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Arts and Entertainment

These 4.5 Million X-Mas Lights Are Just A $7 Round Trip Train Ride Away

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Feel like taking a short train ride somewhere festive?Metrolink is offering a special train service from our own Union Station to Riverside's Festival of Lights at the historic Mission Inn though December 17.

The festival itself will run through the first week of January, but those looking to get there without the hassle of traffic or parking can take Metrolink's Riverside Line or the 91/Perris Valley Line for only $7, round trip. Plus, children under 18 ride for free. (By comparison, I just took a trip from Union Station to Upland and it was $20 round trip, so that’s a deal.) Once you arrive at the station in downtown Riverside, a shuttle will take you to the Mission Inn, which is about .7 miles away. See the train schedule here.

The Festival of Lights in an annual holiday spectacular that's been happening right in the center of downtown Riverside for the past 24 years. They use over 4.5 million lights and 400 animatronics to create an overwhelming amount of glowing cheer, enhanced by carolers, vendors selling gingerbread and other seasonal treats, and illuminated horse-drawn carriages. The festival takes place both inside and around the Mission Inn, which, contrary to its name, was never a mission—it was only ever mission-themed. It began as a small adobe guest house with only 12 rooms in 1876, but under the ownership of Frank Miller in the early 1900s turned into a sprawling Mission-Revival style luxury hotel with over 200 rooms, plus numerous halls, balconies, and parlors to explore. Miller also used the gorgeous hotel to store a number of items he purchased during his travels abroad, including hundreds of bells.

If you choose to stay at the hotel, you might notice a gingerbread theme throughout, which permeates its decor, spa treatments and even, in some areas, its scent. They're also serving 12 "Days of Christmas" cocktails, a brunch with Santa Claus, and a tuck-in service where an elf will give children a stocking, complete with a treat, and read them a bedtime story. It does get rather crowded inside the hotel around dinnertime, so you're advised to make reservations in advance if you intend to eat.

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For information on Festival of Lights performances, when you might get a chance to see Santa, or how to get on one of those dazzling carriages, click here.

The Mission Inn is located at 3649 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside. The Festival of Lights runs through January 7 in downtown Riverside.