Things to Do in Riverside CA, riverside is one of the most populous cities in the Inland Empire, located east of Los Angeles. Palm trees line the sidewalks of this 300,000-person city, and the sprawling downtown streets are defined by stunning Southern California architecture. With impressive Spanish-Revival architecture that spans an entire city block, the historic Mission Inn in the heart of the downtown district sets the tone for the rest of the city and newport beach.
Riverside county lively downtown historic district is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do, and the pleasant weather all year lends itself to a variety of warm-weather activities. Riverside encapsulates the many reasons why people move to Southern California, from drive-in theaters in the dead of winter to botanic gardens that are always in bloom.
Historic theme park, art centers, and metropolitan museums are among the other Riverside county attractions. And, whatever you do, take in the views of the Box Spring Mountains on the horizon of theme park or white park. These craggy peaks can be seen up close at places like UC Riverside Botanic Gardens and Box Spring Mountain Preserve.
List of 11 Things to Do in Riverside CA Today
1. The Mission Inn
The historic Mission Inn is a beautiful example of Spanish Mission architecture that sets the tone for the rest of the downtown area. It has a castle-like presence and takes up an entire block. And, despite its long history in the city, this historic hotel offers modern comfort and luxury in the heart of downtown of white park.
The hotel’s history spans over a century and is felt within the walls and stylish decor, from boarding house to bankruptcy and more than one renovation. The Mission Inn Foundation Hotel & Spa, as one of the best hotels in Riverside, allows guests to continue the tradition of overnight visits.
The hotel’s guests stay in individually decorated rooms that have been preserved to retain their historic character. Overnight visits also include access to areas of the Mission Inn not visible on public tours at art gallery. Throughout the week, the Mission Inn Museum offers 75-minute docent-led tours of the mansion to the general public, and anyone is welcome to explore the elegant lobby on their own at San Diego.
The Mission Inn also houses several award-winning restaurants, such as Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood. Reservations are strongly advised at this popular surf and turf establishment of riverside plaza.
Every year, the Mission Inn hosts a six-week Festival of Lights to spread holiday cheer. Over five million holiday lights illuminate the hotel in an instant, beginning with an eye-catching “Switch-On” ceremony and ending with a high-flying fireworks show. Along with the lights, visitors can see animatronic displays, horse-drawn carriages, and even freshly fallen snow in moreno valley.
2. Mount Rubidoux National Castle Park
Mount Rubidoux is a city landmark and the location of one of the most popular hikes for both residents and tourists. Several paved trails lead visitors to the mountain’s summit, which takes anywhere from one to three miles from any starting trailhead. The path is lined with cacti and wildflowers, as well as many historical markers from the city’s past nearby attractions.
At the summit of Rubidoux, a symbolic peace tower spans the trail, and a large American flag waves proudly in the air. A massive cross towers over the city, and stone-carved steps provide seating. This cross is the site of the country’s oldest outdoor Easter sunset service, a beloved Riverside tradition since 1909.
Atop Rubidoux, you can see the entire Inland Empire from every angle, making it a great place to pack a lunch and relax. The trip up and down takes between two and three hours, depending on the route and how much time is spent admiring the panoramic landscape.
Expect to encounter other hikers along the wide trail to the summit, especially on weekends. Visitors should also bring their own water for the hike. The trail is dog-friendly, but leashes are required at all times.
3. State Historic Park of California Citrus
This 250-acre state park is located southwest of downtown and is dedicated to the state’s citrus legacy, also known as California’s second Gold Rush. Half of this historic park is covered in colorful citrus groves, demonstrating the significance of this landscape in California history. With interpretive displays and exhibits, the visitor center tells the story of the citrus industry.
At the entrance to the State Citrus Historic Park, visitors are greeted by an old-fashioned fruit stand shaped like a giant orange, as well as tall palm trees. A paved trail connects the visitor center and the Sunkist Center, meandering through the sagebrush and citrus grove environment.
On weekends, the park offers guided grove tours as well as fresh citrus sampling on the Sunkist Center’s back porch. A lovely gazebo outside the Sunkist Center is a lovely spot for a picnic or a fresh piece of fruit.
