26 Things to Do in the Inland Empire in 2024 (By a Local) (2024)

You’ll never run out of things to do in the Inland Empire. This Southern California region is home to many family-friendly activities, hiking trails, lakes, museums, and other attractions.

I was born and raised in the Inland Empire (“IE” for short), so I’ve compiled the absolute best activities into this list to help you plan your adventures.

Before reading, make sure to bookmark my guide on where to stay in the Inland Empire so you can find the best accommodation after deciding what you want to do here.

All right, let’s get into it!

Page Contents

  • 26 Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire
    • San Bernardino National Forest
    • Idyllwild
    • Joshua Tree National Park
    • Big Bear Lake
    • Deep Creek Hot Springs
    • Fox Performing Arts Center
    • Mission Inn
    • Palm Springs
    • Temecula Wine Tasting
    • Mount Baldy Lodge
    • Lake Arrowhead
    • Pioneertown
    • Ontario Mills
    • Riverside Art Museum
    • Redlands Farmers Market
    • California Citrus State Historic Park
    • Mojave/Colorado Desert Camping
    • Silverwood Lake
    • Lake Elsinore Outlets
    • Acrisure Arena
    • March Field Air Museum
    • Southern California Railway Museum
    • Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park
    • San Bernardino County Museum
    • Castle Park
    • Mount Rubidoux Park
  • FAQs About What to Do in the Inland Empire
    • What can you do for free in the Inland Empire?
    • What is there to do on a Sunday in the Inland Empire?
    • What is the Inland Empire known for?
    • What places are in the Inland Empire?

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26 Best Things to Do in the Inland Empire

San Bernardino National Forest

Hike to some of the tallest peaks in SoCal.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 382-2600 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm Mon-Fri | Entrance: $5 Day Use Pass

Hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest is one of my favorite activities in Southern California. This dense collection of granite rock walls and forest pine receives far fewer crowds than the neighboring Angeles National Forest. This makes for a quieter, more pleasant outdoor experience.

San Jacinto and San Gorgonio are the most popular hikes in the national forest. San Jacinto is one of the coolest hikes in California and can be climbed via Idyllwild or the Palm Springs Tram.

San Gorgonio is the highest mountain peak in Southern California, standing at an impressive 11,503 feet. Both of these beautiful alpine hikes can be accessed in the winter but you’ll need proper gear like microspikes, hiking poles, an ice axe, and crampons, depending on the severity of the conditions.


Get to know a quirky mountain town, its hiking trails, and downtown boutiques.

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📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free

Idyllwild is one of the quaintest little mountain towns. Tucked away in the San Jacinto Mountains just outside of Banning, Idyllwild is home to cozy cafes, hundreds of hiking trails, and an eclectic array of funky downtown stores. You’ll find tons of fun things to do in Idyllwild.

Travel 1 hour, and 20 minutes from San Bernardino to arrive at this romantic CA weekend getaway destination. Rent a rustic cabin in Idyllwild or stay at the state park campground to ensure enough time to fully explore the mountain town.

I recommend hiking San Jacinto Peak while in town. You can access the trail via Marion Mountain, only a 15-minute drive from the state park campground.

Joshua Tree National Park

Capture a desert sunset between famous Joshua Trees.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 367-5500 | Website | Hours: 24 | Entrance: $30/vehicle for 7-consecutive days, $55 annual pass

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular national parks in California.

This national park is in the high desert and has one of the largest concentrations of Joshua Trees in the world. There are a ton of things to do in Joshua Tree, and it’s a natural playground for hikers and rock climbers alike.

The night sky is illuminated with stars at night, so plan an overnight stay near Joshua Tree if you want to experience this astronomical beauty.

Big Bear Lake

Carve some epic turns at the ski resort or refresh your kayak skills on the lake.

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📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free

Big Bear Lake is one of the most family-friendly activities in the Inland Empire. It’s also the ultimate day trip from Los Angeles since it’s only 2 hours from the big city.

