You can't come to San Diego and not visit Old Town! Step back to the 1700's, and visit the "Birthplace of California". It was here that Father Junipero Serra established the first of 21 missions, colonizing southern California.
A lot of the shops are staffed by interpreters in period costume, and some of the buildings are very authentic. The Cigar ette Shoppe pictured, for example, is part museum, part cigar store, so much so that in looking through the cases, it was difficult to tell what was part of the exhibit, and what was actually for sale.
You should also visit 'Bazaar del Mundo', a fascinating collection of shops selling wares from various latin countries.
There are several great restaurants (we enjoyed Casa de Bandini), so you can easily spend the day exploring Old Town. Be sure to give yourself enough time to stroll and enjoy.
Old Town is easily accessible by the San Diego Trolley (the red ones), the Old Town Trolley (green & orange), or its about a 10 minute drive from Gaslamp.
I haven't been here since I was pregnant with my Nicholas. Boy has it changed from then. I couldn't believe how commericalized it got. The buildings use to house just artifacts and such and now it seems they all have some sort of merchandise to purchase. Then again, if it gets people to enter and enjoy the facility and appreciate the significance this site has to San Diegians or for all those who live in California. Old Town is where the history begins for San Diego where little shacks where orginally built by soliders and settlers moved in from 1821-1872. All the buildings are symbols of the historical richness San Diego has to offer. I wish buildings could talk, because I am sure these would be screeming with a world of information.
Admission is FREE
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Historical Marker No.830
You are in San Diego, just a few short miles away is Mexico with Tijuana the border town. Tempting, but frustrating due to the traffic at the border and the crime rate in Tijuana. Bad rap or not, it is a foreign country to visit. But.....you can experience the flavor of Mexico right in San Diego at Old Town. Touristy, yeah, but so is Tijuana.
Old Town is alive and well. The restaurants of Old Town dole out thousands of Margaritas (drink)and a heck of a lot of tacos (hand food) that can be found in Mexico but now throughout the United States, but the feel of Mexico is in Old Town. Shops, restaurants, and history. Old Town is considered the "birthplace" of California. In 1769, on top of a hill overlooking what was to become Old Town, a mission (the first of 21) and presidio were built under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra. El Pueblo de San Diego was named in 1835 and in 1846, the American Flag was raised in Old Town San Diego. Many historic buildings built in the 1800's are all within walking distance of the Plaza.
San Diego’s first commercial settlement has been either preserved or re-created in this pedestrian-only park. It is the place of the first Spanish settlement dating back to 1769, when the whole area was a part of Mexico. It was briefly also the capital of Mexico's California territory. Though, California belongs to the United States since 1850, the number of Spanish speaking people still reach almost the half of the population.
Much of the town was destroyed in a fire in 1872, but of the park's 20 structures, 7 original structures still remain, including homes made of adobe; the rest are reconstructed.
Adobe is a style of architecture, characterized by thick earthen walls, small windows, doors and covered by a flat or slightly sloped thatched or clay tile roofs. The bricks are made of soil and water, usually with straw or grass added, pushed into a wooden form, and then dried in the sun for at least 2 weeks.
Robinson-Rose House is the headquarters of Old Town. Here you may look into the past of the town, a model introduces how the area looked like hundred years before. There are a lot of informations material for a self-guided tour. You can wander into the Old Town’s houses and find museums, shops inside. They remind you of a combination Mexican, Spanish and Old Western-style Williamsburg.
Some of the most interesting sights:
- the town plaza used for bullfights, executions and fiestas,
- La Casa de Bandini , one of San Diego’s most famous and wildly popular mexican restaurant, where the wait for a table can stretch to over an hour.
- reconstructed barn houses original carriages and wagons from the Wild West.
- Wells Fargo History Museum, Casa de Estudillo, California's first schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, the state's first newspaper office and a stable.
