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What Time Do The Mission Inn Lights Turn On


by Catlaina Kohn



Welcome to the enchanting world of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, where the holiday season comes alive with a dazzling display of lights, illuminating the heart of downtown Riverside, California. The Mission Inn’s annual Festival of Lights is a beloved tradition that draws visitors from near and far, captivating guests with its festive ambiance and breathtaking decorations.


As the sun sets and the evening sky darkens, the Mission Inn transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with millions of twinkling lights that adorn every nook and cranny of the historic hotel and its surrounding gardens. This spectacular sight has become a cherished holiday spectacle, offering joy and wonder to all who experience it.


Join us as we delve into the history of the Mission Inn Lights, explore the schedule for this captivating event, and discover valuable tips for making the most of your visit. Whether you’re a local resident or a traveler seeking holiday magic, the Mission Inn Lights are sure to ignite your festive spirit and create cherished memories for years to come.


History of the Mission Inn Lights

The origins of the Mission Inn’s enchanting light display can be traced back to 1992 when Duane and Kelly Roberts, the owners of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, sought to create a captivating holiday tradition for the local community. What began as a modest lighting ceremony has since blossomed into one of the most renowned holiday events in Southern California, attracting millions of visitors each year.


The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn is deeply rooted in the rich history of the hotel, which was established in 1876 and has since undergone numerous expansions and renovations. The event pays homage to the legacy of Frank A. Miller, the visionary founder of the Mission Inn, who played a pivotal role in shaping Riverside’s cultural landscape.


Each year, the Festival of Lights kicks off with a grand switch-on ceremony, marking the official commencement of the holiday season. The event features live entertainment, celebrity guests, and a jubilant atmosphere that sets the stage for the dazzling light display. The Roberts family’s commitment to community engagement and philanthropy is evident in the Festival of Lights, as it serves as a beacon of hope and joy for residents and visitors alike.


Over the years, the light display has evolved to incorporate cutting-edge technology, innovative designs, and eco-friendly practices. The Mission Inn’s dedication to sustainability is reflected in the use of energy-efficient LED lights and environmentally conscious installation methods, ensuring that the spectacle remains both awe-inspiring and environmentally responsible.


As the Festival of Lights continues to captivate audiences and garner acclaim, it has become a symbol of unity and celebration, bringing people together to revel in the magic of the holiday season. The rich history and enduring legacy of the Mission Inn Lights serve as a testament to the power of tradition and the spirit of giving, making it a cherished tradition for generations to come.


Schedule for the Mission Inn Lights

The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn is a seasonal extravaganza that typically spans from late November to early January, allowing ample time for visitors to experience the dazzling display and partake in the festive activities. The schedule for the Mission Inn Lights is thoughtfully crafted to offer a myriad of opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in the holiday magic.


The festivities commence with the much-anticipated “Switch-On Ceremony,” an enchanting event that marks the official illumination of the Mission Inn’s holiday lights. This grand ceremony typically takes place in late November, drawing locals and tourists alike to witness the breathtaking transformation of the historic hotel into a luminous spectacle. The switch-on ceremony is accompanied by live musical performances, celebrity appearances, and a jubilant atmosphere that sets the stage for the weeks of merriment to come.


Throughout the duration of the Festival of Lights, visitors can revel in a host of engaging activities and attractions. From horse-drawn carriage rides through the festively adorned streets to visits with Santa Claus and his merry elves, there are ample opportunities for families and friends to create cherished holiday memories. The Mission Inn’s surrounding streets and plazas come alive with street performers, artisan markets, and delectable treats, adding to the festive ambiance that permeates the air.


For those seeking a touch of nostalgia, the Mission Inn offers nostalgic experiences such as the “Elves Workshop” and the “Candy Stroll,” where guests can indulge in sweet delights while perusing a charming array of holiday-themed merchandise. The hotel’s enchanting architecture serves as the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities, allowing visitors to capture the magic of the season amidst the twinkling lights and ornate decor.