This is the perfect escape from the big city that has something for everyone. Enjoy a variety of recreational activities or simply relax by a rental cabin fireplace with a good book.

There are so many activities to do in Big Bear like kayaking on the lake, visiting the wildlife zoo, and skiing at Big Bear Ski Resort. Check out the Stanfield Marsh Preserve if you’re interested in a leisurely walk and pretty sunsets.

Deep Creek Hot Springs

Soak and relax in one of the state’s best hot springs.

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📍 Google Maps | Deep Creek Website | Hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm Mon-Fri | Entrance: Free – $10, depending on the entrance

Deep Creek Hot Springs is the best-kept Inland Empire secret. It’s one of the best hot springs in California located an hour and 15 minutes from San Bernardino.

There are several soaking pools nestled between canyon walls and neighbored by the Deep Creek itself. Temperature variation ranges from 90-108° F, and there are plenty of spots to sprawl out to work on a suntan.

The most popular way to get to the hot springs is via Bowen Ranch Rd. This trailhead is located on public property and costs $10 per person per day. There is also overnight camping available for $15-$20 per person, with provided picnic tables and fire rings.

Deep Creek can also be accessed from Lake Arrowhead. To get to Deep Creek from here, you’ll need to drive 20 minutes to the Bradford Ridge Trailhead. It’s free but requires a steep 7-mile round-trip hike.

Fox Performing Arts Center

Spend the night with some live performances.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 779-9800 | Website

Visit the Fox Performing Arts Center for an entertaining night in the IE. This colonial Spanish-style performing arts center is the main theater venue in Riverside and is worth checking out if you love live shows.

Performances at the Fox Performing Arts Center range from comedy and theater to tribute nights and concerts. Take your family or friends to sing-alongs and other live performances for a night to remember.

Mission Inn

Stay at one of the oldest and most elegant hotels in the IE.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 784-0300 | Website | Hours: Check-In: 4 pm, Check Out: 11 am

The Mission Inn is one of the most iconic hotels in Riverside, and it’s the perfect location for photoshoots. What began as a small adobe boarding house in 1876 has transformed into a flourishing, luxurious hotel in the heart of the Inland Empire.

This historic Riverside landmark has hosted U.S. presidents and movie film crews. The most popular time to visit The Mission Inn is during the Christmas holidays when the hotel is beautifully decorated in extravagant lights.

Palm Springs

See where famous Hollywood celebrities live when they’re incognito.

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📍 Google Maps | Website

Palm Springs is a low desert destination with extravagant homes, Hollywood movie stars, luxurious resorts, and boutique shopping. There are plenty of luxe places to stay in Palm Springs for people who want the ultimate relaxing getaway.

The Living Desert Zoo is one of the coolest Palm Springs attractions. Witness native flora and fauna in this thriving environment in the San Jacinto Mountains and learn more about SoCal wildlife.

I also recommend visiting Palm Springs on a Thursday when the VillageFest night market is in full swing.

Temecula Wine Tasting

Leave the kids at home to discover the rich reds and whites of Temecula Valley.

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📍 Google Maps | Website

Temecula is two hours from Los Angeles in the rolling hills of the Santa Ana Mountains with seas of grape-bearing vineyards. Enjoy the rich flavors of the Inland Empire on an adults-only excursion. Wine tasting is one of the top things to do in Temecula.

With almost 50 wineries to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits your taste buds. There are even Temecula winery tours that take you winery hopping and show you the best of the best.

I recommend staying overnight in Temecula, especially if you plan on doing a lot of wine-tasting. Jess’s guide on where to stay in Temecula can help you find the best accommodation.

Mount Baldy Lodge

Hang with the locals in a cozy mountain lodge.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 982-1115 | Mount Baldy Lodge Website | Hours (Restaurant): 11 AM-8:30 PM Monday-Friday, 9 am-8:30 pm Saturday & Sunday | Entrance: Free

Mount Baldy is the highest mountain in the San Gabriel range, and Mount Baldy Village is one of the quaintest California mountain towns. The Mount Baldy Lodge is one of the only public establishments in the tight-knit town. It’s where all of the Baldy locals hang out.

