What You Missed at the Festival of Lights

By Isabella Mocino |

The Lights!

Photo courtesy of Steve Jacobs

If you were looking for something fun to do this holiday season and did not attend the Festival of Lights, then you not only missed the captivating, bright downtown streets but also the many attractions included in the festival. When walking the streets of Downtown, you were able to gaze at the dazzling nutcrackers perched on the sides of historic buildings, as well as many large Instagramable light displays placed all around. At the festival, the streets were available to take pictures, vlog, or just sit and bask in the holiday spirit of Riverside. The historic Mission Inn Hotel hosts the festival every year and is seen as the center of the festival, as it is one of the brightest and most decorated places to visit during the holiday season in Riverside. Over a million lights were on display until January 7th all around Downtown Riverside.  

Food and Drink

Photo courtesy of Trevor Kamhiriri

At this year’s annual Festival of Lights, while the main attraction may have been walking the world-famous lights, there were many more attractions and small businesses that were well worth a stop along the way. In the heart of Downtown Riverside, you could find many food vendors that sell delicious holiday delicacies such as funnel cake, peppermint hot chocolate, candy apples, and eggnog. If you were walking around under the bright city lights and happened to want a snack, buying a nice treat from these vendors was the way to go. When you purchase a delicious treat under the festival lights from a local vendor, you can also simultaneously acknowledge that you are supporting a small business just in time for the holidays. Many also have fun themes like gingerbread houses and North Pole-styled tents and structures that were bound to spread some holiday cheer!

Santa for kids

At the front of Riverside’s City Hall, you could find parents waiting for Santa with their kids at Santa’s House at Main St. and Ninth St. Here, the festive house was adorned with red and white Christmas decorations, where kids could go see Santa, sit on his lap, and take pictures with him along with their families. There was no admission fee and people could use their own cameras to take some beloved, timeless pictures from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Thursday to Sunday. While celebrating the holidays, parents can look back on some lifelong memories they made with an adorable picture of their kids with Santa.

Ice Skating

Photo courtesy of Brenda Flowers

Another fun and family-friendly attraction that was available at the festival was the ice-skating rink centered on the west side of “The Cheech” Museum. Family and friends alike could gaze at the beautiful, festive lights while skating in the oval rink. If you wanted to hang out with some friends to skate the night away or pop in for a quick skating session with your family, then the skating rink was the perfect place to do it. Open daily from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm through December 31, ice skating was the perfect way to rein in the holiday spirit while spending time with your loved ones as the winter temperatures started to drop. Admission for each skater was $20, including skate rentals, and skate helpers are available for $5. Lacing up some skates in the festive, warm lights of Downtown Riverside was a great way to get in the holiday spirit this winter season.   


In the already entertaining display of lights, some amazing music and dance entertainment was available right in front of the ice rink on the west side of “The Cheech” museum on the Benjamin Franklin Stage on Ninth St. and Main St. Here you were able to see many artists perform from Thursday to Sunday from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm varying from Christmas singing to Groovebeats. Listening and watching some fun, holiday entertainment is exactly what tied the festival ambiance together to give the perfect wintertime vibe to the city during this time of year. Being in the crowd of these astounding performers was bound to bring cheer and excitement to its attendees, so make sure to make a stop at the stage and rain in some of these performances next year!