FAIRY TALE PLACE: It isn't difficult to conjure a few fantastical yarns about Riverside's Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. The venerable landmark is, without quibble, one of the state's most storybook buildings, and its large, block-filling footprint, and many turrets and towers and nooks, only enhance the idea that some outlandish and possibly magical doings have happened within its well-appointed hallways. And one can't argue with that notion; with the many weddings and family celebrations and holiday dinners that have occurred at the hotel over the years, there has absolutely been some magical feeling afoot. But finding out how the castle-like inn came to be, some 112 years ago, and the role that modern, preservation-minded champions have played in saving it and preserving it, is part of the real fairy tale that weaves into the Mission Inn's factual story. And you don't have to sit in its interior patio, or along one of its balconies, and play a guessing game as to who those people or what those stories are; the hotel's Experience History Under the Stars Package will reveal all, or at least much, about the famous building's architecture and dramatic twists and turns.
DINNER, THEN A DOCENT-LED TOUR: Parties of two shall start the evening with a little supping at The Mission Inn Restaurant -- delicious foodstuffs and fortifying one's self is always a good plan when there is learning to be done -- and then there shall be the learning about the landmark. Guests will join a docent for a stroll around the hotel, a walk which includes a stop at the picturesque chapel and at points around the lobby (look for a certain president's much-photographed chair near the front doors). Oftentimes, if time and chance permits, a tour guide will give an extra peek into a rarely used room or passage, but wherever you wander, count on knowing much about the storied structure in which you stand. Cupcakes from Casey's and stay-the-night accommodations round out the fact-filled, character-packed adventure. And, yes, it is pretty storybook how the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has weathered the years, and time's changing tides, to become the swanky spot it is today. You don't even need dragons or princesses to fill out all the fanciful details, which are pretty darn plentiful, and enchanted, sans embellishment.