Grabbing a bite to eat at the Mount Baldy Lodge is especially rewarding after summiting one of the neighborhood mountain peaks. I usually opt for the vegetarian chili, mozzarella sticks, and a cold brew.

The jukebox and two pool tables provide family fun, along with the summer outdoor concert series.

The Mount Baldy Lodge transforms into the coziest cabin in the Inland Empire in the wintertime. Two roaring indoor fireplaces warm up the lodge and hot cocoa topped generously with whipped cream warms up the belly.

Lake Arrowhead

Relax in the village and putt putt around the lake on a boat tour.

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📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free

Lake Arrowhead is a luxurious mountain town. It’s only 40 minutes from San Bernardino and Lake Arrowhead offers solitude away from the chaotic city life.

Exploring this small lake town is one of the best things to do in San Bernardino, although there are some stipulations for visiting. Lake Arrowhead Village is open to everyone. But you must either know a Lake Arrowhead resident or take a tour (such as the Arrowhead Queen Tour Boat) to enjoy watersports on the lake.

Of course, if you’re not into watersports and don’t need a boat rental, then I recommend renting a cute rental cabin around the lake. You’ll need to make subsequent trips to experience all the fun Lake Arrowhead attractions.


Visit a wild west town that was literally made for the movies.

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📍 Google Maps | Pioneertown Website | Hours: 24 hours, most shops open from 10 am-6 pm Thursday-Monday

Pioneertown is a revamped “ghost town” west of Joshua Tree National Park. The Wild West town was built as a movie set in 1946 and has been a stomping ground for film directors and other SAG enthusiasts.

The main street promenade features boutiques like a goat soap shop and vintage clothing store. My personal favorite Pioneertown stops are a vintage 6-lane bowling alley that was “forgotten by time” and the Red Dog Saloon near the end of the street.

Most first-time visitors stop at Pioneertown’s Pappy and Harriet’s biker bar and live music venue. Southern-inspired cuisine, hip bands, a wooden interior, and a full bar make Pappy’s the best dive in the West.

👉 Pro Tip: Don’t forget to check out the Pioneertown “Mane Street Stampede,” a cowboy show that takes place every 2nd and 4th Saturday in Pioneertown.

Ontario Mills

Shop for killer discounts just outside of LA.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 484-8300 | Website | Hours: 10 am-8 pm Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-9 pm Fridays & Saturdays

Ontario Mills is one of the most popular malls in Southern California. You can find everything you need at this outlet mall, even on a budget. There are also two movie theaters and a kiddie play zone.

The food court and surrounding restaurants are abundant, making this the perfect lunch meet-up spot.

Riverside Art Museum

Get inspired by some local IE artists.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 684-7111 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm Wed-Fri, 12 pm-5 pm Sun, closed Mon & Tues | Entrance: $15.95, adults, $10.95, children (13-17) & seniors, free, children 12 and under

The Riverside Art Museum is located in Riverside’s Historic Mission Inn District, and it’s the best place in the Inland Empire to view local Southern California artists. The museum also offers art classes for both children and adults.

The Riverside Art Museum primarily focuses on social issues, which sets it apart from other IE museums. The permanent collection consists of over 2,000 objects ranging from paintings to mixed media work. Rotating exhibits have included topics like Indigenous Futurism.

Redlands Farmers Market

Buy fresh produce, a vegan dessert, or a homemade tamale at this local market.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 798-7629 | Website | Hours: Saturdays (March-November) 9 am – 1 pm | Entrance: Free

Source all your fruits and veggies locally from the Redlands Farmers Market. There are a few farmer’s markets throughout town during the week but my favorite is the Saturday market on Sixth Street.

