Millions of Lights: The Mission Inn Preps Its Big Glow Show

Six weeks of serious sparkle: The castle-like Riverside landmark is about to get very, very luminous, starting the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

What to Know

  • Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside
  • The Festival of Lights begins at sundown on Friday, Nov. 26
  • Free to see; the hotel has stay-over packages available, too

HERE'S A MERRY MATH PROBLEM: If you had to add up every bulb that brings ethereal illumination to the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa during its famous Festival of Lights, and you had six weeks to count all of them, how many bulbs would you need to count per hour? We'd need to spend a few minutes with our peppermint-scented pens to figure out that festive number, but let's all agree that the final figure would be mightily impressive. There are well over four million lights, and we did type "million" there, which makes sense, since the picturesque landmark fills out a sizable chunk of downtown Riverside. But those millions of lights don't just need to cover the Mission Inn's walls; there are turrets and nooks and cozy corners and balconies to bulb-up, which gives this seasonal scene a storybook-like shimmer.

THE BULBS BLINK ON... on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 26 in 2021. They'll glow on nightly, for six weeks, and here's something that's full of holiday cheer: You don't need tickets to see them, for viewing this visual splendor is totally free. It can get a bit bustling, with visitors, especially as Christmas grows near, so you might consider the hotel's Festival of Lights stay-over package. Good to know? There have been big "switch-on" ceremonies in the past, but the hotel will not be holding one in 2021. Adding an adorable element are the oversized nutcrackers "guarding" the property, the animatronic carolers dotting various ledges, and the bows, trees, and gewgaws that summon a Christmassy character.

WORLD-FAMOUS WHIMSY: This particular light display isn't just beloved around the Inland Empire or California; it regularly makes national Top 10 lists that hail holiday decorations. It is, in fact, "... one of the nation's largest holiday light collections," and a traditional must-visit for many families around the region and beyond.

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