20 Best Things to Do in Riverside, CA

Riverside, CA
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Part of the Inland Empire, Riverside is a splendid location for a memorable vacation.

The city means business when it comes to tourist attractions.

Whether you're looking to surround yourself with nature or bask in the busy city life, Riverside is the destination for you.

From state parks that boast mountain views and scenic hiking trails to a bustling downtown area and a drive-in theater that oozes with retro vibes, there's so much to see and experience in this Californian city.

Are you interested in finding out what else it has in store for you?  

Here are the best things to do in Riverside, California:

Book a Stay at the Historic Mission Inn

Exterior of Mission Inn
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The Mission Inn is one of Riverside's major tourist attractions.

A national historic landmark, the hotel welcomed its first guests in 1876.

Despite maintaining its old-world charm, the historic hotel features modern-day amenities, allowing guests to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Grand spiral staircase in Mission Inn
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While guests are more than welcome to book a stay at the Mission Inn, the hotel also offers guided tours to those just dropping by for the day.

The tours start at the Mission Inn Museum, which details the hotel's fascinating history.

Outdoor dining tables at Mission Inn
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Taste the Fruits of California Citrus State Historic Park

Palm trees at California Citrus State Historic Park
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You might have heard about the abundance of citrus fruits in California.

It all started in 1873 with Eliza Tibbets, who took care of orange trees sent to her by the government’s agriculture department.

She and her husband Luther planted these trees in their front yard.

They soon discovered that the Riverside climate provided the ideal conditions for growing oranges.

Today, the California Citrus State Historic Park attracts countless tourists every year.

Once you lay your eyes on the park, you'll be amazed knowing that it all began with just two orange trees.

Go Hiking at Mount Rubidoux Park

A pathway at Mount Rubidoux Park
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Mount Rubidoux Park is the epitome of adventure.

If you're looking to go hiking in Riverside, this is the first place locals will suggest to you.

One of the city's landmarks, the park features many different trails that ultimately reach Mount Rubidoux's summit.

People hiking the Mount Rubidoux Park
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If you complete the hike up the mountain, you'll be able to spot an American flag that was planted at the top.

The sunset views from atop Mount Rubidoux are beautiful, and you won't want to miss out on such a breathtaking sight.

Time your hike accordingly, and don't forget to bring your cameras.

View from Mount Rubidoux Park's summit
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Check Out Vintage Aircraft at the March Field Air Museum

Aircrafts on the grounds of March Field Air Museum
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Are you interested in planes?

The March Field Air Museum might be the best location in Riverside for you.

This museum has successfully preserved America's aviation history, and you will be able to find everything that has been done to improve flight in the past 100 years.

Welcome sign of March Field Air Museum
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Its permanent collection of over 1,000 displays includes more than 70 different planes.

Every type of aircraft can be found here: bombers, jets, helicopters, spy planes, warplanes, commercial airplanes—you name it.

A military aircraft's cockpit at March Field Air Museum
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Fall in Love with Nature at the UCR Botanic Gardens

Colorful roses at Botanic Garden Riverside
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Located within the University of California, Riverside campus, the Botanic Gardens is a lovely sight to behold.

The garden has native plants, along with several others that have been flown in from as far away as Africa and Australia.

Cactus garden of UCR Botanic Gardens
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Everything is found here: a cactus garden, large trees, roses, and herbs.

There are descriptions for each of the plants, making it easier to learn more about the ones that happen to capture your attention.

The UCR Botanic Gardens is set against the stunning Box Springs Mountain, creating an even more beautiful scene.

A wooden bench along UCR Botanic Gardens
Matthew Mendoza, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catch a Show at the Famous Fox Performing Arts Center

Exterior of Fox Performing Arts Center
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Riverside is adored for its different entertainment facilities.

The Fox Performing Arts Center, also known as the Riverside Fox Theater, is one of the city's entertainment-related attractions that draw visitors every year.

It's a beautiful work of Spanish Colonial architecture dating back to 1929.

The well-loved theater is known to host many performances, such as musicals and stand-up comedy shows.

Due to its popularity, tickets are usually in high demand and sell out very quickly.

So, if you have plans to attend a show at this historic theater, make sure to check out their schedule and book your seats ahead of time.

Explore the Trails at the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park

Are you looking for a bit of adventure on your Riverside trip?

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is a great place to add to your itinerary.

This park is located quite close to downtown, so accessing it will not be a problem.

There are hiking, running, and mountain biking trails here.

You might even see some rare native plants if you pay attention closely.

If you're planning to visit, do take care as they say many wild animals can be found in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Fairmount Park

Sunset at Fairmount Park
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Fairmount Park is situated beside Mount Rubidoux Park.

It is a vast park with ample open space.

You can walk around, sit down, and enjoy views of the calm Lake Evans.

The calm waters of Fairmount Park
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There are also biking trails in the area, so you can bring your bike and cycle around the park.

Lake Evans is not the only lake that decorates this park.

Fairmount Park is also surrounded by Fairmont Lake and Brown Lake.

You can go boating in any one of these three lakes.

Night scene at Fairmount Park
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Admire the Riverside Art Museum's Vast Collection

The Riverside Art Museum boasts a massive collection featuring over 1,500 works of art.

It doesn't focus on any specific category or genre.

You can find various types of art at this museum, making it more interesting to explore.

There are tours that take place at the Riverside Art Museum every weekend.

You can easily book one of those and make your way there.

Shop and Dine at the Main Street Pedestrian Mall

Are you on the lookout for the best shopping destination in Riverside?

