San Diego/Old Town-Mission Valley
The birthplace of San Diego, Old Town is now 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, Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers), and the Mission San Diego de Alcala, the oldest of the California missions.
Mission Valley is strung along I-8 and several interstates intersect with I-8 through the valley, making access by car relatively easy. Old Town is located just off the intersection of I-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 Qualcomm 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, Chargers games, and the holiday shopping season when shoppers flock to Mission Valley's many retail outlets.
By public transit
The 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.
- Mission San Diego de Alcala, 10818 San Diego Mission Rd (public transit: San Diego Trolley to Mission San Diego station), ☎ +1 619 281-8449. 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.
- Adobe Chapel Museum, 3950 Conde St, ☎ +1 619 297-7511. Sa-Su 10AM-5PM.
- Heritage Park. A park in Old Town ringed with historic Victorian houses.
- Immaculate Conception Church. A historic Mission-style church in Old Town dating back to 1919.
- Mormon Battalion Visitors' Center of San Diego, 2510 Juan St, ☎ +1 619 298-3317. Daily 9AM-9PM. A monument to the hundreds of Mormons who fought in the US-Mexican War. Free.
- 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.
- Junipero Serra Museum, 2727 Presidio Dr, ☎ +1 619 297-3258. Summer: F-Su 10AM-5PM; Winter: Sa-Su 10AM-5PM. 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. $6 adults, $4 students/seniors/military, $3 youth, free for children under 6.
- Sheriff's Museum, 2384 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 260-1850. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. Learn the history of the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Free. Donations accepted.
- Whaley House, 2482 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 297-7511. Winter: Su-Tu 10AM-4:30PM, Th-Sa 10AM-9:30PM. Summer: Daily 10AM-9:30PM. 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 $8 adults, $6 seniors/children, free for children 5 and under. Nighttime admission $13 adults, $8 seniors/children, not recommended for children 5 and under.
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.
- Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center, 4002 Wallace St, ☎ +1 619 220-5422. 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.
- Altamirano-Pedrorena House, on San Diego Ave (next to Casa de Estudillo). Built in 1869, as a family residence, but is currently the site of a rock, gem, and jewelry shop.
- Black Hawk Smithy & Stable (between Mason & Twiggs Streets). Established in 1860. At the site, visitors can watch blacksmithing and other demonstrations.
- Casa de Estudillo, 4001 Mason St. A beautiful historic adobe house that has been lovingly restored to its original appearance.
- Light-Freeman House, 2767 San Diego Ave. Built in 1830, the house was originally an adobe saloon and provision stores became it became known as The American Hotel around 1856.
- Mason Street Schoolhouse, 3966 Mason St (off Mason and Congress), ☎ +1 619 297-1183. 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.
- San Diego Courthouse, 2731 San Diego Ave. The original courthouse, which dates back to 1847.
- San Diego Union Museum (located next to the Altamirano-Pedrorena House). The first office of the San Diego Union newspaper.
- Seeley Stable Museum (on Calhoun between Twiggs and Mason). 10AM-5PM daily. A reconstructed stage coach stop with a collection of vintage carriages inside. Free.
- Wells Fargo History Museum, 2733 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 238-3929. Daily 10AM-5PM. A historically furnished bank office. Free.
- Qualcomm Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd (near the intersection of I-8 and I-15), ☎ +1 619 280-2121, toll-free: +1-877-CHARGERS (24274377). Home to the NFL San Diego Chargers and the college SDSU Aztecs football teams. Chargers tickets $65-$150.
- University of San Diego Toreros, Jenny Craig Pavilion, 5998 Alcala Park (exit I-8 at Morena Blvd and turn right on Linda Vista Road). The Torero college basketball team plays their home games at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the USD campus. The Torero college baseball team plays at Cunningham Stadium and their college football team play at Torero Stadium (both also on the USD campus). USD competes in the West Coast Conference.
- Cygnet Theater, 4040 Twiggs St, ☎ +1 619 688-2494. 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.
- Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Rd, ☎ +1 619 688-9113. M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Nearly 200 stores and restaurants, including several department stores and a movie theater.
- Westfield Mission Valley, 1640 Camino del Rio North, ☎ +1 619 296-6375. M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Over 150 stores and restaurants, including a movie theater and the large Seau's sports restaurant.
- 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.
- Cousin's Candy Shop, 2711 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 297-2000. Taffy made on the premises.
- Fiesta de Reyes, Juan & Calhoun St, ☎ +1 619 297-3100. 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.
- Johnson House, 2706 Calhoun St, ☎ +1 619 291-5170. Victorian hats, related books, and jewelry in a 1869 style house.
