Four Million-Plus Lights: Holidays at the Mission Inn

Can it be seen from space? Maybe not, but the Riverside landmark is bright, indeed.

THE NUMBER FOUR AND LOTS OF ZEROES: When you hear that that Mission Inn in Riverside hangs over four million lights each holiday season, and you haven't yet been to the landmark to see the spectacle with your own dazzled eyes, you can be forgiven if you try and conjure up the mental picture of the brightest house or building on your block. Once you are visualizing that one casa covered in strings of lights, you feel fairly satisfied that you know what the Mission Inn's deal is, starting the night after Thanksgiving, and you won't be overly wowed by the sheer bright-a-tude that decks out the castle-y structure each yuletide season. But your preparation may be in vain, because chances are high you'll be wowed: Over four million lights -- or 4,000,000-plus, if you prefer to see a lot of zeroes in a row -- is a lot of lights, and when they're lined up together on a single, albeit large destination, it is memorable. And, do we even need to say it? Popular, too, very, especially on weekend nights and as Christmas grows closer. So planning an evening to check out one of the state's-- and possibly the planet's -- most lit-up holiday scenes requires a little calendar-assisted planning. So check off the dates of...

NOV. 28 THROUGH JAN. 6: The Mission Inn will stay lit up each night during the Festival of Lights, and the animatronic figures -- trumpet-playing angels and polar bears alike -- will be moving about, a cute complement to all of that illumination. Real human Victorian-garbed carolers often join the fun, and the hotel has other cinnamon-scented goodies in store, including stay-over packages (this is a fine idea if you do not call the I.E. home and you want a place to retreat to when the bustle of the lobby and sidewalks gets a little too bustle-y). Ready for one of the Golden State's most famous seasonal glows? No sunglasses are required, but planning a Riverside idyll soon is key.

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