Having lived most of my life in the Inland Empire, I was still oblivious to the fact that Route 66 pretty much runs right through my backyard. One lazy Saturday morning, I decided to set out and see what I could find on a short stint down the historic road from San Bernardino to Rancho Cucamonga. The people I met and the stories I heard in these short four hours of my morning make me want to set out on the entire route and learn more about the people and families that have built their lives on this road. While so much of the history has died in the commercialization of the area ( I can’t help but think of the movie Cars), here are the spotlights that I saw from the stretch of Route 66 that starts in San Bernardino and ends in Rancho Cucamonga.
- Can be hard to find places without GPS
- Time needed: 3 hours
- Be sure to check open hours
- I did this drive in 2013
First McDonald’s Museum
The drive starts at this small, unassuming building in North San Bernardino that housed the first McDonald’s in the ’40s. The historic site was torn down over 30 years ago, but the building that was erected in its place houses a museum dedicated to the history of this famous franchise. It is free to enter and has a wide assortment of memorabilia. I especially liked the old sign outside and the statues of the different characters. You can read all about the first McDonald’s in my post here.
This 1,718 seat auditorium was built in 1928 and is a perfect example of the architecture and style of the time. It is a beautiful building, even better when it’s lit up at night, that has been renovated on the inside to become a modern theater that is still in use today. I didn’t go inside, but I loved seeing the exterior of the theater and plan to catch a show here at a later time. It’s a great little stop, but do be careful as it is not in the best part of town.
The drive continues to the Wigwam Motel, which is one of the most well-known landmarks on this part of Route 66. The motel itself is a collection of over 15 tepees that you can stay in for a unique sleeping experience. While there is not a ton to do in the area and the rooms themselves are just like an average hotel, being able to stay in something as unique as this is a fun little adventure. The prices are pretty good for a one night stay as well, or if you are just a photographer, then you can come for the pictures.
Bono Restaurant and the Big Orange
The last stop on this stretch of Route 66 is Bono’s Restaurant and the Big Orange in Fontana. This big orange was brought here from a location down the road, and I am told tons of these used to line this area of Route 66 as orange stands to sell local crops. It was good to see at least one remaining.
After that, I walked around Bono’s on the outside till the door opened and I was greeted by Joe Bono himself who came out to talk to me about the history and showed me the inside. He informed me that he is in a fight with the city trying to reopen this historic restaurant and as I toured the beautiful and historical inside, I couldn’t help but hope it opens again as well. I would love to have a meal in this 70-year-old restaurant. Update 2019, this restaurant is back open again. I haven’t tried it but I hope to soon.
One of the things I learned from my time on Route 66 is that the locations are a lot more than what they look like on the outside. At all of the above places, other than the theater, I was greeted by the owner or an individual close to the owner that was genuinely excited someone was coming to visit their historical business. I loved hearing their stories and seeing the history that was quickly fading in a lot of these areas, and I cannot wait to continue my trek (and hope others do as well) to see what other gems Route 66 has in store for me. If you have driven this route and have recommendations of where to go, I would love to hear them. Also, check out the map below to see the places I stopped.