Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

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A hotel to love in

Riverside, California
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US Map with Riverside marked

This article will help you plan a lovely trip to Mission Inn.

In this article...

Hotel entrance for Mission Inn
Entrance to Mission Inn's lobby

Hotel overview

At a glance

5 things to love:

  • Interesting history & architecture
  • Prime location in SoCal
  • The Annual Festival of Lights
  • Exquisite lobby & guestrooms
  • Lovely restaurants and bars

Rising from the bustling streets of downtown Riverside, the Mission Inn at first glance seems a bit misplaced with it’s mission-style appearance blended with classical elements of Spanish architecture.

The yellow dome rises into the sky, framed by Gothic spires that line the Spanish wing of the hotel. Inside, the cathedral of St. Francis de Assissi looks like something straight out of old-world Europe, not laid-back Southern California.

A destination in itself frequented by numerous celebrities and presidents past, there are just so many things to love about the Mission Inn.

Walking around the property, you’ll be seduced by it’s romantic lighted walkways, eclectic tiled architecture, and historic collection of bells.

Lobby of Mission Inn Riverside
Mission Inn's lobby

Amid the dark woods, marble tiles and piano sounds of the lobby, Mission Inn will satisfy your desire for classical elegance and your need to connect with history.

To top it off, Mission Inn houses the award-winning Kelly’s Spa and several top-class bars and restaurants that include elegant indoor dining rooms as well as lush patio areas like our favorite, the Spanish Patio.

Spanish Patio of Mission Inn, overhead view
Spanish Patio, overhead view
Did you know?

Mission Inn is magical during the Christmas season! They host the Annual Festival of Lights every December, which started in 1992. It is one of the largest light shows of it’s kind in the country with over 5 million bulbs.

This 5-week event attracts over 750k visitors, so be aware that they sell out of rooms quickly during the Holiday season.ย Read more about the festival of lights.

Mission Inn Bell Wall at Entrance
Mission Inn's Bells

A bit of history

Mission Inn was established in 1876, originally as an adobe boarding house.

By the 1890’s, so many Easterners had flocked to the region for its weather and citrus farming that Riverside became one of the wealthiest cities in the nation, per capita.

Recognizing the potential of a grand resort in Riverside, Frank Miller in the 1900’s grew Mission Inn into a full-fledged hotel with the addition of 200 guest rooms.

This original expansion, now called the Mission wing, was designed in a Mexican mission-revival style, which is still prominent today in the entry facade that houses those old bells.

Mission Inn Resort Dome and Spanish Wing
Mission Inn's Wings

By 1931 the Mission Inn had expanded again in size, and architectural style, to include distinct Mediterranean influences with the addition of the Spanish and Rotunda wings.

Because of it’s eclectic design and proximity to Hollywood, the Mission Inn has been the set for numerous movies over the years including 1997’s “Man in the Iron Mask”.

The hotel is also famous for having hosted various Presidents over the years including Presidents Roosevelt, Hoover, Taft, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Jr.ย 

Today you can enjoy a drink in the Presidential Lounge, which pays homage to all the historic visitors of times past.

Door to Presidential Lounge at Mission Inn
Stained-glass door

Mission Inn's Bells

You will find a collection of historic bells all around the property, including the oldest known bell in Christendom which dates all the way back to 1247, located in the lobby.

In the courtyard you will stroll past the Nanjing Bell, another beautiful bell from an Imperial Temple in China cast in iron alloy around 1875 A.D.

Insider Tip: The Mission Inn is also a living museum that offers daily tours to discuss the history of their collection including bells, art pieces and various artifacts located around the property.

Nanjing Bell at Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
Nanjing Bell

Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi

The St. Francis of Assisi chapel is an exquisite wedding chapel on-site with Tiffany stained-glass and an historic 18-karat gold altarpiece from the mid-eighteenth century.

You can see inside the chapel during a booked tour (or peak in if a tour is ongoing).

Just outside the chapel is a beautiful courtyard with a central fountain, and the “Famous Flyers” wall with a collection of copper wings to celebrate famous aviator guests like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and 140 more.

Chapel St Francis of Assisi at Mission Inn
St Francis of Assisi courtyard
Mission Inn Alhambra Court on 4th floor
Alhambra court, 4th floor

Things to love about Mission Inn

💜 Great Restaurants

Mission Inn has a great collection of on-site restaurants and lounge areas.

You absolutely can not leave without having lunch al fresco on the Spanish patio, surrounded by the distinct architecture of multiple wings of the Inn.

We also recommend having lunch on the outdoor patio of Las Campanas (spanish for “bells”) for fresh, authentic Mexican food, margaritas and chips & salsa.

