SoCal’s Favorite Holiday Traditions

This time of year is full of traditions, new and renewed. Southern California plays host to two world-recognized holiday experiences—all packed with wonder and new surprises this year!

Share this:

Maybe this is the year to discover some new enchanted traditions—from feasting on thousands of twinkling lights and ocean-view ice skating to relishing the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread.

Winter Wonderland in Riverside

The Festival of Lights in downtown Riverside began in 1993 as a celebration of the Mission Inn’s grand $55-million restoration and soon became an annual “gift” to residents and visitors by Mission Inn Hotel & Spa owners Duane and Kelly Roberts. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which takes up an entire block in downtown Riverside, magically combines the beauty of medieval castles and ornate cathedrals, as well as the romance of other countries from Europe to the Far East. Each year, more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world tour the holiday fairyland.

New this year, the Kensington Kelly Suite, named after Mission Inn Owner, Vice Chairman and COO Kelly Roberts’ first born granddaughter, Kensington Kelly. The extravagant guest room is a mini-European castle unto itself and features a royal design, signature amenities, six different in-room spa offerings and additional indulgent extras, creating the ultimate fairytale getaway for children and adults alike. The suite is not only ideal for a magical Christmas, it is perfect for special birthday celebrations, bridal showers and guests looking to escape to a pink paradise hidden within The Mission Inn.

November 23 through January 6, commencing at sunset, the grand dame of historic California resorts is illuminated with more than 5 million lights and more than 200 animated angels, elves and carolers that come alive throughout the property in what USA Today has recently named the “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation.” Visitors are invited to experience the free holiday tradition, which also features an elaborately decorated Christmas tree, strolling Dickens carolers, falling snow, horses pulling carriages and refreshments, from eggnog to Casey’s Cupcakes treats. Santa Claus makes special appearances.

New enhancements await for this 26th annual Festival of Lights. The hotel will be illuminated with 5 million dazzling lights and 200 animated characters in a magical Winter-Wonderland theme, as well as a new North Pole walkway that will take you down the main walkway, filled with Santa’s Elves playing in the snow.  A snow-covered Campanario hosts the world’s largest mistletoe, and down the path towards Main Street, guests will discover Santa’s Workshop with brightly colored canopy lights, elves filling Santa’s sled full of Toys and a life-size Gingerbread House.

Festival of Lights visitors can just wander the spectacular environs or opt for a special meal and several holiday overnight packages. Find more information at:

Photos courtesy The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa 

A Christmas Legend in Coronado

Only in southern California can we find ice skaters and surfers sharing the same slice of sand, and all of it wrapped up in festive holiday décor. For many people, the 1888-built Hotel del Coronado and its petite island home, Coronado, has been a “must” part of their holiday traditions—for just the day or for a special holiday getaway. This year the hotel, famous for its elegant surroundings and history, will be adorned once again in thousands of glittering lights.  After all, it was here, in 1904, that America celebrated the first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree—setting the stage for more than a century of holiday delight.

This year’s holiday theme, A Christmas Legend, transforms the historic hotel into a winter wonderland with Skating by the Sea, jingle s’mores under the stars, family favorite Polar Bear Tea and holiday parties. Here, the magic and nostalgia of the iconic property’s storied past blend seamlessly with luxury accommodations and unique winter experiences. From soaring red turrets decked in thousands of white lights and a Victorian lobby turned whimsical with a bright, festive Christmas tree and playful decor, visitors of all ages will delight in the best West Coast winter.

The Del’s holiday oceanfront ice-skating, which is open to the public with various day and evening skating sessions is fun to do or watch as the oceanfront Windsor Lawn is transformed into a holiday rink November 22 through January 1. For a special treat this year, guests can join Olympic Gold Medalist Tara Lipinski for a once-in-a-lifetime skate session at Hotel del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea on December 15. Up to 50 children of all skill levels are invited to skate with Tara to her custom playlist. After ice time with Tara, guests will enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, along with an opportunity for photos with the figure skating champion.

Hotel del Coronado ice skating rink

Other holiday events include a Sunday Brunch with Santa; a Jingle Roast on the beach complete with roasted favorites from Jingle s’mores with Ghirardelli holiday chocolates to fireside franks and more; and a Polar Bear Tea, a special tea party experience that includes story time with Mrs. Claus and North Pole elves.

Choose from several special overnight packages to make the magic last, such as the “Skating by the Sea,” offer that includes an overnight stay and two daily passes to Skating by the Sea, The Del’s legendary beachfront ice rink.

Photos courtesy the Hotel Del Coronado Hotel 


Share this: