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In the heart of Riverside resides a block-long hotel that plays host to 3.6 million lights during the holiday season.  The Mission Inn, originally established in 1876 as a two story adobe boarding house, grew in size over the subsequent decades to become the pride of Riverside, a cultural heritage landmark.  10 U.S. presidents have crossed its threshold, and with good reason.
Mission Inn

We, of course, arrived early and strolled around town, looking at the shops and taking pictures during daylight hours.  I had to benefit from one of the tenants of the Mission Inn – Casey’s Cupcakes, the 2011 Cupcake Wars winner.  Yum!  Who said you can’t have dessert before dinner?
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It is lovely inside.  Home to over 400 bells, some of them centuries old, lovingly collected by the previous owner, this Spanish-style beauty is charming to wander around.  I have friends who married at The Mission Inn.  What lucky ducks!  During the holiday season, you’ll have to fight the hundreds and hundreds of people who come to gawk at the lights each night to do so.  My recommendation – come early, see it by day, have dinner around 4pm, watch the lights as they turn on at the comfort of your table around 5pm, and you’re set (we were on the patio of the Mexican restaurant Las Campanas).  Early arrival is a must as traffic and parking are a bear to deal with.  If you have reservations to dine, you gain access to the grounds.  Of course, viewing the lights with a nice margarita makes it even better.  It wasn’t a nice holiday drink, but still very tasty.
And when the lights come on, what were lovely features by day became even more lovely by night. It is utterly charming.  You don’t know where to look first, there is so much to see.  And if you’re in to those things, you can wrap your visit up with a carriage ride around town.
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The Mission Inn is a delightful visit during the holidays, for those that come prepared.

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