Eat Your Heart Out at the Mission Inn’s First Festa dell’ Amore

The Mission Inn, a grand destination in the understated city of Riverside, draws locals and tourists year round with their beautiful rooms, wedding-friendly grounds, macaws and of course the annual Festival of Lights that wows each year during the holiday season. Even Yorba Linda’s Richard Nixon married Pat there, dontcha know.

But this Feburary, the historic hotel launched what they hope becomes a new annual tradition: the Festa dell’ Amore, which translates to the Festival of Love. Truth be told, the Mission Inn would have to do very little to transform their grounds for a Valentine’s Day destination. The Inn and surrounding gardens just ooze romance, from the string lights to the impeccably decorated Spanish-influenced decor to the mood lighting.

But they step up their romance game in February, starting in the lobby with a wall of faux roses for the perfect photo op. Venture up to your room and for additional fees you can experience a rose petal treatment with flickering e-tealights (complete with heart-shaped rose petals on the bed) or order a dozen long-stem red roses to await you upon entering. Perhaps your love is more of a sweet tooth; satiate them with in-room chocolate dipped strawberries or Casey’s Cupcakes, which has a bakery on the grounds and roots in Orange County, what with Casey being a Laguna Beach: The Real OC star and with a location at the Irvine Spectrum.

And there are several other more modest romantic accents you can add to your room by contacting the concierge (contact info at the bottom of this article).

Of course, what courtship or display of affection would be complete without food? While there are multiple restaurants at the Inn, the Mission Inn Restaurant (with gorgeous star and string lighting) and Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood really bring the luv.

At a recent media dinner, reporters such as yours truly sampled inspired dishes from each of the Mission Inn’s fine restaurants. Some exciting dishes included the salad (yes, the salad), topped with duck prosciutto and punctuated with pomegranate seeds. The second course of seared sea bass melted off the fork. The grand finale of a passion fruit tartine of sorts, had equal parts crisp from the flaky pastry and equal parts natural sweetness from the passion fruit jam, the symbolism not lost on this reporter.

And if the theme of your stay is love and romance (and the odds are it is, what with 250 marriages performed here yearly and numerous other engangement and nuptual photos performed here), don’t just stop at the accommodations and the restaurants. Experience the romance of generations prior with a trip to the chapel (where Bette Davis married in 1945) or a drink at the Presidential Lounge, which was just that—a presidential suite, and place of the nuptials of Richard Milhous Nixon and Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan in 1940—right by the fireplace that still stands in the bar today.

And if that wasn’t romantic enough for you, perhaps the fact Ronald and Nancy Regan honeymooned at the Inn might make you Swing Your Lady or have you call her The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. Too obscure? Yeah, let’s just laugh and have a drink at the Presidential Lounge and pretend I’m funny instead.

The Festa Dell’Amore is booked for 2017. The Mission Inn plans to continue the tradition in February 2018. But of course you never know about last-minute cancellations through the month of February so call the concierge at (941) 341-6701 ext. 5051 or email

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