10 Best Things to Do in Redlands, a Fun SoCal Road Trip Detour

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Situated midway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Redlands, California is a great small town known for its historic buildings, quaint downtown, numerous breweries, and fun activities. Its location at the foot of the San Bernardino National Forest puts Redlands in easy range of some of Southern California’s best camping and biking and hiking trails too.

The town is located right off the 10 Freeway, which is the main road connecting Los Angeles and the desert communities, as well as Joshua Tree National Park. If you are headed to any of these Southern California destinations, a quick side trip to Redlands will round out your itinerary perfectly!

To help you get the most out of your visit, here are 10 top things to do in Redlands.

1. Explore Downtown Redlands

One of the things that makes Redlands so unique is its small-town charm. Nowhere is that charm more evident than in downtown Redlands. Strolling through downtown is like stepping back in time.

Officially stretching down State Street between Orange and 9th Street, Downtown Redlands is both historic and beautiful. There are large, mature trees shading the area, and the streets are lined with unique shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and bakeries.

There are many historic buildings downtown, so be sure to take a leisurely stroll and do some sightseeing to enjoy the architecture and read some of the signs describing each building’s history.

One place you will definitely want to see when exploring downtown is Umbrella Alley (also known as Orange Street Alley). It is one of the top attractions in Downtown Redlands.

Don’t be surprised if you find photoshoots happening or just lots of people posing for selfies. Umbrella Alley is home to 420 colorful umbrellas, forming a canopy overhead. It is truly a unique and beautiful spot.

2. The Kimberly Crest House and Gardens

Another historical building in Redlands you will want to visit is the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens.

Designated a National Historic Landmark, Kimberly Crest House & Gardens is a 6-acre estate featuring a Victorian Chateau and Italian Renaissance-styled gardens.

Built just before the turn of the 20th century, the house – which now doubles as a museum – is breathtaking. Inspired by French châteaus, the design of this Redlands landmark showcases intricate details, including hand-carved woodwork, stained glass windows, and elegant furnishings.

The gardens are open to the public free of charge, but if you want to go inside there is an admission fee which includes a guided tour.

Kimberly Crest House & Gardens also offers many “historically immersive” special events throughout the year which take advantage of its Victorian setting. Some favorites include a Bridgerton Tea, Croquet on the Green, Downton Abbey Brunch, Holiday High Tea, Mystery at the Mansion, and an annual “Tree Lighting” Celebration.

3. San Bernardino County Museum

 A bit more modern but equally as interesting in the family-friendly San Bernardino County Museum, located in Redlands.

If you are interested in learning about the Inland Empire when you visit Redlands, this museum is a must-see. San Bernardino County is the largest county in the country, and the museum features exhibits highlighting its natural history, archaeology, geology, paleontology and so much more.

There are both permanent exhibits and special rotating exhibits which come and go.

It is a fairly large museum so you can easily spend a few hours exploring the space. One really great feature this museum offers is its Museum App, which provides wayfinding and GPS-enabled map technology to help you get the most out of your visit.

4. Browse the Redlands Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning, a certified Farmers Market called Downtown’s Morning Market pops up in Downtown Redlands. This is a great time to stroll through the area and check out not only fresh fruits and veggies but local artists, homemade bread, tea, honey, and more.

The Farmers Market is held from 8 to 11:30 a.m. during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

The City of Redlands used to also host Redlands Market Night on Thursday evenings during the warmer months, but it is currently suspended. Here’s hoping it returns soon!

5. Visit the Lincoln Memorial Shrine

Southern California is not the first place you’d expect to find a museum dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, but that is exactly what there is in Redlands.

The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is a memorial and research center dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America. It has been open since February 12, 1932.

Though a very small museum, the ambiance inside the memorial is one of quiet contemplation, inviting you to learn and reflect on the immense impact Lincoln had on our nation’s history. The shrine’s exhibits are thoughtfully curated, offering a comprehensive look at Lincoln’s life, presidency, and enduring legacy.

