Dis­cover quin­tes­sen­tial Cal­i­for­nia in this of­ten-over­looked re­gion of sand and snow, deserts and moun­tains plus abun­dant vine­yards and casino ac­tion

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY LENORE GREINER

The vast 5,000 square miles of the In­land Em­pire deftly cap­ture Cal­i­for­nia’s Span­ish and Na­tive Amer­i­can ori­gins, the stage­coach era and the Golden Age of trav­el­ing Route 66. Here, the scenic land­scape and his­toric sites re­flect Golden State ex­tremes: snow-capped gran­ite peaks of the San Bernardino Moun­tains to the north and the San Jac­into range to the east fast de­scend into arid high deserts and, fi­nally, to ver­dant vine­yards and groves.

In the birth­place of Cal­i­for­nia’s citrus in­dus­try, dis­cover tran­quil, scenic beauty among vine­yards, hik­ing paths or ski runs. Or par­take in dis­tinctly Cal­i­for­nian pur­suits: wine tast­ing, es­cap­ing to a quiet golf re­sort, or soak­ing in steamy hot springs. The crowds are fewer and the prices are lower than Lake Ta­hoe and Napa Val­ley, yet you’ll find the same thrills and di­ver­sions in the In­land Em­pire.

The Great Out­doors

For year-round recre­ation, trav­el­ers can head into the San Bernardino Moun­tains, to two pop­u­lar alpine lakes. At Big Bear Lake, out­door en­thu­si­asts find win­ter alpine sports at Big Bear Moun­tain and Snow Sum­mit for ex­cel­lent ski­ing and snow­board­ing. Come sum­mer­time, the lake of­fers wa­ter­sports lovers abun­dant fish­ing, boat­ing, kayak­ing and even para­sail­ing. Lake Ar­row­head of­fers hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, bik­ing and ice-skat­ing. Or wan­der in the nat­u­ral beauty and charm­ing shops of the Swiss Chalet-style alpine vil­lage of Lake Ar­row­head. Or sim­ply stargaze, watch the autumn leaves turn or the win­ter snowflakes fall.

City & Town

Food and wine fans can stroll through Old Town Te­mec­ula’s his­toric district of 1880s build­ings while wine tast­ing and sam­pling lo­cal fare in a friendly, Old West am­bi­ence. Or visit Red­lands, the “City of Beau­ti­ful Homes,” and its op­u­lent Vic­to­ri­ans and Arts and Crafts style homes of yes­ter­year.

North of Te­mec­ula, play in the mud or soak in the sooth­ing min­eral wa­ters of the 155-year-old Glen Ivy Hot Springs, dat­ing from early stage­coach days. Get in on the ac­tion at the gam­ing ta­bles at the Pechanga Casino. Or soar in a hot air bal­loon over Te­mec­ula Val­ley’s 35,000-acre wine coun­try, dot­ted with B&BS and lux­ury re­sorts amid vines and citrus groves. After­wards, re­lax with a glass of lo­cal wine on a win­ery por­tico or play golf in this quiet oa­sis of the Cal­i­for­nia good life.

Her­itage & Cul­ture

River­side har­bors a wealth of Cal­i­for­nia his­tory. On Mag­no­lia Av­enue, the state’s first and old­est navel or­ange tree, planted in 1873, stands on the spot where Cal­i­for­nia’s multi-mil­lion-dol­lar citrus in­dus­try be­gan. Since 1880, the iconic Mis­sion Inn has hosted U.S. pres­i­dents and de­lighted trav­el­ers with a Hearst Cas­tle-like eclec­tic mix of Span­ish and Moor­ish ar­chi­tec­ture, adorned with price­less Ital­ian and Span­ish trea­sures, as a church bell tolls on the hour.

The San Bernardino Mu­seum ex­plores lo­cal his­tory by ex­hibit­ing a cov­ered wagon that crossed the Mo­jave Desert from Salt Lake City and a Wells Fargo stage­coach. The Hall of An­thro­pol­ogy show­cases lo­cal na­tive cul­tures, the Mo­jave, Ser­rano and Gabrielino. Within the citrus groves sur­round­ing the mu­seum, the Zim­mer­man Citrus Kiosk ex­plores the area’s citrus her­itage.

Fam­ily Fun

The fun be­gins with rides on the trains and trol­leys of the Or­ange Em­pire Rail­way Mu­seum in Per­ris. At Tom’s Farm in Corona, kids can pan for gold, mount a pony, board the 1800s steam train, or ex­plore a real gem mine. In the sum­mer­time heat, take cool wa­ter rides on the Alpine Slide’s twist­ing curves at the Magic Moun­tain Recre­ation Area at Big Bear Lake.

OLD TOWN TE­MEC­ULA, left; a hot air bal­loon floats over the Te­mec­ula vine­yards, be­low.

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