San Juan Capistrano Travel Guide

  • San Juan Capistrano
    by Yaqui
  • Garcia Adobe 1880
    Garcia Adobe 1880
    by Yaqui
  • Great Stone Church
    by Yaqui

San Juan Capistrano Highlights

  • Pro
    Goner profile photo

    Goner says…

     Beautiful Mission & Look at California History 

  • Con
    cheap_tourist profile photo

    cheap_tourist says…

     After the mission, its other attractions pale in comparison. 

  • In a nutshell
    GCoop profile photo

    GCoop says…

     The Swallows make a 8,000 mile trip each year, so can you! 

San Juan Capistrano Things to Do

  • Great Stone Church

    The ruins known as the Great Stone Church is one of the most interesting sections of SJC Mission. This is also the section that the swallows retrun to mostly. The church was laid out as a cross shape with a bell tower that, it is said, could be seen for ten miles away and the sound of the bells carried even further.This church lasted only six...

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  • San Juan Capistrano Mission

    Mission Baslica San Juan Capistrano was established by Junipero Serra, on November 1, 1776 as one of the Twenty-One Missions built up along the California coast. This is still an active parish and if you are inerested in attending mass while here take a look at the Mission Basiica SJC Parish website. There are about ten acres of adobe-style...

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  • Mission Basilica

    Sadly, I did not go inside because mass was going on among other religious events going on outside. The plaque near the front entrance reads: New Mission Church "Spirit and likeness" of the Great Stone Church on the Mission grounds which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. Built in 1984, this is just on the other side of the Mission San Juan...

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  • Los Rios District

    Los Rios District is considered the oldest neighborhood in California. It was larger in the earlier days than now, but we get the idea of what it was like two hundred or so years ago. Many of the oldest buildings are still private homes and not open to public visits. There are quite a few that have been turned into restaurants or other businesses...

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  • Serra Chapel

    The Serra Chapel was built in 1782 and its the only original California Mission church that is still standing. It is named after Father Serra. Father St John OSullivan restored the mission church in the 1920's. He served as pastor her from 1910- 1933. The alter is said to be at least 400 years old. It was made in Barcelona Spain out of wood, Hand...

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  • Zoomars Petting Zoo

    This is a great place to take your kids to while in San Juan Capistrano. The price of admission has gone up since I was last there, but also more attractions have been added. The petting zoo is a great way for children to learn to be gentle with animals such as chickens, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs. The can learn to be careful around larger...

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San Juan Capistrano Hotels

San Juan Capistrano Restaurants

  • Ruby's Diner

    Ruby's is a chain restaurant that I had never heard of before though they are located in six states and there are more than twenty stores between San Diego and Los Angeles. All I knew is that this the place my grand daughter wanted to have lunch at and since it was her day, that was where we ate. Walking into Ruby's was like walking in a black and...

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  • The Ramos House Cafe

    This restaurant was closed by the time I found it. They close at 3:00 pm and all day on Mondays. They open early and the menu seems to be brunch rather than breakfast and lunch, which I've heard great things about. I'm just not a breakfast person so would choose a wine from the "secret room" cellar, soup and salad and the homemade ice cream that is...

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  • Sarduccis Capistrano Depot

    Sarducci's was the first restaurant I saw getting off the train. Now this is the place I'd choose for the evening meal. It was lovely and the fountain in the patio gave it the feel of a desert oasis that would be a wonderful bonus on a hot summer evening. They offer a Mystery Dinner Theater, "Murder by the Mission" and I'd like to check that out...

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  • Cafe Mozart

    Cafe Mozart is nestled in the Mercado Village Plaza. The menu is an eccletic offering of American, continental, German and Austrian cuisine. We were looking for a light lunch after the gastronomical feast we had the night before, Cafe Mozart fit the bill. We chose the outdoor seating over the indoor tables as it was a gorgeous day. So laid back is...

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  • No Longer Diedrich Coffee. Now opened...

    What a surprise to learn that Diedrich's has closed and Starbucks took over the site. The building is old, from the early 1900's and I was told that it began as a sort of mechanics garage. Later it became a cafe, you know the greasy-spoon type and then it was Diedrich Coffee. It's not easy to tell that it is a Starbucks, even now. The motto of SJC...

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  • Patio Dining Only

    This restaurant was closed by the time I found it. They close at 3:00 pm and all day on Mondays. They open early and the menu seems to be brunch rather than breakfast and lunch, which I've heard great things about. I'm just not a breakfast person so would choose a wine from the "secret room" cellar, soup and salad and the homemade ice cream that is...

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San Juan Capistrano Nightlife

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    An Unassuming Place 1 more image

    by lmkluque Updated Feb 20, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    It's hard to tell you why I mention Swallows Inn to you as a night spot.

    Maybe it's the contrast between this "dive" bar and many of the other establishments in this area.
    Maybe it's the only place that I saw that offered so much fun at night.
    Maybe it will give you a real view of middle America, unpretentious and raw.

    This is the type of place that might scare the heck out of you until you're there for a while and begin to relax enough to find out no matter how rough the clientele may seem at first, they are just the locals out for a good time. The kick-back vibe filters through as you realize these guys and gals are just having a great time. Eventually, you will too.

    There is food, live band music, dancing and special nights, like Monday's,$12.00 Steak Night, Tuesday's, $2.00 beers/ Karaoke Night and Wednesday's $2.00 Taco night.

    Should I warn you about the stuff hanging from the ceiling or the pink bathrooms?

    Dress Code: Dress Code? It's hard to tell.

    The age range of the people hanging out here is so vast that it seems not to matter what you wear as long as you're having a good time. My advise would be wear your dancing shoes and what ever is comfortable to you.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Singles
    • Seniors

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San Juan Capistrano Transportation

  • A Great Daytrip By Train

    The Pacific Surfliner runs from San Diego to San Juan Capistrano and the trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes. The cost is $21.00 (Winter 2012) The Pacific Surrliner runs from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano in about one hour and fifteen minutes. The cost is $20.00 round-trip. (Winter 2012) This is a commuter train and accepst no checked...

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  • Amtrak Business Class...this is the way...

    Taking the train to San Juan Capistrano is a nice way to bypass the LA freeways. The train stops right in the quaint town of SJC and everything, including the mission, is within walking distance of the depot.I traveled business class which reserves a seat in a quiet car. The seats are bigger with more leg room, there are power outlets for laptop...

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  • Stop here!

    This is a beautiful southern Californian destination off the Amtrak "Surfliner" train!! Expect to spend a few hours here after getting out of the cabin.The train ride is generally comfortable on Amtrak. It does get a bit crowded at peak times (like those on weekends) but I'd say almost always , one will be able to find a seat. Most tourists go in...

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San Juan Capistrano Shopping

  • Ortega's Capistrano Trading Post

    This gift shop is just across the street from the mission. If you can not find a souvenir gift your looking for at the gift shop in the mission. I am sure you can find something here. Lots of interesting gifts here. DAILY 9:00AM TO 5:00PM

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  • Buy a piece of history~

    Like many of the mission gifts shops. You will find lots of wonderful religious or simple souvenirs gifts of your visit to the mission. There are two entrances to the gift shop. One from the front courtyard and one from the central courtyard. Its just neat to browse what they have.Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas...

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  • Neat Gifts~

    This gift shop is just across the street from the mission. If you can not find a souvenir gift your looking for at the gift shop in the mission. I am sure you can find something here. Lots of interesting gifts here.DAILY 9:00AM TO 5:00PM

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San Juan Capistrano Local Customs

  • Streets are lined with 'Mission Bell'...

    All along the El Camino Real there are light posts in the shape of MIssion Bells. The 21 California Missions were built all along the El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, about 30 miles North of San Francisco. In the City of San Jaun Capistrano you can see these bell shaped lights on almost all its main streets. This is to honor the Mission and...

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  • Farmers Market

    On Wednesdays from 3 pm - 6 pm locals go to the Downtown Farmer Market.You can find it at Yorba Street and Camino Capistrano. You can purchase fresh flowers, produce, and specialty foods. It isnt very big but you can get a good deal on some of the items here. We walked through this little market on the street and the flowers were beautiful.

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  • Read the Local Paper--Capistrano Valley...

    When we were in Diedrich's Coffee, I picked up a copy of the "Capistrano Valley News" which was filled with local fare as well the news. It gives the reader a better sense of what this town is all about. For instance, a group of residents were obtaining signatures to start a recall of 7district trustees that currently hold office in the school...

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San Juan Capistrano Warnings and Dangers

  • keida84's Profile Photo
    Push the button, Max

    by keida84 Updated Nov 14, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The traffic in San Juan Capistrano can be quite an adventure. On three or four separate occasions while crossing the streets, people were making right turns, every one of them was yakking on their cell phones, NOT paying attention! These distracted drivers just about ran us over when we had the right-of-way.

    I highly recommend that you not cross any street unless the "walk" sign is on and utilize the Pedestrian crossing buttons. The people have no sense of what is going on outside of their cell phone conversations to them I send a resounding, "Hang UP & Drive!"

    Related to:
    • Food and Dining
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip

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San Juan Capistrano Tourist Traps

  • Well, don't anticipate swallow sightings...

    ..or else you will be disappointed. I happen to see a few here but not during the "Return of the Swallows" event at the mission. They just happen to be flying gracefully during a day visit earlier in 2005. The city surely hypes up the event for tourists, and who can blame her?

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  • Souvenir shops

    Inevitably there will be a gaudy souvenir shop next to any historic site. It is a fundamental law of human nature--the tacky must invade the pristine. Buy your gifts and keepsakes in the gift shop located on the mission premises. Part of the proceeds will be used to maintain and restore the mission.

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  • San Juan Capistrano Hotels

    3 Hotels in San Juan Capistrano

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San Juan Capistrano Off The Beaten Path

  • Historic Los Rios District

    I think besides the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the historic "Los Rios" district is my most favorite spot in this quaint town.Located on the other side of the tracks behind the Amtrak/Metrolink station sits a tree lined, flower filled street inhabited by the "locals" who live in houses built more than 125 years ago. These houses are mere "shacks"...

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  • Check out some of the other architecture

    While the mission is the main attraction in San Juan Capistrano, the remainder of the historic center is fairly interesting in its own right. The train depot is a beautiful brick building modeled on the mission style architecture. It also has pleasant grounds that imitates that of the mission with flowers, arbors and large shade trees.

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  • Los Rios District

    San Juan Capistrano claims to be the home of the oldest neighborhood in California. The forty homes that comprise the district date from the late 1700s and include three adobe structures that housed the mission construction workers.Some of the houses are still family homes, while other dwellings house restaurants, shops, museums and even a law...

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San Juan Capistrano Favorites

  • Beautiful Floral Scenes

    Walk the streets of SJC and take in the beautiful scenes, especially downtown in the historic part where you'll find various colorful plots full of flowers. Flowers of SJC stay in my mind!

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  • Enjoy the abundance of flowers

    The flowers around and inside the Mission are really beautiful. It's very peacful here and there is quite a bit to see. The Mission Preservation Foundation has provided a very good look into life at this mission as it was over 200 years ago. The Serra Chapel was constructed in 1782. In the early 1920's Fr. St. John O'Sullivan restored the chapel....

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  • The Great Stone Church

    This church was begun in 1797. It took nine years to build this church. On the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1812 a massive earthquake struck during morning mass. The Domes caved in and the walls crumbed, killing 42 Indian worshipers. The church was never rebuilt.These ruins became known as the American Acropolis. A major...

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Explore Deeper into San Juan Capistrano
O'Neil Museum
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Swallows Day Parade
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San Juan Catholic Church
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At The Depot
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Looks Interesting
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1940's Themed Diner
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The Great Stone Church Ruins
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Los Rios District
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O'Neill Museum
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Continuing the Legacy
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The Gardens of San Juan Capistrano
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ASM International Marker
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Gaspar De Portola Statue
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Commemorative Plaque Of a President Visit
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Orange County Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
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Saint John Capistran Marker
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San Juan Capistrano California Landmark #200
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San Juan Capistrano Historic Downtown
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Mission Basillica
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The Serra Chapel
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Picnic Area
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Central Courtyard
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Mission Cemetery
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North Corridor
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The Leon Rene Music Room
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Mission Industrial Center
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West Wing Museum Rooms
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South Wing Museum Rooms
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Olive Millstone
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Soldiers Barracks ~ Museum
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Founding Document ~1776
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Sacred Garden and Bell Wall
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Father Serra and Indian Boy Statue
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Great Stone Church
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Map of San Juan Capistrano

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