Home / Tourism / 26th Annual Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Begins November 23

26th Annual Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Begins November 23

The 2018 festival presents a life-size gingerbread house, immersive “Winter Wonderland” walkway, and a Super Bowl-sized firework display at the Switch-On Ceremony on Friday, November 23

Riverside CA—  The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa – Southern California’s historic AAA Four-Diamond hotel – kicks off the holiday season on Friday, November 23 with the annual Festival of Lights, a complimentary, six week-long celebration featuring one of the nation’s largest holiday public light collections of its kind.  This year marks the 26th anniversary of the annual tradition, a gift from Keepers of the Inn Duane and Kelly Roberts, who saved the historic hotel from destruction in 1992. The festivities commence with the famous “Switch-On” Ceremony, a spectacular event in which the hotel is instantly illuminated in holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display.

The beloved Southern California tradition creates a magical experience in the heart of Riverside and attracts more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world each year. Providing over 200 jobs annually to Riverside residents and drawing in over $42 million of revenue to the city’s businesses, The Festival of Lights has positively impacted the local economy and spirit of the community.

Highlights of the Festival of Lights include a record-breaking 5 million colorful lights; 400 animated figures including angels and elves; appearances by Santa Claus and Sugar Plum Fairy ballerinas; a life-size gingerbread house; an elf tuck-in amenity for overnight guests, and much more. New this year is the “North Pole” walkway complete with elves building snowmen and decorating trees; faux snow dusting visitors under the hotel’s iconic Campanario; holiday window displays; and Santa’s poolside workshop, featuring elves making toys and loading them onto a conveyor belt.

Festival of Lights Switch-On Ceremony

This year’s highly anticipated Switch-On Ceremony will take place on Friday, November 23 beginning at 5:00 PM.  Alongside Santa, the Roberts Family will countdown and “flip the switch,” illuminating the entire hotel property. The ceremony will conclude with a four-minute-long fireworks show and other over-the-top experiences to be revealed that night.

“Santa’s Wonderland House”

On display in the lobby, Executive Pastry Chef David Blaine will showcase a life-size “Santa’s Wonderland House” gingerbread house. Ten weeks in the making, the structure begins with 800 gingerbread bricks and 200 gingerbread tiles. Planters surround the house and are enclosed by picket fence, candy trees, and even a mailbox. The décor is not limited to the house’s exterior as interiors are decorated in pink and white striped wallpaper, a fireplace with stockings for each member of the Roberts Family, and a Christmas tree with presents underneath.

The Kensington Kelly Suite

Guests may book a holiday stay in the luxurious Kensington Kelly Suite, the hotel’s themed suite named after Duane & Kelly Roberts’ first-born granddaughter, Kensington Kelly. The all-pink suite will house a pink Christmas tree among other holiday touches to complement the suite’s whimsical ambience.

Holiday Traditions

Throughout the holiday season, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa creates immersive holiday experiences for guests honoring the Festival of Lights 26th anniversary, including:

Santa Letter Drop Box for children to send Santa letters via express mail.

A “Sugar Plum Fairy Suite” Package |November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019

The Sugar Plum Fairy Suite Package includes a stay in the themed suite that will delight guests of all ages, decorated with sweet holiday trimmings, a holiday tree, stockings, holiday lights and candy décor.  The two-night suite experience is complete with a Casey’s Cupcakes turndown amenity for four accompanied by hot cocoa and a $200 dining credit. Rates begin at $1,419.

Elf Tuck-In Amenity | November 26, 2018 – December 26, 2018

The amenity features a resident elf that delivers small, present-filled stockings to children and tucks them into bed with a bedtime story.  The experience includes a keepsake book of “‘Twas Night Before Christmas” candy filled stocking and a Casey’s Cupcake (Elf hours are available between 7– 10 p.m.). $50 per child.

Holiday Food & Beverage

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa will be offering a range of culinary delights in honor of the Festival of Lights, including seasonal dishes at each of the Inn’s distinguished restaurants, festive cocktails, and themed cupcakes at Casey’s Cupcakes.

Breakfast with Santa | Saturday, December 1 & 15 | 8:00 AM & 10:30 AM seatings

The hotel will host an elegant breakfast buffet with Santa and his friends from the Inland Pacific Ballet’s The Nutcracker for a special performance and story time. Adults: $39.95; Children $19.95 (ages 3-11) all inclusive.

Sunday Champagne Brunch with Santa | November 25, 2018 –January 6, 2019 |9:30 AM – 2:00 PM

The award-winning brunch features a variety of chef stations serving carved meats, made-to-order dishes, a seafood selection, savory sweets, Mimosa bar, and a visit from Santa. Adults: $47.50; Children: $24.50 (ages 5-11) plus tax & gratuity.

Thanksgiving & Christmas Day Champagne Brunch | Thursday, November 22 & Tuesday, December 25 |Mission Inn Restaurant: 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM; Grand Parisian Ballroom: 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM

This all-inclusive Christmas Day brunch will be held in both the classic Mission Inn Restaurant and the stunning Grand Parisian Ballroom, depending on selected seating time. Adults: $69.50; Children: $29 (ages 5-11)

Holiday Dinner Buffet | Every evening, November 22, 2018 – January 6, 2019 | 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM

The iconic Mission Inn Restaurant serves a bountiful buffet dinner for the entire family. Standard Mission Inn Restaurant menus are available. Adults: $42.95; Children: $19.95 (ages 5-11) plus tax & gratuity

Festival of Lights Merchandise

Official Festival of Lights Merchandise will be available for purchase at Kelly’s Boutique, offering an assortment of merchandise to celebrate the holiday spirit, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, beanies, and Christmas ornaments.