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10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Apr 9, 2021

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Rancho Cucamonga is a highly developed suburban city in Southern California, approximately 37 miles east of Los Angeles. It's a cultural basecamp for the surrounding region known as the Inland Empire. The city sits near the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, bordered closely by Angeles National Forest. This elevated terrain offers a quick escape from city streets into a world of nature.

The city is rich with history, much of which is still experienced today. Visitors can check out the John Rains House, dating back to 1860, at the Casa de Rancho Cucamonga. The city also features remnants of Historic Route 66 on the roadside. And the vital Pacific Electric Railway, once used to transport the region's agriculture, is now a heavily used paved bike trail.

Many of the other things to do in Rancho Cucamonga incorporate enjoying the nice weather of the region. Summer temperatures tend to be a bit toasty, but otherwise, the thermostat hovers around 70 degrees Fahrenheit much of the year. A few tourist attractions that capitalize on this nice weather include several city parks, evening baseball games, and a fantastic open-air shopping mall known as Victoria Gardens.

Enjoy the Southern California weather with our list of the top things to do in Rancho Cucamonga.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Feel the Community Buzz at Victoria Gardens

Aerial view of Rancho Cucamonga
Aerial view of Rancho Cucamonga

Victoria Gardens is a large open-air shopping district on the east side of the city. It is very pedestrian-friendly with a town-center construction and two Main Streets. Over 170 storefronts line the walking paths, including big-brand names and regional outlets. Victoria Gardens is also home to Rancho Cucamonga's largest movie theater.

It's not just shopping that attracts people to this community space. The entire area is well lit with professional landscaping and ample room to stroll about casually. It's a popular place to visit on summer evenings and enjoy the Inland Empire's pleasant weather. Young children also find extra appeal with rides on the Choo Choo Monga Express miniature train.

The Victoria Gardens Cultural Center is another essential community resource on the grounds. This contemporary facility houses a public library, a performing arts center, and the Lewis Family Playhouse. And the facility's Imagination Courtyard is home to several community events throughout the year.

Official site: https://www.victoriagardensie.com/

2. Bike the Pacific Electric Trail

Pacific Electric Trail
Pacific Electric Trail

The Pacific Electric Trail is an approximately 20-mile pedestrian path that stretches across the southern Inland Empire. This paved, two-lane bike trail passes right through Rancho Cucamonga and connects with Rialto to the west and Claremont to the east. Several access points and bus stops line the path, making it a popular means of travel for those not driving a car.

The current non-motorized trail is the result of a rails-to-trails conversion. It used to be the Pacific Electric Railway until the 1950s. The line was a significant driver of growth in the region, delivering agriculture to the rest of the state. Today, it's a vital resource for walkers, bicyclists, inline skaters, strollers, and any muscle-powered transportation.

3. Hike to Etiwanda Falls in the North Etiwanda Preserve

The view hiking up to Etiwanda Falls
The view hiking up to Etiwanda Falls

In the San Gabriel Mountain foothills on the north side of town, North Etiwanda Preserve offers a fast escape into nature. The preserve protects over 1,200 acres of desert-shrub environment and offers several day-use trails for the public to explore. One of the most popular trails in the area is the route leading to the small oasis known as Etiwanda Falls.

It's approximately a 3.5-mile hike to Etiwanda Falls and back. Though the route is family-friendly, it can be a strenuous trek for those unprepared. The trail is well-trodden but rocky in some places and climbs approximately 800 feet. And much of the journey is without any shade, which can prove dangerous in the midday sun. Visitors are also advised that rattlesnakes inhabit the area.

All the challenges aside, Etiwanda Falls offers a relatively easy escape from the city streets. The landscape becomes more verdant surrounding Etiwanda Creek and the falls. A beautiful view of the valley down below also comes into better focus higher up on the trail.

And Etiwanda Falls isn't the only hiking destination in the preserve. Interpretive information lines a large, looped trail that spans the open space. There's an abundant parking area off Etiwanda Avenue, though these spaces often fill up quickly. To ensure a parking spot, and to beat the heat, plan to arrive at the trailhead early morning.

Address: 4887 Etiwanda Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, California (Trailhead)

Official site: http://web.sbcnep.org/index.aspx?page=192

4. Step into History at the John Rains House

The John Rains House, also known as Casa de Rancho Cucamonga, offers a glimpse into the region's rugged past. The red brick building on the property dates to 1860, when John Rains and his wife, Maria Merced, constructed the elegant ranch-style abode and settled in the area.

After the property traded hands over several years, San Bernardino County acquired the house and rancho in 1971. Significant restorations have returned the home to its original 1800s decor, and today, the public is encouraged to step back in time with a visit. The house is typically open Tuesdays through Saturdays throughout the year.

The John Rains House is only the tip of fascinating history available throughout the county. The house is a single branch of the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands, 30 minutes east. Other branches include the Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery and Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley.

Official site: http://www.sbcounty.gov/museum/

5. Spend Time at a City Park

Snowcapped mountains behind Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga
Snowcapped mountains behind Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga

Rancho Cucamonga operates approximately 30 public parks spread throughout the city. The facilities range from elaborate playground equipment to water parks and tennis courts. The common denominator of all these green spaces is grounds to enjoy sunny Southern California weather.

A few popular parks to explore include Milliken Park and Ralph M. Lewis Park. These two public spaces have covered picnic areas, barbecue pits, basketball courts, and playground sets. Central Park is also a nice respite in this part of town. The Pacific Electric Trail passes through Central Park and connects to the park's small hiking trail network.

