Old Town San Diego's Hidden Gems: the 10 Best Things to See and Do in 2023 [4k] (2023)


Everything YOU need to know before you travel to Old Town San Diego, California. In this video, we'll explore the top things to do in Old Town and give you some tips for making the most of your visit. This beautiful historic town is known for its historical landmarks, restaurants, shopping, Cinco de Mayo and Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. We'll visit Presidio Park, the Whaley House Museum, the Cemetery of El Campo Santo, Washington Square, Robinson Rose House, Fiesta De Reyes, Cosmopolitan Hotel, Seeley Stable Museum, La Casa de Estudillo, Bazaar Del Mundo, Old Town Market, Heritage County Park, Land of the First People Park and much more!

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The top 10 places and things you should know before visiting Old, Town San Diego.

Today, we'll start in the heart of Old Town, then we'll visit historical landmarks like the Whaley House, Presidio Park, and a few of the local shops theaters and restaurants.

Then we'll explore the park to see a few areas.

Visitors tend to miss along the way, we'll share our top tips.

Old Town, San, Diego, State Historic Park, is one of the most visited state parks in California.

It preserves the history of early California during the 1800s, as the region was transitioning from Mexican to American control considered the birthplace of California.

The park is home to the first permanent European settlement built in 1769.

It's a five-minute, Drive North of downtown San Diego, and it occupies about 230 Acres.

It's known for historic architecture, museums, specialty shops and restaurants.

You can watch historical reenactments, take a tour or visit the annual Cinco de Mayo India de los Muertos celebrations.

Old Town San Diego has a rich history.

Daining back over ten thousand years, when the first people, the kumiya, lived here along the banks of the San Diego River, the land was claimed by the Spanish in 1542 and later became the location of the first permanent European settlements in California, with the establishment of the first of 21 missions by father juniperocera in 1769.

The region has been through many changes since then from Mexican rule to becoming part of the United States in 1846 and being incorporated as a city in 1850.

Here are the top 10 places we recommend visiting on your next trip.

First on our list is Presidio Park in juniperocera museum sitting uphill from Old.

Town is Presidio Park, which was the site of the first Spanish settlements in the western U.S.

They built the San Diego Presidio and the San Diego Mission here in 1769.

This 40 acre park has views of the city, the river valley and ocean.

Here you can visit the huni parasetta museum, which displays archaeological collections, historical objects and documents about Spanish, colonization and California's history.

Next is Old Town Plaza, also known as Washington Square.

This Plaza was established as the center of the Mexican Pueblo of San Diego in 1834.

It's surrounded by historic buildings, museums, shops and restaurants.

The Robinson Rose house serves as the park visitor information center featuring a diorama of Old Town San Diego as it looked in 1872 next door is fiesta de Reyes, a shopping mall with 19 unique shops, three restaurants and a boutique hotel.

It's a great spot to enjoy authentic Mexican food shopping and live performances.

One of the best parts are the free samples that the vendors pass out.

Next is the Cosmopolitan Hotel and restaurant a registered National Historic Landmark.

It served as a Stagecoach hotel and Olive Factory a memorial and today an upscale hotel and restaurant.

The Seeley stable museum is a historic building built in the late 19th century by Albert Seeley.

He was a Stage Line operator between Old Town, San, Diego and Los Angeles.

The stable was used to house horses and stage coaches.

Today, it's home to a collection of 19th century Vehicles.

Next door is one of the oldest homes in San, Diego, La, Casa de eStudio, a historic Adobe townhouse built by the eStudio family in the 1820s.

It was a social and religious Center.

During the Mexican and early American periods, visitors can now walk through some of the rooms and experience what it was like to live here.

You can spend the whole day exploring the buildings here at Old, Town Square, it's more than you can cover in one video, but before moving on here are a few more recommendations.

The San Diego Mason Street School, was the first Public School here in San Diego La Casa de Machado e Stuart is a historic home built by one of the soldiers at the Presidio and there's the first San Diego Courthouse, where you can see the incredibly unwelcoming jail cells.

They used back in the 1800s shifting gears.

We now head to the most haunted house in America, the Whaley House Thomas Whaley was a successful entrepreneur who arrived in California during the Gold Rush.

He had businesses in San, Francisco and San Diego.

When he built the Whaley House in 1856.

It was considered the finest home in Southern California.

The house was a central Hub in Old Town, serving as a home, a theater, a courthouse and a general store.

The Whaley family lived in the house until the early 20th century.

This house is considered one of the most haunted houses in America.

It has a dark pass, including being the site of an execution and the Whaley family, experiencing a series of tragic deaths.

Now it's a popular spot for Ghost Hunters and offers exclusive paranormal investigation tours where you can use ghost hunting equipment to try to connect with spirits to continue with the ghostly theme El Campo Santo Cemetery was built in 1849.

There are 477 bodies buried and not all of them still have their tombs.

The cemetery was abandoned when its Chapel was destroyed by a fire later, a street-line car, then a road was built over the graveyard.

