I’m a sucker for an “old” town. Almost every where you go, you can find the roots of the city or county, and they are some of my most favorite stops to add to an itinerary! When you’re in Southern California, San Diego’s Old Town State Park is one you definitely don’t want to miss!
Having been a San Diegan since I was 3 years old, I have a particularly soft spot for Old Town State Park. Not only did my family frequently take the bus/trolley to and from this location, but the school curriculum in the city dictates that we spend a week in 4th grade exploring our own city. I grew up just 5 minutes from Old Town in Point Loma, and I’ll never forget how much excitement I felt heading there each day to start exploring (I even dreamed of having my wedding at The Presidio, where it’ll be held later this year)!
You can follow Old Town State Park on Instagram to keep up with all the latest events, but I also compiled a list of some of my favorites. Huge thanks to my girl Megan at Megan Porras photography for helping me with my little Spring photo shoot in the park, too!
Some of the park highlights:
What was once a small adobe home built in 1827, has become a modern (for an “old” town that is) two-story hotel and restaurant. Over it’s almost 200 years in existence, it’s also been a stagecoach office, olive cannery, and a popular Mexican restaurant. This is one of the places where my mom and I enjoy having brunch occasionally (its offered Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm), after we get our steps in walking around the park! Highly recommend asking for a table in the gazebo outside while you enjoy your meal! They frequently have discounted rooms on major sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Priceline! It’s a great choice for a staycation or out-of-town visitors.
Filled with treasures, there is no bounds to the colorful array of trinkets, home decor, and other fun items you can find at Bazaar del Mundo! You can also come here for unique gifts, jewelry, and they frequently host outdoor markets and craft fairs with local artisans! Fun for window shopping, and even more fun to peruse for the perfect San Diego souvenirs!
Nestled right next to Bazaar del Mundo, Casa Guadalajara is one of San Diego’s most well-known places for an authentic experience (and my personal fave, a jalapeño margarita)! Friendly service, great food, killer cocktails, and an ambiance you can’t beat! And we can’t forget the awesome live mariachi music, and the beautiful outdoor dining area options!
Again, this is one of my favorite places in the city. It’s visible from the 8 freeway, peeking from the top of the hill in all of its glory! You can actually climb the tower for an astounding view of the city, and the museum hosts several original artifacts from California and San Diego, respectively. The yellow border of the parking lot across from the museum marks the first settlement of California, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this July, 2019! A popular spot for photography classes, family photo shoots (and my own engagement shoot shamelessly shown below), and events like weddings and banquets, this venue has it all! There’s also a trail that leads up from Hotel Circle to the top of the Presidio, and plaques giving more detail about the property and its views on the outside terraces. There’s a large park next door, perfect for a picnic!
Constructed in 1857, this house was originally the first two story residence (and building, period) in San Diego. Thomas Whaley constructed it himself with bricks from his own brickyard. It later became a courthouse, and its still a popular site for tourists. Last renovated in 2000, its seen many re-organizations, but still hosts a lot of the original work and artifacts from the first families to live/work here! Since it was built, it has housed a granary, the County Court House, San Diego’s first commercial theater, various businesses including Thomas Whaley’s own general store, a ballroom, a billiard hall, school, and polling place. Its famed for being haunted, especially concerning the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885. A man accused of larceny was also hung in the gallows that used to exist behind the house in the 1800s. It’s been a museum since 1960.
Do yourself a favor and go here. If for nothing else, do it for the fresh tortillas that someone’s Abuela is making in front of the restaurant. You also can’t beat the queso fundido, and the Molcajete: a molcajete served with shrimp, steak, chicken, and all the fixings!
Home to 477 bodies (and two rumored ghosts), this cemetery is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons: 1) one of the rumored ghosts was shot by a 12 man firing squad (including Mr. Thomas Whaley) right in front of his grave and 2) a lot of the graves were actually paved over to make the street you see right in front of the fence bordering it! It’s a little eerie, but its interesting to read the stories of the people still buried there on the posts by their grave sites.
This blast from the past look into the Sherifs organization is open Wednesday-Sunday, and boasts replicas of Sheriff offices, as well as cars, motorcycles, and even jail cells! You really want to remember your visit? A docent will take a photo of you or your family in a cell for you! It’s a cool way to learn about the evolution of the Sheriffs here in San Diego, and take in some of the relics they’ve been able to preserve over decades!
Old Town’s largest pottery shop, with hand painted terra cotta and pottery as far as the eye can see! Beautiful pots, wind chimes, keepsakes, and decor abound! It’s a treasure trove for fun and unique items!
Tahona is the new kid on the block, so to speak, but they’re killing the game! Fresh takes on Oaxacan traditions (like, we ate crickets, y’all) and mezcal flights, along with mezcal cocktails, and other tasty libations! Educated staff, a dedicated tasting room open every night (they’re currently offering a Groupon deal for tasting) and a super cool space where you can unwind and try something new and fun! Keep up with them on social media for special tasting events, bartender collars, and mezcal tours just over the border in Mexico!
These are just some of my personal favorites! When it comes to the things to do in Old Town, this post barely scratches the surface! There’s a beautiful Catholic Church, a playhouse, several restaurants and shops (think blankets, Mexican candy, paintings, housewares, and more), and all kinds of historic landmarks to explore around the main square! There are several different events and celebrations throughout the year, as well! Think Cinco de Mayo and 4th of July!
Looking for more about San Diego, and all there is to see here? Follow Curves and a Carry On on Pinterest to read more, or save this post to read again later!