Riverside County is Southern California's whipping boy. Often referred to as "the 909" (along with San Bernardino County) or the Inland Empire, the county's a hotbed of meth, motocross, and big, raised airbrushed trucks. It's home to the closest thing California has to hillbillies. But what a lot of people forget is that within this wasteland there's Palm Springs, El Dorado Desert Rock Festival, Coachella, and a few other worthwhile reasons to cross into the barren 909.
Horseshoe Lounge - You know the phrase "wrong side of the tracks"? That's the Horseshoe Lounge. It's a serious biker bar and the kind of joint that pops up in episodes of The First 48 where the people are all, "I TOLD him not to mess with Leroy! I TOLD him!"
4620 Galena St., Riverside, 909-685-1516.
Liam's Irish Pub Photo: Nicholas Serrato
Liam's Irish Pub - This band called the LeperKhanz plays here. They're like a psychedelic Dexys Midnight Runners with a drummer who looks like Mike Bordin circa 1989 and likes to rock a double-bass pedal. Get drunk on some good Irish whiskey (the drinks are cheap) so we can laugh at you trying to do your Irish jig as the 'Khanz bang out "Drunken Sailor."
1089 S. Mount Vernon Ave., Colton, 909-422-9900.
Big Mama's Soul Food - Collard greens, sweet potatoes, catfish, candied yams, smoked ribs, hush puppies… hungry yet? Just off the 10, it's a perfect place to stop on the way to or from Palm Springs, Coachella, Joshua Tree, etc.
68510 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Cathedral City, 760-324-8116.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ - Two words, my friend: Spam Masubi. It's a block of rice topped with some teriyaki and a slice of Spam, all wrapped up in seaweed. It's Spam sushi, and it's deeelicious. There's also Spam Moco, which is sliced Spam with eggs and gravy. Spam is really big in Hawaii. If you're not into this, try one of the rib plate lunches with wonderful globules of rice and shiny macaroni salad.
2721 Canyon Springs Pkwy., Riverside, 951-656-6188.
Tyler's Burgers - This joint's little cheeseburgers (we refuse to use the word "sliders") are supertasty, all loose meat and melted cheese and soft grilled onions. People drive like 100 miles to go here, which is a little bit crazy, but have we mentioned how there's not much to do in Riverside County?
149 S. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760-325-2990.
Joshua Tree Photo: William Potter
Joshua Tree National Park - If you want to take a bunch of acid, climb rocks, and curl up next to a fire while someone tries to do an Indian water dance to "Break on Through," and you don't even notice 'cause you're tripping balls on the amount of STARS in the SKY and these cactus things, then this is the place to do it.
6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree, 760- 367-5500.
Knott's SoakCity Water Park (also called Oasis Water Park, don't ask us why) - Who doesn't love a friggin' water park? Especially when it's in the middle of the desert and it's 165 degrees outside? It's pretty small, but who cares? It's a water park in the desert, what more do you want—the beach? Make sure to go on the Sea Snake, which is a 50-footlong completely enclosed slide. It will freak you the hell out.
1500 S. Gene Autry Trl., Palm Springs, 760-327- 0499 (also ones in Orange County and San Diego).
The Living Desert - Do you like the outdoors? Do you like the desert? Do you like being dehydrated in 115-degree weather? Then the Living Desert is for you! It's kind of like a zoo and a park, combined, and there's all these cute animals like bighorn sheep and meerkats. Just make sure to bring along about ten gallons of water so you don't die hiking through Gecko Gulch.
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, 760-346-5694.
Mission Inn - If you turn the corner here too fast, you're going to bump into one of those creepy Grady twins from The Shining. Or maybe even Mr. Grady himself. I honestly don't know how this can exist in Riverside—it's like a massive haunted hotel from Spain, with a bell tower and a crazy spiral staircase that goes all the way from the top of the hotel down to the courtyard.
3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, 951-784-0300.
Oak Quarry Golf Club - In Southern California, punk-rock guys play golf. Yes, they really do. Don't argue with us. And a nice place to do it is at the Oak Quarry Golf Club. It's situated in a motherfucking quarry and is so big that the golf carts have GPS in them. Why do you think we're lying to you?
7151 Sierra Ave., Riverside, 951-685-1440.
Palm Springs Aerial Tram - Remember that scene in Nighthawks where Wulfgar takes everyone hostage on the tram, and Sylvester Stallone is all, "Why did you kill the lady?!" And badass Wulfgar is like, "Because I wanted to, Rocky," and it's so nerveracking and cool? Well, this isn't that tram, but it sort of looks like it, except for the fact that you get an awesome view of the desert instead of sketchy Roosevelt Island.
1 Tramway Rd., Palm Springs, 760-325-1391.