Riverside’s Mission Inn has one of the most stunning displays of holiday lights in the US, but first things first: To really get in the mood—and earn your holiday treats, calorically speaking—take a quick-escape hike on nearby Two Trees Trail.
The 3-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike features panoramic views of the Inland Empire as you pass through Box Springs Mountain Reserve. The way there is completely uphill with 1,100 feet of elevation gain as the trail takes you from one end of the reserve to the other. The views—including the snowcapped San Bernardino Mountains—and cool rock formations along the way make this trail awesome. It’s not much for foliage, though, except for two coast live oaks, one on each side of the trail, presumably accounting for the trail’s name. Once you reach the end, simply turn around and return the way you came—unless you feel like doing more hiking! The trail ends where most of the trails in the Box Springs Mountains begin.
Extra Cheer: Now head over to the Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside. The historic 1876 inn is covered in more than 5 million twinkling holiday lights. The surrounding city streets are blocked off for the festival. Sample snacks from tons of food vendors, local shops, and restaurants that remain open during the event. Aromas of sweet roasted nuts, funnel cake, gingerbread cookies, and hot chocolate fill the air, and there’s also live entertainment and carnival rides, including a Ferris wheel.
The Two Trees Trailhead in Riverside is just off the 60/215 Freeways. From CA-60/I-215, take the Blaine/3rd St. exit and head east on Blaine. Make a left on Belvedere, followed by a right on Two Trees Rd. The road ends at a dirt parking lot at the trailhead. Dog-friendly!
The Mission Inn is located at 3649 Mission Inn Ave. in Riverside. Head down Blaine St. to the 60 west/215 north to CA-91 south, exit at Mission Inn Ave., and turn right. The Mission is three blocks up, just past Orange St. Surrounding streets are blocked off for the festival, though, so find street parking wherever you can, or pay top dollar to park in the nearby lots. Free admission. Open nightly through Christmas. Dog-friendly, except inside the inn!