The Inland Empire is such a hidden gem, many of its own residents don’t even realize it.
The Southern California region that encompasses both Riverside and San Bernardino counties “is an oasis...of desert, mountains, lakes—so many incredible things,” says Joel Greene, host of the show Inland Empire Explorer. “I love it when we do a feature on something, and people say, ‘I've lived in this city for X amount of years and I had no idea that that existed.’ All of our content is based on viewers telling us where to go, so we get surprised all the time as well.”
In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, Greene and two other Inland Empire natives share their favorite places to eat, drink, explore, and play. Many know the Inland Empire for its Route 66 history and the outdoor fun at Big Bear Mountain and Lake Arrowhead, but Greene also shares some don’t-miss spots in cities. This includes the shopping at Victoria Gardens and Ontario Mills in San Bernardino County and historic spots in Riverside, like the eye-popping Mission Inn Hotel & Spa and the fascinating March Field Air Museum. “It's such a unique place,” he says of the aviation museum, “with all these old war planes, and an absolutely stunning museum.”
Greene also offers plenty foodie tips, from the confections at Logan’s Candies in Ontario to the you-wouldn’t-know-it’s-vegan Café Organix in San Bernardino. He also raves about a few crowd-pleasing doughnut shops, such as Painted Doughin Chino. “The doughnuts are second to none,” he says—especially the pink mochi doughnut, made with rice flour and topped with anything “from taro to cinnamon to mango. I couldn't even tell you what my favorite is because every one I try, I'm like, ‘This is the most amazing doughnut I've ever had.’”
For outdoor lovers, Green recommends the waterfall hike to Etiwanda Falls outside Rancho Cucamonga, and stopping in Crestline to enjoy the views on the drive between Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead: “There are plenty of points where you're overlooking the whole Inland Empire—it's fantastic. You're looking at a valley full of people below, but you can see as far as the ocean on some days.”
The podcast’s next guest, singer-songwriter Alexa Cappelli, shares her own picks for great hikes in the Inland Empire. People don’t realize that the area “is really green,” says Cappelli, who grew up in Upland, near Mount Baldy, and first came onto the music scene by way of NBC's The Voice. She tells Johnson that she loves the hike to Potato Mountain in Angeles National Forest, near Claremont, which gets its name from a unique tradition hikers have embraced. “People always bring potatoes up the mountain,” she says. “We'll get a potato from the pantry and draw a little face on it and leave it at the top. It's hilarious, and it's fun.”
She offers her own recommendations for shopping, from A Lot of Good Thrift in Upland to the aforementioned Logan’s Candies in Ontario, which has gained millions of followers on TikTok thanks to its candy-cane making videos.
The podcast then welcomes the candy man of Ontario himself, Jerry Rowley, who has owned the nearly century-old Logan’s Candies since 1982. While watching the candy cane–making is mesmerizing, whether you watch online or come in person, the house-made candies and chocolates are just as satisfying to taste, Rowley attests. “We make it fresh,” he says. “We could be roasting the nuts, and as soon as they cool, we're dipping them in chocolate. An hour later, they're out on a tray and ready to sell. There's some really delicious stuff here.”
Rowley answers the California Questionnaire and shares his own Golden State road-trip tips, from Solvang to San Diego, as well as his favorite places for tacos, and his pick for the top California song: “California Dreamin’.”
There’s a catch, Rowley notes: “Of course, when I dream of California, what do I dream of? I dream of candy.”