Discover Riverside’s Historic Mission Inn and the Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights

The holidays are all about creating memories, and perhaps there is no more magical experience in all of Southern California, than the extraordinary light display at Riverside’s Mission Inn.

Known as The Festival of Lights, this spectacular event starts Friday, November 27 through January 2, 2015 and one of the nation’s largest holiday light collection. A Christmas tradition for the past 22 years, guests come away each year believing the event only gets better and last year’s festival was no exception. With one quick switch, on opening night, this historic hotel instantly illuminates with more than 4 million twinkling lights. As if this is not enough, a spectacular fireworks display quickly follows, lighting up the entire sky. Look carefully and you will see musical angels, carolers on the balconies and even a Santa Claus climbing up the chimney.

Of course, the Mission Inn doesn’t leave it at that. The entire six-week display also hosts several other holiday events as well. Horse drawn carriage rides, which also are elaborately decorated with lights, a breathtaking Christmas tree in the hotel lobby and even falling snow are just some of the other attractions guests look forward to seeing each year. The hotel also features several opportunities to visit with ole Saint Nick himself with Breakfast with Santa, Afternoon Tea with Santa and even an Elves Tuck-In for children.

Because of the immense popularity of this annual event, the City of Riverside, local vendors and other businesses have created a Charles Dickenson atmosphere throughout the city block during the Festival of Lights. Carolers dressed in costumes roam the area outside of the Inn while singing favorite holiday songs, and a fully operating ice-skating rink is set up as well. Local artists and musicians showcase their talents throughout the venue that further makes this a true festive occasion.

The Mission Inn has several award winning restaurants, including Duane’s, Las Campanas Mexican Cuisine, Bella Trattoria and the Presidential Lounge, which is a perfect place for a drink while listening to live music. For dessert, Casey’s Cupcakes is located just outside of the Inn and don’t be surprised if you must wait in a short line as Casey’s was recently awarded first prize on the Food Channel’s popular show, Cupcake Wars.

Perhaps the most compelling feature of the Mission Inn is its unique story. Located in downtown Riverside since 1876, the Inn became very popular in the late 1800’s when wealthy Europeans and the East Coast elite rushed to leave the cold winters and escape to a warmer climate. The hotel gradually expanded starting in 1903 and was finally completed in 1931 and now takes up a whole city block.

Over the years, the Mission Inn has been visited by a host of dignitaries and notable guests. Richard and Pat Nixon were married in the Presidential Lounge (which wasn’t a bar at the time) and Nancy and Ronald Reagan spent their honeymoon here as well. Eight other Presidents have visited the Mission Inn including Theodore Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and George W. Bush. A special chair was made for President Taft due to his large size, which now sits in the hotel lobby. Other visitors Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Helen Keller, Spencer Tracy, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Barbra Streisand and Drew Barrymore just to name a few.

If you are considering taking a visit to the Mission Inn this year, whether for an evening or a weekend, stock up on the hot chocolate or another beverage of your choice, and don’t forget the Christmas cookies and reserve our services to drive you in comfort and holiday style. Reservations fill up quickly so it’s never a bad idea to book early.

Here are some other creative ideas to consider that will add sparkle to your holiday season:

  • Going Christmas shopping? Invite your friends, grab your Christmas list, and take a day to shop at your favorite malls. Afterwards enjoy a pedicure before heading out for dinner. Naturally a limo service means you avoid the parking and traffic hassles!
  • Rent a limousine to go and see the best neighborhood Christmas lights. Listen to holiday music while sipping a hot drink and munching on goodies. This is a great idea for children celebrating birthdays during the holiday season as well.
  • Enjoy your holiday parties without worrying about driving. Take your friends, co-workers or family along as you celebrate in style!
  • Going out for New Years? However you plan to celebrate, a limousine is the perfect way to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! One possibility? The Mission Inn has a popular New Year’s special that includes hotel accommodations, tickets to the New Year’s Eve Gala, couples massage and a food and beverage credit to any of their award winning restaurants.
  • A “Holiday Scavenger Hunt” has grown in popularity over the years. Get your family and/or friends and drive all over town to collect holiday memorabilia. Some ideas for your list may include taking photos of your group with Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, Santa Clause, Grinch, an artic animal, a Christmas tree in a window, a bell, etc. The list can go on!
  • A Christmas Party with a different spin? Try a Progressive Dinner! Start with Happy Hour at one location (either a home or restaurant) and keep moving until dessert!

Whatever your plans are for the holidays, we thank you for your business this past year and look forward to celebrating many happy occasions with you in 2016.

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