This year marks a milestone as the annual Festival of Lights marks its 20th season. What began in 1993 as a modest, hotel-only event has grown into one of the premier holiday lights displays in the country.
Each year, thousands of visitors gather in and around the Mission Inn and along the pedestrian mall in downtown Riverside for the daily festivities, which includes 3.6 million holiday lights and over 400 animated figures.
Roving carolers, carriage rides, an ice rink, live entertainment, shopping, dining and — of course — photos with Santa round out the festivities.
This year’s Festival runs daily from November 23 through January 5, 2013 (excepting Christmas).
New this year is an Atisians Collective with original, hand-crafted art from local artists. Produced by downtown’s Division 9 Gallery, the collective will be on hand Fridays and Saturdays beginning Nov. 30. Also new, is an unique, LED art exhibit and holiday movie series produced by UCR / Culver Center of the Arts.
The day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) is the official “switch-on” ceremony — including a fireworks show — that takes place at about 5 p.m. in front of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. (Be sure to arrive early for the opening night ceremony!)
As usual, free parking (street and garage) is available after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends and holidays. Your best bet is within five parking garages:
- Two identical Orange Street garages: near Mission Inn | near University
- Two Ninth Street garages: at Orange | at Market
- One Market Street garage: between University and Mission Inn