The Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights has been a Riverside tradition since it began in 1992, a gift to the city from the owners and innkeepers Duane and Kelly Roberts.
“The Festival of Lights has become such a cherished part of the holiday season, with many families making it an annual tradition. We are honored that the Festival of Lights is celebrating its 20th year,” Kelly said.
Just as with past years, the Festival of Lights is a free Disneyland-style extravaganza featuring a display of 3.5 million brilliant lights and more than 400 animated figures including angels, elves and carolers.
And everything was kicked off with a celebratory lighting ceremony and fireworks display.
The display will continue through January 5, with highlights including daily appearances by Santa Claus and live reindeer, horse-drawn carriage rides, freshly fallen snow and delicious holiday sweet treats provided by the famous original Casey’s Cupcakes shop located at the Inn.
The Festival is the capstone of nearly 10 weeks of continuous, round-the-clock work which is orchestrated by a staff of 30 crewmembers who have as their goal the creation of the greatest lighting spectacle south of the North Pole.
That same staff works to maintain the freshness of the event by coming up with new and different features added annually.
This year, if you are feeling a little deprived in the affection department, perhaps your luck with change with the addition of the world’s largest mistletoe at the Inn.
According to Kevinie Woo, Mission Inn spokesperson, both residents and travelers can delight in this spectacular Southern California holiday tradition that also includes an elaborately decorated Christmas tree (changing every two weeks), Dickensian carolers singing cheerful holiday tunes, a pop-up outdoor ice skating rink and a “Twelve Days of Christmas” holiday drink menu.
There are also festive culinary offerings at the hotel’s dining venues ranging from the AAA-Four Diamond Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood to the lovely Spanish Patio, and hundreds of characters dressed in 17th century costumes that evoke the spirit of the season.
The Mission Inn is located 3649 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside.
Michael W. Michelsen, Jr. is a local writer and new contributor to SWRNN.