We hadn’t planned to visit here but I’m so glad we did. We were on our way to the San Diego Zoo and stopped at Mission San Juan Capistrano just to have a quick look around. General admission is $9 and it’s possible to take a guided or self guided audio tour. Because we had so little time to spend we opted to just walk around on our own for a time. The first thing you notice is how beautiful this place is. Even in January when the gardens were not in full bloom, they were nevertheless, quite lovely. Worn stones and red tiled roofs have a rustic beauty that isn’t a common site on the west coast.
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1775. The padres taught Native American converts to speak Spanish and taught them about Christianity and encouraged them to live like Europeans. The chapel is the oldest building in California that is still in continued use.
The mission is known for the arrival of migrating swallows every March 19th. Swallows migrate 6,000 miles from Argentina to San Juan Capistrano. The Swallows Walk & Talk tour is offered daily. In addition, a number of other tours are available. A garden tour is offered on Wednesdays and is free with admission. A private tour of the Serra Chapel is offered every Sunday. You should check their website for other tours and tour times.
The mission also hosts exhibits and events. The Mission features a permanent collection of artifacts belonging to the padres who lived there in the 18th century. The permanent collection also displays landscape and portrait paintings plus religious artifacts.
Wandering around the grounds it was easy to see that we could have spent much more time here than the time we had to spend. The grounds and old buildings are both beautiful and peaceful. Exhibits are interesting and informative. Mission San Juan Capistrano has a good website that has allowed us to continue learning about the history of the place on our own time. If you’re in the area or even if you have to drive a distance to get there, it’s worth a visit of 2-3 hours.
Nearby is the El Adobe de Capistrano, (31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA92675-3215) a Mexican restaurant where we returned later that evening for dinner. The interior and ambiance of this place is wonderfully warm and welcoming and the building is recognized as a state historic landmark. In addition, the food and service were fantastic. I highly recommend the shrimp fajitas and the guacamole that is made fresh at your table. Yes, it was a little pricey for Mexican but the whole experience made it well worth the price. Our family dinner was more than a meal. It was a memorable event.