Riverside Gets a Touch of Christmas

Take a trip to Riverside’s free annual Festival of Lights to get into the holiday spirit


Photo courtesy of Riverside Festival of Lights.

Imagine walking down Main Street leading to the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, and seeing the millions of lights illuminating the night. Bright white, red and green lights shimmer and shine. Giant nutcrackers on both sides make you feel like a kid again. The pitter-patter of the horse-drawn carriage runs by. Cheerful Christmas music fills the streets. Palm trees with lights wrapped all the way to the top to disguise the fact that we are still in southern California, not the North Pole. In the distance, there is a slight ringing of Santa Claus’ bells.

The 27th annual Festival of Lights is presented by Mission Inn Hotel and Spa and is held in Riverside, California. The annual switch-on ceremony was held on Nov. 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Mission Inn and Orange Street. The Festival of Lights starts on Nov. 29 and lasts until Dec. 31, leaving plenty of time to go get a taste of this magnificent display of lights. It starts at 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, but on the weekend, the fun begins at 3 p.m. End times differ depending on the day. Mondays through Thursdays, the show ends at 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday, it ends at 11 p.m.

There is no admission charge for this event, but parking, souvenirs and activities may cost extra. At an additional cost, they have rides and attractions such as pictures with Santa, a carousel, a century wheel to get a bird’s eye view and a horse-drawn carriage.

Along with the lights and fun, there is also Artisans Collective, which is an innovative arts market where the guests can purchase local art, hear the local musicians and participate in free public arts workshops.

Live entertainment is performed nightly by local and professional talent.

The Festival of Lights is a long-running tradition for the city of Riverside and is only continuing to grow, with the number of visitors going up last year to 750,000, which was a 58% increase from 2014.

For more information and to see their calendar of events, you can visit their website.