Old San Diego State Historic Park is nestled in the Old Town portion of San Diego. Established as a California State Park in 1968, this area comprises about 29 acres of protected land. It is bursting with original adobe historic buildings dating back to 1820, locally owned gift shops with unique trinkets, and delicious restaurants to dine in.
Old San Diego State Historic Park is a lovely way to take a step back in time. It is so lovely in fact that In the years of 2005 and 2006, Old San Diego State Historic Park was California’s most visited State Park according to California State Parks. It is a special place that honors the history of California and provides a fun experience for the whole family. Want to visit yourself? Here is your guide to Old San Diego State Historic Park.
Must See Places At San Diego State Historic Park
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is a collection of protected historic buildings throughout the plaza. Each building is bursting with remnants of original owners and reminders of the area’s rich history. Here are a few you should not miss wandering through.
- McCoy House: Sheriff James McCoy and his wife Winnifred called this large, two story 1869 house their home. Originally, McCoy designed this Greek Revival architectural style place as a wedding gift to his soon to be wife. But he included various amenities to help his neighbors family out as well, such as ample shade and a large front porch for any passersby to rest on. This home really gives a glimpse to how more wealthy families of the day lived.
- Seely Stable: Do you want a glimpse into what an 1869 constructed barn may be like? The Seely Stable holds a wonderful collection of vehicles from the 19th-century, a wonderfully preserved mud wagon, Concord horse drawn stagecoach, and huge two-wagon freighter that was used to haul materials. The original barn unfortunately was demolished in the late 1920s but these 1974 reconstructed Seeley Stable houses are incredible reflections of the original.
- The Colorado House: Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts first built the Colorado House as a hotel in 1851. But he had more aspirations for the site and soon rented the building out for various tenants. Some offers in the hotel included the town newspaper, a surgeon, a hairdresser, and a jeweler. Unfortunately in 1972 the Colorado House was damaged in a fire, but in 1992 was reconstructed to its former glory.
- The Schoolhouse: This one room building was San Diego County’s very first publicly owned school. Built in 1865, the school no longer sits on its original site but it has been preserved with its pot bellied stove, ten foot high ceilings, and artifacts of past students.
Although much of the State Park is dedicated to preservation and education of San Diego’s history; those who like to shop will enjoy this area as well. The shopping destination to explore is the Old Town Market. There are over 40 unique and locally owned businesses located in the market.
Bonita Blanket has numerous Mexican textiles such as t-shirts, blankets, and ponchos for the whole family. Younger ones will definitely want to try on one of their colorful Mexican wrestling masks!
Best Of Old Town seems to have just about everything. Hawaiian shirts, dresses, flip flops, etc. But the must see items here are the handcrafted pieces imported from Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala.
Hint of Heritage is a shop dedicated to indigenous items for sale. Here you can purchase yourself a beautifully crafted dream catcher or other native gifts for your loved ones.
San Diego Art sells everything any sea shell lover would like. From shell covered boxes to artwork showcasing sea shells. You will find a customized gift that reminds you of the sea no matter how land locked you are.
Old Town Market has many more shops to explore with gifts and souvenirs for all; including your pet!
With so many places to dine in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park there is no worry about having to brown bag it.
- Rust General Store: Items sold at RUST reflect products one may enjoy in the 1860s. Here you can find Sausage on a Stick – which forgoes the traditional bun, a selection of sweet breads and savory scones, as well as locally cured salami and cheese paninis. The drink menu is quite extensive with Sarsaparillas, Lemon Lime and Bitters, Bavarian Root Beers, and unique flavored syrups to try.
- Casa de Reyes: The atmosphere at Casa de Reyes matches the vibrant and authentic Mexican dishes. The menu includes items such as tamales, fajita platters, and amaretto flans. All enjoyed by the center stage offering free, live entertainment beside the warm fire pits.
- Cousin’s Old Town Candy Shop: Known for their salt water taffy, this candy shop makes hundreds of pounds daily. Other fresh and daily made sweets include old fashion treats such as Walnetto’s, Root Beer Barrels, and Mary Janes. Huckleberry syrups, jams, and fudge. As well as enough chocolate goodies like chocolate creams, almond clusters, and peanut butter cups – you may go into a sugar coma!
- Admission to the Old Town State Historic Park and all individual museums within it is free. But you can opt for a great guided tour for a fee.
- From October through April the museums’ hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. During May through September, the attractions are open each day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week.
- Although street parking is free you can also reach the historic park by public transportation. The nearby Old Town Station provides visitors access to several surface bus routes as well as the Green line on San Diego’s light rail system.
- Your favorite furry friend is allowed to join you at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in outdoor areas only. But dogs are not allowed inside museums or any buildings.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is a bustling place full of historic artifacts, rich Mexican culture, and unique experiences for the whole family. Make sure you make this Southern California park a must do on your bucket list!
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus