How Riverside man came to write ‘100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die’

~ what a cool and inspiring story of someone in our own backyard~

How Riverside man came to write ‘100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die

Larry Burns’ epiphany to follow his dreams came while working as the career center director at Cal State San Bernardino, helping students connect their education with their vocation.

While he found great satisfaction in the success of former students, Burns had long wanted to explore another path. It took the birth of his daughter to push him into pursuing a path in the literary arts.

“As someone returning to child-rearing in his mid-40s, I was emotionally conflicted,” says the 46-year old Riverside resident. “I did not want to get her through high school, only to look back and wonder if it was too late to live that literary life I dreamed about.”

Burns says that he worked up the courage to pitch a crazy idea to his wife. He explained to her that since they were having trouble figuring out what to do for child care, perhaps he should stay home.

“When she didn’t give me ‘that look’ or spontaneously go into labor, I pressed ahead,” he says.

Burns, who had also been teaching as an adjunct instructor for the University of Phoenix, added more classes, including at Riverside City College.

By the time he returned from paternity leave, he had implemented a strategy to support their new baby, as well as his new writing career.

As long as he can remember, Burns enjoyed telling stories. He drew inspiration from his parents’ reactions. Being able to make up something, but experience a real emotion still mesmerizes him.

“We live for such a short period of time,” he says. “There is so much to see and experience, a single life could not contain it. But with writing, I can create and then experience those worlds, those far-flung experiences.”

In 2015, Burns became part of the “52 Project,” part of the Riverside Art Museum’s Art Make program under the direction of Sue Mitchell. A self-directed, 52 week journaling program, it was designed to help busy people develop routines of capturing creative thoughts and being artful on a regular basis.

“The 52 Project brought together the arts, personal enrichment and community togetherness in a way that I respect and desire,” he says. “Once I saw how those could and should be connected, it fundamentally changed me. I could not help but see how all the communities that make up Riverside were interconnected and interdependent.”

The book that resulted is “100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die,” published by Reedy Press. It features restaurants, entertainment, events and out-of-the-way experiences.

“I wanted this to be more than just ‘Larry’s List,” he says. “I wanted it to be a community book; Riverside’s book.”

Burns has also written “Being Wendall,” which he says illustrates how family is not something you are born into, but rather something you create. His book, “Do Your Chores, Love Dad” is a collection of poetry and collage. Next, he will work on a short novel about a future economy based entirely on trash.

“I plan to print them on fast food bags and sell them as individual creative art projects,” he says, adding that is what he will be working on in the 2017 edition of the “52 Project.”

Burns says that now is the best time for a person to begin nurturing their own inner artist.

“I hope some people will read my work and be motivated to dust off that manuscript or half-finished watercolor and get to work doing the thing you are supposed to be doing with the time you have left, no matter wherever or whenever you are,” he says.

100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die” will be released in major retailers and bookstores on March 30. A book launch will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. March 25 at the Riverside Art Museum.

Mission Inn Lights on Top List Again

Some of the best displays of Christmas lights in the West 

If there is anything that deserves to be called awesome, it’s spectacular displays of holiday lights.

Today’s high-tech extravaganzas have become a compelling mix of American art form, holiday tradition and irresistible tourist attraction.

It may be hard to imagine that Christmas tree lights were a 19th century innovation. In 1882, three years after Thomas Edison demonstrated his light bulb, Edward Hibberd Johnson, Edison’s  business associate, decorated his Manhattan home with a Christmas evergreen — strung with 80 red, white and blue hand-wired bulbs.

Now cities around the world drape billions of holiday lights on plazas, through shopping districts, zoos and botanical gardens in a glowing gesture of civic pride.

In the Western U.S. there are plenty worth the drive or a weekend trip. Here are 10 of the best sparkly, twinkly holiday light displays sure to set your spirits ablaze.

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside

The spectacle: In a class by itself, the free Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn has become a California experience. Seemingly every nook and cranny of the landmark inn is covered with lights and accented by glowing, glittering and gesturing elves, angels and carolers.

There’s more: elaborate Christmas trees, fresh snow, elf tuck-ins for hotel guests, horse-drawn carriage rides and three gingerbread villages made with 500 pounds of confections.

Best vantage point: You can’t take in all 4.5 million lights at once, so walk the block to view at street level.

