Fun Things to do in Riverside

A Desert in Riverside

Riverside is widely popular for its zesty, citrusy oranges and as the city along a river. But did you know that Riverside is much more than this?

California has the best places to visit with family and friends, including this Riverside. This city goes along the Santa Ana River in the Inland Empire, 60 miles west of Los Angeles. It is the 12th largest city in California, with 300,000+ residents. The city is popular for its rich citrus history and is the birthplace of the California citrus industry. Besides the expansive citrus industry becoming an identity of Riverside, it is home to multiple prominent colleges, including the University of California.

The city is a beautiful combination of nature and urbanization, comprising orange orchards and industries in the same area.

10 Awesome Things to Do in Riverside

If you are looking for a fun adventure with your friends, family, or partner, Riverside is one of the ideal picks. The best part is that you can visit this beautiful part of California anytime without worrying about the weather. Depending on your location, it is also excellent for a day trip or weekend getaway.

The gorgeous architecture in downtown streets is a treat to the eyes. Furthermore, the city houses historical buildings, museums, botanical gardens, drive-in theaters, and art centers to attract visitors of all interests. The Pacific Ocean and Southern California’s lovely beaches are just around 50 miles away from Riverside.

So, whether you are looking for a thrilling adventure or want to go orange picking on a sunny day, Riverside is perfect for both.

We have put together our favorite fun things to do in Riverside for you to choose your preferences.

Understand the Citrus History at California Citrus State Historic Park

What’s a better way to start your Riverside trip than indulging in the sweet, citrusy history of the region?

Sunkist Historic Park

The California Citrus State Historic Park, built in 1993, is a part of the California state park system. The park, spread over 100 acres, welcomes you with tall palm trees and a giant orange at the entrance gate.

The California Citrus State Historic Park shares the tales of the state’s citrus industry development in 1873. Legends mention that the Department of Agriculture sent two little navel orange trees to Eliza Tibbets, a Riverside local, realizing the city’s healthy soil and temperate climate. And before anyone knew it, bright and vibrant orange trees symbolized the city.

Tourists visiting the California Citrus State Historic Park can enjoy a free guided tour around the park and taste freshly grown Riverside oranges. You can also rent a picnic spot in the gazebo for a small fee or go to the amphitheater. The orange groves offer a spectacular view you will not forget anytime soon!

Address: 9400 Dufferin Ave, Riverside, CA 92503

Phone number: 951-780-6222

Appreciate the Spanish Architecture of Mission Inn

The Mission Inn is another must-visit tourist attraction when you visit Riverside.

This massive mansion, located on the corner of Main Street and Mission Inn Avenue, is spread over a whole block with a Spanish medieval feel. Built from 1902 to 1932, Mission Inn is a National Historic Landmark. The building has seen significant renovations, from a boarding house to a hotel and museum. You can feel the building’s history in its walls and décor.

Visitors can learn more about the building’s history at the Mission Inn Museum. The 75-minute tours are organized throughout the week when anyone can visit the lobby.

However, if you want to experience it more deeply, a night’s stay at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is the perfect idea. Enjoy your time in the uniquely decorated rooms and visit other parts of the mansion not accessible to the public.

Many tourists prefer visiting Riverside around New Year to experience the six-week Festival of Lights by the Mission Inn. Following the “Switch-on” ceremony, more than five million lights illuminate the hotel instantly.

Address: 3696 Main Street, Riverside, CA 92501

Phone number: 951-788-9556

Enjoy a Show at the Fox Performing Arts Center

As we say that Riverside has something for everyone, it doesn’t disappoint!

The Fox Performing Arts Center is perfect for all art lovers visiting Riverside for a fun vacation. This live event center, also known as the Riverside Fox Theater, opened in 1929. The architecture is a great show of the Spanish Colonial Revival style and makes you fall in love with its majesty. It is known for being the first place to screen Gone with the Wind in 1939.

Outside of Fox Performing Arts Center

The arts center was renovated in 2007, making it a centerpiece of entertainment in this gorgeous city. The building can entertain up to 1650 guests with musical productions, comedy sketches, and dance performances. You may also be able to catch one of the children-special shows when traveling with your family.

Book a show on your visit days by checking the schedule on their website or social media pages. 

Address: 3801 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

Phone number: 951-779-9800

Brace Yourself with Magnificent Views at the Whitewater Preserve

While the Whitewater Preserve is not exactly within Riverside, it is another attractive point for nature lovers.

The 2,851-acre Whitewater Preserve, created around the Whitewater River, helps protect the habitat. It is around an hour away from Riverside. This area inhabits various rare plants that need conservation efforts to preserve them, including the Bell’s Vireo and Southwest Willow Flycatcher. You will also see wildlife around the river, such as bears, coyotes, bighorn sheep, deer, and the fringe-toed lizard.

Brace yourself to a stunning view when you reach this nature’s marvel. The area is surrounded by magnificent views comprising the San Gorgonio Wilderness, the San Jacinto Mountain Range, and the San Bernardino Mountain Range.

Enjoy the beautiful view surrounding the river or hike up the trails for an economical yet exciting activity when you’re at the Whitewater Preserve.

Address: 9160 Whitewater Canyon Road, Whitewater, CA 92282

Phone number: 760-325-7222

Stroll through the Fairmount Park

Parks are the most affordable outing option, especially when you have kids or want to spend some quiet time with your partner.

Fairmount Park is a 250-acre park built in 1920, designated as a Riverside Cultural Landmark. It has recreational activities for people of all ages, including a bowling green, two tennis courts, and golf courses. You can also enjoy picnics at the park or play with your kids at the playground. The park also has small lakes for water sports like paddle boating and fishing. Alternatively, visit the bandshell for more recreational activities.

