Some of my favorite adventures are the ones that happen by accident. Take this past Saturday. My mom, Shannon and I were headed into the Inland Empire with a final destination of Cherry Valley and possibly, Idyllwild. Heading down the 10 freeway we came upon Redlands, CA and agreed we’d been meaning to visit for some time. On the spur of the moment we decided to get off the highway and check it out. Little did we know we would spend the next few hours exploring the town and decide it was one of our favorite excursions.
Redlands, located in San Bernardino County, was incorporated as a city in 1888. Often called the “Jewel of the Inland Empire” it was once the center of Southern California’s massive citrus industry. Although most of the citrus groves are long gone you can see nods to the industry’s past throughout town.
Redlands is home to several historic structures including a large amount from the Victorian Era. With much of Southern California steeped in the Craftsman and Art Deco styles it was fascinating to journey even further into the past.
As a lover of libraries my jaw just about dropped when I saw the A.K. Smiley Public Library. Built in 1898 by twin brothers, Alfred and Albert Smiley, it’s truly the most beautiful library I’ve ever visited. Built in the Moorish style with walls of solid brick it’s an imposing yet inviting structure to behold. We all felt compelled to go inside and it was just as beautiful as the exterior.
In addition to the library the Smiley brothers also founded the surrounding park. Located on the grounds, just behind the library is the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Shrine.
The shrine was built in 1932 and is a museum dedicated to our 16th President. Unfortunately, we arrived before it opened and were unable to view the interior. While continuing to wander around Smiley park the sound of bagpipes lured us across the street to the Redlands Bowl.
We met a UC Riverside Professor who uses the grounds to practice his bagpipes. We sat and listened to him for awhile little realizing our historic surroundings. Built in 1930 the Redlands Bowl is home to longest continuing free outdoor concert series in the US. Despite the heat of the Inland Empire I can imagine it’s a wonderful place to listen to music during the summer.
Just down the street from the Bowl is the Redlands Main Post Office. Built in 1935 this historic structure has a distinct Moorish dome that I noticed from blocks away. Inside, it’s a beautifully preserved example of Mission Revival style.
A few blocks away is Redlands’ historic downtown – a picturesque shopping district on a tree lined street.
It’s home to antique stores and hip eateries and very much reminds me of the Orange Circle. No surprise as it’s down the street from the University of Redlands just as the Circle is down the street from Chapman University. The area is also home to the craft chocolate brand Parliament. I’ve seen there chocolate bars in stores as far away as Portland and it was fun to visit the very spot they are made. There is small retail area and we enjoyed a chocolaty treat as we explored.
A few blocks away we came upon the historic Fox Theatre.
Built in 1927 the Fox drew Hollywood celebrities to town for its premier of Laurel and Hardy’s Habeas Corpus. As is the case with most historic theatres it went through various incarnations before it fell into disrepair. Luckily, it’s been lovingly restored and is now home to a thriving events center. Adjoining the theatre is a small cafe called Bricks and Birch where we stopped by for lunch and enjoyed a delicious wood fired pizza.
After lunch we headed across town to our final destination – the Historical Glass Museum.
Founded in 1976 the museum is housed in 1903 Victorian home. I had long ago saved an article from Sunset Magazine about it and was happy to finally visit. Inside we discovered a wonderland filled with countless examples of American made glass from the 1800’s to the present.
I even came across a pitcher once owned by Phil Harris and Alice Faye. As an enormous fan of the Jack Benny radio show I must admit I was really excited about this pieces.
Visiting the museum was a wonderful end to an equally wonderful visit to the town of Redlands. On our way to Cherry Valley we all agreed we had made the best decision in making a detour into town. We never did make it to Idyllwild and will have to save it for another day. Maybe we’ll go after our next visit to Redlands which we’re already planning. There’s still so much to see!