If you consider yourself something of an authority regarding the unofficial Brightest Locations in California, then you probably already possess a list of those supremely illuminated spots that dazzle with their bulb-based brilliance.
Any of our working lighthouses would make such a list, as would Dodger Stadium at night. And Disneyland's It's a Small World, come the holidays, might be the most radiant thing in all of Orange County.
But your list of mega-radiant destinations wouldn't be complete without The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside's block-filler of a castle-like hotel. Of course, the historic building keeps the elegant, palm-highlighting lamps turned on throughout the calendar, but come the Friday after Thanksgiving the whole shimmery structure becomes visible from space.
What to do, where to go and what to see
Well, that might be hyperbole, so let's qualify that with "just about seeable from space." Thank the 4,500,000 lights that begin to sparkle at The Mission Inn, bulbs that cover the Spanish-elegant archways and patios and palms during the hotel's annual Festival of Lights.
Add to that the 400-plus figures that are animated (italics necessary, because 400 moving figures are impressive), and the strolling Victorian-attired carolers, and the gingerbread villages, and the yuletide-sweet treats and touches, and you have not only an official Brightest Location in California but one of the Merriest Locations in California, too.
You don't need to be present in Riverside for the festive switch-flipping on Friday, Nov. 25, but keep in mind that that's when this whole bulb-bigness gets glowing. And the four point five million lights will stay on at the hotel nightly through Saturday, Jan. 7. (Spelling out "four point five million lights" was necessary, because it is an astounding number.)
It's all free to swing by and see, though people do plan an overnight stay at The Mission Inn just to have more time to bask in the daylight-like after-sundown incandescence.