Riverside is the 12th largest city in California, and it sits about 50 miles away from Los Angeles in the Inland Empire. The city is the birthplace of the California citrus industry. It has a storied history over the last century with the famous Mission Inn and multiple prominent colleges that call the city home. If you are looking to explore Riverside, here are some of my favorite spots in the city. Let me know what I left off in the comments.
Mt Rubidoux is one of the best accessible hiking areas in the Inland Empire, and it is located right in the heart of Riverside. The mountain can be seen from all over the city as it rises over 500 feet above it. The mountain is well known for the Easter Sunrise service, the longest continuously running outdoor service in the United States, but year-round, it is a great hike that takes you up to a fantastic view over the city. There are multiple paths up and down if you are looking for a more leisurely or challenging hike.
The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in the middle of Downtown Riverside has been a popular location for celebrities, presidents, and tourists for over 100 years. Over that time, the hotel has changed dramatically, and it is a fantastic example of the Mission Revival style of architecture. This hotel is a great spot to stay in the city, and just strolling the grounds or eating at one of the restaurants is a fun way to spend a half-day in Riverside. They put on the Festival of Lights display during Christmas, which has been voted one of the best Christmas light displays in the United States. It is busy during Christmas, but it is pretty hard to beat, leading right into our next recommendation.
Festival of Lights
The Festival of Lights has been a city tradition for a few decades now. The center of the display is the Mission Inn, which hosts the event, but the rest of the city gets in the Christmas spirit as well. You can stroll down Main Street, eat at one of the restaurants, visit the shops and vendors and enjoy the warm California holiday cheer. It is the most popular attraction in Riverside each year, and it is a fun holiday event for sure.
Fairmount Park is located next to Mt Rubidoux, and it is a large city park with two ponds, ducks, a walking path, and a children’s playground. There is also a goal course here, and it is an excellent spot for a walk in the city. The Santa Ana river trail goes right by the park, and you will often see people using it for workouts and an outdoor escape in downtown riverside.
Citrus State Park
Next up, I recommend checking out the Citrus State Park, part of the California state park system. This part highlights the citrus industry and its role in making California what it is today. The park is like an outdoor museum with countless different types of citrus trees on display throughout the park’s many short trails. There is a museum you can see in the middle with exhibits on the history of citrus in Riverside and Southern California as a whole. The park never seems too busy, but it is a great place to walk around.
Santa Ana River Trail
The Santa Ana River Trail is a network of bike trails that will eventually go all the way to the beach. Riverside has a good portion of that trail that rides past multiple parks along the Santa Ana River, which is usually just a trickle here. The trail is pretty and stays away from the main road for most of the ride. You can access it from multiple areas in the city, but one of the most popular is Ryan Bonaminio park near Mt Rubidoux.
UCR Botanical Gardens
The University of California Riverside is a large school that brings people from all over the globe to Riverside. The school has an excellent botanical garden in the back of its property that is fun to walk through or bring the kids to explore. The garden is free to visit, but you do have to pay to park. It has over 3,500 different plant species to see.
March Field Air Museum
March Air Field Museum is an aviation museum next to the March Air Reserve Base. The museum sits along the freeway, and it has been open for decades. There are over 80 planes on display at the museum, and it is fun to walk around and see them all. There are also indoor exhibits to see as well, and it is a good half day adventure for the whole family.
Riverside has two drive-in movie theaters, and if you haven’t been to one in a while, they are great for a night out at the movies. While most drive-in theaters are closing, these two are still holding strong. There are three screens at the Van Buren Drive-In, which is the main one, and each screen shows two movies each night. You can bring your own food in or grab food from the snack shop and enjoy the films.
Tios Tacos is a pretty eclectic spot in Riverside that is a lot of fun. The restaurant has all sorts of unique and random art with crazy sculptures on display all over. The restaurant is a blast to visit, and it is constantly changing, so you always see something new. Plus, they have some good Mexican food to eat while you soak in all the fun art.
Riverside Food Lab
The Riverside Food Lab is another fun spot in the city for a meal. This food hall has a dozen different restaurants, all operating stalls in the large building. Everything from ramen and Mexican food to coffee and hot chicken is available here. It can be a little pricy, but it is a fun place for a meal.
Lastly, you know I love donuts, and Riverside has one of the San Diego-based Donut Bar locations. This shop makes some crazy donuts with options like creme brûlée and donuts with pop tarts inside of them. It’s fun to see what they have to offer each time I go in, and it is worth the stop in Riverside.
Here is a video I made with all of these recommendations as well.