15 Best Things To Do In Riverside (CA)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Riverside is a beautiful city in Southern California and one of the top destinations for visitors to enjoy. You can spend your time enjoying an assortment of activities, fine dining or exploring the many intriguing museums.

The climate in Riverside is almost perfect and this led to California’s second Gold Rush, as you travel through the city you will learn all about this and many other things from its rich history. Let us take a look at the best things to do in Riverside.

1. Indulge Yourself At The Mission Inn Hotel And Spa

Riverside Mission Inn Hotel And SpaSource: Nagel Photography / shutterstock
Riverside Mission Inn Hotel And Spa

If you are looking to spoil yourself and spend some time forgetting about everything you have on your to-do list, then a trip to Mission Inn Hotel and Spa will do just that. In 1876 this building started off as a modest 12 room boarding house and throughout the decades it has expanded and adapted to become one of the finest hotels in the country. There are now 238 bedrooms, full of breath-taking architecture and stunning designs. At one point Riverside was the richest city per capita in the country and so the need for a grand resort hotel was high. Book a night here and you will see what drew 10 previous presidents through the doors and into this work of art.

2. Go On The Rides At Castle Park

Riverside Castle ParkSource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Riverside Castle Park

Castle Park provides a full day out for the entire family and the kids especially are sure to love it. Castle park opened its doors to the public in 1976 and has never stopped expanding its size to keep up with the demands of the public. There are now 27 rides that are suitable for people of all ages. If you want to practice your miniature golf there are four courses ready to test your skills on. Other areas of interest include carnival games, a water playground and an arcade.

3. Enjoy the Riverside Metropolitan Museum

Riverside Metropolitan MuseumSource: Flickr
Riverside Metropolitan Museum

If you are looking for something fun and free to do then you may want to think about a trip to the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. The museum has over 100,000 artifacts that cover an array of subjects, including anthropology, natural history and history. There are permanent exhibitions in place as well as temporary exhibitions that are held for a short while. The Riverside Metropolitan Museum is split over three sites so it is worth checking out their website in advance to ensure you get to see what you want to see.

4. Learn About California’s “Second Gold Rush”

California Citrus State Historic ParkSource: L.A. Nature Graphics / shutterstock
California Citrus State Historic Park

California is most famous for the gold rush that started in 1849, however there was a “second gold rush” that came to California in the form of Citrus trees. The California Citrus State Historic Park is a living, open air museum that shows of the importance of the Californian citrus industry. The park covers an area of 248 acres and was opened in 1984, it has been designed to look like a 1900’s city park and has an activity centre, amphitheatre and picnic areas. Some of the sweet, high-quality fruits that made this area so famous are still grown within the parks grounds today.

5. Catch A Bit Of History At Fox Performing Arts Center

Fox Performing Arts CenterSource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Fox Performing Arts Center

Sitting in the heart of downtown Riverside is the Fox Performing Arts Center, a beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival style building. The theatre was first opened in 1929 and had a complete overhaul in 2009. The center is most famous for being the first theatre to screen the famous 1939 film Gone With the Wind. There is an ever changing line up of shows to enjoy at the theatre, including both local and national artists.

6. Pay Your Respects At Riverside National Cemetery

Riverside National CemeterySource: Lowe Llaguno / shutterstock
Riverside National Cemetery

Situated on the former site of Camp Hahn in World War I and then a facility for anti-aircraft training in World War II is the Riverside National Cemetery.  The cemetery covers 740 acres of land and has approximately 228,000 graves. The cemetery opened in 1978 on Veterans Day. Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas was buried here on that day, he himself was a Medal Of Honor Recipient. The grounds of the cemetery are a peaceful place and one where you can come to pay your respects to the service men and women that fought for the United States.

7. Take A Hike Up Mount Rubidoux

Mount RubidouxSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Mount Rubidoux

Mount Rubidoux in Riverside spans an area of 161 acres and is also the home of the first Easter Sunrise Service in the United States. Jacob Riis visited Riverside in 1909 to give an address to the cities people, whilst he was there he thought up the idea of holding an Easter Sunrise Service at the top of the mountain. As the years went by the services became nationally recognized and many cities across America started to hold their own. The area is very popular with walkers and cyclists who take advantage of there being no road vehicles allowed in the park. Each year the Fourth of July fireworks show launches from the peak of the mount.

