If you’re driving away from Los Angeles and find yourself suddenly in a town called Ontario – don’t panic! You haven’t sped through into Canada; you’re just in Ontario, CA. And this town has plenty to keep you entertained.
Ontario, California, is a city founded in September of 1882 by two determined brothers, George, and William B. Chaffey. They named the town after their hometown in Canada, Ontario.
Among their main aims was the desire to create a beautiful main road for the city. So they built Euclid Avenue, a magnificent seven-mile-long street with two lanes on each side and a lovely central area. This became the city’s heart, where people could gather and enjoy – more on that later.
If you’re looking for a getaway, the beautiful mountain resorts Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear are just a short drive away. That said, California’s Ontario is a thriving city with endless possibilities, making it a great candidate for a road trip.
Here is an exciting list of awesome things to do in Ontario, CA.
Ontario, CA, is just 35 miles northeast of the bustling city of Los Angeles. It’s referred to by many as the “gateway to Southern California.”
With its own international airport and close proximity to famous attractions like Palm Springs, Disneyland, and other theme parks, Ontario is a hub for adventure and several fun attractions.
For over 80 years, the Chaffey Community Museum of Art (CCMA) has been a wonderful place for artists and residents in Southern California to appreciate visual art.
It all started as a small art association in 1941, but it has grown into a significant museum in the region. The museum’s primary goal is to make fine art accessible to the public and support local artists.
Fun Fact: The CCMA was established by Francis and Helen Line, who faced a heartbreaking tragedy—losing their young daughter, Barbara Claire, to leukemia. In honor of Barbara, they donated nine paintings, which became the foundation of the Barbara Line Memorial Collection. Since then, the museum’s collection has expanded through various means, including purchase prize competitions and the kind contributions of artists and art supporters.
Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park is an ideal green space to have fun and enjoy the outdoors right in the middle of the city.
With a whopping 150 acres of space, you’ll have plenty of room to explore and play. Imagine yourself casting a line into the two beautiful lakes, where you can try your luck at fishing.
If you want to cool off here in Cucamonga Guasti regional park, there’s a swim complex with excellent water slides and a splash pad. You’ll also find picnic tables and shelters perfect for hosting corporate events, big parties, or even heartwarming family reunions.
Embrace the Music at the Folk Music Center & Museum
If you are a music fan in any way, shape, or form, you’ll discover a true treasure in the area – a fantastic spot for all your musical instrument needs. Step inside this beautiful music center, and you’ll be greeted by a sight that will almost literally make your heart sing.
Every corner has a delightful array of instruments: guitars, dulcimers, mandolins, banjos, violins,
sitars, balalaikas, and more. You’ll also find drums, African instruments, accordions, ocarinas, castanets, bells, and even a magnificent Celtic harp.
The center has a wide selection of children’s instruments, including fun toy versions. And if you’re looking for something more decorative, take a look at the overflowing shelves filled with beautifully carved wooden pieces.
There are several options for choosing a golf course near Ontario, California. Among them, Whispering Lakes Golf Course, Red Hills Country Club, and Upland Hills Country Club.
Of these, the Whispering Lakes Golf Course is the most highly rated and is only three miles from the city center. If you don’t mind driving beyond, there are 46 golf courses within 20 miles of the city.
Glen Ivy Valley used to be a special and spiritually significant place for Native American tribes, who believed that the mineral water there had magical abilities to bring healing to their whole being – body, mind, and spirit.
The glen ivy hot springs were already considered a sacred spot for rituals and rejuvenation when Frank and Mabel Johnson discovered it and saw the commercial potential of this incredible place.
They transformed it into a beautiful hotel and bathhouse and took care of the orchard, which continues to provide Glen Ivy with delicious avocados, oranges, and grapefruit even today.
Their love and dedication have indeed left a lasting mark on this wonderful oasis.
Earlier I mentioned a very special beautiful main road for the city. Euclid Avenue is a wonderful road that runs through many fascinating historic districts. In fact, a particular part of this road is so significant that it has been officially recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
This particular segment of Euclid Avenue, stretching from Philadelphia Street in Ontario, CA, up to 24th Street in Upland, became a historic district in 2005.