You can now see grave markers on the sidewalk and Street, where many of the Tombstones once stood.

There are reports of paranormal activity in the cemetery, including apparitions of a Hispanic man and woman wearing 19th century clothing.

The man is said to float above the ground and cars parked above.

The graves have been reported to have their car alarms triggered without explanation.

Next are some of the activities you can do here, we'll start with the Old Town Trolley tour of San Diego, and this is a two hour fully narrated tour that will show you parts of San, Diego and Coronado.

You can hop on and off at any time with stops at Seaport Village Old Town, the Gaslamp Quarter Horton Plaza Little Italy Balboa Park, and the World Famous San Diego Zoo with 11 stops in total.

You can hop on and off at any time.

If you're looking for some excellent theater, you can visit the Signet theater in Old Town established in 2003 they've grown to be one of the top theater companies in the city.

Producing a mix of new and classic shows visitors come from around the world to enjoy old, Town's annual celebrations.

First, we have Dia de los Muertos each November.

The city hosts an annual Candlelight procession, starting at sundown in front of the Immaculate Conception Church ending at the El Campo Santo Cemetery.

The procession includes traditional and contemporary altars, set up by local restaurants, businesses, museums and shops, and you can add your own mementos and tributes to loved ones at the public altar by El, Campo Santo next is Cinco de Mayo.

Every year the streets of Old Town turn into a colorful flavored filled Artisan Mercado, with over 50 food beverage and Retail vendors throughout the weekend.

You'll see live performances and bands all around the park.

It's the most anticipated celebration of the year.

If you need to do some shopping, there are Endless Options here at Old, Town Bazaar del mundo is a shopping and dining area filled with vibrantly colored shops, Mexican, music and a festive atmosphere.

You'll find specialty items from Latin America and around the world, such as Folk Art and Crafts gifts, jewelry, home decor and clothing, plus they have award-winning Mexican restaurants nearby, offering great souvenirs and Gifts is Toby's candle shop.

The founder Toby started her candle business here in 1981.

After learning the art of candle carving, she taught her family how to make candles and turned it into a full-time business.

Ninety percent of their products are made by the family and employees.

The El Centro artesano is the largest Pottery gift shop in Old Town.

It has an outdoor Courtyard filled with hand-painted Mexican pots, along with traditional terracotta pots, Sun faces and figurines there's almost an endless amount of shops.

Here here are a few more popular and unique locations.

There's the Old Town Market, which is a mostly outdoor Market, with a stay age where you can enjoy live music as you shop for souvenirs, there's, Rose's Tasting Room known for providing a variety of locally sourced wines and beers and Temecula Olive Oil Company, which is known for their pure California olive oil products made from the highest quality ingredients on the Eastern edge of Old.

Town is Heritage Park Victorian, Village known for the Victorian homes.

These homes once belong to some of San Diego's, most influential and Wealthy residents.

These buildings were brought here from different parts of San Diego for preservation.

The homes here are a prime example of the elegant Victorian architecture from the late 19th century.

Still in use today, as the Temple Beth Israel, the city's first synagogue.

It is often used for weddings receptions and bar mitzvahs altogether.

Heritage Park is a nice place to visit for a walk or to admire the architecture.

Just next door is the Mormon Battalion historical site.

This site tells the story of a group of 500 Mormons who joined the US Army in 1846 to support their families and other Mormon pioneers.

The site has an interactive video tour, historical artifacts demos on gold, panning and brick.

Making Old Town has amazing food.

Almost everywhere you go, and here are a few of the highest rated restaurants.

Old Town Mexican Cafe has been a Mainstay here in San Diego for over 40 years, their handmade tortillas have been called the best in the world.

Cafe coyote is a very popular spot and, according to their site, the winner of best Mexican restaurant for 20 years in a row, Casa de Reyes is one of the highest rated Mexican restaurants, here known for their Cadillac Margaritas Casa de Guadalajara, has long been popular for its festive Decor Mariachis and outdoor dining, Rock and Baja.

Lobster is known for their Baja inspired Mexican, Cuisine and Lobster specials Harney Sushi is a great place to visit for their Sushi beer, wine and Cocktails for a variety of baked goods and teas.

You can visit Coral Tree tea house at Heritage, Park just make sure they're open before you visit and trattorio Don Pietro offers authentic Sicilian recipes, including pastas, pizzas and desserts, and here are some places.

Most people miss that I found both informative and inspiring.

First is the land of the first people Park, which opened in October 26 2021, the new public gathering area, honors, the culture of the kumiyai nation and their relationship with the San Diego River.

Surprisingly, the Mission Valley River ran right through here until it was diverted towards Mission Bay.

This location at the base of Presidio Hill was the ancient kumia Village of kosaai.

State parks worked with the kumia nation to develop the interpretive elements.

The circular Mosaic near the center illustrates the summer sky and represents the kumia's stories of creation.

