Have you heard of Old Town San Diego? Maybe yes, maybe no? Want to learn about all of the fun things to do in Old Town San Diego?
We love visiting Old Town in San Diego. We have been more times than we can count. There are so many things to do in Old Town San Diego that will keep you busy for a few hours or even an entire day.
The Old Town San Diego activities and shops are a fun way to spend a day in San Diego California!
In this post, we are going to explore this amazing historical location of San Diego and learn what to do in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
We will give you a little background and history and then list all of the fun San Diego Old Town museums, some of the Old Town San Diego activities and shops, entertainment options, and even recommendations for restaurants in Old Town San Diego CA.
There are lots of Old Town San Diego attractions to explore. Let's get started with the best things to do in Old Town San Diego!
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What Is Old Town San Diego CA?
San Diego is the birthplace of California. There is so much history and culture in this area that the state has made a special historic district dedicated to preserving the history of San Diego.
Colonizing San Diego
Old Town San Diego was the first permanent European settlement in California. In 1769 Father Junipero Serra came to establish missions and colonize California. In 1821 Mexico declared independence from Spain and California became Alta California under Mexican rule.
Mexican – American War
Fast forward to the Mexican and American War of 1846 and that's when things became pretty exciting in the San Diego area. The people who lived in San Diego were conflicted between being loyal to Mexico or claiming independence. A man named Fremont staked his claim of independence and became territorial Governor.
The Mormon Battalion from the United States Army arrived in 1847 in San Diego and established close relationships with the people of San Diego. They helped establish the city until the war was over in 1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transferred San Diego to the US!
Gold is Discovered
The county of San Diego contained gold and other precious gems such as tourmaline, kunzite, morganite, topaz, garnet, and gold, spurring immigration and development in the area.
In 1850, California was granted statehood. The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park represents the history of San Diego from the years 1821-1872.
Where is Old Town San Diego Located?
Old Town San Diego is located about 13 minutes from the San Diego International Airport, about 11 minutes from the San Diego Zoo, 15 minutes from the USS Midway Marina District, 10 minutes from Sea World, and 8 minutes from Balboa Park.
Old Town San Diego Historic Park
Old Town San Diego is a blast from the past. This living history park allows you to take a step back in time to see how people lived and worked in the time periods of 1821-1872.
There are many things to do in Old Town San Diego such as museums, restaurants, shopping, and live music entertainment.
Admission and Hours
This is a free thing to do in San Diego!
The hours are from 10:00 am – 4:30 or 5:00 pm depending on the season.
Parking at Old Town Historic Park
There is street parking all along the area. If it is busy you may want to plan extra time to find a spot. There are 5 parking lots located on both sides of the Old Town Historic Park.
The parking on the street is free and we were able to find a great spot during a very busy time. The community lots are great if you arrive early or are visiting at a time that is not busy, but at other times there can be lines of cars circling for a spot at Old Town in San Diego.
Tours of Old Town San Diego Historic Park
Meet at the visitor center at 11:00 am or 2:00 pm for a guided tour from the park services. Another amazing thing to do in Old Town is to go on a guided Ghost tour of San Diego Old Town.
Things to Do in Old Town San Diego – Museums
The museums are the best part of Old Town San Diego. There are a lot of places to check out but a lot of them are as simple as walking through. Some are more in-depth and will take more time.
- Visitor Center
- Mormon Battalion Museum
- Whaley House – $10 admission
- Adobe Chapel
- Black Hawk Livery and Blacksmith
- Casa de Estudillo
- Casa de Machado y Silva
- San Diego Sheriff's Museum & Educational Center
- Seeley Stables
- San Diego Union Building
- Junipero Serra Museum
- Wells Fargo Museum
Old Town San Diego Attractions
The museums are fun for the whole family. In historic Old Town San Diego, you will see all of these buildings how they were in the 1800s. You can walk and explore the blacksmith shop or visit the bank.
During certain seasons there are San Diego Old Town activities for the kids to do as they look at the different houses.
Things to Do in Old Town San Diego – Shops and Entertainment
Shopping is also one of the top things to do in Old Town San Diego historic park. There are so many fun Old Town San Diego shops to explore.
