Our Family Guide To Old Town – San Diego

Old Town – San Diego, California was not at all on our radar but we had some time to kill in San Diego before returning to Mexico so we thought we’d visit and what a surprise it was.

In 1769 a Spanish Mission was founded on the site of Old Town and today the State Historic Park brings the story of Old Town to life.

One of the best things about San Diego Old Town State Historic Park is that it’s free to enter.

Besides history, the area boasts plenty of places to buy Mexican crafts and treat yourself to some tasty food.

Old Town - San Diego

Visit The Old Town – San Diego Historic State Park

With many preserved historic building the State Park lies at the centre of Old Town.

We loved wandering around the area and exploring the old buildings.

Make sure you visit the Robinson Rose Visitor Centre to get an orientation of the park.

It’s set on the main green slap bang in the middle of the park.

Old Town - San Diego - Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre, Historic State Park

Make sure to pay a visit to the Cosmopolitan Hotel with its historic bar area.

There’s also California’s first schoolhouse, the blacksmith’s shop and the states first newspaper office.

Lots of the old building have been turned into shops but some of them have been restored to their original state.

Old Town - San Diego - Cosmopolitan Hotel

The Cosmopolitan Hotel In The Historic State Park

Old Town - San Diego - Cosmopolitan Hotel Bar

The Cosmopolitan Hotel Bar

There are lots of museums to visit.

We liked looking around the old Seeley Stables with its stagecoach displays.

If you happen to be there on a weekend then be sure to watch the old time dancing group.

They like people to join in so Annabel learned some moves and joined them for some dancing which she loved.

Old Town - San Diego - Seeley Stables Museum

The Stagecoach Collection At The Seeley Stables Museum

The Rust General Store sells all sorts of lovely items and is set out like a general store of the 1800s with glass jars full of products and sweets.

Be sure to explore the Casa de Estudillo museum, a hacienda that feels as though you’ve stepped back in time to the original Mission settlement.

Old Town - San Diego - The Rust General Store

Interior Of The Rust General Sture

Another great area to explore is the Heritage Park where about half a dozen old houses and a church have been rebuilt.

The houses are Victorian and date from 1887 -1910 and are beautifully designed.

Old Town - San Diego - The Heritage Park

One Of The Beautiful Victorian Houses In The Heritage Park Area

Old Town – San Diego has lots of haunted buildings and the most famous is probably the Whaley House.

We didn’t go in but you can go on a tour around the property which is one of two certified haunted houses in California.

Another place we didn’t have time to visit but which looked interesting is the Mormon Battalion Museum.

Old Town - San Diego - The Whaley House

The Haunted Whaley House ( not our photo )

You won’t be stuck for restaurants in Old Town – San Diego.

There are plenty of places to try either in the historic centre or outside the park.

The food is mostly Mexican at tourist prices and not Mexican prices.

Within the state park, you’ll find Fiesta de Reyes which is full of restaurants and live entertainment located around a pretty plaza.

But wander any of the streets around Old Town and you’ll be spoilt for choice of where to eat.

The Nitty Gritty

How To Get To Old Town – San Diego

The easiest way to get to Old Town is by the San Diego Trolley that has a stop right by the historic state park.

The trolley is very inexpensive and has a network all over San Diego and even down to the Mexican border.

Parking is also available if you’re travelling by car.

Where To Stay

There’s plenty of lodging in the area.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel which was ideally situated about five minutes walk from the historic state park area.

At the time of our visit ( January 2019 ) they gave every guest a coupon for a free drink at the Old Town Tequila Factory and restaurant.

Although we didn’t try it, the restaurant also has an extensive buffet breakfast.


You’ll find lots and lots of shops selling Mexican crafts, textiles and pottery.

The shops are tourist focussed so you won’t find a bargain but they are cute to take a look around.