Sample fresh produce, vegan pastries, tamales, and stir-fry bowls. The Redlands market has everything you need to satisfy an empty stomach. There are also local cafes and breakfast spots lining the market, making this area the perfect late-morning activity.

California Citrus State Historic Park

Discover more about California’s rich history in the citrus industry.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 780-6222 | Website | Hours: 8 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $7 per vehicle

The California Citrus State Historic Park is an open-air museum that pays tribute to California’s early history as a citrus-producing state. The state park explores the significance of the citrus industry with interpretive tours, fruit tasting, and an annual Citrus Tasting Festival.

Mojave/Colorado Desert Camping

Camp in the desert without the crowds.

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📍 Google Maps | Mojave Desert Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free

The Inland Empire is right in the belly of the Mojave Desert and extends to the entrance of the Colorado Desert. Camp for free among the thousands of Joshua Trees in the Mojave Preserve or amidst the wide-open desert east of Palm Springs.

Most of the BLM land and lesser-known campsites like Corn Springs Campground never fill to capacity. In addition, you’ll often find little-explored trails and archaeological sites like the 10,000-year-old petroglyphs at Corn Springs. You can find other remote BLM camp spots via the iOverlander app.

The Midland Long-Term Visitor Area offers dispersed camping in the open desert. Midland straddles both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts and it’s close enough to Arizona for a day trip.

Silverwood Lake

Spend an afternoon fishing on the lake for dinner.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 389-2281 | Website | Hours: 7 am-7 pm (October-March), 6 am-9 pm (April-September) | Entrance: $10/vehicle, $20/vehicle (summer weekend & holiday)

The whole family can enjoy a fun day under the sun at Silverwood Lake for a small fee. Bring a fishing rod, your bathing suit, and a packable lunch — you won’t know where the time has gone with the fun you’ll be having.

This is where a lot of locals hang out, so be prepared to make some friends. Lake Silverwood is one of my favorite places to go on a lazy day in sunny California.

Lake Elsinore Outlets

Purchase discounted clothes and shoes at this less crowded outlet mall.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 245-0087 | Website | Hours: 10 am-7 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-8 pm Friday-Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm Sunday

The Lake Elsinore Outlets should be on your Inland Empire Itinerary if you want to score some major shopping deals. There’s also an extensive array of eateries at the Lake Elsinore Outlets, making it the ideal way to spend a SoCal afternoon.

Acrisure Arena

Watch epic shows in a brand-new arena.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (888) 695-8778 | Acrisure Arena Website | Hours: Hours vary per event

Acrisure Arena is the Inland Empire’s newest arena. The establishment opened its doors in December 2022 with a comedy show featuring Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle.

The Acrisure Arena is most notably the home of the Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey team but also hosts other exciting events.

The arena has seen its fair share of concerts, sports games, holiday events, and WWE show-downs in its early years of operation. Performances by The Eagles with Steely Dan, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, and Olivia Rodrigo have been highlights.

The Acrisure Arena is intimate, ensuring a prime view of the stage or hockey rink from any seat in the house. Bars are conveniently located throughout the two floors so you can make a quick trip without missing a goal.

March Field Air Museum

Learn more about California aviation at this Moreno Valley museum.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 902-5949 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $18, adults, $12, seniors, $10, children, free, children 4 and under

This Moreno Valley aviation museum is one of the coolest museums in California. View 107 aircraft and over 30,000 aviation artifacts at the March Field Air Museum.

The bombers, sleek fighters, and cargo aircraft are sure to fascinate visitors of all ages. This is the perfect day excursion for tourists staying at the Mission Inn or in the area to catch some live music at the Fox Performing Arts Theater.

Southern California Railway Museum

Visit a historic railroad museum that highlights California railroads.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 943-3020 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily | Entrance (weekend train & trolley rides): $12, adults, $8, children

The Southern California Railway Museum is situated in Perris, a city known for skydiving. It was founded more than 60 years ago and pays homage to California’s railway history.