Father-Daughter Duo in Park

The park is known for its rose garden on the south side of Lake Evans; you may see the roses in full bloom during your trip in May.

If you go to Riverside with your family and want to celebrate a special occasion, the boathouse near Lake Evans is a top pick.

Address: 2601 Fairmount Boulevard, Riverside, CA 92501

Phone number: 951-826-2000

Watch a Movie at the Van Buren Drive-in Theater

Drive-in theaters are perfect for a cozy movie night with your partner, and you can avail this opportunity at the Van Buren Drive-In Theater, Riverside. Located in the Arlington district, the Van Buren drive-in theater is a fun experience where you see the movie on an outdoor screen and listen to the movie audio on FM.

Drive-in Theater

This theater opened in 1964 and has three screens to cater to the maximum number of visitors. You can enjoy a movie any day of the week by booking a show or participating in Swap Meet markets with over 300 vendors held at the theater every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from the early morning to late afternoon. Often the locals show up at the theater with blankets, pillows, lawn chairs, and homemade snacks to sell to the audience.

Van Buren Drive-In Theater is open for visitors and locals throughout the year, even if it rains.

Address: 3035 Van Buren Boulevard, Riverside, CA 92503

Phone number: 951-688-236

Walk Through the University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens

When talking of Riverside, how can we miss the beautiful, blooming botanic garden at the University of California?

The University of California Riverside has a humongous 40-acre botanic garden for visitors interested in immersing their olfactory and visual senses in the beauty of nature. The botanical garden has over 3,500 plant species from around the world. You can also view other exhibits of nature at the Lilac Lane, Herb Garden, Alder Canyon, Butterfly Garden, Subtropical Fruit Orchard, Cactus Garden, and Iris Garden.

The location is equally good for families and couples. Besides information regarding the vast variety of flowers and plants, a walk through the garden is an ideal date idea for nature lovers.

Address: 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521

Phone number: 951-827-1012

Enjoy Fun Rides at the Castle Park

Your kids will not get bored at Riverside with the wide variety of activities and rides at Castle Park.

The Castle Park is a 25-acre family-friendly amusement park near the California Citrus State Historic Park, built in 1976. The ride park offers over 35 rides, including a drop tower, roller coasters, a merry-go-round, and a water playground. However, the schedule of this part of the park varies throughout the year, and it is suggested to check the website before visiting.

Besides the ride park, Castle Park, Riverside also offers four championship miniature golf courses, over 200 fun arcade games, retail shops, and live performances. The mini-golf course features highly themed 18-hole courses with features like pagodas and windmills.

Celebrate birthdays, family get-togethers, and corporate events by renting out Castle Park. Keep your valuables in the lockers and cabanas in the park.

Address: 3500 Polk Street, Riverside, CA 92505

Phone number: 951-785-3000

Observe Historic Aircrafts at the March Field Air Museum

The March Field Air Museum near the March Air Reserve Base is a treat for all aircraft and military enthusiasts. Opened in 1979 by the March Air Museum Foundation, the March Field Air Museum showcases over 70 historic aircraft covering a timeline of around a hundred years.

The museum is home to unmanned aircraft, spy planes, cargo planes, helicopters, and some of the fastest aircraft. You can also find SR-71, B-17G Starduster, and bomber jets used during World War I and II and the Vietnam War. The museum has thousands of artifacts on display inside and outside. A 45-minute guided tram tour takes you around the museum and informs you about the aircraft’s and artifacts’ history.

Planes in Air Museum

The March Field Air Museum provides spaces for special events like reunions, parties, and photo shoots that you can book in advance.

Address: 22550 Van Buren Boulevard, Riverside, CA 92518

Phone number: 951-902-5949

Get Fresh Produce from the Riverside Certified Farmers Market

You cannot enjoy the most of any city until you interact with the locals or visit the local markets. The Riverside Downtown Farmers Market is one of the best choices to buy homegrown goods and specialty foods.

The market is located in the heart of the market and offers various foods, from hummus to organic vegetables and other homemade eatables. You can also get your hands on decorative plants at the farmers’ market.

Visit the Riverside Certified Farmers Market along Main Street every Saturday; get more information on the products and vendors at their website.

Address: 4080 Lemon St., Riverside, CA 92501

Phone number: 951-848-4991

The Bottom Line

Riverside is a gorgeous city in California known for its magnificent orange produce. The orange industry’s history dates back to 1873, and the industry has become an important part of the state’s economy. You can learn more about the rich, citrusy history at the California Citrus State Historic Park when you visit Riverside. Moreover, Mission Inn is a must-visit if you like Spanish architecture. The city also offers many other attractive touristy sites such as Whitewater Preserve, Castle Park, Van Buren Drive-In Theater, University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens, etc. Plan your trip according to your interests, and enjoy your visit to Riverside the most!


What is Riverside most known for?

Riverside is widely known for its vibrant citrusy history, making the orange industry symbolic of the city. The California Citrus State Historic Park shares the story of the state’s citrus industry development in 1873 and is a popular picnic point in Riverside.

Does Riverside have nightlife?

The Van Buren Drive-In Theater and Fox Performing Arts Center are the best choices if you enjoy nightlife more than daytime picnics and tours. You can also enjoy the entertainment around the downtown hotels and the nightlife in Riverside.

Is Riverside, CA, cheap?

Riverside has a ton of activities for visitors, yet it is not a cheap city to buy or rent a home. The average cost of living in Riverside comes in the top 2% of the most expensive cities in the world and 65th out of 319 in California.

Is Riverside more expensive than LA?

While Riverside is among the most expensive cities in California, it is not as expensive as Los Angeles. The cost of living in LA is 9% more than in Riverside.


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