The Main Street Pedestrian Mall is lined with some of the nicest shops in the city.

It's located downtown, where you'll find many boutiques, restaurants, and tourist spots worth checking out.

Head to Main Street to shop, dine, and enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Enjoy the Vintage Vibe at the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre

Have you ever experienced the joy of watching a film at a drive-in theater?

If not, the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre offers you the perfect opportunity to enjoy one of the best cinematic experiences.

There are not many operational drive-in theaters around the world anymore, so if you can visit this one during your trip, consider yourself lucky.

Families love this place.

Are you traveling with your significant other?

You can enjoy a retro-style date here.

Play Golf at Oak Quarry Golf Club

Oak Quarry Golf Club has one of California's most premium golf courses.

The Oak Quarry Gold Course is as good as they come.

It is an 18-hole course, and most experts have voted it one of the best golf courses in California.

The clubhouse is massive, with an area of 7,200 square feet.

It is extremely elegant, and you can host birthdays or weddings here.

Have Some Fun at Cove Waterpark

Are you looking for something exciting to do with the whole family?

Head over to the Cove Waterpark.

Imagine all the best water rides in the world—this park has them all.

It will never fail to surprise you, for the attractions are exhilarating.

There are also a lot of lessons that are given in this park.

If you want, you can easily sign up for a diving or a pro swimming class.

You can even host a birthday party for kids in this fantastic water park.

There's a lifeguard on duty at all times, so guests can enjoy the park with ease.

Treat Yourself to Farm-Fresh Goods at the Riverside Farmers' Market

Tents of Riverside Farmers' Market vendors
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Want to shop for some delicious homegrown goodies?

The Riverside Farmers' Market is waiting for you.

There are a lot of stalls in this market.

The moment you step foot inside, you will probably be puzzled at the variety of things to do, eat, or buy.

The smell of freshly baked cakes and bread will tantalize your senses.

Everything sold here is either organic, homemade, or farm-grown.

Get yourself some hummus or homemade jams, which are pretty famous here.

Bring Your Kids to the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center

Hidden in the hills above the little town of Jurupa Valley, you'll find the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center (JMDC).

The nine-acre botanical gardens of JMDC are a sight to behold.

There are 10 enormous dinosaur sculptures in the gardens that are likely to pique your children's interest.

Turtles, tortoises, and goldfish are among the museum's collections of live animals.

In addition to 82 acres of property, the JDMC hosts school field excursions, paid expeditions, community gatherings, and private parties.

Finally, a gift shop is available on-site for visitors to pick up souvenirs and instructional items.

Gaze at Stunning Exhibits at the UCR/California Museum of Photography

Welcome sign of UCR/California Museum of Photography
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The University of California, Riverside/California Museum of Photography features a wide variety of photography-related exhibitions.

The museum has accumulated thousands of photos from photographers worldwide, thanks to assistance from the University of California, Riverside.

Photography-related memorabilia may be found at this off-campus location.

The exhibition also examines how photography has influenced historical and cultural events and movements.

Movies by American and foreign filmmakers are often shown at the museum, which has an intense concentration on film.

Additional unique events are held at the California Museum of Photography, including talks and performances.

Enjoy a Variety of Attractions at Castle Park

Miniature golf course at Castle Park
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Since 1976, Castle Park has been a popular destination for Riverside residents and tourists.

The park's many rides include roller coasters, a water log slide, a merry-go-round, and more.

Square-shaped miniature golf course at Castle Park
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The water park, retail stores, and a wide range of carnival games comprise Castle Park's extensive offerings.

Finally, the park has over 200 entertaining arcade games for people of all ages to enjoy.

You may book out Castle Park for various occasions, from birthday parties to business gatherings to family get-togethers.

A beautiful peacock at Castle Park
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See Miniature Locomotives at Riverside Live Steamers

The railroad track for miniature steam locomotives is maintained by Riverside Live Steamers (RLS).

The initiative was the brainchild of Joe Hunter, a steam train enthusiast who resided in Riverside in the 1950s.

Hunter knew that steam trains would soon be a thing of the past as train technology advanced.

As part of a 40-acre property acquisition, Hunter built a 4,300-foot railroad, including a steam engine and three vehicles.

Until his demise in 1965, he was the only one who ran the track.

After a short time, the mini-track was handed over to RLS, allowing the railroad to grow by almost 10,000 feet.

The miniature track sees roughly 20,000 visitors a year.

Discover Old-World California in Heritage House

Exterior of the Heritage House
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Heritage House, a magnificent Victorian mansion held by the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, was constructed in 1891.

The home previously belonged to the Bettner family, who arrived in Riverside during the late 1800s when horticulture was booming.

The Bradstreet Index, released in 1895, ranked Riverside as the US town with the highest per capita income.

It's easy to see the varying interests, hobbies, and socioeconomic status of the Bettners in their immaculately restored old mansion.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take in Scenic Views at Box Springs Mountain Reserve

Mountain views at Box Springs Mountain Reserve
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Want to get a fresh breath of air?

Box Springs Mountain Reserve is the best place to catch a break.

It's located in the neighboring city of Moreno Valley, close to downtown Riverside and the University of California campus.

The mountain is 3,000 feet high, and the uphill trek isn't too challenging.

If you make it to the top, you will find out that it overlooks Riverside.

You can also get splendid views of the Moreno Valley.

Final Thoughts

Besides oranges, Riverside, California, has a lot to offer tourists.

Everything from exhilarating theme parks to relaxing treks can be found here.

All you have to do is choose which activities you'll enjoy the most.