surrounding park on a walk or bike ride.

In the summer, the Glen Helen Amphitheatre is also in the park and usually hosts fun festivals, and big headline acts, so make sure to check the schedule before you visit to see what’s on.

9- Visit The Robert and Francis Fullerton Museum of Art

The Robert and Francis Fullerton Museum (known as RAFFMA) sits inside California State University and is the perfect attraction to fill half a day or just escape the heat.

The museum has a huge display of artwork and sculptures from across the world, including Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

However, the museum is most famous for its ancient Egyptian collection, which is the largest in Western United States.

Entry to the museum is completely free, plus you can take a stroll around one of California’s most popular universities while in the area.

10- Join The Fun At Route 66 Rendezvous

things to do san bernardino route 66
San Bernardino is a popular spot along route 66.

San Bernardino is on the famous and historic Route 66 and one of the last major stops before the classic route ends in Santa Monica.

Along with plenty of cool souvenir shops selling Route 66 merchandise, the city has its own festival just to celebrate the road called Route 66 Rendezvous.

The occasion is usually an excuse for hundreds of classic cars to cruise the streets in the area, which is a unique sight, but there is also loads of live music, entertainment and street food stalls around town to enjoy.

11- See A Show At California Theatre 

The California Theatre of Performing Arts is one of the top sights in the area, purely for it’s beautiful and historic exterior, but it also hosts some great shows.

The theatre in 1928 screened old classic films but now operates as a theatre where plays, musicals and concerts are performed.

Most weeks, you can catch the resident San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra performing classical music, but everything from famous Broadway productions to small community plays pass through.

There’s also a children’s theatre, so plan ahead and book tickets to enjoy a show in an authentic part of San Bernadino’s history.

12- Ride A Gas-Powered Kart At San Bernardino Raceway

Whether you’re travelling with kids, love a bit of thrill-seeking and adventure or just want to try something different, San Bernardino Raceway is the place for you.

The raceway is a huge indoor go-karting area where you can rent your own gas-powered sodi kart, which is more efficient than the common electric karts.

Racing is on offer for anyone above age eight but even if you have younger kids, don’t worry, there’s also a huge arcade with air hockey, pool and games, or you can watch live racing on one of the many screens inside.

Since they also sell snacks and drinks, this is a really fun place to spend an evening or celebrate an event for any budding racers.

13- Wander Around The National Orange Show

It might seem weird that a city celebrates oranges, but if you come to San Bernardino in May, you’ll quickly get in the spirit of the area’s most important festival.

The National Orange Show is a huge celebration with theme park rides, games, performances, classic car displays, and an amazing lineup of live music on the main stage.

The event is held in the National Orange Show Fairground and originally celebrates the fruit, which was an integral part of farming in San Bernardino.

Although the show was forced to go virtual during the pandemic, it’s set to return in full swing in April 2023.

14- Go Hiking In San Bernardino National Forest

Containing many of the most popular trails and viewpoints, San Bernardino National Forest is arguably the city’s most famous and popular place to visit.

The forest stretches for miles across the beautiful mountain ranges and has hundreds of hikes, such as those to San Bernardino Peak and Jepson Peak, which both have panoramic views.

The forest also allows camping in certain areas and is home to a variety of native Californian wildlife, plus, you can visit Big Falls and Bonita Falls, the highest waterfalls in Southern California.

The forest is truly a nature lover’s paradise, with biking, hunting and horseback riding also on offer.

15- Climb San Bernardino Peak

San Bernardino Peak is one of the most popular and rewarding hikes in the area, offering almost endless views from the summit.

The mountain is one of the two main landmarks on the skyline, the other being San Gorgonio, and both are over 10,500ft (3200 m) high.

Most people prefer to conquer the tallest, which is why this trail is often quieter.

At 16 miles long, it is a very long hike – many people camp, and you’ll need a permit, but it will be worth it.

As the trail winds through forests and the slopes of the mountain, it is one of the prettiest trails in the area, and if you take your time, it can be an enjoyable way of exploring the area.

16- Soak In Deep Creek Hot Springs

deep creek hot springs
Taking a dip in Deep Creek Hot Springs is one of the relaxing things to do in San Bernardino.

Where there are mountains, there are often beautiful waterfalls, still pools and sometimes even hot springs.

The Deep Creek Hot Springs is nestled in amongst the San Bernardino mountains and are a lovely way to relax after a hike or day of exploring.

You’ll need to hike around 2.5 miles just to reach them, so you’ll definitely enjoy a break.

Located on a fork of the Mojave River, there are about six or seven main pools, and you’ll rarely find many tourists here besides exhausted hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

The pools are generally around 40 degrees and have space for a few dozen people, although you can also find smaller pools scattered along the river.

Summer is the best season to visit, and don’t be surprised by the occasional lack of clothing.

17- Enjoy Nature In The San Gabriel Mountains

San Gabriel Mountains mount baldy
Exploring the San Gabriel Mountains is one of the things to do near San Bernardino.

The San Gabriel Mountains are an amazing mountain range that spans both San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County.

The highest point, Mount Baldy, reaches a huge 10,064ft (3067 m), which you can climb if you’re up for a strenuous hike.

Otherwise, there are nine other major peaks, plus plenty of other summits and viewpoints to hike to for stretching views over the range and into the distance.

The beautiful Angeles National Forest surrounds the mountains, and in total, these encompass more than 700,000 acres (283,279 ha) of wilderness in which you can hike, ski, fish, camp and mountain bike, or even go skiing during the winter months.

18- Conquer Mount San Antonio

Mount San Antonio is also known as the previously mentioned Mount Baldy.

Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, it’s the tallest peak in the area and also the tallest in Los Angeles County since it borders both regions.

The incredible views from the top attract thousands of hikers every year, and it is one of the most popular trails in the whole of California.

The hike is around 11 miles (17.7 km) and takes most people an average of seven hours.

However, with a steep climb of around 4,000ft (1219 m), you might find yourself tiring quickly.

The mountains are home to sheep, bears, deer and other wildlife, which you may spot on the way to the summit, which stands at 10,064ft (3067 m).

The trail is most popular in summer when you can stop to enjoy a cold drink at Mt. Baldy Lodge at the top, however, inexperienced hikers are advised not to attempt it in winter since it’s classed as one of the deadliest mountains in America.

19- Catch The Excitement At The Toyota Arena

The Toyota Arena is San Bernardino’s main events arena, holding up to 10,000 people.

You may well be in town to see a gig at this venue, but if not, look online to see what’s on.

Aside from the likes of basketball, hockey and boxing matches, the venue hosts huge live music events throughout the year.

Almost every major artist has played here, from Elton John to Justin Bieber, so the chances are high that something exciting will happen when you visit, even if it’s just a local sporting event.

20- Channel Your Inner Cowboy Or Cowgirl In Pioneertown

Visiting Pioneertown is one of the top things to do in San Bernardino.

Pioneertown is just outside Joshua Tree National Park and is a place most visitors rarely discover.

Pioneertown is an old ghost town that looks like something out of the wild west, with cowboys, saloon bars and horses.

The town has a few restaurants and bars, a concert venue, a Western film museum and plenty of shops selling vintage leather Western clothing and souvenirs.

Real people do live in Pioneertown, although the population is tiny, and the town is a working film set, so don’t be surprised if you see some cameras rolling during your visit. 

For more California ideas, see:

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.