Bonus experience: Among other holiday-themed packages, the $1,432Gingerbread Dreams Suite two-night package includes overnight accommodations, gingerbread cupcakes, a gingerbread cookie amenity at turn-down, and a $200 dining credit at the hotel’s restaurants.

Info: Through Jan. 7. 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Waikele Lights, Waipahu, Hawaii

The spectacle: Hawaii may not have snow, but it has plenty of Christmas spirit with the Waikele Lights show.

In Waipahu, about 10 miles northeast of Honolulu International Airport, Keith Yoshida has for years coordinated a magical neighborhood display, mostly powered by solar energy. More than a dozen houses on Anapau Place are illuminated with lights synchronized to holiday music. Two 38-minute shows continue from 7 to 9:30 nightly.

Best vantage point: The street is blocked off to vehicles, so ride share or take a cab and stroll or sit to watch the show.

Bonus experience: The neighborhood was featured in the 2015 season of ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” Season 4 continues on Mondays if you just can’t get enough of over-the-top residential light displays.

Info: Through Dec. 31. Waikele Lights

Holiday Lights at the California Living Museum, Bakersfield

The spectacle: More than 3 million lights decorate the zoo grounds of the California Living Museum. Favorite scenes include the Winter Wonderland (with real snow), an elephant herd, dinosaurs and even bighorn sheep in the California Wildlife section.

A display of lighted “jellyfish” heralds the opening of the zoo’s new jellyfish exhibit and touch tank next year. Also included in the ticket price is the Candy Cane Express train ride and the 40-foot merry-go-round.

Best vantage point: You don’t want to miss the amphitheater’s light show set to music, but selfies are a must at the Winter Wonderland.

Bonus experience: If you time it right, you can catch a meal at one of the region’s notable Basque restaurants, such as the Noriega Hotel, (661) 322-8419;  Wool Growers Restaurant, (661) 327-9584 and Benji’s French Basque Restaurant, (661) 328-0400

Info: Through Dec. 31 (closed Christmas). 10500 Alfred Harrell Highway, Holiday Lights at the California Living Museum. $12 for adults, $10 for youth (ages 13-17) and $6 for kids (ages 3-12).

Disneyland Park, Anaheim

The spectacle: More is more at Disneyland, where every storefront, lamppost and rooftop is strung with festive decor — lights, wreaths, garlands and sparkle.

In Disneyland, expect  parades, snowfall around Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle and special holiday versions of the nightly fireworks.

This year, California Adventure Park’s Festival of Holidays features an international array of food, music and dance.

Best vantage point: The must-see attraction is “It’s a Small World,” which is covered with thousands of lights. Inside, the 10 international scenes feature characters dressed in their country’s customary holiday attire.

Bonus experience: At California Adventure Park, Cars Land gets a holiday makeover and a 50-foot Christmas tree. World of Color, the nighttime, lighted water show, is recast as Season of Light, a new holiday theme that includes music and Disney animation.

Info: Through Jan. 8.  Disneyland Park. From $95 for a one-day admission.

Glittering Lights, Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The spectacle: A chance, sort of, to drive on a racetrack, but visitors will want to circle the 2.5-mile display of 3 million LED lights at a crawl, the better to see 500 animated and sparkling displays.

New this year: a 40-foot pirate ship and a tribute to the United States featuring the Statue of Liberty and man on the moon.

Best vantage point: The tunnels of lights are designed to immerse visitors in the ultimate photo-op.

Bonus experience: See the show from the open-air Santa Tram, $35 per person. Includes snacks, drinks, photos with Santa, games and expedited access.

Info: Through Jan. 7. 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Glittering Lights

Blossoms of Light, Denver Botanic Gardens

The spectacle: Though plants aren’t in bloom, the wintry garden comes alive with oodles of lights and holiday displays. Snow, ice and more than 1 million lights add wintry glitter to 17 acres of intricate gardens and architecture in the heart of Denver.

New this year: an interactive LED light show in the amphitheater.

Best vantage point: The experience gets psychedelic with HoloSpex glasses that transform the lights into sparkly, 3-D shapes such as snowflakes and candy canes.

Bonus experience: The Trail of Lights at outlying Chatfield Farms puts a rural twist on holiday lights with a winding path through the barns, covered wagons and rustic landscape. 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, Colo.

Info: Through Jan. 1. 1007 York St., Blossoms of Light $13 for adults, $10 for kids ages 3 to 15.

