Old Town San Diego marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast and features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites, colorful shops, early-California-style restaurants, museums, a theater and the restored Cosmopolitan Hotel. Considered the "birthplace" of California, visitors can witness the living legacy of California's birthplace in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park as history come alive in the many preserved historic buildings and museums allowing you to "go back in time" and visit California's history firsthand.
Known for colorful Mexican cuisine, Old Town's dining is lively and vibrant. For authentic flavors and techniques in an upscale atmosphere, diners head to El Agave. This second-floor hacienda-style hideaway boasts a mind-blowing tequila collection and a menu specializing in upscale dishes that celebrate indigenous Mexican ingredients. At Café Coyote, the festive décor, massive margaritas, strolling mariachis and open air atmosphere prove that diners don't have to choose between flavor and fun. For a change of pace, Harney Sushi offers creative Japanese dishes and sushi roll concoctions, such as the "Mike Check" roll featuring lobster, cilantro, garlic ponzu and wonton chips, as well as expertly prepared traditional nigiri. Needless to say, Mexican cuisine is the specialty in Old Town, and you'll find authentic fare at Old Town Mexican Cafe y Cantina or any of the other local cantinas.
The Old Town State Historical Park maintains a collection of 19th century homes and businesses that give visitors a glimpse into colonial life in San Diego. It takes a little work to find the old adobe ranch homes, schoolhouse and graveyard spread among the occupied areas of the neighborhood, but it's well worth the effort. Kit Carson was among the first pioneers to raise the American flag here in 1846. There are numerous rumors of ghost sightings in the area - most persistently at the old Whaley House Museum on San Diego Avenue.
The Whaley House & Museum is one of only two officially designated haunted houses in California. Constructed in 1856 on a former gallows' site, the house was once home to the Whaley family as well as San Diego's first theater and the county courthouse.
Constructed in 1825, Casa de Estudillo unveils the lifestyle of a prominent San Diego family and is the most famous of the original adobe buildings in Old Town, furnished with representative items from the 16th to 20th centuries within its 13 rooms.
The Junípero Serra Museum in Old Town's Presidio Park is one of the most familiar landmarks in San Diego and is recognized as the site where California began. Neighboring Heritage Park showcases San Diego's Victorian era with six picturesque homes and San Diego's first synagogue, built between 1887-1910.
Shopping in Old Town State Historic Park reflects the history of the 1800s and captures the essence of San Diego's colorful past. Shoppers can find a diverse selection of stores, from Cousin's Candy where fresh taffy is made and Toby's Candle Shop where visitors can make their own candles to the Johnson House that specializes in millinery and Alvarado Provisions with its unique gourmet foods. In the center of Old Town, visitors will find the Old Town Market Place, an open-air courtyard with a variety of carts and shops that sell handcrafted trinkets, clothing and accessories traditional to the Mexican culture.
Nestled in the heart of Old Town State Historic Park, Bazaar Del Mundo, a San Diego shopping and dining institution, is popular for food, folklore and fun. Just as the early pioneers came west looking for a better life and remained in San Diego when they found it, visitors who come to Old Town to see the sights often make a day of it when they discover the wonderful shops and excellent restaurants in the Bazaar Del Mundo. Translated as "marketplace of the world," Bazaar del Mundo features international shops and award-winning restaurants. Here, shoppers can find Mexican gifts without ever crossing the International Border, as well as a dazzling array of ethnic clothing, jewelry, pottery, furnishings and many other international treasures. Casual and fine dining restaurants and countless special events are also among the attractions that bring visitors to Bazaar del Mundo year-round.
On the hillside overlooking Old Town is Presidio Park where Father Junipero Serra founded the first of California's Spanish missions in 1769. The museums here and at the current Mission site, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley, have excellent exhibits about the area's early history.
With more than 100 distinct neighborhoods in San Diego, you're always just blocks away from a new experience. Discover other nearby San Diego neighborhoods such as Mission Valley, Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.