Old Town San Diego is the site of the first European settlement in California, and as such, is also San Diego’s oldest settled area. In 1769, Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra formed a mission and the San Diego Presidio at the western end of the San Diego River Valley, which was the beginning of the first Spanish settlement. By 1820, the town of San Diego had begun to spring up at the location of what is now the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. When California was admitted to the Union, San Diego was made the county seat, despite having a population of only 650.
Today the area—and especially the State Historic Park—is a great place to go in San Diego, with a host of different attractions, celebrations, and things to see. Many of San Diego’s most important events and celebrations are held in the Old Town, including the city’s main Cinco de Mayo festival. Other events include an art festival each October, Stagecoach Days, Twainfest, and special Christmas programs.
In 2005 & ’06, Old Town San Diego was listed as California’s most visited State Park. The State Historic Park is certainly central to this historic district, and covers nine square blocks. Historic buildings and museums include:
- Blacksmith’s shop
- San Diego’s first public school
- Sheriff’s Museum
- Historic office & print shop
- The first courthouse in San diego
- Reconstructed 19th-century stables
- The famous Casa de Estudillo adobe house
In the area surrounding the State Park, you can discover more of San Diego during the 1800s, at both the Heritage Park Victorian Village and the Whaley House Museum. Presidio Park’s 40 acres are also adjacent, along with the great views, and excellent picnic areas that it offers. The Serra museum is also located in the park.
Before you head off to see San Diego’s Old Town district, consider printing off this map containing 84 different historic sites, restaurants, shops, hotels, and entertainment locations. Every sort of cuisine can be found at the restaurants, with assortments of early Californian foods, seafood, Peruvian, Japanese, Creole, Italian, and of course Mexican food. You can see great lists of restaurants here and here.
Before you leave, be sure to stop by the Old Town Market, with local artisans, handmade items for sale, and good food.