- Lowery's Hot Glass, 3985 Harney St, ☎ +1 619 297-3473. Hand blown glass art made on premises.
- Maidhof Bros., 1891 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 574-1891. Sells genuine ships' salvage items such as wheels, brass portholes, furniture of all kinds including some amazing captain’s desks, compasses, navigational equipment, lamps, lanterns and ropes.
- Racine and Laramie, 2737 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 291-7833. Gorgeous award winning 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.
- Casa De Reyes, 2754 Calhoun St, ☎ +1 619 220-5040. Mexican food with lovely courtyard, and wandering musicians.
- Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, 2660 Calhoun St, ☎ +1 619 209-3525. M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 10AM-10PM. A beautiful dining establishment in a building originally built by Juan Bandini in 1829. Later, in the 1860's, 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.
- O'Hungry's, 2547 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 298-0133. Happy Hour: Mo-Fr 3PM-6:30PM. Soup and salad (very limited), sandwiches, yards and half yards of beer, live music on weekend nights.
- Old Town Mexican Café, 2489 San Diego Ave, ☎ +1 619 297-4330. Daily 7AM-2AM. Huge portions.
- Oggi's, 2245 Fenton Pkwy, ☎ +1 619 640-1072. 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 TV's to watch sports as well.
- McGregors, 10475 San Diego Mission Rd, ☎ +1 619 282-9797. A grill and ale house, great place to watch sports at, has pool tables, darts and shuffleboard.
- In Cahoots, 5373 Mission Center Rd, ☎ +1 619 291-1184. A two story country bar and dance saloon has a lot of pool tables and they hold line dancing classes and contests.
Most of the hotels in this area are of the chain variety, located along Interstates 5 or 8 and loudly proclaiming their proximity to Old Town as well as Sea World in nearby Mission Bay. Hotel Circle, located along I-8 in the western part of Mission Valley, is home to a large number of basic chain hotels.
- Americas Best Value Padre Trail Inn, 4200 Taylor St, ☎ +1 619 297-3291. 100-room hotel.
- Best Western Hacienda Hotel Old Town, 4041 Harney St, ☎ +1 619 298-4707, fax: +1 619 298-4771. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. $150-250.
- Comfort Inn & Suites, 2201 Hotel Circle South, ☎ +1 619 881-6800, fax: +1 619 542-1227. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM.
- Comfort Suites Mission Valley, 631 Camino Del Rio S, ☎ +1 619 881-4000, fax: +1 619 881-4037. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- Courtyard Old Town, 2435 Jefferson St.
- Doubletree Mission Valley, 7450 Hazard Center Dr (at Hazard Center), ☎ +1-619-297-5466. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM.
- Handlery Hotel, 950 Hotel Circle North, ☎ +1 619 298-0511. A warm, friendly welcome and some big, lush rooms. Also has a hotel mini-bus to take you to SeaWorld.
- Holiday Inn Express San Diego Airport - Old Town, 1955 San Diego Ave, toll-free: +1-800-664-9491.
- La Quinta Old Town, 2380 Moore St, ☎ +1 619 291-9100, toll-free: +1-800-753-3757, fax: +1 619 291-5837. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. $99-250.
- Marriott Mission Valley, 8757 Rio San Diego Dr, ☎ +1 619-692-3800.
- Mission Valley Resort, 875 Hotel Circle South, ☎ +1 619 298-8281. $100-$150.
- Old Town Inn, 4444 Pacific Highway, toll-free: +1-800-643-3025.
- Ramada Mission Valley, 4380 Alvarado Canyon Rd, ☎ +1 619 281-2222, toll-free: +1-800-905-3206. Hotel with swimming pool and complimentary continental breakfast.
- Sheraton Mission Valley, 1433 Camino Del Rio South, toll-free: +1-866-716-8130.
- Town and Country, 500 Hotel Circle North, ☎ +1 619 291-7131, toll-free: +1-800-772-8527. Resort with swimming pools, restaurants, spa facilities, golf, and beautiful gardens.
- Western Inn, 3889 Arista St, ☎ +1 619 298-6888, toll-free: +1-888-475-2353, fax: +1 619 692-4497. $80-140.
- Vagabond Inn Mission Valley, 625 Hotel Circle South, ☎ +1 619 297-1691, fax: +1 619 692-9009. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- San Diego Public Library Mission Valley Branch, 2123 Fenton Parkway (next to the Fenton Parkway Trolley station), ☎ +1 858 573-5007. M Th-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Su 12:30-5PM. Free WiFi available.