The annual Festival of Lights held at the historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, CA is one that should not be forgotten or overlooked. A sight to be seen and well worth the time and effort, The Festival of Lights should be added to everyone’s Christmas season festivities.
With over four million lights on display and covering almost every inch of the hotel and landscape, the historic Mission Inn brings people from as far away as San Diego to the South and San Francisco to the North.
Beginning the night after Thanksgiving and ending Sunday, January 3, 2016 expect significant crowds and plan accordingly.
Here are some tips based on my experience over the years:
Bring cash for parking. While the hotel has parking, it fills up early, forcing you to seek parking in the surrounding lots and structures. Since a lot of the parking lots/structures don’t take cards for payment, make sure to have some cash handy.
Wear comfortable shoes. The hotel is set in beautiful downtown Riverside with European style cobblestone streets. For women, it’s hard to wear heels and not fall on those streets. Don’t try to be cute and wear major heels. This isn’t really the time or place for all of that. But beyond that, walking around the hotel to view all the lights can wreak havoc on your feet.
Plan to eat at one of the many nice restaurants or cafes inside and around the hotel. Why not make the most of your trip to the area? Either before or after you tour the lights, plan to eat something. The restaurants inside the hotel are typically a bit pricey are more formal and require reservations due to the high demand. But depending on your budget, it’s not a bad plan. If you can get on the patio of one of these restaurants, it’s a great ambiance to sit out there, eat great food, have a view of some lights while people watching. But if you’re looking for something more casual there are plenty of options for that, as well. There are times my family has eaten at one of the restaurants at the hotel and other times we have found spots to just get a sandwich or soup or a pastry and cappuccino and chilled and people watched. Obviously, you don’t have to eat. But as I said before, why not make the most of your time, visiting the area? Most people will probably not be in Riverside too often, so take advantage and do it up!
Dress warmly. Every year I have gone it was cold as hell!!!!!!!! I know it’s Cali but come prepared and be wrapped up!! And when I say that, I truly mean that you will not look crazy if you come in scarves and gloves.
Prepare for the holiday cuteness overload. You will see a lot of very traditional, festive Christmas-y things. There will be actors and singers walking around, dressed up like characters in a Charles Dickens story. You can see Santa Clause. There are horse drawn carriages that you can ride in (for a fee). You will definitely leave with a warm and fuzzy holiday feeling!
The place isn’t incredibly big. You can tour the lights in a fairly short amount of time. Typically, you kind of just blend in with the crowds and slowly move along the outside and inside of the hotel, as one big herd that just continuously flows.
Make sure to have your cell charged and camera ready to go! The lights are so beautiful that you will FOR SURE want to take many, many pictures!
Add The Festival of Lights to your Christmas season of events and come back and provide your feedback! I want to hear if you loved it as much as I do! And if not, I want to hear about that too!!!
Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
3649 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside CA 92501