Attention, art lovers of Southern California: There’s a new museum in town.
Earlier this month, the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture of the Riverside Art Museum officially opened its doors to the public. The center is already making history as the only permanent art space to exclusively showcase Chicano and Mexican American art in the country.
The newly opened Cheech Marin Center is one reason to make a beeline to Riverside. There’s also a “renaissance of murals” happening too, according to the The Press-Enterprise.
In a 2019 story about the Inland Empire city, my colleague Jeanette Marantos made a case for visiting in warmer months: “Why not visit in the summer, when the crowds are thinner and there’s plenty of other things to do in the morning, before the temps start to soar?”
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Visit the brand new Cheech Marin Center
The center will be home to more than 550 paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs, including work by artists such as Chaz Bojórquez, Judithe Hernández, Frank Romero and Patssi Valdez, from Marin’s personal collection. The inaugural exhibition at the center, which is just across from the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside, started on June 18 with 100 pieces.
It’s not the first time Marin’s staggering collection has been on view in Riverside. In 2017, the entertainer and activist’s touring collection, “Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper From the Collection of Cheech Marin,” visited the Riverside Art Museum, my colleague Melissa Hernandez reported. Record-breaking numbers visited the museum to see the exhibition.
“At every [tour] stop, I look at all the crowds that came out — crowds that some cities didn’t even know they had — and with each stop, I felt the collection leaving my hands,” Marin told Hernandez. “It was not strictly mine. It was mine, but it wasn’t strictly mine anymore. It belonged to the people who were seeing it and whose story it was.”
Guests can visit the Cheech Marin Center daily this summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with extended hours on select Thursdays). It will be closed Tuesdays in August. Tickets for adults cost $15.95.
Marvel at the Mission Inn
No big international trip this summer? You’ll find a generous helping of architectural displays with international inspiration throughout the Mission Inn, included on Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds’ list of the 101 best experiences in California.
“The Mission Inn stands in the middle of Riverside the way Garth Brooks stands on a honky-tonk stage,” writes Reynolds; it fills a city block with 238 guest rooms, a spa, a Mexican restaurant, tequila bar, Italian restaurant, a steak-and-seafood spot and (much) more.
Known for its winter Festival of Lights, the Mission Inn can be viewed on docent-led walking tours, which show guests parts of the inn that are typically inaccessible to the public. The Mission Inn Foundation’s “landmark tour” costs $20 for adults and $15 for residents of Riverside or San Bernardino counties.
Overnight stays start at $229. Not staying the night? You can get a taste of the inn’s decor by booking dinner at the Mission Inn Restaurant. “You may land at a patio table, surrounded by domes, towers, arches and buttresses,” Reynolds writes.
Eat and shop your way across the city
It’s a good idea to fuel up before starting your day of exploring the Cheech Marin Center and Mission Inn.
In her story about the best way to spend four hours in Riverside, Marantos recommends starting at Simple Simon’s Bakery & Bistro, just a few steps from the inn. “Try to snag a table outside, on the Main Street pedestrian mall,” she writes, “and sample at least one of their drool-worthy pastries or breads. (The croissants are huge!)”
Save a little room for any snacks you pick up at the Downtown Farmers Market, open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. “During the summer, expect a huge selection of mostly organic produce as well as microgreens, free-range meats and local cheeses,” Marantos writes. Head for Mom’s Specialty Foods to snag some hummus and pita and Old Town Baking Co. to try its “mouth-watering” breads.
Care to keep shopping? Marantos recommends popping by Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, established in 1974, to browse an eclectic mix of “unique (and sometimes naughty) toys, kitchen goods, vintage-style clothes, candles, soaps, cards, purses, jewelry and holiday decorations.”
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Stroll gardens at twilight
Riverside is no stranger to triple-digit temperatures this time of year, making it difficult to tackle midday summer hikes at Mt. Rubidoux and other Riverside trails. If you want to stretch your legs during a visit, plan to hit the trails in the early morning or late evening, when the sun is less intense.
Another outdoor activity you might consider? A twilight tour of UC Riverside’s Botanic Gardens, led by garden staff and docents. Tours are planned for July 16 and Aug. 13. If you’re interested, sign up early as attendance will be limited. Tickets cost $15 for non-members.
The gardens are home to more than 3,500 plant species and specialize in flora from Mediterranean climates and arid lands around the globe. They include an herb garden, butterfly garden, three rose gardens and a subtropical fruit orchard. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
Wandering and wondering
This week’s query comes from L.A. Times reader Trevor Aupaluktuq: Can you see the stars in Los Angeles?
Despite its considerable light pollution, it is possible to glimpse stars from L.A County. Last summer, Times contributor Matt Pawlik wrote a great breakdown of where to glimpse the Perseid meteor shower — including nearby spots such as Eaton Saddle Trailhead in Angeles National Forest and Rancho Palos Verdes Overlook. Try some of Pawlik’s spots on a clear night, and let me know how you like them.
Do you have a question you’d like answered in a future edition of Escapes? Send it my way!
🎸 Road song
“Cosmic Flower” by Divino Niño. Play it as you drive down Market Street in Riverside.