As a historic district, it holds much charm and plenty of fascinating history. It features a remarkable monument called the Madonna of the Trail (see below) and other notable sites like Granada Theater, People’s Mutual, Masonic Hall, and Ostran’s Department Store. These landmarks add to the rich heritage of the area.
It’s incredible to think that all of these historical treasures are spread across a vast 203 acres. This means there’s plenty to explore and learn about on Euclid Avenue.
If you’re ever in the Ontario, CA, area, be sure to take a stroll down this remarkable street and soak up the fascinating history that surrounds you.
John Rains was a significant figure in his community in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He was a successful businessman. His house was famous for hosting extravagant parties for the local elites.
However, things became tough for John Rains. His business ventures didn’t go as planned, and he had to borrow money using his house as collateral.
Sadly, in 1862, he was killed. After his death, his wife, Maria Merced Williams, tried to keep the house but faced many difficulties. The property was slowly divided and eventually lost in the 1870s.
Thankfully, the story has a brighter conclusion: The John Rains House was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 24, 1973.
Today, the house is open to the public as a museum. You can visit and learn about its fascinating history. It’s also part of the San Bernardino County Museum.
The Madonna of the Trail statues are truly inspiring landmarks found in twelve different places across the United States, all the way from Maryland to California. These statues commemorate an important journey taken during the “covered wagon days” of American history.
Standing at an impressive height of 18 feet, these monuments were created by the American Revolution’s Daughters and installed between 1928 and 1929. They serve as a beautiful tribute to the brave pioneer mothers who ventured west alongside their adventurous husbands.
In the case of Upland’s Madonna in Ontario, CA, it had initially been intended for San Bernardino. However, the city disagreed with the proposed location and declined to pay $1,500 for the statue’s base.
Upland came to the rescue! Through some charming persuasion, they convinced the DAR to choose their city instead. And so, on February 1, 1929, the Madonna of the Trail was proudly unveiled in Upland, where it continues to inspire and captivate visitors today.
Tip: For more California hiking options, check out these wonderful Malibu Hikes to try.
The Ontario Museum of History & Art is on the lovely Euclid Avenue and surrounded by gorgeous rows of trees. It’s a special place housed in the Ontario City Hall, a historic building funded by the Works Progress Administration.
The museum’s mission is to preserve, interpret, and celebrate the rich history and cultural heritage of Ontario, CA, and the surrounding area. They work hard to create engaging exhibitions, educational experiences, and inspiring events that encourage creativity.
You’ll discover an abundance of amazing stories and cool artifacts at the museum. The facility itself is absolutely beautiful, featuring several captivating displays to pique the most interest.
It’s not a huge museum, so you can comfortably explore it in about 30 minutes to an hour (or longer if you enjoy immersing yourself in the local art experience). Don’t forget to check out the well-curated gift shop too.
For over 60 years, Planes of Fame Air Museum has been dedicated to preserving and maintaining a fleet of historic aircraft that can still soar through the skies. The operators have been flying and displaying these types of planes for longer than even the Army Air Corps or Air Force did.
That’s partly why they proudly say that this museum is where aviation history truly lives. The collection of aircraft is incredible, with nearly 160 planes to explore. The majority of these remarkable machines are kept in pristine condition and displayed throughout the museum.
Among the most popular displays, you’ll find a growing assortment of planes from the Golden Age of the 1920s and 1930s, including some that are the last of their kind.
Many insist that the real stars of the collection are the warbirds from the Second World War, representing aircraft from all sides of the battlefield.
The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, or The California Botanic Garden, is a fantastic place that focuses on California native plants. It’s the biggest botanic Garden of its kind, and it’s dedicated to promoting botany, conservation, and horticulture.
The goal is to inspire, inform, and educate both the public and the scientific community about the beautiful plants that are native to California.
When you visit the Garden, you’ll feel like you’re exploring a living museum. There are over 22,000 California native plants carefully chosen and cared for in curated collections. Some of these plants are really special and rare, and some are even endangered.
