The Mission Inn's famous ‘Festival of Lights' to ‘switch' things up in 2023

The sparkly spectacular has always started the Friday after Thanksgiving; now, an earlier launch date is in the whimsical works.

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

What to Know

  • The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside
  • Festival of Lights 2023 opens on Saturday, Nov. 18 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving)
  • The free-to-see display features millions of lights, animatronic figures, and over-the-top decorations

THE FRIDAY AFTER THANKSGIVING... might be the leftover-iest occasion on the calendar, at least according to devoted fans of mashed potato-gravy-yam-cranberry sandwiches, while others think of Black Friday sales, bustling shopping centers, and finding deals on Christmas gifts. But for illumination aficionados based in and around the Inland Empire, the date has long been associated with the first night of lights at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a landmark that has become synonymous with seasonal dazzle over the decades. And we do mean "over the decades": The historical hotel began its brilliance-drenched run in 1992, giving both locals and guests the chance to bask in a wonderland of yuletide decadence. And all for free, too: While accommodations, food, and drink do have a fee (of course), anyone is invited to swing by the building's gussied-up exterior to admire the adorable animatronic figures, extra-tall nutcrackers, and millions of colorful bulbs.

BUT THINGS ARE CHANGING... in 2023, and by "changing" we do mean "expanding": The Festival of Lights will start its season-bright shimmer on Saturday, Nov. 18. The hotel made the announcement on social media earlier in July with the revelation that "we're proud to break tradition and commence the Festival of Lights early." That means if you have visitors in town ahead of Thanksgiving, you'll now have the opportunity to show them a vast display that regularly makes major "best in the USA" lists, specifically those rosters that pay tribute to over-the-top Christmas decorations. But if November's best-known holiday is just too busy for you and December is always packed-to-brimming, be cheered: Mission Inn will stay illuminated, each and every night, through Jan. 7, 2024.

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