When thinking of Southern California, what do you think of? Probably a mixture of Los Angeles, San Francisco and various coastal towns filled with Californians living their best lives and soaking up the sun. If I said Ontario, you’d probably think I was referring to the Canadian destination.
However, there is a spot on the map known as Ontario, Calif., and that spot prides itself on being “forty-five minutes from everywhere you want to be.” While it’s definitely great as a starting base for your other Californian adventures, there’s lots to do in the city of Ontario itself and the surrounding areas.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Ontario, California:
1. See Some Art
Every destination has its artists, and so every destination has some art to display.
The CCAA Museum of Art (which stands for Chaffey Community Museum of Art) is one of the oldest organizations in the area to support the local art scene.
You’ll see exhibits from nationally-recognized individuals, but also new offerings from those you aren’t familiar with.
2. Go Museum Hopping
While you’re at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art, you might as well go museum hopping and head on over to the nearby Museum of History and Art, which collects, preserves and interprets the history of Ontario and the surrounding region with various educational exhibits and events throughout the year.
Housed in a gorgeously designed, historic building, the beauty of the attraction just starts with the exterior.
Though exhibits are always changing, there are a few permanent ones to take a look at.
Gem of the Foothills is an exhibit that promotes the unique history of the city, while Road Ways is one that explores how the advent of the modern roadway changed American society.
3. Eat Some Olives
If you think you have to travel all the way to the Mediterranean to taste some of the world’s finest olives, then you are sadly mistaken.
Pay a visit to the Graber Olive House, home of the renowned Graber Olives, produced and family-farmed since 1894. Locals say there’s absolutely nothing like it, and you’ll be wanting to pack your suitcase full of the tasty morsels, which are truly gourmet in flavor.
Additionally, Graber Olive House is Ontario’s oldest existing business.
Stop by for a guided tour, particularly during harvest time (Oct. -Dec.), when you can see firsthand all the grading, curing and canning that goes into a little jar of olives.
4. Get in Some Shopping
For some vacation shopping during your trip, go to Ontario Mills, where more than 24 million shoppers stop by each year, to explore the 1.5 million square feet of retail space, and the more than 200 stores, restaurants and venues.
You’ll find all your favorite designers, such as Lacoste, Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, but you can also stop by for fun family favorites, such as an improv comedy club and dinner theater, the Rainforest Cafe or Dave & Busters.
5. Get Some Sun
You can’t go to California and not take advantage of all the sunshine! The Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park is a great spot for a little outdoor fun, with 150 acres of recreational activities all within an easy and convenient setting.
There are two lakes on the property, so you can take your pick for fishing and boating, and there’s also a small waterpark for both thrill seekers looking for a great water slide, as well as children needing a small splash park.
There are also venues for holding group events.
6. Hit the Golf Course
Of course, if you’d rather play a few holes than splash around at the waterpark, you can go to Whispering Lakes Golf Course.
The 18-hole, par-72 course is owned by the city, and has just received a new remodel, with a brand-new clubhouse and more.
If you need to brush up on your skills, you can consult with the course’s PGA Head Golf Professional, Gary Nicholas, while there.
Overall, though the course is relatively easy on both your skills and your shoes, as the flat course means you can skip the golf cart and walk your way around.
7. Go Hiking
There’s no better place to hike in the area, than at the North Etiwanda Preserve.
The beautiful Californian flora and fauna surround you, as you take the 3.3-mile trail, which takes about two hours and is relatively easy, though there is some rocky terrain.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head to Etiwanda Falls, which are located north of the main trail, going about a mile and a half from the parking lot trail head.
The Falls lie just outside the boundaries of the preserve, though, and you’ll have to cross some private property, but it’s not necessarily discouraged.
8. Treat Yourself
Just a short drive away is Glen Ivy Hot Springs, where you can enjoy a beautiful setting and a top-rate spa experience.
The hot springs have been around for a very long time, and the ground the spa rests on was once a sacred site.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs is now in its 157th year, and has unveiled great new renovations and expansions.
The new saunas that were just added are not to be missed, as they’re made either from Aspen or Canadian Hemlock woods, each offering a different experience (try both!).
9. Visit a Botanical Garden
The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is just about 15 minutes outside of town, and is the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants.
It’s considered a living museum and you’ll love learning about all of the fauna that exists within.
You can see seasonal plant displays, explore all of the plant collections and even try hands-on activities or take a class.
You may want to coincide your visit with one of the horticultural or botany classes, or stop by for a free bird walk, held the first Sunday and third Saturday of each month.
10. Dine in History
You have to eat, so why not make it an experience? Head to the Sycamore Inn and see where a dirt trail led Spanish explorer Captain Juan Batista de Anza to the site of the inn, where he and his men would live with local natives for a short time.
One of the original soldiers would decide to stick around, and a small community began to form, with large homes, vineyards and more.
The dirt trail became a main path, and eventually, an inn was established there, before the beginning of the Civil War.
It became a meeting spot for many, particularly Southern sympathizers, and the inn would live on, passing through various hands and ownership, before becoming what it is today.
11. See an Arena Show
The Citizens Business Bank Arena is home to a host of shows that occur over the year, and there’s something to fit every taste.
Snag tickets for an indoor football arena show, go to a concert (several upcoming performances include Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Skillet, Britt Nicole and more). You can also see preseason basketball games, and even professional bull riders.
There’s a little bit of everything.
12. Shop in the Sun
If you don’t want to head to a drab indoor mall for your shopping while on vacation, go to Victoria Gardens, the pedestrian-friendly, open-air shopping center, that still has all of your favorite stores, in one convenient location.
Catch your big-name stores like Macy’s and Bass Pro Shop, but also get all your normal mall boutqiues, like bebe, Lush and Kiehl’s.
