The Inland Empire of Southern California is a semi-arid region, east of Los Angeles, made up of scores of cities and towns. The boundaries are often a subject of debate, however, it is generally agreed that the western boundary is the San Bernardino County/Los Angeles County line and the eastern limits are the most urbanized areas of San Bernardino County and Riverside County.
Historic Route 66 ("Foothill Blvd" or "5th Street") passes through many Inland Empire cities. In recent years, local agencies have invested heavily in improvements to commercial services and infrastructure along the corridor. Still, many historic relics survive. A trip east from La Verne to San Bernardino will take several hours but is worth it.
The Santa Ana River Trail is currently complete through the cities of Riverside, Colton, and San Bernardino, and under construction through Redlands and Highland. When complete, the trail will connect Orange County beaches with the San Bernardino Mountains.
The Inland Empire contains much of the San Bernardino National Forest, whose territory covers parts of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto mountains. Recreation opportunities are numerous and include hiking, skiing, and boating.
A large outdoor mall designed to resemble America's "Main Street," Victoria Gardens contains many upscale stores and restaurants.
One of North America's largest indoor malls, Ontario Mills hosts numerous outlet stores and massive weekend crowds.
Some of the cities of the Inland Empire include Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Highland, Rialto, and Fontana, among many others. These cities all lie in San Bernardino or Riverside counties. The Palm Springs area, which also lies in Riverside County in "the high desert", is farther east and is considered part of Coachella Valley. The High Desert is generally not considered part of the I.E.
Native Americans called the Inland Empire home for thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers in the 18th century. Residents would spend winters in the warmer valleys and move into the cooler mountains during summer months.
Throughout much of the 19th and 20th century, agriculture was the dominant industry for the region. The post-World War II decades saw an explosion of residents and industry as developers turned to cheap land east of Los Angeles. Although the area is often criticized for its sprawling developments that are incredibly automobile-dependent, in recent years many cities have made an effort to encourage denser housing developments centered around commercial and office-park developments. Today, the region's growth continues as housing prices remain incredibly affordable and residents from Orange and Los Angeles counties swell the area's population.
The Inland Empire is highly populated, containing 4.2 million residents. However, the area isn't as totally self-sufficient in the regard that many residents still commute to their jobs in the adjacent Los Angeles metropolitan area of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Inland Empire residents also tend to travel to Los Angeles and its immediate environs for activities such as zoos, aquariums, theme parks, planetariums, higher-rated museums, and such. This isn't to say the Inland Empire is without its own attractions as its has some good theatres, nearby mountains, lakes, and enjoyable restaurants and malls. But it does show that the Inland Empire is not just a stand-alone metropolitan area, but also an integrated part of the Greater Los Angeles area.