Old Town & Mission Valley
The birthplace of San Diego, Old Town is a popular tourist district of historic buildings and Mexican-themed shops and restaurants sitting at the foot of Mission Valley, a major commercial center lining the San Diego River that is home to several shopping centers, Snapdragon Stadium, and the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the oldest of the California missions.
Mission Valley is strung along Interstate 8 and several interstates intersect with I-8 through the valley, making access by car relatively easy. Old Town is just off the intersection of Interstate 5 and I-8 at the western end of the valley, SR-163 intersects I-8 near the Fashion Valley shopping center, and I-805, and I-15 cross I-8 in the eastern part of the valley near Snapdragon Stadium.
Getting through Mission Valley in a car is quite painless, given the large boulevards and numerous parking lots. However, finding a place to park in Old Town can be a real drag. Even Mission Valley's large roads can get clogged with traffic during rush hours, sports events, and the holiday shopping season when shoppers flock to Mission Valley's many retail outlets.
By public transit
The 1 Old Town Transit Center (at 4005 Taylor St, near the intersection of Taylor Street and Pacific Highway at the northwest corner of Old Town) and the Fashion Valley shopping center in Mission Valley are hubs for many local Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) bus routes. In addition, the Old Town Transit Center serves the Coaster, a commuter rail service which runs north along the coast of San Diego County to Oceanside, and certain Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains (check the schedule, as not all trains stop in Old Town).
The San Diego Trolley, a light rail service operated by the MTS, runs through Old Town and Mission Valley. The Green Line comes up from Downtown and stops at the Old Town Transit Center before turning east and heading through Mission Valley (making stops at all the shopping centers, Qualcomm Stadium, and the Mission San Diego), then continuing east past SDSU out to El Cajon and Santee.
- 1 Mission San Diego de Alcalá, 10818 San Diego Mission Rd (public transit: San Diego Trolley to Mission San Diego station), ☏ . Daily 9AM-4:30PM. The first of the Spanish California missions, founded in 1769 by Junipero Serra for the purposes of converting the native peoples who lived in the area at the time. In its long history, the mission has been the site of the first Christian burial and the first execution in California, saw bloodshed between the Spanish settlers and native peoples, and served as an armory in the years following U.S. annexation of California before being restored to an active church in 1941. Today, Mission San Diego is an active Catholic parish and a museum dedicated to the history of the mission. Tour the site, with its gardens, museum, and the original chapel. $3 adults, $2 seniors, $1 children.
- 2 Adobe Chapel Museum, 3950 Conde St, ☏ . Sa Su 10AM-5PM.
- 3 Heritage Park. A park in Old Town ringed with historic Victorian houses.
- 4 Immaculate Conception Church. A historic Mission-style church in Old Town dating back to 1919.
- 5 Mormon Battalion Visitors' Center of San Diego, 2510 Juan St, ☏ . Daily 9AM-9PM. A monument to the hundreds of Mormons who fought in the US-Mexican War. Free.
- 6 Presidio Park. Perched on the hill above Old Town, this large park is the site of the old presidio (fort) that once protected the Spanish settlement of San Diego. The park contains canyons, tall trees, flowering plants, and grassy hillsides as well several memorials and historic landmarks, including the Junipero Serra Museum (see below) and the partially excavated presidio. The grassy lawns and hilltop views make it a great place to bring a picnic.
- 7 Junipero Serra Museum, 2727 Presidio Dr, ☏ . Sa and Su 10AM-4PM. Take the time to visit the historic site of what used to be the first ever California Mission, located in Presidio Park on the hill above Old Town. The museum includes exhibits on the life of Old Town and a tower which offers magnificent views of the area. by donation.
- 8 Sheriff's Museum, 2384 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. Learn the history of the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Free. Donations accepted.
