Mike and I didn’t do anything big for our tenth wedding anniversary last year due to a variety of factors, but we swore we’d make up for it this year. After having a ridiculously busy fall, we desperately needed to get away for a few days, just the two of us. With our anniversary falling on a Saturday, it was the perfect weekend to escape (and my parents graciously offered to watch the kids).

To say we were excited for our kid-free weekend would be an understatement. I’ve never seen Mike so psyched to put a suitcase in the car, LOL.

off to the Mission Inn!

We had another loaner car from GMC, this time a Terrain Denali, which was freaking legiiiiiiiiit! It was super-comfortable (important since traffic in LA = lots of time in the car) and it also had that new car smell that hands-down beats the aroma of smashed goldfish crackers, the current scent in my car.

After fighting Friday LA traffic, we finally arrived at our destination, the historic Mission Inn in Riverside. The Mission Inn is built to look like one of California’s famous missions, with lots of touches like stained glass windows, antique church bells, and low ceilings. It’s really gorgeous and full of character.

mission inn stained glass

low hallway mission inn

The Mission Inn goes ALL OUT at the holidays, hosting something called the Festival of Lights. The hotel is decked out with over five MILLION lights, plus dozens of animatronic characters, snow machines, trees, you name it. At night, the streets around the hotel are closed and thousands of people come to see the lights.

The hotel is pretty during the day…

Mission Inn

But when the lights come on? Full-Griswold.

mission inn festival of lights

mission inn festival of lights

We had that parenting moment of “Oh, the kids would love this!” But we got over it!

Mike’s favorite decoration was the giant Mission Inn gingerbread hotel. It was pretty impressive!

mission inn gingerbread house

After sleeping in on Saturday (our anniversary), I went out looking for coffee and discovered cupcakes! Obviously I had to get them, I’m not a monster.

cupcakes for breakfast!

Instead of going out to a fancy dinner, we kept it low-key and went to a delicious nearby restaurant called the Salted Pig and pigged out (hahahaha) on their happy hour menu.


That is bacon fat & brown sugar popcorn, pork belly tacos, and cheese & bacon fries. Thank you, pigs, for your sacrifice.

As we walked back from the restaurant, we passed a line of Cinderella-style carriages lined up to give rides:


We also got a look at just how many people come to see the lights…

the crowd outside the mission inn

…a whole hell of a lot of people.

Luckily as hotel guests, we didn’t have to fight the crowd to get into the hotel, instead walking through a special entryway that had lights and “snow.”

Dorky Southern California girl excited about fake snow.

And of course, we had to take a picture together in front of the hotel’s lovely Christmas tree.

11 years

It was back to real life on Sunday, but we were rested and ready to see our kiddos. We had a fantastic time away, exactly what we needed to celebrate the life we’ve created together. I can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.