A trove of discoveries in under-the-radar Socal home base
ONTARIO IS KNOWN primarily as an alternative home base away from the chaos of LAX, stratospheric hotel rates in LA and the beach cities, and legendary freeway congestion. But once they land at pain-free Ontario International Airport, visitors soon find the unheralded historic spots, shopping and entertainment of Ontario and its surrounding communities, dubbed Greater Ontario, well worth seeking out.
The Sunkist water tower south of downtown harks back to Ontario’s origin in 1882, when the Chaffey brothers founded the model township and named it after their home province in Canada. That era lives on in Ontario’s Museum of History and Art and at the Graber Olive House, where the same family has used the same recipe since 1894. More recent history endures at the quaint Logan’s Candies shop, famous for candy canes it has made the same way since 1933 (including a record-breaking six-footer). For more glimpses of the past, get the Historic Downtown Ontario self-guided walking tour map at ontarioca.gov.
Next door in Rancho Cucamonga (where legendary Route 66 runs right through town on the way to its terminus at Santa Monica) is the exquisite home of Sam Maloof, perhaps the most renowned furniture designer of the postwar period. Twice-weekly guided tours show why Maloof insisted on calling himself simply a woodworker—his craftsmanship shines in every detail.
Ontario claims the largest concentration of movie screens west of the Mississippi, while Citizens Business Bank Arena hosts acts ranging from Lucha Libre to the Los Angeles Lakers to Cirque du Soleil to Miranda Lambert. More intimate entertainment can be found at the Lewis Family Playhouse and the Improv at Ontario Mills, which hosts top comedy acts.
Shoppers can choose from more than 200 stores and entertainment venues at Ontario Mills, or find a change of pace at Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens. Its anchor stores are surrounded by small shops arranged as city blocks with a pedestrian walkway leading to a cultural center including a theater and city library.
While Greater Ontario enjoys its proximity to scenic mountain and desert landscapes, one of Southern California’s standout natural sites is in its own backyard: Rancho Santa Ana in Claremont claims the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants, meandering through natural terrain.