This huge, 100-acre museum is home to a vast collection of locomotives, racecars, trolleys, model trains, and more. Learn more about the impressive railroad trade from an educated docent at the Southern California Railway Museum, open daily.

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park

Get some exercise amid the rolling hills of this wilderness park.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 826-2596 | Website | Hours: 5 am-8 pm Sunday-Friday, 7 am-10 pm Saturdays | Entrance: Free

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park comprises nearly 1,500 acres of open wilderness terrain. This is the perfect place to walk your dog, get in a quick run before brunch with the family, or have a romantic date.

The Ameal Moore Nature Center is a popular gathering place within the wilderness park and hosts family-friendly events like nature-based crafts and group hikes.

This is also a good place to bike and go bird-watching. But watch out for the infamous California rattlesnake, a long-term inhabitant of the wilderness park.

San Bernardino County Museum

Fill an idle IE day with a trip to this cultural museum.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 798-8608 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily, Closed Mondays & County Holidays | Entrance: $10, adults, $8, seniors, $5, youth, free, children 5 & under

Learn about SoCal culture and natural science at the San Bernardino County Museum. This museum is located right off the Redlands Freeway. It’s a great place to learn about local culture and history through interactive exhibits.

The museum has a variety of permanent and rotating exhibitions, and its event calendar is overflowing with fun.

Castle Park

Give your kids an afternoon to remember at this affordable amusem*nt park.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 785-3000 | Website | Hours: 12 pm-9 pm Saturdays, 12 pm-8 pm Sundays (ride park) | Entrance: $24.99+, adults, $19.99+, children

Castle Park is one of the best local theme parks in California. This Riverside amusem*nt park has rides, miniature golf, and year-round fun.

Go on rides like Ghost Blasters, the FireBall coaster, Merlin’s Revenge, and Dragons Tower for a rush of adrenaline. Play arcade games and mini golf, and admire Kevin, the park peaco*ck, for a more relaxed excursion.

Because of the incredibly affordable price, this is one of the most popular theme parks in the IE. It’s sure to be your child’s new favorite thing to do in SoCal.

Mount Rubidoux Park

Hike an easy trail to a spectacular lookout of Riverside.

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📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 826-2000 | Website | Hours: dawn-dusk | Entrance: Free

Mount Rubidoux is one of the most popular excursions in the IE for both hikers and mountain bikers. It’s located just outside of Downtown Riverside.

The 3.2-mile loop takes hikers on a paved road to a cross that marks the summit of the trail. Enjoy 360-degree views of the town below.

Mount Rubidoux Park is also a popular place to trail run, walk your dog, or enjoy your cup of coffee on a slow morning.

FAQs About What to Do in the Inland Empire

What can you do for free in the Inland Empire?

Hiking in Mount Rubidoux Park is a free thing to do in the Inland Empire. You can also browse the outlet malls or wander a local farmers market for free.

What is there to do on a Sunday in the Inland Empire?

Farmers Markets are the best activity to do on a Sunday in the Inland Empire. Hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains or to San Juan Creek are other popular activities.

What is the Inland Empire known for?

The Inland Empire is known for its many hiking trails, outlet malls, wine tasting, and the historic Mission Inn and California Citrus State Historic Park.

What places are in the Inland Empire?

Temecula, Riverside, Redlands, the San Bernardino National Forest, Rancho Cucamonga, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Idyllwild, and Joshua Tree National Park are all in the Inland Empire.


The IE encompasses some of the best things to do in California, so it’s well worth visiting this fantastic destination.

Leave a comment to let me know what you’re most excited to do. Happy travels!

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26 Things to Do in the Inland Empire in 2024 (By a Local) (2024)


What's Inland Empire known for? ›

The Inland Empire offers many outdoor sports such as snowboarding, motorcycling, biking,racing, and four-wheeling. The eastern pass to the low desert climbs to 1600 feet, with 10,000 ft. -plus peaks on both sides of Interstate 10. Most notable are Mt.

