Threaded with rolling vineyards, homey agricultural towns, and mountain retreats, the Inland Empire has a humble allure. Often bypassed because of its freeway maze and suburban sprawl, this historically rich region offers visitors a quiet and quirky alternative to metropolitan Los Angeles and San Diego. You can hurtle down a 7,000-foot ski slope perched above a clear blue lake, hike or snowshoe in serene forests, and taste wines wrought by Temecula's misty mornings and subtle ocean breezes. For fresh California flavors, explore apple country in Oak Glen, and trace the roots of the state's navel orange industry in Riverside.
The San Bernardino Mountains offer Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, and plentiful recreational opportunities, while Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains is a year-round getaway with log cabins galore, an impressive arts scene, and cozy restaurants.