- 9 Whaley House, 2476 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Winter: Su-Tu 10AM-4:30PM, Th-Sa 10AM-9:30PM. Summer: Daily 10AM-9:00PM. The oldest brick building and most famous haunted house in San Diego. Built in 1856, the north room of the museum served as the County Courthouse in 1869. The structure includes period furnishings and other antique displays. Come during the Halloween season for special night tours. Daytime admission $13.30 adults, $9.50 seniors/children, free for children 5 and under. Nighttime admission more.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
A historic district which encompasses most of Old Town and many of the area's original Spanish structures from when the settlement was founded in the 18th century. The park is around nine square blocks, or almost 30 acres, and can be toured with or without a guide.
- 10 Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center, 4002 Wallace St, ☏ . To begin touring, the best place to start is the visitor’s center, which includes a model of what the area looked like in 1872, maps, information about touring, and information about the area’s history. Free guided walking tours of Old Town depart daily at 11AM and 2PM. Free.
- 11 Altamirano-Pedrorena House, on San Diego Ave (next to Casa de Estudillo). Built in 1869, as a family residence, but is now the site of a rock, gem, and jewelry shop.
- 12 Black Hawk Smithy & Stable (between Mason & Twiggs Streets). Established in 1860. At the site, visitors can watch blacksmithing and other demonstrations.
- 13 Casa de Estudillo, 4001 Mason St. A beautiful historic adobe house that has been lovingly restored to its original appearance.
- 14 Light-Freeman House, 2767 San Diego Ave. Built in 1830, the house was an adobe saloon and provision stores until it became the American Hotel around 1856.
- 15 Mason Street Schoolhouse, 3966 Mason St (off Mason and Congress), ☏ . Daily 10AM-4PM. Established around 1865, this was the first public school house in San Diego. The school offers daily tours, and visitors can sit at the desk and examine the books on display. Free.
- 16 San Diego Courthouse, 2731 San Diego Ave. The original courthouse, which dates back to 1847.
- 17 San Diego Union Museum (located next to the Altamirano-Pedrorena House). The first office of the San Diego Union newspaper.
- 18 Seeley Stable Museum (on Calhoun between Twiggs and Mason). Daily 10AM-5PM. A reconstructed stage coach stop with a collection of vintage carriages inside. Free.
- 1 Snapdragon Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd (near the intersection of I-8 and I-15; there is no direct access from the I-805 freeway to Snapdragon Stadium--go around via I-8). Opened in September 2022 on the former site of San Diego Stadium as the new home of the San Diego State Aztecs college football team. The women's soccer team San Diego Wave FC (see below) and men's rugby team San Diego Legion (also below) also play here, and the city's team in Major League Soccer, San Diego FC, will start play here in 2025.
- 2 San Diego Toreros, Jenny Craig Pavilion, 5998 Alcala Park (exit I-8 at Morena Blvd and turn right on Linda Vista Road). NCAA Division I teams representing the University of San Diego. The basketball team plays their home games at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the USD campus. The Toreros college baseball team plays at Cunningham Stadium and their college football team plays at Torero Stadium (both also on the USD campus). USD competes in the West Coast Conference in most sports; since the WCC doesn't sponsor football, the Toreros play that sport in the Pioneer Football League.
- San Diego Wave FC, Snapdragon Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd (see stadium entry). Started play in 2022 in the National Women's Soccer League; moved from USD's stadium to Snapdragon Stadium when it opened. Wave FC's first game in the new stadium set a since-surpassed league attendance record.
- San Diego Legion, Snapdragon Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd (see stadium entry). Plays in Major League Rugby, the top level of US rugby union.
- 3 Cygnet Theater, 4040 Twiggs St, ☏ . Live performances held regularly.
Mission Valley is a major shopping hub for the entire region, with several large shopping centers and many big-box stores and retail outlets.
- 1 Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Rd, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Nearly 200 stores and restaurants, including several department stores and a movie theater.
- 2 Westfield Mission Valley, 1640 Camino del Rio North, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Over 150 stores and restaurants, including a movie theater and the large Seau's sports restaurant.
- 3 Hazard Center, 7510 Hazard Center Dr. Much smaller than the big centers in the valley, but with a nice assortment of shops nevertheless.
Old Town offers many different places to shop. There are over 100 stores in Old Town State Historic Park.