The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is the only museum dedicated to Abraham Lincoln west of the Mississippi River. Admission is free.

6. A.K. Smiley Public Library

Just next to the Lincoln Memorial Shrine is the A.K. Smiley Library.

While I admit a library is not typically on the list of must-see destinations when you’re visiting a new town, this one is special. It dates back to the 1890s and the architecture and beautiful grounds are worth checking out, even if only for a photo opp.

If you are interested in the library itself, the A.K. Smiley Library houses a wonderful collection of books for kids and adults, and some lovely artwork, too.  

7. Historical Glass Museum

Housed in a 1903 Victorian home, the Historical Glass Museum showcases the largest collection of American-made glass west of the Rocky Mountains.

The exhibits include over 7,000 pieces of glass artworks dating back as far as the 1800s. If glass is your thing, you’ll be in heaven.

8. See a Performance at the Redlands Bowl

For a small town, Redlands is packed with many opportunities to enjoy culture – from theaters to its own symphony to the historic Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival. It is one of the top attractions in the Redlands area.  

After nearly a century, the Redlands Bowl holds the distinction of being America’s longest continuously-running summer music festival where no admission is charged. The Redlands Bowl is an outdoor amphitheater. If you are looking for fun things to do in Redlands, this is a top pick!

Every Tuesday and Friday evening during the summer, the Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival draws thousands to its live music and theater shows. Since its inception in 1924, the Bowl has been a special place in Redlands for families, friends, and music lovers of all ages and backgrounds to gather and enjoy its superb programs.

Bring a picnic dinner and make a fun evening out of the event. In fact, make sure you arrive early because attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

9. Visit an Escape Room

Escape rooms have become a popular activity for families. For those who may not be in the know, Escape games are an interactive experience where you have to hunt for clues, solve puzzles, and work as a team to get out of the room before your time runs out (typically an hour). The rooms are highly-themed and very creative!

Escape Rooms must be very popular because there are three locations within the city of Redlands.

Open Door Escape Games provides a variety of options at each of their three locations in Redlands (one is located downtown and the other two are nearby). They vary in levels of difficulty so you can choose your adventure based on who is playing. We recommend “Pillow Palace” and “Operation Save Christmas” if you are visiting with kids.

Escape rooms in Redlands are typically open late, so this is a run activity if you are looking to do something fun at night.

10. Enjoy a Craft Beer

From San Diego to Santa Barbara and beyond, Southern California is known for its many craft breweries. So it should come as no surprise that there are great ones to be found in Redlands.

Two local favorites are Escape Craft Brewery and Hangar 24 Brewing Company.

Hangar 24 Brewing Company is located in an airplane hangar at Redlands Municipal Airport. It offers a nice variety of IPAs and limited-release beers with airplane-inspired names like “Chocolate Bomber.” Evenings bring live music to the taproom’s patio.

Escape Craft Brewery is located in a restored 1906 brick building in Downtown Redlands.

It has over 30 beers on tap, as well as craft soda, cocktails, and more.

Aside from their tasting room, Escape Craft Brewery serves great food like hand-tossed pizza, salads, and sandwiches.

Redlands is also home to a number of other microbreweries, as well!

Hotels in Redlands

For all of its small-town charm, the one thing Redlands is lacking is cozy, historic places to stay. That said, there are a few hotels in Redlands (mostly chains) you can book if extending your stay in town is something you’d like to do.

Best places to stay in Redlands include:

Gwen Kleist is an award-winning travel writer and author based in Southern California. She is the mother of one very active son who shares her love of travel and adventure. She is the owner and publisher of CaliforniaFamilyTravel.com, a family travel blog dedicated to sharing the best destinations and experiences in California and beyond! Her articles have also appeared in San Diego Family Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Cat Fancy, Huntington Beach Magazine, and she was a contributing author to Explorer Publishing’s guidebook, Los Angeles: The Complete Resident’s Guide.
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