- Machado y Stewart and Machado y Silvas adobes with period furnishings
- Catholic Church Of The Immaculate Conception,
Many of the park shops sell a lot of kitsch, quilts, souvenirs and Western clothing; you will do better in the lovely shops of Bazaar del Mundo presenting the best of Latin America; Mexican folk dancers and mariachi bands perform amidst guatemalan weavings and mexican folk art.
Update: Bazaar del Mundo has a new location at Taylor and Juan streets, just two blocks from the northwest entrance to the park.
The little shops at the Bazaar at Old Town have a wide variety of wonderful items to choose from. I love the colors. I found some neat gifts and yet another string of chili lights for my kitchen. All those bright colors make me feel good.
In 1857 Thomas Whaley began building his Greek revival style house. The San Diego Herald claimed that the house was the, "finest new brick block in Southern California." It was constructed primarily by the areas Native Americans and the final cost was estimated around $10,000.
The Thomas Whaley House has been purported as the most haunted house in California. The US Commerce Department officially declared the house haunted in the 1960's. Only one other home in California can lay claim to this distinction and that's the Winchester Mansion in San Jose California.
The home was built over the land where the town's hanging gallows once stood. James "Yankee Jim" Robinson was hung on this spot but sadly he did not die right away. He was a very tall man and his feet kept scraping the ground taking him over 45 minutes to die. His presence can be felt in the home. Visitors report hearing heavy footsteps, others experience the tightening of the throat, while others have reported having the sense of strangulation. During my visit I experienced the latter.
The ghost of a young girl is often seen but there seems to be a good deal of debate as to who is child is. A neighbor's child supposedly died in the mid-1800s after she ran into a low clothesline that fractured her neck.
Located in the historical Old Town District of San Diego the Whaley House offers tours Wednesday through Monday:
10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The house is closed on Tuesdays
9:30 p.m. and on as available
Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest brick structures in San Diego. Wow, pretty impressive huh? In 1869 it served as a Courthouse for the county. The walls were plaster with crushed seashells made by the Whaley families own klin. It was home of five generations of the Whaley Family and now stands as a voice of San Diegos historical past.
Admission - Charge
Open 10am-4:30pm daily
10am-7pm Friday and Sat
The Whaley House Historical Marker No. 65
In 1769 a mission and a fort were established here and this became California's first Spanish settlement. To get a feel for how far and from where San Diegans have come, a visit to Old Town may give some clues. That is if, you look beyond the touristic atmostphere.
On VT there are two pages for this area that I'm in the process of developing.
Old Town San Diego This is the section of San Diego that was originally the center of town until Alonzo Horton came in and developed the present downtown area along the harbor of the bay.
And Old Town San Diego State Historical Park This is a section of Old Town San Diego that has been restored and preserved by the State of California as it was in it's glory days. Most people refer to both areas as Old Town and both are usually swamped with tourists. However, much of Old Town SD is a residential area of San Diego and many of the "tourists" are actually locals as well.
In Old Town San Diego State Historical Park, Bazaar del Mundo was a big draw for tourists and two of the best Mexicn restaurants were, "Casa de Bandini" and "Casa de Pico"and the food was quite genuine, especially the tortilla lady making tortillas is a display of life as lived in the early days of San Diego's history .
However, Ms. Powers, the owner of the concession known as Bazaar del Mundo lost the contract and has found other locations for the shops and restaurants. The Bazar del Mundo is now located on Taylor Street, some few blocks away. Casa de Bandini moved to Carlsbad and Casa de Pico moved to La Mesa.
Bazaar del Mundo section of the Park was taken over by a company that stripped it of all the charm that brought in the tourists and residents and the food at the restaurants was not nearly as good. That company didn't make it.
Now it is being run by another company and this company seems to be interested in restoring the festive vibe. It is beginning to look much better and the food is better too. The Casa de Bandini building has been restored to it's original use, The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant. This too seems to have been a successful effort.
The old adobe buildings that house other restaurants, museums and shops along the town square are restored originals or replicas of the first buildings of San Diego. Some people dress in period costumes, such as the calveryman who patrols the area on horseback. He will stop for a photo with you if asked.