As the holiday season draws to a close, the Festival of Lights culminates in a joyous New Year’s Eve celebration, featuring live entertainment, fireworks, and a jubilant atmosphere that bids farewell to the old year and welcomes the new with style and flair. The schedule for the Mission Inn Lights is designed to cater to visitors of all ages, ensuring that each guest can partake in the festivities and create lasting memories amid the resplendent glow of the holiday lights.


Tips for Viewing the Mission Inn Lights

As you prepare to embark on a memorable journey through the radiant wonderland of the Mission Inn Lights, consider these invaluable tips to enhance your experience and make the most of this cherished holiday tradition.

  • Plan Your Visit: To avoid crowds and secure optimal viewing opportunities, consider visiting the Mission Inn Lights on weekdays or earlier in the evening. Arriving during the opening days of the festival can also provide a chance to witness the grand switch-on ceremony and partake in the inaugural festivities.
  • Parking and Accommodations: Utilize designated parking areas and consider nearby accommodations to facilitate your visit. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa offers luxurious lodgings for those seeking an immersive holiday experience within steps of the dazzling light displays.
  • Dress Comfortably: Be mindful of the weather conditions and dress appropriately for your visit. Comfortable footwear is recommended, as you may find yourself strolling through the festively adorned streets and plazas surrounding the Mission Inn.
  • Photography Tips: Capture the magic of the Mission Inn Lights by bringing a camera or smartphone with ample battery life and storage capacity. Consider visiting during the “golden hour” before sunset to capture stunning photos as the natural light blends with the twinkling holiday lights.
  • Explore Surrounding Attractions: Extend your visit by exploring the vibrant downtown Riverside area, which offers an array of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Immerse yourself in the local culture and make the most of your holiday excursion.
  • Consider Special Events: Stay informed about special events and performances scheduled during the Festival of Lights. From live music and dance performances to themed workshops and culinary experiences, there are numerous opportunities to enrich your visit with engaging activities.
  • Familiarize Yourself with Tradition: Take a moment to learn about the history and significance of the Mission Inn Lights, gaining a deeper appreciation for the artistry and dedication that bring this cherished tradition to life year after year.
  • Embrace the Festive Spirit: Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the holiday magic. Engage with the cheerful ambiance, interact with fellow visitors, and savor the enchanting atmosphere that envelops the Mission Inn during the Festival of Lights.

By incorporating these tips into your visit, you can ensure a seamless and delightful experience as you bask in the splendor of the Mission Inn Lights, creating lasting memories and kindling the warmth of the holiday season within your heart.



The Mission Inn Lights stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of holiday enchantment, weaving together history, innovation, and community to create a spectacle that captures the hearts of all who behold it. As the dazzling lights adorn the historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, they beckon visitors to immerse themselves in the magic of the season, forging cherished memories and igniting the festive spirit within each guest.


From its humble beginnings to its current grandeur, the Festival of Lights has remained a beacon of joy and wonder, offering a resplendent display that transcends generations and unites communities. The rich history of the Mission Inn Lights, coupled with the thoughtful schedule of events and invaluable tips for visitors, ensures that this holiday tradition continues to shine brightly year after year.


As you prepare to experience the Mission Inn Lights, may these insights serve as a guide to enrich your visit and deepen your appreciation for this beloved spectacle. Whether you are a local resident eagerly anticipating the switch-on ceremony or a traveler seeking the magic of the season, the Mission Inn Lights await, ready to kindle the spirit of the holidays and create enduring moments of delight.


Embrace the warmth of the season, revel in the enchanting ambiance, and allow the Mission Inn Lights to illuminate your heart with the joy and wonder of the holidays. As the lights twinkle and the festive melodies fill the air, may your visit to the Mission Inn be filled with merriment, togetherness, and the timeless magic of the holiday season.