San Bernardino, California, is one of many spectacular cities in the Golden State. But it can be easy to overlook due to larger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.
While the city may not have millions of residents, it still offers plenty of places to explore. From outdoor activities to museums, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.
We’ve found five things to do in San Bernardino, California, that make the city worth adding to your travel bucket list.
Let’s dive in!
What Is San Bernardino Known For?
People have been settling in the San Bernardino area since the mid-1800s. However, the city has experienced growth and fame due to important transportation infrastructures. The Santa Fe Railway and Historic Route 66 are the most significant and well-known.
The Santa Fe Railway came to the area in the late-1800s. And Route 66 turned San Bernardino, California, into a stop for travelers crossing the Mojave Desert beginning in the 1920s.
Several of the most famous roadside attractions during Route 66’s heyday are in San Bernardino. Despite I-40 replacing Route 66, the people of San Bernardino have launched a festival in its honor.
While the city has a reputation for its connection with the transportation industry, that’s not all it’s known for. San Bernardino is also home to San Manuel Stadium, home of the Inland Empire 66ers. In addition, visitors can enjoy the great outdoors at many parks and learn about history at several museums in the city.
Pro Tip: While on your road trip, make sure to stop at these 7 Best Roadside Attractions in California.
#1 Attend the Route 66 Rendezvous
Route 66 played a significant role in San Bernardino’s history, and the California city is indebted to it. The locals love the road and what it did for their city. As a result, the Route 66 Rendezvous started decades ago in 1990. This single-day event features lives entertainment and a car show with over 1,000 vehicles, many of which would have cruised up and down the famous road.
This annual event takes place every October. If your travel plans have you in the Golden State in October, it’s worth rearranging your schedule to attend the Route 66 Rendezvous. You can enjoy the cars, food, and entertainment while reflecting on the days when Route 66 was alive and bustling with tourists.
#2 Drive the Rim of the World Scenic Byway
A drive on a scenic byway is one of the best ways to appreciate an area’s natural landscapes. A drive along California Highway 18’s 100-mile Rim of the World Scenic Byway allows you to take in the crisp mountain air at 7,000 feet. This is a popular route out of the San Bernardino Valley for those on their way to Big Bear Lake and the many ski resorts there.
There are multiple pull-offs along the byway for travelers to enjoy the views. One of the most popular is at Lake View Point, which provides a breathtaking view of Big Bear Lake. Pack a meal and time it right to enjoy the view while having a picnic. It’s a priceless view of the natural beauty of this area.
The byway provides practically endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. There are plenty of hiking trails, swimming holes, and overlooks to enjoy. If you want to slow down and take it easy, camp at Yellow Post Sites. This rustic California campground is a first-come, first-served campground that allows guests to pitch a tent and explore the San Bernardino Mountains.
#3 Visit the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum
The San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum provides visitors with an in-depth look at the city’s history and the railroad industry’s evolution. You’ll find photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Some of the unique artifacts in the museum include a recreation of a 1910 railroad station and the first automobile operated in San Bernardino. In addition, you’ll see an 1890 fire department hose wagon that’s been used eight times for the famous Rose Parade. If you’re a lover of trains and history, this is one spot you won’t want to miss.
The San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum has free admission, parking, and tours. However, the museum is only open on Saturdays, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Know Before You Go: Visit the museum’s website for driving directions and historical information dating back to 1800.
#4 Explore Glen Helen Regional Park
Parks are a great place to explore in many cities, and San Bernardino, California, is no exception. Glen Helen Regional Park is a 1,340-acre park that offers recreational opportunities, whether you’re looking for relaxing or rugged adventures.
Bring your rod and reel, as you can try your luck at catching a fish in one of the two fishing lakes. Additionally, the park also features a swimming complex to escape the heat and cool off. The complex has dual water slides, a splash pad, and a pool for relaxing. You can also find plenty of shade throughout the park to make it easy to take a time out and enjoy nature’s sights, sounds, and smells.
The Glen Helen Amphitheater is a 65,000-seat outdoor concert venue. The venue hosts some of the music industry’s largest artists, including Luke Bryan, Kid Cudi, Chris Stapleton, and Rihanna. You never know who’ll schedule a stop there on their tour.
#5 Check Out the Unofficial McDonald’s Museum
While McDonald’s lists their first location as Des Plaines, Illinois, that’s not entirely true. In the 1940s, Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The brothers would later sell their company and name to Ray Kroc, who took the brother’s idea and ran. As a result, McDonald’s became what we know today.
The Unofficial McDonald’s Museum is home to a massive collection of toys, signs, and even old play place equipment from McDonald’s. In addition, you can find an enormous collection of the restaurant’s promotional materials from around the world. The entire museum operates solely on donations, and the display is constantly growing.
Pro Tip: Is Mcdonald’s more than just a place to grab a burger on a road trip? Find out Can You Park Overnight at McDonald’s?
A City With Rich History
San Bernardino, California, is an excellent place to visit, especially if you’re over the Golden State’s big cities. Many travelers exploring Route 66 will make San Bernardino a stop to explore the many famous roadside attractions.
However, don’t just make it a short pit stop. The city offers plenty to see and do that you can easily stay for several days. So enjoy the views, history, and experience of San Bernardino, California, for your next adventure.
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