Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Saturday, October 8, 2022, we drove out of town, pulling the fifth wheel and heading south on Interstate 5. Our first stop in Castaic didn’t turn out as planned. When I checked in at the office, I was told we didn’t have a reservation, but they showed we had been there on Monday. What?

Turns out I had made the reservation for the wrong day. There went $60 out the window flying in the wind. Castaic had no open spots, and neither did any other RV parks within 85 miles along our route. We ended up driving all the way to Jon’s brother’s house in Fontana after a stop in Glendora to eat and let the traffic pass. We flirted with staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, but when I checked with the manager, she said they didn’t allow it. Jon wanted to stay anyway. I had visions of a security guard or policeman knocking on the door at 3:00 am to tell us to move, so I convinced my better half it wasn’t a good idea.

The next day, after a lunch trip to Vince’s Spaghetti in Rancho Cucamonga, we settled in at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park.

Hunter’s Moon hangs over Rancho Jurupa RV Park

Our goal while in Riverside was to check out the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark. We both had grown up not too far from the hotel and watched it change hands and go through various renovations over the years.

Welcome to The Mission Inn

Plus, I had recently finished reading Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. The book had mentioned the International Shrine of Aviators at the hotel, and I wanted to see it in person.

We found the atrium outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, where the plaques and the 10-inch copper wings are displayed and protected with a wrought-iron fence. The Flyer’s Wall was dedicated on December 15, 1932, and includes 160 names, including Amelia Earhart, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn.

Chapel door and stained-glass window. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel would be a lovely place to hold a wedding for up to 150 guests.

The shrine may seem small in comparison to statues and other monuments designed to honor historical figures, but I can’t help but think of the emotions that Amelia Earhart must have experienced as she signed her name on the wing. Finally, after risking her life for years and proving she could fly as well as any man, she stood in her rightfully earned place among them.

Flyer’s Wall
Amelia Earhart’s signed wings

The history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa begins in 1876, when a quaint 12-room adobe building served as a place for travelers to stay the night. Frank Miller is credited with expanding the humble beginnings into a full-service hotel with 200 guestrooms by 1903. Over the next 30 years, Miller expanded the hotel, incorporating elements from the 20 missions in California with historical architectural styles from around the world. He traveled extensively and brought back stained glassed windows, furnishings, artwork, and religious relics to decorate the inn.

After Miller’s death, the inn changed hands multiple times, was the subject of a bankruptcy or two, and closed in 1985. The current innkeepers, Duane and Keely Roberts, saved the property from the wrecking ball, bringing the Mission Inn back to life with a $55-million renovation and modernization project. The hotel reopened in 1992 to once again welcome guests to the iconic historic hotel.

Under the arches are seven of more than 800 bells Frank Miller collected

Since its reopening in 1992, the inn has received many awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today’s 10 best historic hotels, and Historic Hotels of America. AAA has also honored the inn with a Four Diamond rating.

What is in the domed building?
Chandelier in the lobby area

Annually, nutcrackers and Christmas lights decorate the inn for the Festival of Lights Celebration that continues into the first week in January. On opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, they switch on the five million lights, animate 200 figures, and delight the city with fireworks. “Hey, Jon. We’ve got to go see this. Want to make another trip to SoCal over New Years?”

When researching the inn, I learned that during the opening ceremonies of the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights on November 25, 2022, a fire caused by fireworks broke out on a roof. It was a good thing the fire department stationed crews on the roof. The fire was under control within 10 minutes, without injuries sustained or evacuations needed. For a photo, click the Festival of Lights link above.

Saint Junipero Serra O.F.M. established the first nine of 21 California Spanish missions from San Diego to San Francisco when the Spanish occupied the land known as Alta California in the Province of Las California, New Spain. Now known as the State of California.

One of many statues in the hotel

The Clock Tower is home to a 1709 Anton clock in Nuremberg, Germany. The original clock face is housed in the museum for safety. What we see on the tower today is a replica. Four figures rotate every quarter of an hour: Father Serra Juan Bautista De Anza, St. Francis, the California Grizzly Bear, and a California Native American.

Anton clock with rotating figures
Six-story spiral staircase of the International Rotunda which was constructed in 1931.

The initials in the metal railing shown below honor figures in early California and Mission history. PJBS refers to Padre Jose Bernardo Sanchez (1778-1883), who served California for 30 years and was the father president from 1828-1831.

Metal railing around the spiral staircase
Rooftop gardens overlook downtown Riverside city buildings
Eclectic mix of architectural styles
The courtyard where we ate lunch
At the corner of 6th and Orange streets

Having visited the Mission Inn, I want to go back and spend a night or two in one of their uniquely appointed luxury rooms, or maybe in one of the 27 suites, should we choose to splurge. Hmmm! Something to think about.

Until then, we will continue our Fall 2022 adventures. Next up is Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Safe Travels

6 thoughts on “Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

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