The residents of Riverside enjoy the lights festival, but it’s open to the public. This means that you can go to it if you happen to be in Riverside, California. Though most people don’t realize it, the Festival of Lights Riverside is the same as the Mission Inn option because the hotel and spa hosts it each year.
There is usually a switch-on ceremony where visitors can stand in darkness and watch as the entire area is illuminated with lights. You can also find various attractions and programming performances, as well as vendors.
Last year (2020), people were asked to book accommodations through the different holiday packages. Only patrons of the hotel could tour the interior décor of the castle setting and see the life-sized gingerbread house.
The Riverside Festival of Lights dates vary each year, but they often run from the end of November to the end of December. Sometimes, they spill over into the new year so that you can enjoy the lights festival multiple times.
Since there are so many dates available, it can help to check the calendar of events on the official website. That way, you can plan to attend when those events are going to happen.
Where It’s Located/How to Get There
The Riverside Festival of Lights starts at The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, which is on Mission Avenue in Riverside, California. Many roads are closed for the event, so it’s best to plan ahead. You can find maps of road closures and locations that offer free parking. Since most of the events are held at night, parking at meters is free. There are also many free public lots.
Main Street is closed so that you can get to all of the attractions on foot. There are carriage rides, a stage for events, and even Santa!
You’re going to find that the official address is 3649 Mission Inn Avenue, which is in Riverside, California. It’s at the heart of the downtown area, so it’s only 90 minutes from Los Angeles and San Diego.
Since the hotel takes up an entire city block, you’re not going to miss it. Those who come from Ontario, Pasadena, and Los Angeles can take the I-210 E San Bernadino or the I-10 E to the I-15 S San Diego. From there, go on CA-60E to Riverside and take the Market Street exit, turning right. Go about a mile and turn left, and you’re there.
If you’re coming from Orange County and specifically the John Wayne Airport, consider the I-40S North to the CA-55 North Anaheim-Riverside. From there, get on CA-91 E/Riverside. Then, you can take the University Avenue exit and go one block more until you hit Mission Inn Avenue on the left.
Those in Victorville can choose the 215-S and take the Mission Inn Avenue exit. Just turn right and then travel for three blocks, and you’re there.
Anyone coming from San Diego and Temecula should take I-15 North to I-215 N, which goes to Riverside. Alternatively, the CA-91-E is available. From there, take the exit for Mission Inn Avenue and turn left into the downtown area. Go another three blocks, and you’re right where the action is!
The Festival of Lights Riverside hours can vary. Ultimately, throughout the week, you can enjoy the festivities from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, the hours are extended to 11 p.m.
However, the lights festival is closed on Christmas Day and has shortened hours on Christmas Eve. Each year, the hours of operation can be different. Therefore, it’s best to check the official FOL website to make sure you know when to go.
Cost to Visit the Festival
The Riverside Festival of Lights is a free event. Therefore, you can walk into the venue for free. You can probably see entertainment for free, as well. There are often vendors on-site, and they charge for their goods. Prices are subject to the vendor, so it’s unknown how much these items are going to cost.
However, with 400 animated and lighted figures to watch, you may be so mesmerized that you don’t spend a lot on beverages and food.
Last years’ event, in 2020, was a little different. The outside of the Mission Inn was decorated in lights, but you had to be a patron of the hotel to see the rest of the display. Typically, though, there’s a switch-on ceremony, street performers to watch, and so much more.
Weather and What to Wear
The lights festival is located in Riverside, California, so the weather is always warmer. Typically, the lows are in the high 50s, with the highs being around 75 degrees.
Since the weather is warm, you’re not going to have to bundle up, even though it’s winter. The Festival of Lights – Riverside is quite popular for the fact that you can wear light cotton pants, long-sleeves, and a hoodie instead of bulky coats and base layers.
Wear what you’re comfortable with, but remember that the temperatures can drop at night into the 40s. Therefore, bring a coat with you, as well as a hat and gloves. Dress for your body and determine how cold you might get so that you’re comfortable.
Where to Sleep
The Riverside Festival of Lights is hosted each year by the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. However, you aren’t required to book accommodations there to enjoy the festival (in most cases). Last year (2020) was a little different, though.
Regardless, the Mission Inn is a great place to stay. You got Casey’s Cupcakes treats and access to Irvine & Roberts wine. Since there weren’t any vendors, most of the holiday décor was inside. There was a large gingerbread house, a gigantic Christmas tree, and many other options.
People had to stay there to gain access to the full lights festival features, so many of them chose to spend a night there and then go somewhere a little less expensive. The Hyatt Place is a great alternative and lets you be close to the action. You can enjoy the outdoor pool and free Wi-Fi. While it is winter, most people find that 70 degrees is warm enough to swim in, especially during the heat of the day. You’ve got access to a digital check-in feature, fitness center, and free breakfast.
If you want to be away from the main event, the Courtyard by Marriott is an excellent choice. You have access to the fitness center and a pool. However, you’re going to be impressed with the luxury amenities inside your room. Relax in style, and then plan your adventure after you’ve seen the Riverside Festival of Lights.
What to Eat
Everyone likes to eat out while they’re on vacation. Many hotels have on-site restaurants, and the rooms feature small refrigerators and microwaves (sometimes). However, when you want to get out and be adventurous, it’s time to try Cabin Sushi. It’s close enough to walk to from the hotels. Enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine. The atmosphere here is casual and inviting, so you can walk in off the street without having to go back to the hotel to change. There are plenty of traditional favorites, such as sashimi or udon.
If you’re interested in a more upscale setting, Mario’s Place is located across the street from the Mission Inn. You can get Italian and French cuisine and end the day with a glass of wine.
Those who want something American may prefer Lake Alice Trading Co. It’s close to the hotels, and it’s a social spot that has classic bar food. Grab a draft beer, eat a burger, and joke around with the locals.
More Things to Do in the Area
Even if you don’t stay at the Mission Inn to view the Riverside Festival of Lights, you should go to Kelly’s Spa (inside the hotel). You’ve got access to many services, such as facials, body treatments, nails, waxing, and massages.
Once you’ve seen the lights festival, consider spending the next day at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. It’s free to attend, so you can learn about the culture and history of the city.
If you want to enjoy a beautiful lights festival for the holiday without the cold and snow, the Riverside Festival of Lights is a great choice. It’s in warm, sunny California and is going to be fun, regardless of your age.