Founded by Mormon pioneers in 1851, San Bernardino proved to be an important trading center and an ideal place for growing citrus fruit, especially oranges. Route 66 travelers would be welcomed by orange groves as they entered town.
San Bernardino is the dominant city in the San Bernardino-Riverside metropolitan area, often referred to as the "Inland Empire”, which holds about 1.5 million people. The area even has pro baseball, the Inland Empire 66ers; class "A" affiliates of the nearby Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Head north on E Street to 14th, at which point you'll arrive at a place that has significantly impacted our culture: the Original McDonald's & Route 66 Museum home to the very first McDonald's restaurant, which opened in 1948.
Trivia: San Bernardino has been inspirational for fast food: McDonalds, Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Der Weinerschnitzel all started somewhere in the city.
Just north of where Route 66 reaches Foothill Blvd/5th Street via Mt. Vernon Avenue, you'll find the Mitla Café opened in 1937, serving Mexican food to hungry travelers. They're still doing it, and it's still a family-run business. Across the street is La Plaza Park, an attractive piece of land reminiscent of early Mexican heritage.
After the drive down Mt. Vernon Avenue, Route 66 begins a big push west on Foothill Boulevard. And if you head east on Foothill further into San Bernardino, it becomes 5th Street, and you'll be on your way to a number of attractions in the city.
Among them is Danny Castro's Route 66 Museum of San Bernardino inside a Juan Pollo location just east of the Mt. Vernon intersection. The museum features original highway signs going as far back as 1912, as well as plenty of other memorabilia. You can get some good chicken while you're there, too.
This section of 5th Street will also bring you to the lovely St. Bernadine's Church (on the other side of I-215) and connect you with E Street, which brings to you and/or from the original McDonald's we mentioned earlier.
At this point, Los Angeles is within 60 miles – and most of the time, you get a beautiful view of the San Gabriel Mountains, some of which tower over 10,000 feet above sea level as you wing through a series of communities through the valley. Here, old Route 66 is today's California Highway 66 and you'll ride this road much of the way to Pasadena.
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