If you're in southern California or traveling to southern California from another place to take the bar exam, chances are, you're spending three or more days in Ontario, California. It's not as bad as it sounds though. I am here to give you some practical advice for making the most of your time in the Inland Empire.
Fortunately, there are plenty of lodging options near the convention center easily within walking distance of your bar exam. I like the Holiday Inn for it's price, proximity, and shuttle that took me to and from the airport. There are tons of options here and you've probably already reserved a room so there's no need to belabor here.
I would say that depending on your diet, the food options near the convention center are limited. You can walk to a Marie Callendars, Denny's, In-and-Out, and Wendy's. There is a Stater Bros. supermarket that will probably require you to use transportation to get to. Nearby is a cool Mexican market called Cardenas.
The Ontario convention center is a huge place to take the bar exam. If you are typing your exam, you will be grouped in a very large hall that can hold thousands of examinees. I am told the room for writers is large as well. If commotion and noise are a problem for you, then I strongly implore you to seek out the best earplugs you can find because the sound of over one thousand people typing in this cavernous space can be distracting. The hall can also get cold so dress in layers.
The biggest issue I noticed in the convention center was the layout of power strips for the bar exam. Be prepared for days one and three by having an extension cord that works and is long enough to reach the power strips. Additionally, I would recommend having a good battery in your laptop. There are countless stories of examinees not having proper access to electricity in this room.
During my bar exam, someone at the table in front of me kicked a power strip, causing it to detach from the main extension cord. Although I was fine without power due to my relatively new Macbook Pro's long-lasting battery, my table mate's laptop ran out of power and shutoff during the last essay of the first day. Clearly, distressed, she had to flag down a proctor and handwrite the rest of her answer. The proctor was slow to respond to her and obviously, she wasted valuable time. Keep in mind that nobody noticed that this person in front of me did this to the power strip until it happened. Nevertheless, it was a huge distraction to my table mate as well as everyone around her.
There are bathrooms located at the front of the hall though I must warn you that there are occasional lines to use them. I would advise you to use the bathrooms outside your room before entering. If you are seated upfront near the bathrooms, I hope you have earplugs. I've heard people vomiting in the bathrooms during the exam and I've also seen people faint during testing, only to be removed on a stretcher. The pressures of the bar exam can overwhelm some people so do not be surprised if you see people becoming violently ill due to stress and illness.
The lunchtime breaks during the bar exam are best spent in your hotel room, especially if you are within walking distance to your room. Some hotels allow you to order room service in advance so you have a meal waiting for you when you get back to your room. The scene around the convention center during lunch is the opposite of relaxing. I've seen lots of conversations discussing issues missed on essays or MBE questions that were difficult. These social interactions only increase anxiety and I advise people to avoid them by returning to their room to have some alone time.
Remember to procure a working analog watch for the exam. You will not be allowed to bring in a digital watch. Be prepared with a good timepiece because unlike Florida, there is no clock on the wall to rely on during the exam.
Undoubtedly, the last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of July in Ontario, California will be an experience you will never forget. If you've put in the work and prepared accordingly, you will never have to experience it again.