In a summer like no other, KTLA’s Wendy Burch sought out to find what families can do for fun while keeping COVID-19 restrictions in mind. This week, she drove in the direction of Riverside and discovered the city 60 miles east of L.A. is a destination that can make you feel like you are a world away.
Her first stop was the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. Built around the turn of the century—the last century—The Mission Inn is considered the cornerstone of this community. It’s been called the most unique hotel in America. No two rooms are alike. Framed by its breathtaking Spanish Mission–style architecture, The Mission Inn can make you feel like you are vacationing somewhere in Europe, instead of deep in the heart of the Inland Empire.
The hotel has hosted almost every American president since Teddy Roosevelt. The rich and famous often check-in (in fact, Wendy learned that pop star Pink recently stayed in the Presidential Suite). Wendy also discovered first-hand that this exquisite hotel is equally welcoming to the average American family looking to spend the night at this unique site.
If you decide to walk beyond the walls of The Mission Inn, about a block away, you will discover a true treasure trove for the taco lover. The place is called Tio’s Tacos, and in a word, it’s indescribable. What started as a simple taco stand more than 30 years ago has grown into an outdoor experience. The food is fantastic, but the outdoor décor is unforgettable.
Tio’s Tacos owner is an artist. Over the years Martin Sanchez has managed to create an outdoor museum out of every imaginable material. He has an uncanny imagination and sees treasure in every piece of trash. Discarded bottle caps become door decorations. Beer bottles don’t get thrown away, they get built into a cathedral.
“I always say my dad is an organized hoarder,” his daughter Stephanie Sanchez said. “We have some customers who sat for hours and never want to leave.”
Wendy, and KTLA videographer Nick Simpson, were among them. Because feasting your eyes on Tio’s Tacos is only part of the experience. The authentic Mexican food is delicious and Tio’s gives a whole new meaning to the word margarita. The restaurant also offers an amazing agua fresca bar with over 18 flavors.
In fact, Wendy discovered all of Riverside has a certain sweetness about it. Perhaps a by-product of the fact the city is considered the birthplace to the California citrus industry. Within the city limits is the California Citrus State Park: 250 acres of what’s considered an open-air museum where visitors are free to walk around and peel back the history of when citrus was king in California
For those looking for the ultimate Instagram opportunity, Wendy discovered one you can really “pour” your heart into: The world’s largest paper cup. Located about a half-mile east of the 215 Freeway on Citrus Street, stands a 68-foot tall cup made out of concrete. It’s been there since the 1950s when, you guessed it, there was a paper cup manufacturing plant on the site.
And if you are going to take the time to drive out to Riverside, then you should definitely plan to drive in to one of the two outdoor drive-in movie theaters. Wendy chose to catch a double feature at the historic Rubidoux Drive-In, which opened on Nov. 3, 1948. Although times have changed, the drive-in experience remains pretty much the same with double features, big barrels of popcorn and giant movie screens.
“Most people now-a-days didn’t grow up with drive-ins. They don’t even know what drive-in theaters are,” Mike Britton, Rubidoux’s manager, said. “A lot of people don’t know a screen this big exists. But once they come out and see the size, they fall in love with it.”
In fact, there is a lot to love in Riverside.
It’s a California Destination where you can step back in time, see things from an entirely new perspective and enjoy a place that truly as a real “zest” for life.