4. University of California, Riverside Botanic Gardens
On the University of California, Riverside campus, in the foothills of Box Springs Mountain, these botanic gardens welcome visitors into a lush environment. Four miles of trails wind through the garden’s 40 acres, with benches and interpretive signage dotted along the way.
A paved accessible path runs through the heart of the botanic gardens. This broad path winds through several gardens and areas, ranging from a North American Desert section to a South African Garden and Lilac Lane. The route also includes a large rose garden and a butterfly garden.
Docent-led tours are available for school groups and the general public to learn more about the plants at the UCR Botanic Gardens, as well as their history of use in the region.
5. Van Buren Drive-In Theater
The Van Buren Drive-In Theater is a family and cinephile favorite. It’s located in Riverside’s historic Arlington district, near the California State Citrus Historic Park, and it’s one of the country’s few thriving drive-in theaters.
The Van Buren Drive-In Theater maintains its uniqueness while presenting the most recent blockbuster entertainment. Movies are shown seven nights a week, with admission prices that easily undercut major chain theaters. Concessions include a wide variety of candy, hot dogs, and other traditional movie-going fare.
A popular Swap Meet with over 300 vendors is also held at the Van Buren Drive-In Theater. This shopping market is open from early morning to late afternoon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
6. March Field Air Museum
The March Field Air Museum displays over 70 aircraft and thousands of artifacts spanning more than a century of aviation history. These aircraft generations are displayed both inside and outside the museum, with several larger planes parked near the hangar.
Visitors can inspect spy planes, bombers, helicopters, and unmanned aircraft up close on the grounds. More aircraft can be seen inside the museum, as well as numerous interpretive exhibits and historical artifacts. Throughout the day, 45-minute tram tours led by knowledgeable guides are also available.
7. Main Street Mall
Main Street Mall is the main downtown pedestrian corridor, connecting small shops, historic sites, and the vibrant community’s local flavors. It is landscaped with gardens, fountains, and a plethora of shade-producing trees, providing numerous opportunities to sit and enjoy the day.
Main Street Mall is also lined with historical and cultural attractions, such as the Mission Inn and the California Museum of Photography. Many of the local eateries in this area offer patio seating, ranging from casual bites to upscale Italian fare.
8. Riverside Art Museum
The Riverside Art Museum features rotating exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of over 1,500 artworks. It’s less than two blocks from the historic Mission Inn, and there’s always something new to see. There are also several mediums on display, ranging from lithographs to posters and watercolor paintings.
The Riverside Art Museum participates in the city-wide Fox Performing Arts Center Walk every first Thursday of the month, with free admission and cultural entertainment. On Mondays, the museum is closed. Members of the military and their families are always admitted free to the Blue Star Museum.
9. Santa Ana River Trail
The Santa Ana River Trail, when completed, will run 110 miles between the San Bernardino National Forest and the ocean at Huntington Long Beach. The trail is currently about 60% complete and follows its namesake river the entire way. The section that runs along Riverside’s northwest side is completely intact, and it connects several of the city’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.
Fairmount Park and Mount Rubidoux are two notable Riverside stops along the Santa Ana River Trail. The trail also passes through Martha McLean-Anza Narrows Park, a popular disc golf destination in Riverside, further south. Further south, the trail passes through the Santa Ana River Wildlife Area, providing a true escape from the city streets.
The trail is paved on both sides with compact gravel. It is popular among bicyclists, walkers, runners, and horseback riders. Water is available at the various parks along the trail, but users should bring their own, especially during the summer.
10. Riverside Metropolitan Museum
This downtown museum first opened in the 1920s as the Riverside Municipal Museum. Since then, the museum’s collection has expanded to include a diverse range of artifacts from across the region. The Riverside Metropolitan Museum’s name change in 1991 reflects that broader focus.
Today, the museum’s collection is divided into three sections: history, natural sciences, and anthropology. Visitors learn about native rocks and minerals, as well as the vast citrus industry that fueled the city’s early growth. The entire collection is showcased with eye-catching displays, such as 3D dioramas and photographs.