What is included in the Inland Empire? ›

Included are the major cities of Riverside, Ontario, San Bernardino, Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga in the eastern valleys of the Inland Empire. We have the mountain areas of Big Bear and Arrowhead. To the North we have the high desert cities of Victorville and Hesperia.

Is the Inland Empire a good place to live? ›

Encompassing two counties – Riverside and San Bernardino, residents are drawn to the area for its peaceful surroundings and outdoor recreational opportunities. If you're considering moving to Inland Empire, you're in the right place.

What is families together for kids in LA County? ›

The goal of Families Together for Kids in LA County is to ensure that parents and caregivers are speaking up on behalf of all children in Los Angeles County. To ensure diverse parent and family voices are included, we ask certain questions about income, location, race/ethnicity, etc.

Where is close to Inland Empire? ›

The Inland Empire borders both Los Angeles and Orange counties. Freeways in Southern California are heavily used, but this comprehensive freeway system has made travel between the Inland Empire and these two counties generally direct, especially to and from Los Angeles County.

What are the poorest cities in the Inland Empire? ›

The three most-impoverished cities in the Inland Empire are San Bernardino, Hesperia and Perris. The three least-impoverished cities in the Inland Empire are Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga and Chino Hills.

What is the poorest city in the Inland Empire? ›

Due to the immigration of poor families flowing into the greater San Bernardino area looking for cheaper housing and jobs the effect on the economy on our local communities is negatively impacted.

What is the average income in the Inland Empire? ›

The average inland empire salary in the USA is $69,000 per year or $33.17 per hour. Entry level positions start at $43,680 per year while most experienced workers make up to $125,269 per year.

What is the largest city in the Inland Empire? ›

Inland Empire is a densely populated region, with the university town of Riverside as its largest city and San Bernardino as its second-largest city.

How many immigrants are in the Inland Empire? ›

The Inland Empire: A Majority-Minority Region

These counties include large immigrant populations; there are nearly 1 million immigrants living in the Inland Empire, with a ratio of one in five residents being an immigrant (UCR Social Innovation 2020).

How many people live in the Inland Empire? ›

About 4.6 million people live in the two Inland Empire counties, roughly 16 percent of California's total area and about 11 percent of its population.

How scary is Inland Empire? ›

Frightening & Intense Scenes (5)

A few scenes with loud noises and creepy imagery can be jumpscare-like. Many scenes contain human-sized rabbit people. Their appearance is intentionally disturbing, it's David Lynch after all. The entire film very disturbing, it is David Lynch's most surreal and hard to follow film.

Are people moving to the Inland Empire? ›

By the numbers: Positioned east of Los Angeles, the Inland Empire is home to two of California's largest counties, Riverside and San Bernardino. Between 2016 and 2020, more than 44,000 people moved to the region from nearby Long Beach, Anaheim and L.A., according to the American Community Survey.

What to do with kids in Orange County? ›

  • Mission San Juan Capistrano. 1,616. Speciality Museums. ...
  • Heisler Park. 1,320. Parks. ...
  • Balboa Island Ferry. 1,948. Ferries. ...
  • Downtown Disney District. 8,828. Disney Parks & Activities Disneyland Admission tickets from $310. ...
  • Angel Stadium of Anaheim. 1,746. ...
  • Crystal Cove State Park. 1,257. ...
  • Huntington Beach Pier. 2,358. ...
  • Balboa Island. 1,434.

Does MCO have a kids play area? ›

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Though Orlando's airport doesn't have a kid-friendly play area, it does have a 3,000-gallon aquarium in the MCO food court and Disney and Universal stores where you can buy toys and games for your young ones. These should be more than enough to keep them excited and active.

Does Inland Empire include Riverside? ›

Southern California's Inland Empire (IE), comprised of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, is one of the fastest-growing population centers in the United States, located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The IE is seen as accessible and affordable with a young, diverse, and growing population.

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