'It feels like a Hallmark movie:' 123 Farm brings holiday cheer with Christmas Nights festival
Riverside County residents can visit a local farm's festival this holiday season and feel like they've stepped into a Christmas movie.
About a 40-minute drive from Palm Springs, 123 Farm is hosting its “Christmas Nights” festival on select days of the week until Jan. 8. Guests are able to enjoy its abundant Christmas decor, food and holiday-themed drinks, children’s games, shopping and more.
The lavender farm hosts several festivals throughout the year – its Sourdough Festival, Sheep Shearing Festival, Lavender Festival, Lavender Nights and Christmas Nights. Its events have received buzz on social media platforms Instagram and TikTok.
Tina Kummerle, president of Highland Springs Ranch & Inn, said the Christmas festival is its biggest of the year. She said thousands of people visit, though it's most busy the week of Christmas.
“All the lights are pretty magical when it gets dark,” she said.
The farm’s lavender field has 300,000 lights and the whole farm has over one million lights, according to Kummerle. It appears like almost every square inch of the property is lighted up – including a large willow tree and a tunnel of lights.
In addition to its lavender fields and olive grove, Kummerle said the farm has started to grow its own grapes. She said they also make sourdough bread and wine — though it hasn’t been able to use its grapes for that yet.
123 Farm is owned by the Evangelical Layman's Church, but its corporation is the Highland Springs Ranch & Inn, Kummerle said. It used to have a hotel, but not since the pandemic.
She said it has a long history as Riverside County’s first historical landmark— it was used by the Cahuilla as a gathering spot due to its water, it was a stagecoach stop, it was a health resort, and then it was “kind of like the Catskills of the west.”
“Families would come year after year … we get a lot of people coming back and (saying) ‘I had my first kiss here,’ ‘I met my wife here,’ those kinds of stories,” Kummerle said.
But then she said the owner sold it and it became a church retreat for a while. She said the organic farm started after that, beginning the lavender festival and all its other events.
Hundreds of people gathered at 123 Farm earlier this month to celebrate the holidays.
Brittni Acosta and her 8-year-old daughter Zayne Acosta were at its Sourdough Bread Hall. Brittni Acosta said her family has been attending the festival for five years and it's one of their Christmas traditions. They drove around an hour from Fontana.
“It's just nice to be able to do something for Christmas that feels like you’re kind of being transported to Christmas, even though we don’t get like white Christmas or things like that here,” she said.
“I like going in the little village,” Zayne said. “That’s probably my favorite part.”
The Christmas Village features a Gingerbread House where guests can buy hot chocolate, Santa’s Tiki Bar and humorous shop displays like Coal Foods and the Naughty Child Detection Agency.
There is also a holiday maze and Elvesville — decorated Christmas-themed cottages that allow people to peer in and try to find the hidden elves on the shelves.
David Eng and Gabriele Cook weren’t able to find all five elves hidden in each of the cottages, though Cook said they located the most in Mrs. Claus’ bedroom.
“It's nice to be in the … holiday spirit and this place is really well decorated,” Eng said.
There is no shortage of food and drinks — many lavender flavored. Savory dishes include sourdough pizzas, bread bowl soups and hot dogs. Desserts include funnel cake, cheesecake and ice cream. Guests can also rent a private s’mores pit for $25 per 50 minutes.
Non-alcoholic drinks include lavender or plain hot chocolate, lavender lemonade, hot mulled cider and “melted snowman bottled water.” Alcoholic drinks include spiked hot chocolate, Christmas punch, Bailey’s & Coffee, mulled wine and lavender margaritas.
People are allowed to walk around the farm with their drinks, Kummerle said.
Children can take a free photo with Santa Claus at his workshop — though guests need to check 123 Farm’s website to make sure he’s in town the day they visit. They can also send him letters at the North Post, and get a return letter back.
Deven and Larena Mendoza’s children were writing letters to let Santa know what they wanted for Christmas this year. Larena Mendoza had found out about the festival through TikTok.
“It's pretty fun. A lot of stuff for the kids and the family and a lot of opportunities to take good pictures, when the lights are really pretty,” Deven Mendoza said. “And the hot chocolate’s good, too.”
Courtney and Nicholas Federoff were reading the “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at 123 Farm” story book display with their 5-month-old daughter Everleigh. The couple has a membership at the farm, but it was their first time bringing Everleigh.
“We come here often for the sourdough pizza. Lavender anything at all,” Nicholas Federoff said. “They have anything at all they make with lavender.”
The couple got engaged under the farm’s 1,000-year-old oak tree and part of it was used to make Nicholas Federoff’s wedding band.
“It's sentimental to us, obviously,” Courtney Federoff said. “So we come here a lot.”
Other things to do at the festival include horse-drawn carriage tours that can be booked online, a children’s scavenger hunt, and shopping.
123 Farm has its own stores selling its items, including all things lavender. There are also “The 12 Days of Christmas Shops” — 12 small, cottage store fronts set up in a row to offer goods like candles, candy, plants, crochet and jewelry.
Sheila Minniti-Wright’s shop is called “Sheila’s Creations” and she has been selling crocheted items, wood animals and jewelry at the Christmas Nights festival for four years. She started at the farm as a volunteer at its Lavender Festival after moving from Chicago. Her husband, Jim Wright, proposed to her there.
“This place is really special for us,” Minniti-Wright said.
Yvette Hightower owns [klenz]natural and co-owns Bellows + Blaze Candle Chandlery. She’s been leasing a cottage at the farm for a year, and it was her second time selling body care and candles at the Christmas Nights festival. She said vendors are not able to sell lavender products.
“When my friends come to visit, they’re like ‘It feels like a Hallmark movie,’” she said. “It's like, they just need to bring the cameras here … the set is already ready.”
123 Farm is located at 10-600 Highland Spring Avenue. Depending where you look, maps will say it's located in Cherry Valley or Beaumont. Its open for the Christmas Nights festival from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and is closed on Tuesdays.
Tickets can be purchased in person or online, but Kummerle said it's cheaper to purchase them before arriving. They can vary in price depending on the day. For those planning to go on December 25, tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $15 for students ages 13 to 17, $12 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children under 5.
Parking is an additional cost and can also be purchased online.
Ani Gasparyan covers the western Coachella Valley cities of Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City. Reach her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: 123 Farm brings holiday cheer with Christmas Nights festival