Summary: The Mission Inn Riverside makes a romantic day trip or weekend escape.
Location: 3649 Mission Inn Ave. Riverside, CA 92501; (951) 784-0300; www.missioninn.com. Tours: (951) 788-9556, www.missioninnmuseum.com
Pros: Beautiful, historic hotel
Cons: Loud train noise at night; ask for a room away from the tracks
There it is, rising from Riverside's 215 freeway, among strip malls and aging buildings, like the crown jewel of Suburbia.
The Mission Inn Riverside is a national historic landmark that has
hosted 10 U.S. Presidents, countless luminaries, and even a movie star
Not to be confused with the Sonoma Mission Inn or Fairmont Mission Inn, the beautiful Mission Inn Resort & Spa began its life in 1876
as a 12-room adobe and soon grew into one of the West's grandest
Miller’s parents, who had higher hopes for their son, weren’t thrilled that Frank was abandoning his education to run an inn. But after promising he’d never smoke, drink or curse, they gave him their blessing. Together, with his new wife Isabelle Demarest Hardenburg, Frank began an architectural transformation on the hotel that was eccentric, yet totally beautiful.
It would take owner Frank Miller 30 years to realize
his vision for the Mission Inn Hotel Riverside, as he traveled the world, bringing back souvenirs and
inspiration from the Orient, Europe and Spain.
The California missions
were also a huge influence. The six-bell campanario gracing the
entrance is modeled after San Gabriel Mission, the arches are based on
those found at Mission San Juan Capistrano, and the wood beams inside
the Music Room were inspired by Mission San Miguel. The Court of the Orient boasts a large golden Buddha and other far Eastern delights.
“Frank had a great vision” said Susan Deering, a docent at the
Mission Inn Foundation/Museum. “During the 1880s, the West was getting
a lot of publicity, especially with Helen Hunt Jackson’s book ‘Ramona.’
Frank built his hotel to compete with other grand hotels of the time.”
vine-and-lantern draped pergola, which still graces the front entrance,
originally led guests on the 1-mile path from the railway station to
the hotel in grand style.
“Frank was very much a showman, often dressing as a Franciscan monk and walking around the hotel,” said Deering. “He wanted you to feel like you were in a special place.”
As the hotel gained popularity, Frank and Isabelle had the luxury of traveling themselves. “Frank became a big souvenir buyer, putting his finds anywhere and everywhere in the hotel,” said Deering. “He was the poor man’s William Randolph Hearst.”
Today, the Mission Inn Riverside CA remains one
of California's premiere destination hotels, hosting four fine
restaurants, an upscale jazz lounge, and luxurious Kelly's Mission Inn spa. If you
can, book a stay in the Glenwood rooms, which overlook the Spanish
You'll have a great view of the 16th-century
Glockenspiel, which rotates every 15 minutes with figures of an Indian,
Junipero Serra, Juan Baptista De Anza and a Franciscan Monk. “It still works,” said Deering. “It rotates every 15 minutes with an Indian, Junipero Serra, Juan Baptista De Anza and a Franciscan Monk. Allis didn’t live to see its completion, but the staff dressed up and stood inside the clock for her so she could see what it was going to look like.”
you decide to visit the Mission Inn resort, I highly recommend the 75-minute
walking tour, offered by docents at the Mission Inn Museum.
a great way to see parts of the hotel that aren't open to the general
public and learn a little bit more about the Mission Inn history.
of the most mysterious sights inside the hotel and along the roof line
are tiny 4-foot doors, seemingly leading to nowhere.
“Frank ran the hotel with his sister, Alice, whom he didn’t always get along with,” said Deering. “Lore has it that Alice was a big woman, and Frank was much smaller, so he may have retreated into those doors when he needed some quiet time away from his sister.” Alice managed the hotel until her
death in 1940s.
Part hotel, part museum, the Mission Inn's antiques have an estimated worth of at least $7 million.
St. Francis of Assisi chapel, site of countless Mission Inn weddings,
is home to seven Tiffany stained glass windows and a gold-leaf Rayas
cedar altar from the 1700s.
The Mission Inn hotel is also famous for
historic bell collection (including the oldest dated bell on record
from A.D. 1247 and the Nanking Temple Bell), and the only complete set
of Henry Chapman Fords California Mission paintings. Look closely into
the cupola and youll see tiny scenes from Helen Hunt Jackson's book,
Ramona, in each window.
In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison
became the first U.S. president to visit Frank Miller's famous hotel.
You can see portraits of other visiting presidents on the walls outside
the Presidential Lounge, and even sit in President William Taft's large
chair, which was commissioned by Miller for a banquet.
Whether you come for the day, or sneak away for a long weekend, you're sure to enjoy this historic piece of Americana.
The Mission Inn Riverside is located at 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501. Call (951) 784-0300 or visit www.missioninn.com