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San Diego History Adventures

Where history comes alive!

San Diego history comes alive at Old Town State Historic Park, the "birthplace of California," Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside and other historic landmarks in San Diego County.

Going Back in Time


Built in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado is one of the few surviving examples of the wooden Victorian beach resort and a testament to the grandeur of the age. A National Historic Landmark, the Del boasts antique beauty and historic charm with details like its original cage elevator, still hand-operated by an attendant. Filled with historical displays and photos of the hotel's legendary construction, its romantic past and old Hollywood connections, including its role as the backdrop for the wildly popular film Some Like it Hot, the Hotel Del Coronado is a treasure with many stories to tell. Docents of the Coronado Museum of History and Art lead Hotel Del Coronado walking tours on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Downtown & Gaslamp Quarter

Built in 1863 and considered the unofficial symbol of the San Diego waterfront, the Star of India is a full-rigged iron windjammer ship and part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Fully restored in 1963, she sails at least once a year and is the oldest iron-hulled merchant ship still floating. Unlike many preserved or restored vessels, her hull, cabins and equipment are nearly 100% original.

William Heath Davis was the first person to try to establish a "New Town" in what is now downtown San Diego because it was closer to San Diego Bay than the original Old Town, but his attempt ended in failure. His house, now the Gaslamp Museum at the William Heath Davis House, is the Gaslamp Quarter's oldest surviving structure, which was shipped around Cape Horn and assembled in San Diego in 1850. Each room represents a historic period and is filled with fascinating and amusing stories about its famous inhabitants.

Point Loma Peninsula

A visit to Cabrillo National Monument brings to life the birth of California in 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to step foot on what is now the west coast of the United States. After seeing the exhibits, films and ranger-guided programs at the visitor center, tour the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been restored to its 1880s appearance, and the Assistant Keeper's Quarters with its history of the lighthouses at Point Loma. Each September, visitors can relive a paramount moment in California's history with the reenactment of Cabrillo's fleet landing in San Diego Bay at the annual Cabrillo Festival.

Mission Valley & Old Town

Old Town State Historic Park marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast and brings to life San Diego as it was between 1821 and 1872. The six-block park features 12 acres of historical sites, including an adobe, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, San Diego's first newspaper office, a stable with carriage collection and more. Complimentary, guided walking tours depart daily at 11 a.m. Guests learn the unique history of the park as well as the mysterious haunting tales that are said to have occurred there through the years.

The first of the chain of twenty-one California missions, Mission San Diego de Alcala was built by Padre Junipero Serra in 1769 and still holds services daily in the original mission chapel located in Mission Valley. Nicknamed "The Mother of Missions," Mission San Diego de Alcala was originally built on Presidio Hill in Old Town, but was moved in 1774 to its present location. A small museum behind the chapel displays some of Father Serra's historical articles and records.

East County

A trip to the mountain town of Julian provides visitors with a glimpse of the days of San Diego's short-lived gold rush. Tour the intricate path of tunnels at the Eagle and High Peak Mine, one of Julian's first gold mines, with guides who also share tales of the life of early Julian residents. Follow the tour with a visit to the Julian Pioneer Museum, which showcases objects left behind by early Julian residents including clothing, household and mining equipment, Victorian-era pianos and Indian artifacts.

North Coastal

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside was the largest and richest of all 21 California missions and is often referred to as the "King of the Missions." A tour of the Museum begins in the Founder's Room with exhibits of the Luiseno Indian culture and traces the arrival of the Spanish Franciscan Missionaries in the early stages of the mission settlement.

With more than 450 vintage instruments, historic photographs and hands-on instruments to play, kids can make their own music at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, while learning about the history of American music and music making.

A Historic National Landmark, the Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad contains hand-crafted adobe buildings, antique windmills, a reflecting pool and many other historic structures. A former working ranchero once owned by actor Leo Carrillo, visitors can explore and experience California history, while children will delight in the dozens of brilliant peacocks who call the ranch home. Entrance is free and self-guided tours are available during open hours; building interiors are only available during guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Shopping Experiences for the Fashionistas...

VIP Services, Mobile Shopping and Shopping Tours

Deals just for you


Save $136 or more at 4 Famous Theme Parks

Southern California CityPASS
Valid: Jan 1 - ongoing

Save $136 or more with Southern California CityPASS - an admission card that gives you 1-day admission to SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California, PLUS a 3-day Park Hopper® ticket to Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park.

Childcare Services

Kid's Equipment Free from Toddler's Travels

Toddler's Travels
Valid: Oct 1 - Oct 31, 2016

Reserve one deluxe item (crib, wooden toddler bed, Britax Pavilion car seat or City Mini GT/BOB Revolution Stroller) with Toddler's Travels and add any non-premium item of equal or lesser value from the website for free.


Discount San Diego Attractions Tickets Available at Western Inn San Diego

Old Town Western Inn
Valid: Jan 8 - ongoing

Pick up discounted ticket to The San Diego Zoo and USS Midway from the Western Inn Old Town.

Events to check out


San Diego Brewers Guild Festival

San Diego Brewers Guild
Nov 5, 2016

The San Diego Brewers Guild Festival will feature an extraordinary food line up with specialty beer pairings, music and more craft beer related activities.


Balboa Park December Nights

Balboa Park
Dec 2 - Dec 3, 2016

Balboa Park December Nights brings families and friends together to spread holiday joy and kick-off the "most wonderful time of the year" with lights and more!


San Diego Beer Week

San Diego Brewers Guild
Nov 4 - Nov 13, 2016

San Diego Beer Week is a ten-day celebration inspiring people to drink local beer and promoting San Diego's brewing culture with events across the county.

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