The Riverside Metropolitan Museum is also in charge of the Heritage House, which is located south of downtown. This restored Victorian estate features original turn-of-the-century furnishings and decor, providing a glimpse into an affluent 1800s lifestyle. Between September and June, guided tours are available.
Due to renovations, please check the museum’s website before visiting to ensure that it is open.
11. Fairmount Park
Next to Mount Rubidoux Park, Fairmount Park offers plenty of open space to explore. A scenic bike trail circles Lake Evans, the park’s defining feature, and connects to other park amenities such as a bandshell, playgrounds, tennis courts, and a historic boathouse where pedal boats can be rented.
A large rose garden on the south side of Lake Evans is surrounded by a decorative wrought-iron fence, which is one of Fairmount Park’s most eye-catching features. By May, roses are usually in full bloom. This is a lovely spot for a stroll, photography, or hosting a special event.
WHERE TO STAY FOR SIGHTSEEING IN RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA?
Hotel de luxe:
- The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is one of Riverside’s most authentic and luxurious accommodations in California Riverside Ballet. This historic inn has distinct Mission-Revival architecture, as well as an elegant tone with several authentic furnishings and decor. The hotel has 238 guest rooms, including 27 suites, all of which are individually decorated to provide a unique experience with each stay. Celebrities, world leaders, and thousands of tourists have enjoyed the hotel’s escapism over the years. Fine dining, a lovely outdoor pool, and professional services at Kelly’s Spa are also available at the resort around California Riverside Ballet.
Hotels in the Mid-Range:
- The Marriott Riverside at the Convention Center is one of the city’s most popular hotels, thanks to its excellent downtown location. It attracts all types of visitors, but it is especially popular with visiting professionals. With free, fast Wi-Fi, a dedicated business center, and proximity to many professional establishments, including the Convention Center, the hotel makes it easy to stay connected. After work, the upscale accommodations and amenities, such as an outdoor pool and on-site dining, make it simple to unwind.
- The newly constructed Hyatt Place Riverside Downtown has 125 guest rooms spread across five floors. The hotel has a contemporary feel to it, with stylish common areas and comfortable decor. This sense of style pervades the hotel’s accommodations, which include spacious guest rooms and one-bedroom suites. Each room includes dedicated work areas, coffee makers, and free internet access in addition to the signature Hyatt Grand Beds. Pets are welcome in certain hotel rooms.
Hotels on a Budget:
- Americas Best Value Inn Riverside offers one of the best deals in town for budget-conscious travelers. The hotel has a great reputation for keeping its facilities clean and tidy, as well as providing excellent customer service at the front desk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a popular family hotel, thanks in part to the low overnight rates. The hotel is also in a great location, just steps from downtown Riverside. The hotel is also only 40 miles from Disneyland Park in Anaheim.
- Thunderbird Lodge, located on the other side of Highway 91 from downtown, provides another dependable stay at a reasonable price. The hotel offers a taste of the past in a historic building that has been modernized. Standard rooms and suites with extra sitting space are available for overnight stays. Every room has a personal air conditioner, free Wi-Fi, and blackout shades. Some rooms welcome pets. There is also complimentary parking.
What is Riverside most famous for?
An entire empire was built around the sweet and zesty navel orange, which is known for its citrus industry. Riverside has 24 nationally registered historic sites and over 100 city landmarks that commemorate the city’s colorful history.
Is it safe to live in Riverside, California?
THE OVERALL RISK IS MEDIUM. Riverside is commonly regarded as a secure city. Most tourist-friendly areas of the city are safe, and the majority of unsafe areas are places of no interest to tourists, mostly of a residential nature.
Is Riverside a good place to live?
Riverside is a fantastic southern California college town with a wealth of history around every corner. The population is diverse, and many community events are held throughout the year. Amazing place to live, with excellent education and child safety. Because it is close to the city, there are many job opportunities.
How cold is it in Riverside, California?
Riverside, California, has a year-round climate and average weather. Summers in Riverside are hot, arid, and clear, while winters are long, cool, and partly cloudy. Throughout the year, the temperature typically ranges from 43°F to 94°F, with temperatures rarely falling below 36°F or rising above 103°F.