• Doc Mele

The Jewel of the Inland Empire


I was just on a journey to get home from Lake Arrowhead, but hunger pangs set in and I wanted to find a restaurant that wasn't too far from the freeway. So, I exited at the closest off-ramp, and found myself in an oasis amidst Southern California’s arid Inland Empire, in the heart of Riverside. Here, a fairytale in a Castilian style castle comes to life: exotic birds greet you (in their cages) at the entrance, awesome and historic bells grace the property, and lush foliage provide the backdrop for a dream-like escapade. This is the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, a historic four star hotel, occupying an entire city block, inspired by the estates of Spain and California’s Spanish missions.

Upon arriving, my eyes were mesmerized by the exterior architectural flourishes of the palatial-like resort, as the hotel itself is a work of art. But of course, I first had to obey my hunger. The resort has five award-winning restaurants, each with its own ambiance and flavor. I was nearest to Las Campanas (which translates into The Bells) so I decided to dine there, where I became immersed in a tropical-like setting. I ordered the salmon dish, which was moist and accented with grilled veggies. All was muy subrosa!

With replenished energy, I was able to explore this gem of a place, which has hosted dignitaries, such as presidents of the US and Pulitzer Prize winners. I couldn’t take my eyes off the building’s details and walked around taking photos. At the back of the hotel, I stumbled across a resort worker, sitting outside on his break, named Erick. He asked me, “You like the building?”

“Very much so,” I responded.

Erick gave me a mini history lesson of the hotel. He said across the street (from the back of the hotel), is a building that was used as the women’s quarters for the ladies who worked there while the hotel was being built in 1876. He indicated, men and women were segregated back in those days, when the hotel first began as a boarding house. Erick also said the hotel was never a mission (churches founded by Spanish missionaries of past centuries), although it houses two exquisite chapels. To look at the hotel and wander through it, is to go back in time and wonder: wonder what life must have been like and wonder what the rest of the town looked like during a bygone era.

Today, The Mission Inn is a resort; museum; art gallery; aeronautic shrine; and a wedding venue, complete with chapels. Tours are offered daily through the hotel.

In August, the hotel begins to install Christmas lights (over 5 million bulbs are used) for the winter's Festival of Lights, when the premises become a Southern California winter wonderland. During this time, there are carriage rides for children, hot chocolate (for a price) to keep you warm, and plenty of vendors who offer holiday gifts for sale; however, it’s advised to call the resort to make sure the Festival of Lights is open to the public. If it is, this place is a must see during the winter holidays.

If you want to get away and see something different from the mundane, The Mission Inn will entice your senses, bring you to another time where glamour prevailed, and fill you with wonder. This place is definitely eye candy, no matter the season!

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Contact: The Mission Inn and Spa is located at 3649 Mission Ave. in Riverside, CA. Telephone: (951) 784-0300

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