The city of San Bernardino in sunny Southern California’s “inland empire,” will forever be affectionately known to stoners as “San Bernadoobie.” That’s because for the last few years and into the foreseeable future, if you want to go to a BIG cannabis expo/event/show in Southern California (such as the High Times Cannabis Cup), you are going to be heading to San Bernardino’s NOS Center, as that is about the only So CA venue of size to accept cannabis shows. Smart, as it brings HUGE revenue to not only the venue itself, but also the surrounding, restaurants, stores, hotels, and motels, and as one of the poorest cities in America, San Bernardino needs all the help it can get.
The event center itself has a long and storied history. NOS stands for National Orange Show, an annual celebration of the local citrus industry. As the citrus industry has declined or moved elsewhere with urban sprawl, the Orange Show has also declined in recent years to little more than an excuse for a carnival, but the NOS Center itself has seen a revival thanks to the marijuana shows.
Rock and Roll History in San Bernardino
The National Orange Show’s concert venue, the Swing Auditorium — built in 1949, played host to a who’s who of musical acts through the decades including Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, the Grateful Dead, and the first US appearance of the Rolling Stones in 1964. Sadly the building had to be destroyed in 1981 when it was stuck by a small plane.
Rock and Roll historians and guitar heroes will want to make a side trip to Mountain View cemetery about 5 miles away. Just to the left after entering through the front gate you will find the Rhoades mausoleum, the final resting place of guitar legend Randy Rhoades of Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osborne fame. Fans have paid respects by leaving an assortment of guitar picks on the grave. It is a peaceful place to take a literal breather from the hustle of the crowded busy cannabis events at the nearby NOS center.
The REAL Original McDonald’s and Route 66 Fun in San Bernardino!
San Bernardino is home to the original McDonald’s museum, located on the original Route 66! Built on the site of the first hamburger restaurant started by the McDonald Brothers (they did barbecue previous to that), who later sold their business to Ray Kroc, nothing much is left of the original structure, but inside you will find an enormous collection of memorabilia dedicated to America’s favorite fast food chain.
The museum shares its home with the corporate offices of the Juan Pollo chicken chain. Juan Pollo founder Albert Okura has an encyclopedic knowledge of fast food history and is a man passionate about fast food businesses! The successful entrepreneur started working at Burger King as a student before going on to found his chicken chain. When he got the opportunity to purchase the property of the original McDonalds, he considered himself lucky. Despite the building’s dilapidated condition, Albert says the decision to buy it was a “no brainer.”
Okura says the McDonald’s corporation would rather his museum didn’t exist as most references to the McDonald brothers have been white washed from the company’s history. Ray Kroc, an original franchisee, bought the brothers out, but a dispute arose over the original San Bernardino property, now the site of the museum. The brothers, no longer allowed to use their own name, changed the name of the establishment to “The Big M,” but kept the menu the same. Kroc built a McDonald’s across the street and eventually put the brothers out of business.
Over the years Albert has expanded the McDonald Museum’s collection to include original photos and business documents, equipment from the first restaurant in San Bernardino, placemats, menus, packaging, Happy Meal toys, international items and more. When I first visited years ago the place was a mess and in bad need of help, but since then Okura has spruced the place up with help from dedicated docents like artist Rory Murray.
Murray, along with Phil Yeh, is also a major contributor to the museum’s “living mural” that adorns the exterior walls. Murray and Yeh, along with guest artist friends have been painting the history of San Bernardino on one side of the building’s wall, and the sights Route 66 travelers can expect to see nearby on the other, in an ongoing and ever expanding art project. Look closely and you’ll see some famous contributors, like Phil Ortiz of The Simpsons, who have joined in Murray and Yeh’s efforts.
Outside the Museum are all kinds of kitschy oddities including Scooby Doo’s “Mystery Van,” the SS Juan Pollo (a boat-like vehicle Okura uses for parades and events), and life sized McDonald’s characters Albert has acquired from around the country.
Murray says European tourists, with a penchant for both Route 66 and McDonald’s history, make up a large part of the attraction’s visitors, but anyone who grew up with the Golden Arches (even if we no longer eat there) will enjoy a nostalgic visit to the Original McDonald’s museum.
Stay in a Wig Wam!
Another classic remnant of Route 66 is the Wig Wam Motel, which is both a great place to stay and a tourist attraction in and of itself.
As child I always begged my parents to stay in one of these kitschy roadside Americana motels, made to resemble tee pees. Alas it never happened. But it is not too late. While visiting the NOS Center for a cannabis event, the nearby Wig Wam Motel makes a comfortable home base.
In the heyday of Route 66 there were a number of such Indian themed motels across the country, but most are gone today (another in Holbrook, AZ still survives). Likewise, history and Route 66 buffs are grateful to the Patel family for lovingly restoring this one, built in 1949, to its former glory. Artist Rory Murray, of the original McDonald’s Museum, also had a hand in the Wig Wam’s restoration, as he did the exterior paint job on the property’s 20 cone-shaped concrete cabins.
Inside guests will find cozy accommodations with modern amenities, but step outside the door and you’re transported back to the 50s, especially if a classic car show happens to be in town.
The Wig Wam Motel is not in the best part of town, but its high fence makes it safe, secure, and private — a beautiful oasis, complete with grassy lawns and swimming pool, in the middle of San Bernardino. And best of all, it’s just a few miles from the NOS Center where the latest cannabis expo awaits!
San Bernardino Practicalities
The NOS Center is located at 689 S E St, San Bernardino, CA 92408. Call 909-888-6788 or click to visit their website.
The Original McDonald’s Museum is located at 1398 N E St, San Bernardino, CA 92405. Call 909-885-6324 or visit this link for more info.
Mountain View Cemetery is located at 570 E Highland Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92404. Call 909-882-2943.
The Wig Wam Motel is located at 2728 E Foothill Blvd, San Bernardino, CA 92376. Call (909) 875-3005. Visit the Wig Wam Motel website.