Entertainment & Events

Top 5 Spots to Explore San Diego’s Past

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2019 marks the 250th anniversary of San Diego (and California). The San Diego area was home to the Kumeyaay Nation and their ancestors for tens of thousands of years and then on July 16, 1769, the Mission San Diego de Alcala was dedicated, the first of 21 California missions. This first mission was established near the ancient Kumeyaay village of Kosa’aay (Cosoy), known today as Old Town San Diego. To celebrate the start of the city, take some time to visit these amazing spots that highlight the rich and beautiful history of San Diego.

1. San Diego History Center in Balboa Park

San Diego History Center in Balboa Park

The San Diego History Center, founded as the San Diego Historical Society in 1928, has always been the catalyst for the preservation and promotion of the history of the San Diego region. The museum in Balboa Park, a Smithsonian Affiliate, makes history interesting and fun and seeks to engage audiences of all ages in connecting the past to the present and set the stage for where our community is headed in the future. Check out their stunning film Balboa Park: The Jewel of San Diego, screenings daily: 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm.

2. Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park

Junipero Serra Museum, Presidio Park, San Diego, California by Ken Lund via CC 2.0

Located in Presidio Park, above Old Town San Diego, stop by the Junipero Serra Museum and discover San Diego’s past through virtual reality! Go back in time to 1790 and see how the Presidio looked in a virtual reality tour. Presidio Park itself contributes to the history of San Diego as the site of the first permanent European settlement in California. The beautiful architecture of the Junipero Serra Museum compliments curated collections showcasing San Diego’s history.

3. Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego, San Diego, California (25) by Ken Lund via CC 2.0

Old Town San Diego is the heart of the city that started in 1769 with just a mission and a fort. Along with small museums and historic buildings, Old Town San Diego transports you back in time through unique shopping and delicious restaurants. The historic sites throughout the area, such as the fountains in the Bazaar del Mundo and Fiesta de Reyes, are a great way to experience San Diego’s past. Or, for a spooky experience, say “hi” to any one of the ghosts from San Diego history. According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, the Whaley House in Old Town is the number one most haunted house in the United States. 

4. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Basilica Mission San Diego de Alcala by Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) via CC 2.0

The first of 21 missions in California, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala was the start of what has become the beautiful city of San Diego. It is the first mission church in the state of California. When it started in 1769, the mission introduced the West coast to Catholicism. Today, the Mission serves as an active parish church as well as a cultural center for Catholicism in San Diego, intersecting the history of the Mission with the efforts of the modern Church in the community.

5. Chicano Park

Chicano Park Murals by kellinahandbasket via CC 2.0

Located beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan, Chicano Park is a 7.9-acre park in the San Diego area. The park boasts the country’s largest collection of outdoor murals and includes earthworks, sculptures, and an architectural piece showcasing the cultural heritage of the area. The park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

Michelle Stansbury is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] with story ideas!


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