Austin Trail of Lights, Zilker Park, Austin, Texas

The spectacle: The Texas capital celebrates 50 years of lighting the centerpiece of its holiday light festival, the 155-foot Zilker Tree, the nation’s largest man-made Christmas tree.

As you’d expect of Texas, superlatives define the Trail of Lights, which glows with 2 million lights and 41 displays. Tradition and innovation blend at the Groovy Grove, where visitors interact with music and lights.

Best vantage point: Take it all in at the top of the Ferris wheel or carousel.

Bonus experience: Buy the Platinum Access pass for $80 to $225 for valet parking and preferred entry to the exhibit, lounge and rides.

Info: Through Dec. 23. Austin Trail of Lights. $3 general admission.

Illuminate SF Festival of Light, San Francisco

The spectacle: A dozen neighborhoods host 35 temporary and permanent light-art installations by 31 artists. During the holidays, the festival organizes free nighttime light-art walking tours, Saturday museum tours, studio visits and artist talks. Several installations are in San Francisco International Airport.

Best vantage point: The city’s light-art centerpiece is Leo Villareal’s “The Bay Lights” on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which in December is best viewed when the sun sets about 5 p.m.

Bonus experience: Look to the water and the streets for random sightings of “Urban UFOs” — artist Eric Staller’s “Lightmobile” VW Beetle and his floating, lighted dome, “Bubble Boat.”

Info: Through Jan. 1. Illuminate SF Festival of Light

 ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo, Portland, Ore.

The spectacle: The 29th annual ZooLights — more like an immersive 3-D light show than a typical holiday display — re-creates animals and habitats in vivid strands of lights.

Look for hippos, crocodiles and even peacocks to shine brightly in the darkness.

Best vantage point: The  experience of walking among 1.6 million lights can’t be captured in one look, but the bridge to Elephant Lands offers a nice view.

Bonus experience: Ride an old-fashioned miniature “steam” train and carousel, gloriously lighted for the holidays; $2.50 to $4. And there’s maple-bacon cotton candy and a hot cocoa cart.

Info: Through Jan. 1. 4001 S.W. Canyon Road,  ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. Adults $9.95-$14.95; kids ages 3-11 $4.95-$9.95.

Farolito Walk, Santa Fe, N.M.

The spectacle: Bask in the glow of Christmas lights, luminarias (small bonfires) and farolitos (votives in small paper bags) on the free Christmas Eve walk on Canyon Road.

The event, a Santa Fe tradition since the ’70s, attracts thousands of visitors to the historic, half-mile-long street lined with art galleries.

Best vantage point: A slow, steady stroll is the best way to navigate the crowds, said Santa Fe travel expert Billie Frank, who suggested keeping your eyes peeled for spontaneous displays of  festivity — folks adorned with strands of lights, impromptu carolers or model train displays.

Bonus experiences: Glow, through Jan. 1, features thousands of lights throughout the Santa Fe Botanical Garden as well as a special laser light show. There’s entertainment every night, holiday music and kids’ activities. Kakawa Chocolate House brews historic and authentic elixirs, guided by traditions from 1000 BC to the mid-1900s. Get a hot cuppa there or take home a bag of the Aztec Warrior Elixir ($15).

Info: Farolito Walk. Glow. $9 admission, free for kids 12 and younger.

Parking in Riverside to Increase

Why it could cost more to park in downtown Riverside

The city needs to charge more to help to pay for new garages, signs and security, a new report suggests.

Raising the cost of parking in downtown Riverside starting next year could bring in more than $500,000 annually to make parking safer and more convenient, a new city report says.

Increasing the cost of Festival of Lights parking, boosting the hourly cost at most downtown meters and cutting the length of free parking in city garages are among the recommendations.

The report will be discussed Monday, Dec. 12, by the council’s land use committee, which would recommend any fee changes to the City Council.

The city’s parking program pays for itself through charges for garage and street parking as well as fines.

But as garages deteriorate and street parking and surface lots disappear due to development, more money is needed to pay for new parking meters and better security and signs, a new garage and maintenance of old ones, the report states.

The report is based on input from downtown residents, businesses and a consultant.

Riverside owns about 4,300 parking spaces downtown in four public garages, 15 lots and spots on streets. Parking prices haven’t gone up since 2010.

The report suggests that costs increase over two years, starting in April. The suggestions include:

• Reducing free parking in garages from 90 minutes to 60 minutes.