8. Enjoy The Exhibits At The Riverside Art Museum

Riverside Art MuseumSource: danorth1 / Flickr | CC BY-ND
Riverside Art Museum

The Riverside Art Museum is located in downtown Riverside in the Mission Inn district. The museum building itself is a work of art that was designed by award winning architect Julia Morgan. Before the building was used as a museum it was the local YWCA facility. There is a mixture of contemporary and traditional artwork on display and the museum holds regular art classes for all ages. If you are planning a visit keep an eye out for book readings, signings and lectures, which are all common place at the RAM.

9. Plenty Of Planes To See At March Field Air Museum

March Field Air MuseumSource: RozenskiP / shutterstock
March Field Air Museum

If you like aircraft then you will love a trip to March Field Air Museum. Founded in 1979 the museum was initially called the March Air Force Base Museum and was operated by the Air Force. Nowadays the museum is operated as a non-profit organization and has more than 70 aircraft on display. At the museum you can step through a World War I trench and see the SR-71 Blackbird which was the fastest manned aircraft of its time. You can also see a Vietnam era Fire Base surrounded by helicopters.

10. Enjoy The Universalist Unitarian Church Of Riverside

Universalist Unitarian Church Of RiversideSource: Matt Gush / shutterstock
Universalist Unitarian Church Of Riverside

The story of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside began in 1881, Reverend James Harvey Tuttle was preaching a sermon in Public Hall. The sermon was received very well by the local people and so Rev. Tuttle started a mission to find a minister that could establish a church in Riverside. The current church was dedicated in 1892 and has been built in the style of Norma and English Gothic architecture. The brick walls have a facing of Permian age Supai red sandstone, which really is quite unique. The church is a designated Riverside Cultural Landmark.

11. Get Up Close With Some Insects

EntomologySource: Lost_in_the_Midwest / shutterstock

If you find insects interesting then you may want to consider visiting the Entomology Research Museum in Riverside. There are approximately 4 million insect specimens within the museum, of which 2.9 million have been pinned. There are regular specialist seminars held at the museum as well as a small library and laboratory.

12. Relax At Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park, RiversideSource: Jamie S Richards / shutterstock
Fairmount Park

If you are looking for a relaxing day out with a few activities to stop anyone from getting bored then you should pay a visit to Fairmount Park. You can walk through the lush grass areas and take in the fresh air before engaging in some of the onsite activities that are available. There are two tennis courts, a playground for the children and a nine-hole golf course. Also there are picnic facilities, barbeques, three lakes and some great sports to go fishing.

13. Try Some Craft Beer At Heroes Restaurant And Brewery

Heroes Restaurant And BrewerySource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Heroes Restaurant And Brewery

If you want great American food and even greater hand crafted beers then you plan your next night out at Heroes Restaurant and Brewery. Large portions are the order of the day and the helpful friendly staff are there to make sure you enjoy your evening. The craft beer is produced at the restaurant’s brewery by head brewer John Novotny and his passion for his work shines through in the great beers this establishment creates. You can enjoy a beer flight, a pint with your meal and even take some home in a Heroes Growler.

14. See The Lights Switch On At The Festival Of Lights

Riverside Festival Of LightsSource: PradaBrown / shutterstock
Riverside Festival Of Lights

The Riverside Festival of Lights is now into its 23rd year and if you are in the city at the end of November then this spectacle is not to be missed. More than three and a half million lights are set up in downtown Riverside and with the switch of a button the area comes alive with light. Each year there is also a spectacular firework display to mark this annual event. USA Today has previously voted the Riverside Festival of Lights as America’s Best Public Lights Display.

15 Best Things To Do In Riverside (CA):

  • Indulge Yourself At The Mission Inn Hotel And Spa
  • Go On The Rides At Castle Park
  • Enjoy the Riverside Metropolitan Museum
  • Learn About California's "Second Gold Rush"
  • Catch A Bit Of History At Fox Performing Arts Center
  • Pay Your Respects At Riverside National Cemetery
  • Take A Hike Up Mount Rubidoux
  • Enjoy The Exhibits At The Riverside Art Museum
  • Plenty Of Planes To See At March Field Air Museum
  • Enjoy The Universalist Unitarian Church Of Riverside
  • Get Up Close With Some Insects
  • Relax At Fairmount Park
  • Try Some Craft Beer At Heroes Restaurant And Brewery
  • See The Lights Switch On At The Festival Of Lights