It is difficult to tell when you are in the Park and when you are not. It doesn't really matter, the whole area is fun to explore and there are other historical sites. The old court house can be seen, as well as the first newspaper office, even a haunted house can be toured. Then there are always lots of restaurants, bars and shopping all over the place.
After a day of walking around, just pick your spot, order a Margarita and say, "Salud!"
The photo is of nightlife in Old Town San Diego.
The kind of museum I absolutely adore!
If you try and not see the souvenir shops it is like stepping back into San Diego's past, with the first Spanish settlers having just arrived, the city being governed by the Mexicans and a beautiful city in a great climate starts to rise.
They have wonderful restored houses with shops selling crafts, pottery, soap, mexican food and clothes, chocolates...There is a dentist house, newspapers ediorial office, courthouse, stables, blacksmith and houses where people were living.
Entrance is free, and they have free guided tours once or twice a day which I highly recommend! You learn a lot about San Diego's past and present, and our guide was a wonderful old lady who loved telling stories.
Born in Madrid, Spain, Miguel de Pedrorena came to San Diego as agent for a shipping company. He married in 1842 María Antonia Estudillo, daughter of José Antonio Estudillo. He built one of the first framed structures in old town. He was going to build his new home on this site, but died in 1850. Yet, his family built a home in 1869, where the family resided in until 1907.
The building currently houses a gem, jewelry and rock shop.
Hours: Daily 10-4
While in Old Town, a visit to the Serra Museum, commonly known as The Presidio, would be interesting to history buffs. This Spanish style structure is not the original Presidio, but a commemorative effort built in 1927 to honor Father Junipero Serra and Captian Gasper de Portola who established the first Mission and fort in California.
The entrance fee is a nominal donation and the book store offers great value in unique and historical reading material of this area.
The ground level of the Presidio is set out as a museum that changes from time to time. With furniture, clothing, maps and various artifacts, the story of San Diego's development is told. Climb the stairs to see recreations of rooms used during the time Spanish soldiers lived here and protected the priests and citizens of this new land.
At the top landing the view from the windows is far reaching and revealing.
The hours it is open seem to change so check before arriving.
Also, you might plan your visit to this section of Old Town with the idea of stopping, before or after for a picnic lunch. There are a few park areas here loaded with shade trees and some statues andr Memorials that are interesting to note while taking a relaxing break from a morning of sight-seeing.
The Verna House was built in 1870's in the French Mansard style. It was moved here in 1960 as a temporary fix from keeping her from being demolished. She ended up staying in this spot, but not on a permanent foundation. It started to fall apart till she was refurbished and now she serves as museum of the local area and a gift shop with books.
This was new to me this visit.
The Bazaar up in the Old Town has some lovely small colourful shops, music, fountains, seats in a small garden, and a couple of eateries.
The waitresses in the Mexican outdoor restaurant were dressed in costume, which added to the ambience. The photo shows an elaborate fountain at the Rancho El Nopal Restaurant and Cantina. Look closely and you can see one of the waitresses in blue/white costume.
Photo by joanj
The first stone was laid by Reverend Thaddeus Amat, C. M., Bishop of Monterey, on July 10, 1868. Yet, the town was being mostly built south of this construction so it was halted even though the walls were already built 15 to 20 feet. This poor church stood uncomplete for over 67 years because of political differences and cost. Finally in 1914 Father Mesny began work to carry out Fr. Ubach’s plan. Finally on July 22, 1917 Immaculate Conception Church was opened for worship. Dedication took place on July 16, 1919 by Reverend John C. Cantwell, D.D., Bishop of Los Angeles and San Diego. It still holds worship today.
A complex of older buildings located in downtown San Diego has been preserved as a tourist shopping area, and is known as Old Town. This is also the location where the Trolley-tour of the town starts and ends. Photo of one of the buildings in mid-morning before the crowds have built up.