- 4 Cousin's Candy Shop, 2711 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Taffy made on the premises.
- 5 Fiesta de Reyes, Juan & Calhoun St, ☏ . A group of shops and restaurants operated by Delaware North, which runs concessions in other National Parks. Strolling musicians and beautiful flowers greet guests and there are often special (free) activities for children.
- 6 Johnson House, 2706 Calhoun St, ☏ . Victorian hats, related books, and jewelry in a 1869 style house.
- 7 Lowery's Hot Glass, 3985 Harney St, ☏ . Hand blown glass art made on premises.
- 8 Racine and Laramie, 2737 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Gorgeous reconstruction of San Diego's first tobacco store. Offers a variety of historically related gifts, gentlemen's accessories, marbles and harmonicas for children, historic photos, knives, and of course tobacco, pipes, and cigars.
Old Town not only offers great Mexican delicacies it also offers many other types of food like Italian or even some Irish Pubs. If you are planning on going during the weekend leave plenty of time because it will get crowded. Or, try to make reservations if the restaurant will take them.
- 1 Casa De Reyes, 2754 Calhoun St, ☏ . Mexican food with lovely courtyard, and wandering musicians.
- 2 Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, 2660 Calhoun St, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 10AM-10PM. A beautiful dining establishment in a building built by Juan Bandini in 1829. Later, in the 1860s, a second story was added and it became the Cosmopolitan Hotel. You can eat in the garden amid flowers, trees, and fountains or inside the wonderful historic building.
- 3 Hungry's Kitchen & Tap, 2547 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Happy Hour: M-F 3PM-6:30PM. Soup and salad (very limited), sandwiches, yards and half yards of beer, live music on weekend nights.
- 4 Old Town Mexican Café, 2489 San Diego Ave, ☏ . Daily 7AM-2AM. Huge portions.
- 5 In-N-Out Burger. One of the two locations most conveniently reached from downtown (the other is in National City to the south).
- 6 Oggi's, 2245 Fenton Pkwy, ☏ . Part of a local pizza chain in San Diego, they have a very extensive menu and also brew their own beer as well, with a stocked bar. Also has plenty of TVs to watch sports as well.
- 1 McGregors, 10475 San Diego Mission Rd, ☏ . A grill and ale house, great place to watch sports at, has pool tables, darts and shuffleboard.
Most of the hotels in this area are of the chain variety, along Interstates 5 or 8, and loudly proclaiming their proximity to Old Town and to Sea World in nearby Mission Bay. Hotel Circle, along I-8 in the western part of Mission Valley, is home to a lot of basic chain hotels.
- 1 Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town, 4041 Harney St, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon. $150-250.
- 2 Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego Hotel Circle/SeaWorld Area, 2201 Hotel Circle South, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon.
- 3 Courtyard Old Town, 2435 Jefferson St.
- 4 Doubletree Mission Valley, 7450 Hazard Center Dr (at Hazard Center), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon.
- 5 Handlery Hotel, 950 Hotel Circle North, ☏ . A warm, friendly welcome and some big, lush rooms. Also has a hotel mini-bus to take you to SeaWorld.
- 6 Holiday Inn Express San Diego Airport - Old Town, 1955 San Diego Ave, toll-free: .
- 7 La Quinta Old Town, 2380 Moore St, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. $99-250.
- 8 Marriott Mission Valley, 8757 Rio San Diego Dr, ☏ .
- 9 Old Town Inn, 4444 Pacific Highway, toll-free: .
- 10 Sheraton Mission Valley, 1433 Camino Del Rio South, toll-free: .
- 11 Town and Country, 500 Hotel Circle North, ☏ , toll-free: . Resort with swimming pools, restaurants, spa facilities, golf, and beautiful gardens.
- 12 Western Inn, 3889 Arista St, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . $80-140.
- 1 San Diego Public Library Mission Valley Branch, 2123 Fenton Parkway (next to the Fenton Parkway Trolley station), ☏ . M Th-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Su 12:30-5PM. Free Wi-Fi available.
|Mission Valley, California|
|Old Town, San Diego|