San Diego is rich in Spanish mission history, and is one of the best places in the state to explore its beginnings. Here Father Juniper Serra founded California's first mission (and its first European settlement) on July 16, 1769. And, in 1798, Father Fermin Lasuen founded one of the state's last missions.
Mission San Diego de Alcala
10818 San Diego Mission Road
Visitor Guide to Mission San Diego
California's first mission was named San Diego de Alcala in honor or Saint Didacus of Alcala. The tiny mission struggled for many years, enduring not only illness and poor crops, but fighting off Indian attacks. After six years, the mission moved from its original location to a new site with fertile soil and fresh water, about six miles up the river.
Visitors will find a restored church built in 1813. You can stroll on the grounds, and visit the church and mission exhibits. The complex's treasures also include Father Serra's room, an original bell and an original Spanish choir stall.
The mission is accessible by automobile or the San Diego Trolley (Get off at the Mission San Diego stop, walk to the left on Rancho Mission Road for one half block, then turn right onto San Diego Mission Road. The Mission is one half block on the left or north side of San Diego Mission Road.)
San Luis Rey Mission
4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside, CA
Visitor Guide to Mission San Luis Rey
California's eighteenth mission was founded on June 13, 1798 by Father Fermin Lasuen. Built on a good site, with lots of friendly Luiseno Indians living in the area, San Luis Rey soon became the most productive of all the California missions.
The mission reached its peak in 1831, shortly before Mexico withdrew its support and secularized the missions. San Luis Rey languished for almost 60 years after secularization, until Franciscan priests returned in 1892. The church was rededicated in 1893, and reconstruction started in 1895, making it one of the first missions to be reconstructed. Reconstruction continues today.
This very active church complex today includes the rebuilt mission church, a museum and the excavated laundry and sunken gardens, a unique sight among the California missions and well worth the trip to see it.
Junipero Serra Museum
2727 Presidio Drive, Presidio Park (just above Old Town State Historic Park)
Junipero Serra Museum Website
Located on the site of the original San Diego mission, the museum is named for the tireless Father Serra who founded the earliest California missions. Their collections include housewares, clothing, furniture, tools and military artifacts from the Native American, Spanish and Mexican periods through 1848.