There are also tons of dining options to choose from, whether you want a quick snack, a budget-friendly meal or something a little more decadent.
13. Take Flight!
The Planes of Fame Air Museum is a local favorite for aviation history, and if you have an avgeek in your family, they’ll be thrilled to visit.
There are more than 150 aircraft at the museum, and there are 50 that can still hit the skies today! You’ll see fighter planes from World War II, and even a 1903 Wright Flyer.
If you come on the right day, you may even get to see an air show.
They have Living History Flying Days just about every month of the year, and then they have their big Planes of Fame Airshow in May.
14. Take a Stroll
If you find that you’re in the mood for a casual walk around town after dinner or in the morning, you’ll want to be sure your feet lead you to the historic Euclid Avenue.
There are tons of building styles to observe, including art deco, Victorian and even Googie architecture.
Nearly every home represents a different era and a different architecture style, all within a beautiful setting that you’ll find to be picture-perfect.
So what are you waiting for? Slip on your sneakers, grab your camera and go for a walk!
15. See the Historic John Rains House
This home, which is currently on the National Register of Historic Places, is a historic house museum for several reasons.
Built in 1860, it was very innovative, as it featured its own cooling system, using creek water, and was home to a prominent Californian businessman, who opened the state’s first commercial winery.
The house and owners hosted many important parties, and there were quite a few powerful faces that made their presence known there.
Unfortunately, the businessman who owned the home was murdered, and his widow was forced to give up the property.
16. Or See a Different Kind of Historic Place
Also on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation doesn’t quite have the same kind of dramatic history.
Maloof was a highly-respected furniture maker, and his rocking chairs actually received recognition from several U.S. presidents.
His home was hand built by him and his assistants, and every part of it shows off his love for woodworking.
When highway construction threatened to tear down the home, it was placed on the National Register for protection throughout the future.
You can experience a docent-led tour of the house, and also see a small exhibit center and the gardens, which feature both native and Mediterranean plants.
17. View the Madonna of the Trail
The Madonna of the Trail in this area of the country is just one of 12 monuments that were commissioned and placed around the country as a dedication to the hardy spirit of the pioneer woman.
These monuments are placed along the National Old Trails Road, starting in Maryland.
Placed where they now stand in the 1920s, they’ve been very well maintained thanks to local efforts, and an overall feeling of pride in the legacies of the women for whom the monument stands.
18. Get Your Heart Pumping
Get behind the wheel of a go-kart like no other at K1 Speed Ontario.
With options for both novice and experienced drivers, you can enjoy real, authentic racing like you will nowhere else.
You’ll be hitting the track in a state-of-the-art kart in a modern venue, for a totally high-performance experience.
Races start at just $20 and the track is open until the wee hours of the morning on the weekend, so you can head there at nearly any time!
19. Ride Some Rides
Disneyland is a very crowded and time-consuming drive from Ontario, though many people in Ontario do make the trip.
If that doesn’t sound like your style or speed, go to Scandia, a more local, easier-to-access park that, while no Disneyland, is still fun for the entire family.
This is more like your fair atmosphere, so the rides are small, but it all makes for great memories.
Try the Scandia Screamer, the Swedish Swing or the Viking Ship! Rides not your thing? Try the miniature golf, or the batting cages.
It’s all in one spot, and all with a Scandinavian theme!
20. Sip Some Wine
The San Antonio Winery has been around since 1917, though it started out in downtown Los Angeles.
Now, the winery has branched out, and you can find a location in Ontario.
The Ontario tasting room has been there for more than 40 years, and you’ll taste an assortment of wines.
The Daily Artisan Series is a great value, featuring four highly limited reserve wines, for $15. And you get to take home the wine glass, as a cool souvenir! Just remember, if your party is more than six people, you have to call ahead.
21. Head to the Farm
Amy’s Farm offers tours of their gorgeous rural setting, if you make a reservation in advance.
You’ll enjoy a garden walk, harvest your own herbs and veggies, feed the farm animals, visit the petting zoo and even milk a cow! It’s a great treat for the kids, and an excuse to be outside in the fresh air, and maybe see a few animals up close and personal that you wouldn’t encounter in your daily life.
While you’re there, pick up some produce and, if you’re there in the fall, pick your own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch!
22. Be a Kid Again
While you probably can’t show up by yourself, you can definitely take the kids to LOL Kids Club for lots of laughs and a day well remembered.
There are tons of ball pits, things to climb on, jump off of, swing on, run around…basically just be a kid! There’s also a cafe on site, so you don’t even have to pack a lunch!
23. Let Loose
After the kids have their day of play, mom and dad should go out on the town to Sixth Street Bar & Grill.
There’s great food, great drinks and plenty of live music.
You can hit the dance floor and shake it to some Bachata or Country, or if you show up on a Wednesday, you can even belt out your favorite tunes.
That’s right, this bar has karaoke, so you know you’ll want to pick a song in advance and get several shots under your belt.
The prices are also very budget-friendly, so your buck will go a little bit further.
24. Solve a Crime
Maybe your idea of the perfect dinner date while on vacation doesn’t include listening to tipsy American Idol-wannabes on the karaoke machine, and we get that.
Maybe solving a mystery is more your style.
The largest interactive murder mystery comedy dinner show in the U.S. and the best-voted dinner show in Los Angeles is available at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Ontario.
These actors have appeared in TV and film, as well as professional theater, and they’ve gotten improv down to a science, ensuring you receive a totally unique experience.
25. Cheer for the Ontario Reign!
You may not put California together with hockey, but that doesn’t stop Ontario from having its very own minor league hockey team.
Catch a game if you’re in town during the season!