You will find handmade items as well as specialty shops that have a little something for everyone.
If you are looking for things to see in Old Town San Diego, make sure to stop at the magic shop.
My kids loved going to the magic shop. The shop wasn't very big but the owner has lots of tricks up his sleeves if you know what I mean.
It was fun seeing all the magic tricks and looking at the items in the store.
Old Town San Diego Live Entertainment
If live music is your thing you will not be disappointed. We enjoyed sitting around and listening to music.
It is a great way to spend some time resting and enjoying the day. This was definitely one of the best things to do in Old Town San Diego.
More Old Town San Diego CA Shops
As you walk along San Diego Old Town what you will find is that there is a courtyard with museums and shops but all throughout this area there are many more shops with local amazing cultural items that you will love.
You could easily spend an hour or two exploring the streets of Old Town San Diego just shopping.
Best Restaurants at Old Town San Diego
When I go to Old Town San Diego one of the things I look most forward to is eating! There are some amazing Mexican restaurants in this area.
Everything is made fresh you can even watch as the restaurant prepares fresh tortillas. I haven't had a chance to eat at all of these restaurants but most recently we went to Cafe Coyote and really liked it. There are also food tours in this area.
Here are the best restaurants in Old Town San Diego according to USA Today:
Mexican Food in Old Town
- Cafe Coyote
- Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina
- Miguel's Cocina
- Casa de Reyes
- Casa Guadalajara
One thing that surprised me is that the Sushi in Old Town is supposed to be the best in all of San Diego.
Non- Mexican Restaurants in Old Town San Diego
- Sushi Tadokora
- Harney Sushi
- Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant
- Jack and Giulio's Italian Restaurant
- Barra Barra Saloon
Hopefully, you will get to try a few of these places out! If it is your birthday you may even get to be serenaded by a mariachi band!
I loved visiting Old Town San Diego for my Birthday! It was a so fun! I highly recommend going to the restaurants at Old Town San Diego Ca!
Annual Events at Old Town San Diego
There are lots of fun things to do in Old Town San Diego during special Mexican holidays like Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos.
There are also great events for normal American holidays like 4th of July and Christmas.
Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is the most lively time to go to Old Town San Diego Historic Park. This event attracts over 100,000 people from all around.
There are over 40 Latin bands. A competition for Mariachis and the Ballet Folklorico is located in the Old Town historic state park. One of the highlights is Lucha libre wrestling. All weekend long you can cheer on your favorite wrestler!
Old Town 4th of July Celebration
An old-fashioned celebration with parades, crafts, and early Old Town San Diego activities. There are lots of demonstrations of music and clothing from the early San Diego era.
Old Town Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Old Town San Diego Dia de los Muertos event starts with a candlelight processional that expands the entire mile and a half of the Historic Old Town Park.
The weekend events include traditional face painting and mask making. This is the holiday to honor the dead, and a public alter is located in El Campo Santo cemetery where everyone is encouraged to add memories of their loved ones.
Old Town Los Posadas (celebration of the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem)
This celebration is from December 16-24 to honor Mary and Joseph's journey to deliver the baby Jesus. Decorations are everywhere! There is a piñata after the processional.
San Diego Old Town is where you will want to be during these holidays!
Things to Do in Old Town San Diego – Tours
If you are looking for things to do in Old Town San Diego consider going on a tour. There are lots of fun tours in the San Diego area.
Old Town Trolley Tour San Diego: Hop On Hop Off
Also, if you start at Old Town and want to see more of the city it will take you to your next location. This is a really popular tour.
Guided Tour of San Diego with Dinner Cruise
The Guided San Diego Tour with Dinner Cruise is a great option to learn and discover things that only a tour guide would know!
Are You Ready for All the Fun Things to Do in Old Town San Diego?
On our three days in San Diego, Old Town San Diego was one of our favorite stops! We loved all of the fun things to do in Old Town San Diego. Hopefully, this post gives you lots of ideas of what to do in Old Town San Diego.
I know you will have so much fun!
San Diego is one of the best cities in California and is a great family vacation. I highly recommend it!
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