Sam Maloof was an incredibly talented furniture maker who gained immense respect during the 20th century. His rocking chairs were held in high regard by not just one but two Presidents — Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.
What’s truly remarkable is that Sam and his assistants dedicated a whopping 40 years to hand-building his home. Every aspect of it reflects his passion for exquisitely crafted wood, right down to the intricate, one-of-a-kind wooden latches and hinges on the doors.
Today, this incredible site offers so much more than just a glimpse into history. You can embark on guided tours of the historic home for a small fee, where you’ll learn fascinating stories and insights.
Additionally, the Jacobs Education Center Gallery showcases ever-changing exhibits that are sure to captivate you.
Don’t forget to explore the enchanting Water Wise Discovery Gardens. These gardens showcase five distinct landscapes featuring native California plants and Mediterranean plants, teaching Southern California homeowners the art of water-wise gardening.
The San Antonio Winery is one of the state’s premier wine destinations to visit in the Lincoln Heights district and has been operating since 1917.
When you step inside, you’ll find a charming wine and gift shop, a delightful restaurant, and even rooms that you can book for special occasions.
The history of this place is quite interesting. Back in 1917, a man named Santo Cambianica, who came all the way from northern Italy, had a dream of starting a winery in Los Angeles.
He chose the current winery’s location and named it after Saint Anthony, calling it San Antonio Winery. He believed that this name would bring him good luck.
At San Antonio Winery, they create a variety of wines to satisfy every taste bud. The winery offers both red and white wines, including varietal wines, table wines, and sweet dessert wines.
There’s something for everyone to enjoy! Whether you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine, great food, or a place to celebrate a special event, the historic San Antonio Winery has got you covered.
Victoria Gardens is a shopping mall in Rancho Cucamonga, California! It covers a large area, about 147 acres, that was designed to be the heart of downtown for the City of Rancho Cucamonga at one point.
As a result, you’ll find lots of stores to shop in, like department stores and smaller shops. And when you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. There are even movie theaters where you can catch the latest films.
The complex also has a performing arts center where you can watch exciting shows and a library to discover new books. The area expanded its purview over time, with office space and places to live with 500 residential units.
One really special part of Victoria Gardens is the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center. It’s owned and run by the city, and it’s right next to the shopping area.
You can find the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library there, as well as a performing arts center and a reception hall for all kinds of events.
Throughout the year, the venue hosts awesome holiday-themed events that you won’t want to miss.
During the holiday season, they have a beautiful tree-lighting ceremony, and Santa Claus comes to visit. They also have farmer’s markets where you can find fresh and delicious food, as well as cool car shows.
Trivia: Victoria Gardens is home to one of the very first Bass Pro Shops locations in California!
Aside from these top things to do in Ontario, California, there are several other places worth popping into if you have a spare hour or two.
The Ontario Convention Center is a 225 000-sq-foot venue used for lots of trader shows and other events. It’s also worth just touring the venue if exploring spaces is your thing.
Center Ice Arena features a large ice rink that meets the standards of the NHL, measuring 85 feet by 200 feet. The facility provides public skating sessions where anyone can enjoy gliding on the ice. It is also home to the Ontario Reign hockey team.
While the Graber Olive House store is not accessible to the public at present, those fortunate enough to visit when it reopens can look forward to an enchanting experience steeped in the rich heritage of the region. The iconic house was established in 1894.
Established in 1990, Ontario Motor Speedway Park serves as a joint-use facility, integrating a park/school complex that offers a range of amenities and equipment commonly found in neighborhood parks.
The Toyota Arena in Ontario, California, hosts a range of concerts and local sporting events such as basketball, ice hockey, ice shows, boxing matches, and graduation ceremonies.
Ontario, California’s natural landscapes are also quite breathtaking, inviting adventure seekers to partake in exhilarating outdoor pursuits and fun things, such as hiking in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains.
Ontario’s strategic location and well-developed transportation infrastructure make it an excellent base for exploring the wider California region.
Whether you have a passion for history, a love for nature and outdoor activities, or a penchant for shopping, Ontario, CA, guarantees an unforgettable experience that will undoubtedly leave you yearning for a return visit.
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