A bust of Booker T. Washington is prominent in the welcoming entrance of The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa located in the historic city of Riverside, Calif. California’s booming orange crops brought tourists from the East Coast and Europe where sunshine and orange blossoms made Riverside a popular destination. Only 60 miles east of Los Angeles, The Mission Inn is full of turrets, gargoyles and a glockenspiel clock tower with rotating full-size figurines appearing every 15 minutes. But to really understand this luxurious getaway spot, a look into the past is important.

Frank Miller bought the property from his dad in 1880 and with his impending marriage, devised a plan to take advantage of Southern California’s booming times. The name Mission Inn was chosen because of people’s interest in missions and the growing mission revival architectural style.

Guests enter through an arched entrance and directly above is a campanario or bell wall, resembling the mission look. While walking the property, look for some of the 800 bells displayed in various locations, especially an impressive 3500-pound bell named the Nanjing bell.

When Washington came to Riverside on his social reform speaking circuit, he spoke at Second Baptist Church and was invited to speak and dine at The Mission Inn. The year was 1914 and a picture of Washington and Miller taken on top of Mount Rubidoux currently hangs in the inn’s museum.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event, a permanent bust of Washington was unveiled in the grand entrance in 2014. Many of his descendants attended the ceremony as his legacy lives on.

What better time to visit than during the holiday season because this year is the 25th anniversary for the Festival of Lights. People from all over flock to the inn to see the millions of decorative lights strung throughout the property and animated figures bring the holiday spirit alive. For this special celebration, surprises are planned and Main Street will be full of vendors now through January 6. If you like entertainment, shopping and activities for all ages, put this on your list for holiday cheer. Planning ahead for a holiday visit is a must and the inn offers packages for this extraordinary time with these highlights below to keep in mind.


The Presidential Lounge, easy to find off the lobby, is impressive with portraits of the 10 presidents who visited. I had iced tea and a snack before my scheduled docent tour of the property. Good thing because the tour had lots of walking and historical information given within the 90 minutes.

When it was time for dinner, my appetite had to decide between a variety of restaurant choices on the property. Duane’s Steakhouse and Seafood, Las Campanas Mexican Restaurant, Bella Trattoria Italian Restaurant or The Mission Inn. I found myself in The Mission Inn Restaurant which was so relaxing sitting in the Spanish-styled motif and surrounded by the most notable attractions at the property. This is also the place for Champagne Sunday Brunch and afternoon tea. My plate of battered squash blossoms stuffed with chicken salad was artfully arranged with an orchid gently laid on top.

When your sweet tooth goes into overdrive, Casey’s Cupcakes will definitely satisfy the craving. Casey Reinhardt, the winner of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” has a cute shop right there full of specialty cupcakes infused with ice cream. I should say the calories are worth it.

Kelly’s Spa

Taking time to relax in the hotel’s Tuscan-style spa completes the getaway weekend. Eucalyptus aroma drifts through the air and a massage, facial or private yoga session in the luxurious spa helps tension disappear. Private villas are available for couples or friends and the therapeutic baths make for a good night’s sleep.

Don’t leave the spa without shopping in Kelly’s Boutique for her private line of skin and body care products.

Mission Inn Museum and Tour

Going on a docent’s tour is the best way to view the property arranged by the volunteers in the museum. The museum and store are staffed by very knowledgeable people who love The Mission Inn and can answer a multitude of questions. The tour will take you on the path Washington walked and feel free to ask the docent about his visit. Information about tour times can be found at https://missioninnmuseum.org/visit/take-tour


To choose the room right for you, take a look at the various options rooms online that range from a deluxe room to junior suites and ultra luxurious accomodations in the Presidential, Alhambra, Amistad and Keeper of the Inn suites. Each room comes complete with its own character and views as well as all of the amenities fit for a king and queen.

If the holidays are too crazy to plan a getaway, be sure to add this destination to your 2018 travel list.

But no matter when you visit, this getaway will be one of relaxation, history and pleasant experiences.

The Mission Inn is located at 3649 Mission Inn Ave. in Riverside, CA. For more information and to book your stay, visit www.missioninn.com.

Photo credit: M’Liss Hinshaw and The Mission Inn

Revised from the original publication in Cuisinenoir.com