Foreign I almost missed this place and I'm glad I.

Didn't because, if you're interested in the complete history of Old Town I highly recommend visiting the McCoy House Museum, the McCoy house was originally built in 1869 as a wedding present for Sheriff James McCoy and his wife.

It was reconstructed as part of Old Town, San Diego, State Historic Park in 2000.

The museum offers a timeline of the American continent, beginning from 20 000 years ago.

All the way till present day.

They include information on the kumia people who first inhabited the region, as well as the area's Spanish Mexican and American periods from the stunning views at Presidio, Park to the rich history and culture of the area, there's something for everyone at Old Town, whether you're a food lover, history, buff or just looking for a relaxing getaway.

This town has something for you.

So if you're planning a trip to San Diego, be sure to add Old Town to your list of must-see destinations, thanks for watching and don't forget to subscribe to the channel for More Travel and Adventure content, I'll see you in the next video foreign.


How long should you spend in Old Town San Diego? ›

Duration of Your Visit: 2–3 Hours Plus a Meal

A fun half-day spent in Old Town San Diego is about right. Plan for a couple of hours of sightseeing, historic sites, shopping, and museums, followed by a meal. That will make for a great morning and a lunch or a great afternoon and an early dinner.

Is it worth going to Old Town San Diego? ›

And, there's great shopping and food, too. Nearly every type of tourist visits Old Town San Diego attractions, from families and business travelers to history buffs and ghost hunters. Since many activities are free, it suits various budgets, too.

Who made Old Town San Diego? ›

The San Diego Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá were founded in 1769 by Gaspar de Portolá and Junípero Serra on a bluff at the western end of the San Diego River valley adjacent to the village of Cosoy after the villagers had provided resources to the Portolá expedition.

How old is San Diego? ›

The San Diego we know today began on July 16, 1769, with the dedication of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, 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.

How often does Old Town Trolley run San Diego? ›

Our trolleys come by approximately every 30 minutes. Times may vary slightly due to traffic conditions and city events.

Is the Gaslamp District worth visiting? ›

Among contemporary skyscrapers, there are historic buildings, many of them in Victorian style, that are in perfect condition. Besides Houses and hotels, there are shops, bars, and restaurants, which contribute to making the Gaslamp Quarter the choice neighborhood to go out in the evening in San Diego.

What is the coolest area in San Diego? ›

Let's take a look at three favorite downtown San Diego neighborhoods:
  • Little Italy: A Lively Slice of History in San Diego.
  • East Village: San Diego's Biggest Downtown Neighborhood.
  • Hillcrest: San Diego's LGBTQIA+ Hub.
  • Pacific Beach: Bayfront Living Close to Downtown San Diego.
  • La Jolla: The Jewel of San Diego.
Jul 12, 2023

Is it safe to walk around Old Town San Diego? ›

Is it safe to walk Downtown San Diego? After a revitalization effort, downtown San Diego is now mostly safe, although you'll still see a lot of homeless people. During the day it is safe to walk around, but at night there are certain areas that you should avoid.

Is San Diego or LA more fun? ›

LA is great for city activities like exploring museums and catching live sports games, whereas San Diego is a California beach hub laden with some of the best surf spots in the state.

What is the oldest house in San Diego? ›

The Davis-Horton House (formerly known as the William Heath Davis House) built in 1850, is the oldest standing structure in Downtown San Diego.

What is the oldest building in Old Town San Diego? ›

The oldest adobe house, still extant, dates from the Pueblo of San Diego (Old Town), called Casa de Carrillo, built “about the year 1810.” Or was it built in 1817 as Save Our Heritage contends? Or 1821, as the California Historical Landmark No.

What is the oldest place in San Diego? ›

Old Town San Diego is the city's oldest settled area and the site of the first European settlement in California. Founded in 1769, it's considered the birthplace of modern-day California and includes many well-preserved historic buildings and museums.

What's San Diego famous for? ›

San Diego is renowned for its idyllic climate, 70 miles of pristine beaches and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions. Popular attractions include the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California.

How long should you spend in San Diego? ›

We recommend planning at least 3 days for San Diego. This will allow you to explore the city center, visit one or two theme parks, and potentially also catch a glimpse of the beautiful coastal areas nearby. However, if you have more time, you can easily fill 5-7 days in San Diego and you'll find plenty to do.

How long do people typically spend at the San Diego Safari Park? ›

Although one can easily enjoy a full day or more at both parks, to visitors with limited time we recommend a minimum of three to four hours to see some of the Zoo and a minimum of four to six hours to experience a portion of the Safari Park.

Is 2 days enough in San Diego? ›

You can even visit San Diego in one day if you know the places well and have proper planning! However, I definitely recommend spending 2 days in San Diego to get the best out of this California city.

Is San Diego Downtown walkable? ›

First up is Downtown San Diego. Here, you'll be able to explore the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, East Village, and more. All these neighborhoods are within walking distance from each other, so it's super easy to get around!

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