The 1876 grande dame hotel in the Inland Empire, a registered National Historic California Landmark, just kicked off its annual Festival of Lights, the roughly six-week span when the hotel’s turrets, domes, and flying buttresses twinkle with a jaw-dropping five million lights (up from four in past years). Walk the grounds and you’ll see 200 animated figures (elves, angels, carolers), decorated Christmas trees, the world’s largest mistletoe (8-by-12 feet), and even live reindeer; this year’s festival also includes a Ferris Wheel and a carousel. Take a carriage ride, or stop in at the hotel’s Casey’s Cupcakes for seasonally decked-out sweets.
Certainly, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to wander through the hotel’s décor, but it’s pretty tempting to stay anyway (check the variety of packages, including bundled-in meals, sweets, spa credits, or a bottle of local Irvine & Roberts Vineyards wine). On weekends during December, you can have brunch with Santa (on Sunday, make it a Champagne brunch).
The Festival of Lights runs through Jan. 6—and a flowery depiction of the Festival will be in the Riverside-themed float at this New Year’s Day Rose Parade, reportedly for the first time since 1959.