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All You Need To Know About California's Inland Empire

All You Need To Know About California's Inland Empire

California’s Inland Empire is a region in SoCal that deserves your attention. Here's everything you need to know.


5 min read

March 21, 2024

California’s Inland Empire is a destination that deserves far more attention than it gets. Vast, beautiful, and teeming with opportunities for adventure and growth, this large metropolitan area in the south of the state is a true hidden gem. Want to learn everything there is to know about the Inland Empire’s economy, housing market, and history? Read on to learn about exactly that, plus a dash of fun facts to inspire you to head out there and see the abundance of Inland Empire, CA yourself.

The History of The Inland Empire, CA

Nestled away from the coastal buzz of Los Angeles, Southern California's Inland Empire offers a vibrant metropolitan experience of its own. This region unfolds across the southwestern parts of San Bernardino County and the western areas of Riverside County. It's not uncommon for folks to also count the desert gems of the Coachella and Victor Valleys as part of this expansive area.

Long before it was dubbed the Inland Empire, this swath of California was home to the Tongva, Serrano, and Cahuilla tribes, whose history on these lands stretches back thousands of years. During the era of Spanish exploration and colonization, the region remained relatively untouched by European settlers, often overlooked due to its perceived lack of suitability for mission development.

The landscape of the Inland Empire began to transform significantly in the 1870s with two pivotal developments: the expansion of the railroad network and the introduction of citrus orchards, notably navel and Valencia oranges. This marked the beginning of a booming agricultural sector, particularly in citrus farming. The subsequent urban sprawl of Los Angeles in the early 20th century further propelled industrial and economic growth in the area. Additionally, the Inland Empire became a notable pit stop for travelers and newcomers, especially with the iconic Route 66 enhancing its accessibility and tourism appeal.

During the Spanish colonization, the Inland Empire was sparsely populated at the land grant Ranchos, considering it unsuitable for missions.

California’s Inland Empire continued to experience remarkable economic and population growth through most of the second half of the twentieth century until the region lost its military bases in the 1990s due to the end of the Cold War. This led to a local economic downturn and the development of other industries such as warehousing, shipping, logistics, and retail, which gave it some sort of stability.

Inland Empire, CA is now experiencing more residential, industrial, and commercial development as its population grows by families migrating in search of affordable housing in Southern California. Things are looking up for this prosperous region, and there’s much more to be experienced here.

The Inland Empire now comprises numerous cities known as bedroom communities that are suburban cities to Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.

An Overview of the Inland Empire's Housing Market

The Inland Empire’s housing has always been considered to be one of the most affordable options in the state. But, with so many people eyeing the budget-friendly housing prices and moving there, real estate in the Inland Empire is quickly becoming red hot. What used to be a significantly more affordable alternative to living in the larger metropolises like Los Angeles and San Diego is quickly catching up with the constantly increasing prices of the Southern California real estate market.

Certain cities in California’s Inland Empire are still relatively affordable. For example, Adelanto, Victorville, and Hemet are all among the state’s cheapest places to live. But, if you’re looking to buy in a community closer to Los Angeles or Orange Counties—Riverside and Corona being popular options—it’s going to cost you a lot more.

Even with the low mortgage rates that we saw during the pandemic, Inland Empire housing rates have seen significant and even double-digit price gains, and as a result, housing affordability has eroded. While this is a welcome sign for homeowners in California’s Inland Empire who survived the Great Recession, it’s certainly demotivating for those relocating for the lower real estate rates. And with population projections showing stable growth in the region, housing costs show no signs of going down anytime soon.

Inexpensive land prices, a large supply of vacant land, and a transport network have made the Inland Empire a major shipping hub.

A Rundown on the Inland Empire's Economy

California’s Inland Empire initially developed as an epicenter for citrus and other agricultural products in the 19th century. And over the last half-century, the area has gained quite enough traction as an affordable option to West Coast living. While increasing real estate costs show a decline in homeownership rates across all racial demographics, the Inland Empire still has a higher rate than the national average.

Similar to the rest of Southern California, the Inland Empire also saw an unprecedented economic downturn in the past two years brought on by the pandemic. But it’s safe to say that the worst is behind us, as the Inland Empire Economic Partnership reports show the light at the end of the tunnel. 

As anticipated, industries centered around in-person services bore the brunt of economic challenges and job losses. However, the tide is turning for the better in the Inland Empire. Thanks to widespread vaccination and immunity against the virus, the region is witnessing a resurgence in the demand for service-oriented businesses, with supply readily catching up. Coupled with a burgeoning population, rising real estate values, and a rejuvenated tourism sector, all indicators point toward a bright and promising economic future for the Inland Empire.

While the Inland Empire led the state in job-growth with 275,000 new jobs between 1990 and 2000, most are in comparatively low-tech fields.

Fun Facts About the Inland Empire in Southern California

The Inland Empire in Southern California has a lot of fun things going on as well. If you’re considering a weekend getaway to the region, here are some fun facts to get you pumped.

1. California’s Inland Empire does not experience June Gloom.

2. The Inland Empire hosts the nation’s most famous music festival: Coachella.

3. You’ll find the state’s sweetest and most delicious organic fruits in the Inland Empire, CA.

4. The largest outdoor amphitheater in the U.S., Glen Helen Amphitheater, is located in San Bernardino in the Inland Empire.   

5. David Lynch has directed a movie called Inland Empire. But, while the movie is set in the area, none of the scenes were actually filmed there.

6. The mountains in the Inland Empire have some of the most beautiful trails in California, and they’re every hiker’s dream. Trails range from forested mountains and desert canyons to lush grasslands and palm oases.

7. The Inland Empire has a reputation for hosting some of the most fun college towns in California.

8. The scenery in the Inland Empire, CA is one of the most varied and beautiful in the state. From the waters of Big Bear Lake to the mountains to the east, this area always has something amazing to capture your attention.

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