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May 14, 2013 / BSP Marketing

Old Town San Diego Tourism Information 2013

Tourism information -Old TownSlip into your red dress and slide into your high heels. You’re going out tonight for delicious Mexican food and a festive good time at Café Coyote. Voted the Best Mexican Restaurant for five years in a row, you can get your fill of authentic Mexican cuisine, be serenaded by strolling Mariachi bands and enjoy a fabulous Margarita made with your selection of Tequila. Café Coyote is just one of the many great restaurants in Old Town San Diego that you have to check out.

Tourism is big business in this part of Southern California. More than 32 million people visited San Diego in 2012. While information on specific visitor count for Old Town is not readily available, estimates from the California State Parks Department and other sources indicate that somewhere around 25 percent, or 8 million people found their way to what is the oldest and most historically significant community in all of California.

Birthplace of California

Old Town San Diego is recognized by historians as the spot where the first permanent settlement was established in what is now the state of California. A Spanish mission was established in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra and a small community of adobe homes followed. Twenty more missions were built and the colonization of California began to expand rapidly.

The area thrived from 1821-1872, when more new residents and businessmen became interested in what is now downtown San Diego. Many of the most prominent building of the golden age of the old city have survived and been restored. Old Town State Historic Park was established in 1968 by the California Department of Parks. Today millions of tourists and area residents come to the park to get a glimpse back in history.

The Neighborhood

According to, about 22 percent of all houses in this historical area were built prior to 1940. Many date back more than 100 years. As a reference point, only about 7 percent of all the homes in the county were built before 1940.

View oldtown 2011


Encompassing an area of just 230 acres, this small enclave of the city is situated just south of I-8 and Mission Valley. It is bordered on the west by I-5 and Midway. Toward the south and east Mission Hills forms an outer boundary.

Places to stay, see and experience

At last count, there were 9 hotels, 32 restaurants, 12 art galleries and 27 historic sites and buildings within the boundaries of this small neighborhood. The streets are very pedestrian friendly and you can find old buildings in both the town and inside the historic state park.


A visitor has the choice of staying right in the heart of this historic enclave or in many other hotels that are only a few minutes drive away. Most of the hotels within Old Town are moderately priced, but if you are looking for more luxurious accommodations, you can find them in the downtown area or closer to the beach.

If you want a real feel for the past, you might want to book a stay at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, located at 2660 Calhoun Street. Originally opened in the 1870’s as a stagecoach stop and community gathering place, this historic Bed & Breakfast Inn underwent extensive renovations that were completed back in 2010. Each of the 10 guest rooms as well as the restaurant and other areas of the building, is decorated with antiques and furnishings that date back to the nineteenth century. A few of the other nearby hotels in the area that are worth checking out are the Mission Valley Resort and the Crowne Plaza San Diego in Mission Valley.

Having fun!

Once you have checked into your hotel, unpacked and taken a little rest, it is time to get out there and have some fun. A hot spot for tourism and a great place for people of all ages to spend the day, this little spot on the map is loaded with historic buildings, art galleries, restaurants and friendly people. You can’t help but smile when you visit.
Old Town Tourism - Tour1969_

Visitor information is available in many of the area hotels and there is also a Visitor Information Center in town. Following are few of the best places to see and do on your visit.


It is hard to find a time when this part of town is not holding a festival, having a street fair or celebrating a holiday. If you are lucky enough to be visiting at certain times of the year, you might catch one or two of these big events

Cinco de Mayo

features family friendly activities, plenty of food and two stages with live music and entertainment all day long.

A big Art Festival takes place each October and showcases the works of hundreds of local artists. There is plenty of authentic Mexican food to go with the oil paintings, sculptures and all types of arts and crafts on display and for sale.

Dia de los Muertos takes place on the first and second days of November each year. There is traditional folk dancing and ceremonial altars on display in this Day of the Dead that is an important part of the local culture and heritage of the area.

Fiesta Navidad takes place in December and is centered around the re-enactment of the journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem, beginning the tradition of celebrating Christmas.

The California State Protected Park

Inside this nine square block section of the district you have the opportunity to see demonstrations of the way life was back more than a century ago. Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a demonstration of blacksmithing. On the first Saturday of each month, the Print Guild shows how the old technology was used to print newspapers. A high society dance reminiscent of the historic period takes place with dancers dressed in costume. Visitors are invited to join in or just watch. Quilters, soap makers and Mountain Men playing the old-time music are also on the calendar each month.

Stagecoach Days takes place each Saturday in July and August and is a wonderful chance to learn more about the traditional way of life. Kids can participate in activities and learn first-hand how people and children once lived way back in time.

There are lots of museums and buildings in the historic park. The Casa de Estudillo was built back in 1827 and was one of the grandest homes of its time. It is both a California and a National Historic Landmark designated structure. A few other significant historical buildings include the Mason Street School and the Casa de Machado y Stewart.

Outside the park but still in the historical district is the Whaley House. One of the top tourist attractions, this house is said to be haunted. Take the time to see the old Victorian homes in Heritage Park or walk around the center of town and maybe buy something in an art gallery.

Tourism thrives in this special place in Southern California. You can come just for lunch and a taste of Tequila, or you can come to learn about California history. There are plenty of hotels right in the area and you will never be bored because there is so much to do.

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One Comment

  1. Janette / Jun 16 2013 10:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I have heard so much about old town San Diego, but this is a really great overview. I definitely want to spend some time there if I ever get the opportunity to visit.

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