Festival of Lights makes season bright

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Connie George
Fireworks shoot into the night sky over the heart of historic downtown Riverside during the opening ceremony for the annual Festival of Lights. More than 3.5 million twinkling lights illuminate the area during five weeks of holiday and wintertime festivities.
Photo courtesy of Mission Inn & Spa

A winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow, horse-drawn carriages, live reindeer, an outdoor ice skating rink, cheerful holiday decorations, 17th-century-style carolers and other live entertainment — illuminated by the brilliant effect of more than 3.5 million twinkling lights — await Coachella Valley residents only about an hour away in historic downtown Riverside.

The 20th annual Festival of Lights celebration, sponsored by the majestic Mission Inn & Spa at the heart of the downtown area, will begin the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 23, and continue through Saturday, Jan. 5.

An opening day “Switch-On Ceremony” at 4:30 p.m. will draw thousands of spectators to watch not only the swift transformation of the area with the sudden effect of the lighting, but also a fireworks show.

Most activities will take place along Main Street between University and Mission Inn Avenues, and on the dining and shopping promenade that runs alongside the inn. Festival-related specials will be offered by many of the businesses in the vicinity, and artistic and holiday-themed vendors will also be stationed throughout the area.

The Mission Inn & Spa, built in 1903 in the Mission Revival style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a State of California Historic Landmark. It contains 238 guest rooms and 27 suites, eight dining options and a full-service spa. Special dining and lodging packages are being offered at the inn during the festival, and a 12-foot by 8-foot mistletoe will greet visitors at the entrance.

For more details on the festival, visit www.festivaloflightsca.com. For more information on the inn and its festival specials, call (951) 341-6730 or 1-800-843-7755 or visit www.missioninn.com. The inn is at 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside.