Old Town Historical Area and Attractions


Location: Old Town (4 Miles North of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: Attractions are Generally Open 10AM-6PM; the Dining Scene Stays Alive Late into the Evening.

Cost: Most Attractions are Free while a Few have a Nominal Cost.

Features: 1st European Settlement in California; Historic Landmarks; Parks, Shops, and Restaurants; Most Haunted House in America

old-townOld Town Highlights: Spanish Explorers first spotted what is now California in 1542 when they arrived in San Diego. However, the first Spanish settlement was not established until 1769 when Father Junipero Serra established California’s 1st Mission in Old Town. The Spanish ruled Old Town until Mexico claimed independence in 1822. Old Town continued to be the center of San Diego after California became a part of the United States following the Mexican-American War. By the early 1870’s, the center of San Diego moved closer to the waterfront, now the current location of downtown San Diego. Today, Old Town provides a look into the history of the original settlement. It is also home to many popular restaurants and shops, with a strong emphasis on Mexican culture.

Storyteller in Old TownWhat to Expect in Old Town

Travelers will generally spend the whole day in Old Town. They will visit the museums and historical sites, stroll around the parks, look for gifts in numerous shops, and enjoy both lunch and dinner at one of the many restaurants. It is best to start your day at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Below is a sample of what you will find in Old Town. To see the full list of Old Town attractions, select ‘Old Town’ in the Related Themes at the end of this page.

Old Town San Diego Historic State Park – This is the main attraction. There are several blocks of buildings from the mid 19th century illustrating the history of California’s first European Settlement. Start your visit in the McCoy House Interpretive Center, which is behind the Visitor Center.

Old Wagons in Old TownWells Fargo Stage Coach Museum – See one of the few remaining Wells Fargo Stagecoaches and learn the history of the Butterfield Overland Mail Service, which connected the remote adventures, who made their way to California, to their friends and family back East before the days of transcontinental railroads and telegraphs.

Whaley House – The Travel Channel once named this home, built in 1857, as the Most Haunted House in America.

Heritage Park Victorian Village – Collection of six Victorian style homes and San Diego’s first Synagogue.

Bazaar Del Mundo – Nine international specialty shops and a popular Mexican restaurant.

Visitors enjoying Old TownCygnet Theatre – Peformances by a local award-winning theatre company.

Food Options in Old Town

San Diego Avenue runs through the middle of Old Town. This street, as well as adjoining streets, offer many restaurants to choose from. Mexican restaurants are the most predominate but you will also find Italian and American fare. There are no national chains in Old Town.

Information on Visiting Old Town

Admission Prices:

  • Parking is Free.
  • old-town-gems

  • Entrance to most Attractions is Free. A few do charge a nominal fee. Read the details for each attraction here at The Best Places in San Diego web site for more details.

Directions from Google Maps to 4002 Wallace Street in San Diego, CA 92110. (Location of the Old Town State Park Visitors Center.)

Parking – There is free street parking in Old Town. However, many spots limit parking time to 2 or 3 hours. You will also see a number of parking lots on the Old Town State Park Map. The best parking opportunities can be found by driving along Juan Street between the corner with Taylor Street and just north of the corner with Harney Street at the Heritage Park Victorian Village.

Shopping area in Old TownOverall, the best advice is to take the first available parking spot as you enter Old Town. If you don’t have patience looking for a parking spot, you should take the San Diego Trolley. (See Transit below.) On evenings and weekends, you can use the CALTRANS parking lot at 4050 Taylor Street. From here, you will have about a quarter mile walk, including crossing the busy Taylor Street.

Traffic – It is relatively easy to reach Old Town since it is close to both the I-5 and I-8 freeways. Traffic on the I-5 is not bad in this area. You will have some heavy delays if you need to head east on I-8 during the evening rush hour. There will also be a slight delay if you need to head west on I-8 to the end of the freeway during the evening rush hour. (Learn how to get the latest traffic updates.) The hardest part is dealing with the number of cars on the streets in Old Town looking for parking spots, especially in the evenings during summer and on weekends.

Transit – The Blue and Green lines of the San Diego Trolley stop in Old Town. This is the best way to get in and out of Old Town. (See San Diego Transit Information for information on using the online Transit Planner and to print out a Trolley Schedule.)

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Attractions*, Old Town |

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