Las Campanas
Other dining options
  • For a fine dining experience, you can get prime steak and seafood at Duane’s.
  • For a quick bite you can grab sushi at the Sushi Bar.
  • For white tablecloth Italian dining you can reserve a table at Bella Trattoria
  • For pub bites and classic cocktails you can spend a nightcap at the Presidential Lounge, which also hosts live piano music

💜 The Pool & Kelly's Spa

The pool at Mission Inn is heated year-round and has seasonal poolside food and towel service. Located in the heart of the main courtyard, it is flanked by mission bells and is surrounded by palm trees and the towering wings of the Inn.

Mission Inn Pool area
Mission Inn's pool area

Kelly’s Spa is an award-winning spa that takes guests to an ancient Tuscan-style wellness oasis with lovely archways, domed- and barrel-vaulted ceilings, gold accents and Venetian plaster.

These features are framed by 7,000 square feet of warm woods and marble mosaic flooring. The spa offers various therapies and treatments for complete renewal and restoration.

💜 Distinct History and Design

The Mission Inn is a truly unique building in Southern California. It is a National Historic Landmark since 1977, a California State Landmark since 1961, and is the number 1 landmark in Riverside.

As you walk through the property, you will be delighted by the variety of architectural features that you simply won’t see together in any other place, especially in California.

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Spanish wing of Mission Inn Hotel
Spanish flying buttresses

These features include flying buttresses, lovely archways, secluded gardens, soaring domes and towers, an open-air rotunda, hand-painted tiles, original wrought iron rails, statues and fountains.

This description can’t really do it justice, nor do the photos for that matter. It is something special to behold and to experience for yourself.

Entrance at Mission Inn Ave

About Riverside, CA

Downtown Riverside is located 70 miles east of LAX International Airport, and only about 40 miles from Disneyland in Anaheim.ย 

It was established in 1870 and was the birthplace of the lucrative citrus industry in southern California, and is the state’s 12th most populous city.

Downtown Riverside, Fox Theater from flickr
Original Photo: Ken Lund on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Things to do near Mission Inn

Downtown Riverside has recently seen a bit of a revival, with several new restaurants, live music venues, and late night hot spots.

The Riverside Fox Theater was built in 1929 in a Spanish Colonial-Revival style, and is still in use as a performing arts theater today. Located in Fox Entertainment Plaza, this is a great area to hang out in the evening with various restaurants.

If you have kids, the Fox Entertainment Plaza is also where you will find the Riverside Game Lab, a retro arcade with pinball machines and more.

Located within walking distance to Mission Inn, you will find Riverside Art Museum and Metropolitan Museum (closed for renovation as of 02/19/20).

And just outside the Mission Inn near the Riverside Public Library, you will find the Chinese Pavilion, a popular site for instagram photos and reflection.

Finally, our recommendation for a good pint, huge plates and vibrant night scene is to visit Heroes Restaurant & Brewery, located just two blocks from Mission Inn.

View of Chinese Pavilion in Riverside from Mission Inn
View of Chinese Pavilion

Getting around the city

Like most cities in southern California, public transportation options are limited or subpar in Riverside. These are driving towns.

Therefore, if you are visiting from out of town and flying into LAX (70 miles away) or Ontario (15 miles away) airports, we would strongly recommend renting a car, especially if you plan to venture away from the Mission Inn on a local day trip.

Jump to our day trip recommendations below

Mission Inn is a fantastic hotel with plenty of activities within walking distance, so it is definitely possible to plan a trip without a rental car.

In that case, catch a cab or uber ride from the airport directly to the hotel, or book a ride on the Mission Inn Shuttle service provided by Xpress Shuttle.

Mission Inn overhead lights along walkway
Lighted walkway to lobby

Best time of year to visit

Special events

Annual Festival of Lights – Starts day after Thanksgiving through first week of January

The weather in Riverside is actually nice all year round, with annual average daily highs of 79 degrees and lows of 53 degrees.

There is not much variance from day to day, so it is not unexpected to have 7 straight days of sunshine during your visit. There really is no bad time of year to visit Mission Inn.

Riverside weather in winter (Dec-Feb)

You can expect average daily highs of around 65 degrees and lows of 44 degrees in the winter months.ย 

While not ideal pool weather, you can still often enjoy patio lunches with just a light jacket during the winter.

December is one of the busiest months at Mission Inn due to their month-long Festival of Lights celebration that attracts almost a million visitors each year.

Riverside weather in spring (Mar-May)

Spring is a lovely time to visit Mission Inn, with average daily highs of about 72-80 degrees and lows in the 50’s at night.

Early spring is the wettest time of year for Riverside, averaging about 2 inches, but only 5 rainy days per month.

It honestly doesn’t rain that much in southern California, so this is not typically something to worry about.

Riverside weather in summer (Jun-Aug)

Summer is a prime time to visit Mission Inn, but you can expect rather high and perhaps uncomfortable temperatures occasionally in the middle of summer (July-August).

Summer on average brings daily highs in the low 90’s and lows in the mid 60’s. Night life is great in the summer, and day time is great for enjoying the pool or Kelly’s Spa.

