Staying at The Mission Inn Hotel, One of California’s Most Historic Hotels

Having lived in California for the better part of the last decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some pretty amazing California hotels. However, I’m not sure if there’s a California hotel I’ve visited that’s quite as unique and historic as The Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside, California. Listen, if it was good enough for Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Booker T. Washington, and Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, and Regan, then it's good enough for me. 

I was thrilled to be hosted by The Mission Inn Hotel last month for its inaugural Wine & Food Festival, which featured wineries, chefs and food stations spread throughout the hotel. While this was my first visit, The Mission Inn Hotel is a hotel I’ve known about and wanted to visit for years, and was arguably num. 1 on my California hotel bucket list. Honestly, however, I had never really had a reason to visit Riverside. The Inland Empire has stiff competition with the likes of Southern California destinations like Orange County, San Diego, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and more.

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Yet now having visited The Mission Inn Hotel, I can truly say that it’s worth a trip for the hotel alone. Nonetheless, don’t dismiss Riverside, as it has its virtues, and I believe is becoming a cooler destination, especially because of its new food hall, Riverside Food Lab, which opened this year a couple blocks down from The Mission Inn Hotel.

Pro Tip: While The Mission Inn Hotel has several restaurants, if there’s one you splurge at, make it Duane’s Prime Steak & Seafood or for the Sunday Champagne Brunch. Otherwise, visit Riverside Food Lab and discover Riverside’s dining scene.

The Mission Inn Hotel has been around quite a while, as evidenced by the roster of guests I rattled off above. This Riverside hotel has a 150-year history! And does it ever have history. The Mission Inn Hotel houses what is described as the oldest bell in Christendom, dating back to 1247, and is filled with other unique artifacts. Some of the hotel’s most unique relics include Tiffany stained glass panels, originally designed & made by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1906, an 8-foot Amitahba Buddha that was made in Japan during the Tokugawa period (1615-1868), and an 18-karat gold Rayas Altarpiece. Guests are quite literally staying in a museum, and yes, in fact, museum/hotel tours are available to guests. You can even sit in President Taft's oversized chair, which was specifically constructed by the hotel for Taft.

Come this time of year, The Mission Inn Hotel is known for the Festival of Lights, which was recently nominated by USA Today as the “Best public Holiday Lights Display,” and has been named num. 1 in the past. Now in its 26th year, The Mission Inn Hotel's Festival of Lights kicks off with the illumination of 5 million holiday lights, followed by a fireworks display. Among the highlights: 200 animated characters, Dickens-like carolers, Santa appearances, the world's largest man-made mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides, and snow. I don’t think Clark Griswold has anything on this holiday lights display (no offense, Clark).

In closing, what I think I love the most about The Mission Inn Hotel is that it’s simply not an experience you could have in a Los Angeles or Manhattan, especially considering that it encompasses an entire city block. What’s more, rooms start at $199. As the venerable Will Rogers said:

It is the most unique hotel in America. It’s a monastery, a museum, a fine hotel, a home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery and an aviator’s shrine."

Meanwhile, see a few of my favorite photos from my weekend at The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa below.