Festival of Lights at the Riverside Mission Inn | 5 things to know

Are you looking for tons of Holiday lights, a plethora of Christmas decorations, and a soooooo many people all jam packed into a small area? Well, you’ve found it! It’s the Festival of Lights, which takes place annually at the Riverside Mission Inn. Here are 5 things to know about the event.

What is the Riverside Festival of Lights?

It’s a bunch of lights! A festival of them, if you will!! Seriously though, they do a pretty great job of decorating the Mission Inn with a ton of decorations, lights, and everything Christmassy. The event extends from the hotel to the area surrounding downtown Riverside with carriage rides, live entertainment, vendors, a ferris wheel, and fucking delicious hot mini doughnuts which I will gladly stand in the 45 minute long line for.

The 2018 installment of the Festival of Lights marks the 26th season of the event in downtown Riverside.  It will run from Black Friday, November 23 through January 6, 2019.

The big kick off event on November 23rd, 2018 will include a switch-on ceremony at 5:15 pm, a fireworks display, and a 45-minute concert by Robin Thicke who is: a) still around, and b) will probably just sing “Blurred Lines” 10 times.

Where is the Riverside Mission Inn?

Have you even been reading this? It’s in downtown Riverside. Here’s a map:

When and what time should I go to the Riverside Festival of Lights?

While the event used to have periods when it wasn’t insanely, nowadays, well, *sigh*.   As the Press Enterprise points out, there were 750,000 visitors in 2017-2018 which was up from 475,000 in a 2014.  That’s a huuuuuge increase of people for a small space.

Weekends are ridiculous and so is everyday the kids are out of school for Christmas break – which used to be 2 weeks but now, due to weird schedules that have the year starting in August, is like 9 weeks or something.

It starts nightly at 5, so getting there early will help. Also, weeknights are better than weekends and the later it is after Christmas (except for New Year’s) usually sees crowds thin out a bit.

Basically, good luck. You are going to need it.

Is there anything else, other than just looking at the decorations and buying food out of a tent?

All of the stores and restaurants around the Mission Inn are usually open and, should you want a little drink or two to get you in the holiday spirit, you can grab a tasty drink at The Salted Pig, ProAbition, or, and this is going to sound weird, the bar inside the consignment store is a block away from the Mission Inn.

Also, new this year, you can check out the Riverside Food Lab.

I get it, the Festival of Lights is really crowded.  Should I still go?

Yes.  At least once.  It’s pretty cool and it’s one of the few places in Southern California where you can actually get in the Holiday Spirit (which is tough to do when it’s 85 degrees in December).

Just try to follow the above tips, find a parking space on the street (and save $10 from the jerk parking garage people), and be prepared to wait for a long bit to see Santa or get one of those mini doughnuts – that are so good and that I thank you in advance for grabbing a couple extra for me while you’re there.

You can get more info on the event here.