The Downtown Neighborhood is more than just the heart of the City of Riverside; it is also the cultural and urban hub of the Inland Empire. No other place in the Inland Empire has the diversity offered by Downtown Riverside in so compact an area. With its grid street pattern originally laid out in 1870 – long before the widespread advent of the automobile – Downtown retains a distinct historic and walkable character reminiscent of many older California cities.
Overflowing with historic riches, the Downtown neighborhood is home to more than a dozen historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places and more than thirty City-designated landmarks. A walking tour of Downtown offers pedestrians a tree- and arbor-shaded trip through California’s architectural history, including prime examples of Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, California Bungalow, Beaux Arts and modern architectural style buildings. Downtown Riverside is perhaps best known for the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which in its century of ongoing operations has become an historic City icon. During the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year); the Mission Inn is decorated with as many as 3.5 million holiday lights and hundreds of animated figures becoming the crown jewel of the City’s signature event, “Festival of Lights.” This annual event draws crowds from the region and beyond to enjoy the many festivities including a lighting ceremony, outdoor ice skating, entertainment, carriage rides and holiday-themed vendors.
The Festival of Lights draws in local residents from areas such as Arlington Heights, Moreno Valley, and Colton as well as tourists from out of the area.
The seat of both City and County government, Downtown is also home to numerous businesses and cultural institutions. Major institutions and public facilities located in the Downtown include: City Hall; Main Library; Riverside Metropolitan Museum; Riverside City College; Riverside Convention Center; the County Administrative Center; County, State and Federal Courts; Mission Inn Museum; Riverside Art Museum; and, the University of California, Riverside, ARTSblock (the UCR/California Museum of Photography, the Sweeney Art Gallery, and the future Culver Center for the Arts). The newly renovated Main Street pedestrian mall is lined with many unique local shops, restaurants and museums. The pedestrian mall offers shaded benches, fountains, sculptures, and provides a pleasurable walking, shopping and dining experience for residents, visitors and employees alike.
The Downtown neighborhood is proudly served by public facilities including the Downtown Fire Station No.1 and the Riverside Community Hospital. There are several parks to enjoy in the Downtown neighborhood. Mount Rubidoux is a 161-acre prominent and distinctive hill rising high above downtown with hiking trails to spectacular views of the City from the top of the hill. It is well known for its annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration and Easter Sunrise services. The 209-acre historic Fairmount Park includes Lake Evans, Fairmount Lake and Fairmount Park Golf Course designed by the Olmstead Brothers, renowned landscape architects of the time. Other great parks include historic White Park and Dales Senior Center; Newman Park and the Riverside Sports Wall of Fame; Loring Park; and, the newly renovated Carlson Dog Park. Schools within the Downtown neighborhood include St. Francis de Sales and Bryant Elementary. The County Office of Education and Riverside Unified School District are also located downtown.