Riverside weather in fall (Sep-Nov)

Fall is one of our favorite times to visit southern California. There is very little rain, if any, and daily highs drop to a very comfortable and consistent range, 75-85 degrees.

Daily lows are consistently above 50 degrees until about mid-November.

Crowds tend to reduce during the fall, as families return to school and others prepare for holiday activities.

Best time to save money

Prices fluctuate throughout the year, and seasonal specials are offered frequently with rates as low as about $139 during the week.

The most expensive time to visit Mission Inn is during the Festival of Lights holiday season. It is a wonderful time to visit, just be sure to book early!

Mission Inn Campanas Restaurant patio
Campanas Restaurant patio

Day trips from Mission Inn

The Mission Inn in Riverside is located about 30-80 miles east of most major cities in Orange and Los Angeles Counties.ย 

This makes it an excellent jumping off point for various attractions in southern California.

Below are some of our favorite day trip recommendations.

💜 OC Beaches (~50 miles away)

Orange County has several infamous beaches that are about 1 to 1.5 hours away from Mission Inn (depending on traffic).

Insider Tip: Just be careful returning to Riverside during rush hour traffic (from 3-6pm on weekdays) as it can add an hour or more to your drive back to the hotel.ย 

Newport beach pier at sunset
Newport Beach pier

1. Newport Beach

Newport beach is one of OC’s most popular beaches, with a walkable pier, great seafood restaurants, and family-friendly beach withย  lifeguards.ย 

In nearby Balboa, you will find a quaint village and a free boardwalk-style amusement park called Balboa Fun Zone with arcades and a ferris wheel overlooking Newport Harbor.

Huntington Beach surfers
Huntington Beach surfers

2. Huntington Beach

Huntington beach is the surf capital and is a must-see destination for surfing fans or those interested in bathing in surf culture.

There is a vibrant beach scene, volleyball courts, and a few nice beach-side restaurants. Pacific City is also a fun indoor market and shopping mall to explore.

We highly recommend having lunch at the end of Huntington pier, at Ruby’s on the Pier – a retro 50’s style diner with great views.

Laguna Beach lifeguard tower
Laguna Beach

3. Laguna Beach

Laguna beach is known for its high-class artsy culture, with numerous galleries to peruse and a collection of very nice restaurants.

The beach is highly popular with local families, as is the adjacent tide pool area with small sea animals.

Palm Springs sign
Welcome to Palm Springs

💜 Palm Springs (55 miles away)

Palm Springs is a classic vacation spot for SoCal locals, and has its own distinct culture, architecture and vibe.

Located a little over one hour east of Mission Inn, it is easy to get to and there is rarely any traffic.

You will enjoy the bountiful local restaurants with patios and misters for fun outdoor dining and people watching.

Another sight is the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, celebrating the city’s classic popularity with Hollywood stars.

If the weather permits, there are plenty of outdoor activities. Try an oasis hike at The Indian Canyons through Native lands of the local Agua Caliente tribe.

We also highly recommend experiencing dinner and live music on the patio at Las Casuelas Terraza before returning to the Inn.

Pluto Disney character
Pluto at Disney

💜 Anaheim (30 miles away)

Anaheim is one of the most popular family vacation destinations because it is the home of the original Disneyland.

Visiting Disneyland, or even just hanging out at Downtown Disney, is a must for Disney lovers visiting southern California for the first time.

You can also catch a sporting event depending on the time of year with the LA Angels (baseball) or Anaheim Mighty Ducks (hockey), or a concert at the City Grove of Anaheim.

Griffith Park Hollywood Sign
View from Hollywood sign at Griffith Park

💜 Hollywood (60 miles)

There are tons of tourist attractions in Hollywood, CA including Universal Studios, the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre, and much more.

If this is your first trip to southern California, you may want to plan to spend a full day exploring all the iconic sights in LA and Hollywood.

Another nice place to visit in the area is Griffith Park, where you can see the Griffith Observatory or hike to the famous Hollywood sign.

Mission Inn Tower
Mission Inn Tower

Concluding thoughts

There are so many reasons to love Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. In reality, it is so much more than a hotel. It is a living museum with ancient treasures and artifacts collected over the last 120 years.

The atmosphere and architecture will transport you to another time and place that is unlike any other, with influences from all over the world.

The Keepers of the Inn pay exquisite attention to detail in maintaining the property itself, as well as the legacy of the Inn. The rooms are luxuriously appointed and true to the elegant style of the Mission Inn.

From top-class restaurants to flying buttresses and Spanish patios for dining al fresco, the Mission Inn will dazzle the senses.ย 

And with a great location for exploring the local hot spots of downtown Riverside, or venturing a little further to iconic places in southern California, Mission Inn is a lovely destination to consider for your next vacation.

Don't forget

💜 #hotelstoloveofficial

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