Riverside's Mission Inn: A Destination Onto Itself
Most people visit an attraction and spend the night at a nearby hotel. In the case of Riverside's Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, the hotel is the attraction that people come to see.
There's an upside and a downside to this. The upside is that it's obviously a very lovely place with 239 rooms, 28 of them suites. The holiday lights show that the Inn has hosted for the past seven years has made it Greater Los Angeles' must-see Christmas attraction, a West Coast version of posing for photos in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center. Tourists from around the world visiting Los Angeles detour to the Mission Inn, just to see it and the famed festival of lights -- all 3.5 million of them.
But the downside is that the people who come to see the Inn and the lights do tend to make the lobby and public areas a crowded experience, one that has led the hotel to hire security guards to check that only guests are entering the elevator to the floors with hotel rooms.
We'd still give a Luxist tip of the hat to a business that packs such a wallop and gives back so much to its community. The Mission Inn, founded in 1903, has deep roots in Riverside and is one of four hotels on the National Register of Historic Monuments.
The Inn itself is an eclectic place, chock filled with collectibles, art, antiques and an amazing assortment of valuables that founder Frank Miller -- a Pacifist who walked around the hotel in a monk's robe with a parrot perched on his shoulder -- rescued from the salvage bins of the world. There are even Tiffany stained glass windows in the Inn's chapel, the place of 300 weddings a year, other ceremonies, and on at least one occasion, a stained glass craftsmen convention -- there to see the famed windows.
Rich in history, the Inn has been visited by 10 U.S. presidents, although a few of those visits were more of the drive-by variety. President Nixon and Pat were married in front of the fireplace of what is now the Presidential Lounge and President Reagan and Nancy spent their honeymoon night at the Inn. When President Taft arrived in 1909, Miller arranged for an extra-large chair to be built to accommodate his girth; the president was reportedly not amused.
During a recent Inn-hosted one-night stay, my children and I found it a fabulous place to poke around in the nooks and crannies. The Inn is a maze of courtyards, fountains, bell towers, winding staircases and balcony arches that lead nowhere. Seemingly at every turn, we found something of interest: a photo of Teddy Roosevelt planting an orange tree from Brazil; paneling rescued from a Belgium convent; woodwork in the Music Room that was replicated from Westminster Abbey; two bronze Spanish cannons from the 1700s; a 3,000-pound bell from China; an original Steinway that the company tried to museum. And bells, bells, and more bells. There is major European art work and paintings of the state's 21 missions, commissioned while the structures were in a state of disrepair to help raise funds to restore them. And amidst it all, there are motorized elves, sparkling holiday lights, Santas and lots and lots of happy people. Somehow, it all works.
Albert Einstein slept here, as did Amelia Earhart and Booker T. Washington, so maybe you should too.
The Mission Inn provided the writer with a one-night stay.