• Increasing the daily maximum charge in garages from $8 to $10.

• Charging until 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. near the justice center, and raising rates by 50 cents an hour at meters in other areas.

• Charging a $5 flat rate in the evening Thursday through Saturday, when parking is now free.

• Setting Festival of Lights parking at $10, up from the current $5.

• Offering discounted permits for part-time, minimum wage earners who work downtown.

Costlier parking may not be the most important issue for some.

“Our clients get upset that there’s no parking,” Riverside Art Museum Executive Director Drew Oberjuerge said. As long as people can park near the museum, “I don’t necessarily foresee a huge challenge with a price increase.”

She was glad to hear the report mentions the area near the museum as one of two places suggested for a new parking garage. The other was the justice center.

Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown, said he’s interested in talking about how the price of street parking relates to the charge for garage spots. If street spaces cost a little more, it may help keep them free for people stopping to shop or eat lunch, while those planning to stay longer will use the garages, he said.


Downtown Riverside parking fees may rise to help pay for more security, better signs and new garages.

Suggestions: Charging a flat $5 for evening parking Thursdays through Saturdays, reducing free garage parking from 90 minutes to 60 minutes, raising the charge at most meters from $1 to $1.50 an hour.

Why: Parking fees and fines won’t cover new parking, up-to-date meters and better signs that are planned.

What’s next: The council’s land use committee will discuss parking costs at 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at 3900 Main St., Riverside.


Inland Empire Holiday Things to Do

So many fun things to do in the Inland Empire for the Holidays!!


Holiday Open House and Tour: Be one of the first to experience Kimberly Crest House & Gardens at Christmas at 4 p.m. Sunday Dec 4. The event will include a special tour of the home with information on decorations and traditions of the Kimberly and Shirk families. Enjoy champagne and hors d’oeuvres on the veranda. Tickets are $20. Kimberly Crest House & Gardens is located at 1325 Prospect Drive in Redlands. Information: 909-792-2111,

Mission Inn Festival of Lights: The beloved Southern California tradition recently named “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today creates a magical, Disneyland-like experience in the heart of Riverside and attracts more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world each year, commencing with the famous “Switch-On” Ceremony, a spectacular event in which the castle-like hotel is instantly illuminated with nearly 4.5 million holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display.

Holiday Magic on Main Street: Santa Claus is coming to town! Head on down to Old Town to welcome Santa for the holiday season. Santa will be in Old Town every weekend from November 25- December 18th at Pennypickle’s Workshop.

MoVal Holiday Events 2016: Snow Day and Holiday Craft Fair – Enjoy a day of snow right here in Moreno Valley. Children aged 12 and under can enjoy playing in the snow and there’s also fun for everyone else at the Holiday Craft Fair. Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony – Join us for Santa visits, arts and crafts, games, and music.

Holiday Promenade & Tree Lighting Ceremony: The City of Claremont invites everyone to an evening filled with live music, festive storefronts, a magnificent tree lighting ceremony and more.  On Friday, December 2 from 5-8 p.m., the Claremont Village, the area’s ultimate shopping destination, will transform into a holiday wonderland where the young and young at heart can enjoy the festivities. The Holiday Promenade will include live entertainment from the Swing Cats Big Band, Moultrie Academy, 210 Sax Quartet, and holiday carolers throughout the village streets. Village businesses will also be participating as Holiday Cheer Stops and will be providing delicious holiday treats.

Christmas in the Village: The Village of Big Bear Lake presents Christmas in the Village every Saturday and Sunday up to December 24th. Visit Santa and Mrs Claus at the Christmas Tree Lot from 10-4pm at the Corner of Pine Knot and Village.

Thoroughbred Lane Holiday Lights: “What an amazing winter wonderland. The home owners that create this amazing eyegasm are to be applauded! They not only spend their own time and money to elaborately decorate, but let thousands of people parade up and down their streets gawking in wonder night after night. I am still awestruck and will return year after year! I think this is the IE’s best kept secret!” Tricia Ramos

City of Riverside Fire Departments 19th Annual Ride Along with Santa – The ride-along begins on December 17th and runs through December 23rd. The time is between 6:00 p.m. and 8 p.m. Two engine companies per night will be escorting Santa through the neighborhoods. If a major incident where to occur in the city, Santa may have to respond to the incident and unfortunately Santa may miss that particular neighborhood or assigned route.