Another well-known park, Red Hill Community Park, is on the west side of town. This expansive green space has several amenities, including ample picnic areas, playgrounds, and a duck pond. The park is also vibrant with green grass throughout the year. Other notable attractions at Red Hill include a baseball diamond, soccer fields, and an amphitheater.

6. Catch a Foul Ball at the Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter

Nothing pairs better with warm weather than cheering on the Quakes at the Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter. This minor league team is past champs and a farm team for the L.A. Dodgers. Every home game always features extra entertainment between innings. And the 6,000-person stadium doesn't have a single bad view of the action.

The season typically spans June through September. Special events at the park include fireworks; specialty souvenir giveaways; and antics by Tremor, the seven-foot Rally Saurus mascot. While the game caters to all ages, Quake outings are undoubtedly enjoyed by kids. Season tickets and mini-season tickets are available.

Official site: https://www.milb.com/rancho-cucamonga

7. Explore a National Forest

Mount Baldy and Angeles National Forest soaring above Rancho Cucamonga
Mount Baldy and Angeles National Forest soaring above Rancho Cucamonga

Angeles National Forest and San Bernardino National Forest connect near Rancho Cucamonga's backdoor. This elevated terrain comprises the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains and more than 1.4 million acres of public domain. And both forests are home to some of Southern California's best hiking trails.

One of the closest and most iconic of these hikes is the trail leading up to Mount Baldy, also known as Mount San Antonio. It's the highest peak of the San Gabriels at just over 10,000 feet tall. With a few options available, most summit hikes start at Manker Flat Campground - one of Southern California's best campgrounds. This high-elevation place to pitch a tent is a 20-mile drive on Mt. Baldy Road from Rancho.

Similarly, San Bernardino National Forest also offers bucket-list hikes. San Gorgonio Mountain, the tallest mountain in California south of the Sierras, is one such challenging summit hike. But it doesn't have to be a struggle to enjoy the forest's trails. Hundreds of miles of easier routes also lace the forests.

8. Snap a Photo at the Cucamonga Service Station

Cucamonga Service Station
Cucamonga Service Station | Ron Reiring / photo modified

The Historic Route 66 runs right through Rancho Cucamonga on its route between Chicago and Los Angeles. This Main Street of America enticed travelers from across the country during the first half of the 1900s. Part of its legacy remains today in Rancho Cucamonga.

Not much of the roadside resembles the era when Route 66 was the "Mother Road." Though, places like the Cucamonga Service Station still lend a preview to the bygone architecture and style once typical in the early 1900s. This heavily restored service station resembles its original 1915 design and appearance.

Today, this designated historic site houses a quaint museum with information about Historic Route 66. It also offers a charming photo opportunity. The gift shop is typically open Thursday through Sunday throughout the afternoon.

Address: 9670 Foothill Boulevard, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Official site: https://route66ieca.org/

9. Rent a Cabin at Big Bear Lake

Lakefront homes and rentals at Big Bear Lake
Lakefront homes and rentals at Big Bear Lake

The adventurous city of Big Bear Lake is less than a two-hour drive from Rancho Cucamonga. The San Bernardino Mountains surround this small vacation town. This elevated scenery offers a stark contrast from Rancho Cucamonga's weather with reasons to visit for all four seasons.

The summer is popular in Big Bear for its cooler temperatures and lush mountain backdrops. Hiking, boating, and swimming are activities that entice weekend visits this time of year.

But Big Bear's real appeal comes in winter, as it's home to one of the only ski resorts in Southern California.

No matter the season, the best way to spend the night at Big Bear is in a cabin. The town has cabin companies and private rentals on nearly all sides of the lake. These furnished spaces vary from woodsy and primitive to luxurious and lakeside. Advanced reservations are always recommended.

Read More: Top Things to Do in Big Bear, CA

10. Fish at Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park

This sprawling regional park encompasses over 150 acres on the city's southern limits. The park has several notable warm-weather attractions, including two stocked fishing lakes. Fishing at Cucamonga-Guasti is available year-round, and fish are typically stocked every Thursday. Any angler 16 years or older needs a fishing license to cast a line.

The park has various boat rentals alongside fishing access. Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats are among the fleet of rentals. Outside of the two lakes, the regional park also features a large swimming pool, open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This popular swim spot features lifeguards, zero-depth entry, and a 220-foot double flume waterslide.

Where to Stay in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Rancho Cucamonga has an abundance of quality hotels, many with very recognizable brand names. The largest selection of these hotels is on the south side of the city near Interstate 10. Several of these hotels are also near the Ontario International Airport.

  • Best Western Plus Heritage Inn: This Best Western Plus offers clean and comfortable rooms and a great location. The hotel is next to Historic Route 66 and just a short drive to Victoria Gardens. The hotel's amenities include an outdoor pool, a hot breakfast bar, and a small fitness center.
  • Hilton Garden Inn: This dependable hotel has an excellent reputation for cleanliness and customer service. It also has a convenient location close to both Interstate 10 and Interstate 15. The Hilton offers rooms and spacious suites, alongside standard amenities like free Wi-Fi and cable TV. The hotel also features an indoor pool area and exercise studio.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott: For more extended stays in Rancho Cucamonga, the Residence Inn offers modern rooms with a little more space. Alongside comfortable bedding and furnishing, overnight accommodations also include a desk and a separate sitting area. It's a popular hotel choice for business trips and getting work done.
  • Aloft: Alongside stylish grounds, this hip hotel also offers a great overnight value. The rooms all have a loft-style design with modern furnishings and a cozy feel. Several modern amenities make the hotel stand out, including re:fuel - the gourmet self-serve eatery on the first floor.
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