Historic Old Town is Filled With Museums, Landmarks, Great Mexican Restaurants & Interesting Shops
San Diego's Old Town San Diego
State Historic Park conveys an
authentic re-creation of the city's glorious
history between 1821 and 1872.
Restored adobe homes, museums, landmarks,
commercial shops, restaurants,
infor mative park rangers and volunteers
all bring the flavor of the past into the
present. Don't miss the opportunity to
experience Old Town and to walk where
San Diego's founding fathers walked.
On September 28, 1542, Portuguese navigator Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo and his crew of Spanish sailors discovered San Diego's beautiful natural harbor. Cabrillo recorded the position of the port he called San Miguel in his log and then set sail, never to return.
Sixty years elapsed before another European explorer set eyes on San Diego. On November 10, 1602, Don Sebastian Vizcaino and a small armada sailed into the well-protected harbor. But more than 150 years passed before New Spain finally saw the need to establish a settlement north of Baja California, Mexico. In 1769 New Spain directed Don Gaspar Portola and Father Junipero Serra to proceed northward from Loreto, Mexico, and to establish a colony and a mission in San Diego.
On July 16, 1769 Father Junipero Serra founded the first of 21 missions in California, the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá. The remains of that first mission can be seen in excavations in Presidio Park (31) above Old Town.
A visit to Old Town, the historically significant birthplace of San Diego and California, is a must. Here you will see California as it was in the early 1830s. It is truly one of the most worthwhile attractions in all of California. Plus, this is San Diego's only major attraction offering free admission and free parking. So naturally, it's San Diego's most visited attraction.
For a brief overview of a few of the many historic sites in Old Town, take the free one-hour walking tour, which departs from the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Visitor Center (1) (619-220-5422) located at the Robinson- Rose Building. (The bold-faced numbers in the text refer to locations on the chapter map.) The park staff and volunteers, dressed in old-fashioned attire, conduct tours daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. These informative tours also provide anecdotes of San Diego's Old Town history. The Visitor Center and most of the other historic buildings in the park are open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. during the winter months of Dec.-March. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
You can also take the SAN DIEGAN self-guided tour. Travel at your own pace and discover fascinating historic sites, as well as where to shop and the best places to dine. We recommend allowing 3-4 hours to experience all that the park has to offer.
Getting To Old Town San Diego
If you prefer not to drive to Old Town,
you can easily take public transportation.
Buses, taxis, the Coaster commuter train
and the bright red Metropolitan Transit
System (MTS) Trolley all stop at
the convenient Old Town Transit
Center (4), which is located half a
block from the heart of Old Town.
If you decide to drive, parking in Old
Town is not a problem, except on holidays
and often in the summer. There
are seven major parking lots in Old
Town. All of the lots are designated by
shaded gray areas on the Old Town map
in this chapter. Also, many restaurants
have parking lots.
Cygnet Old Town Theatre
Hacienda de las Rosas Winery
Fiesta de Reyes
The SAN DIEGAN Walking Tour of Old Town San Diego
A good place to begin the SAN
DIEGAN Old Town tour is at the Robinson-Rose Building (1). The original
building on this site was the first commercial
building in Old Town. Today, it's
home to the Old Town San Diego State
Historic Park Visitor Center. Of particular
importance is a fantastic diorama of Old
Town as it looked in 1872. Press the
button in front of the diorama for an audio
guide narrating what life was like for the
early residents of Old Town.
Just behind the Visitor Center is a
reproduction of the 1869 McCoy House
(2), a fascinating interpretive center that
brings alive San Diego's past. Friendly
museum staff are on hand to anwser any
questions. Interactive displays and rare
old photos of San Diego make the
McCoy House a must-see historic
museum in Old Town.
Fiesta De Reyes Shops & Restaurants
There is no place in Old Town quite
like Fiesta de Reyes (3) for dining and
shopping discoveries for the whole family.
This dining and shopping extravaganza is
alive with early California charm, festive
live Mexican music and folkloric dancing.
Ideally located in the northwest corner of
the Old Town Plaza, this one-of-a-kind
attraction offers two excellent Mexican
restaurants and 16 fascinating locally
owned shops. Fiesta de Reyes is located
at 2754 Calhoun St. (619-297-3100). The
shops are open daily 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Bazaar Del Mundo Shops
Casa de Reyes
Middletown San Diego
Halfway between San Diego's first settlement
in Old Town and Alonzo Horton's
New Town, which is our present-day
downtown San Diego, is the nearby tiny
business district of Middletown. But what
really put Middletown on the twentieth
century map was the opening of the
famous El Indio Mexican Restaurant 65