California Missions: How to Visit All 21 & Road Trip Along El Camino Real

The twenty-one California Missions, from the time when Spain controlled California, are some of the oldest pieces of history you can visit in the entire United States. A road trip to see all of them will take you over 600 miles from San Diego to Sonoma and it will provide a plethora of adventure, history and fun for the whole family. I did this entire drive in 7 days in 2016 and here is all of the information so you can do it yourself, or just read on to learn about a unique part of California’s past.

 The 21 California Missions

Here are each of the 21 missions from South to North, click on the image to learn more about each one.

San Diego De Alcala

Location: San Diego
Founded Order: 1st

San Luis Rey De Francia

Location: Oceanside
Founded Order: 18th

San Juan Capistrano

Location: San Juan Capistrano
Founded Order: 7th

San Gabriel Arcangel

Location: San Gabriel
Founded Order: 4th

San Fernando Rey De Espana

Location: Mission Hills
Founded Order: 17th

San Buenaventura

Location: Ventura
Founded Order: 9th

Mission Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara
Founded Order: 10th

Mission Santa Ines

Location: Solvang
Founded Order: 19th

La Purisima Concepcion

Location: Lompoc
Founded Order: 11th

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Location: San Luis Obispo
Founded Order: 5th

San Miguel Arcangel

Location: San Miguel
Founded Order: 16th

San Antonio de Padua

Location: Jolon
Founded Order: 3rd

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

Location: Soledad
Founded Order: 13th

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Location: Carmel
Founded Order: 2nd

San Juan Bautista

Location: San Juan Bautista
Founded Order: 15th

Mission Santa Cruz

Location: Santa Cruz
Founded Order: 12th

Santa Clara de Asis

Location: Santa Clara
Founded Order: 8th

Mission San Jose

Location: Fremont
Founded Order: 14th

San Francisco de Asis

Location: San Francisco
Founded Order: 6th

San Rafael Arcangel

Location: San Rafael
Founded Order: 20th

San Francisco Solano

Location: Sonoma
Founded Order: 21st

 California Missions Seven Day Road Trip Guide

Interested in visiting all of the California Missions yourself? Here is each day of my seven-day road trip so that you can complete El Camino Real the same way that I did.

Day 1

San Diego to Pasadena

Day 2

Pasadena to Ventura

Day 3

Ventura to San Luis Obispo

Day 4

San Luis Obispo to Carmel

Day 5

Carmel to Santa Cruz

Day 6

Santa Cruz to San Francisco

Day 7

San Francisco to Sonoma

 
 

 Mission Related Sites and Museums

Want to get more in depth on your visit to the historic spots along El Camino Real? Here are a few of the places that are connected to the missions that you can still visit.

California Missions Museum

Junípero Serra Museum

Old Mission Dam

San Antonio de Pala Asistencia

 Map of the California Missions

Zoom in and out to look at the map see where each mission is, then click the icon to go to the specific post.

 FAQ – California Missions Trail

While I was driving along the El Camino Real, I got a lot of questions from people related to the missions, their history and what they have in common. Here are some of the main ones, if you have one that was not answered be sure to leave it in the comments.

What can I collect from all of the missions?

The closest I could find to something that every mission sold was small silver medallions that have the mission’s saint and a picture of the mission on them. The go for $1 – $3 depending on the mission and I got them from 17 of the 21. Two of the others were sold out, and two just didn’t have them at all. I couldn’t find anything else that almost every mission had but these and I found it fun to collect them along the trail.

Where can I find out when the missions are open?

I found the missions to be open more than I anticipated they would be as I assumed it would be harder to plan a time to get to them all. That being said I would recommend Googling each before going so that you can see up to date information on their hours.

Are any of the missions hard to get to?

The only one that is somewhat difficult to get to is Mission San Antonio de Padua. Mission San Antonio de Padua is located 26 miles each way off Highway 101. While the drive to get there is not difficult, it can be hard to fit into a normal road trip just because of the time commitment needed to get there and back. The rest are all located close to the main highway.

I don’t like the mission history so why should I go?

Even if you do not agree with the history of the missions, they are a very influential part of California’s history. The missions themselves have beautiful architecture and are some of the oldest buildings in all of California. I recommend you give visiting a few of them a try and I bet you will find something to enjoy.

What are some other good resources on the missions?

I would recommend picking up this book on the missions as I took it with me and read about the ones I would be visiting each day. This website also has a lot of great information as well.

 History of the California Missions

California missions of Alta California (“New Spain”) tell a story of state and national evolution. Missions built in the 18th and 19th centuries still remind Californians and visitors of the European explorers who came by sea and land to conquer a new land. Under Spanish rule, the first California mission fort was established. Both armed forces and Franciscan shepherds came to colonize California outposts and to convert Native Americans to the Christian faith.

The first California missions were settled within about seven years prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The last missions were established several decades before gold was found in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill. Expansion of California missions ended in the early 1820s in Sonoma. Over more than five decades, at least twenty-one missions and four forts, called presidios, were built along California’s coast.

The first nine missions were established by Saint Padre Junípero Serra. The next nine were founded by his colleague, Padre Fermín Francisco Lasuén. The final three missions were established by others.

Earliest California Missions

The earliest California missions were built between 1769 and 1777:

The first California Mission San Diego de Alcalá, named for a 15th century Spanish saint, tried souls. The location was chosen to provide easy access by sea to Alta California from Spanish Mexico. During a severe drought, the Franciscans were forced to move the mission six miles from the coast. Then, in 1775, natives sacked and burned the settlement. Saint Padre Serra’s residence was the only structure to partially survive the attack. After military occupation in the 1840s – 1850s, President Abraham Lincoln released the mission to the Catholic Church once more in 1862. Today, San Diego rests at the top of a hill on the original mission site in San Diego Presidio just east of downtown. Mass and feast day schedules are found on the mission website.

The second, Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo, was also founded by Padre Serra in 1770. He was considered a saintly man by all who knew him in life. The Catholic Church conferred sainthood in 2015. Leaders in Spanish Mexico chose the location of the mission with care and, for many years, it was considered the headquarters of the California missions. The mission built the first library of thirty books in 1778. As more American settlers came west, the mission was secularized in the 1830s. Until after the Civil War, the original mission was abandoned. Saint Padre Serra is buried in this beautiful place.

The third and fourth California missions were established in 1771. Mission San Antonio de Padua’s position was strategically chosen as a key central California location by Spanish Mexico. Named for the Catholic saint, Anthony of Padua, it was the first mission to use now-traditional red tile roof to protect inhabitants from water and fire. The settlers installed an aqueduct system. Franciscan fathers taught indigenous residents religious songs through an ingenious color system. One of the first known marriages in early California was celebrated here in 1773.

The fourth California mission, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, was named for the archangel Gabriel. San Gabriel’s position was the crossroads of three vital land trails. The mission moved three miles inland within decades of the original settlement. More than 6,000 Native Americans were buried on mission grounds. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the mission was known for its vineyard and wines.

The fifth, Mission San Luis Obispo [de Tolosa,] was established in 1772. During a food shortage, mission settlers hunted bears in the nearby “valley of the bears,” Los Osos. The mission vineyard was so productive that, by the 19th century, wine was exported to Russia and Great Britain. Because the Vatican declared that a church could only be as high as trees surrounding it. The mission’s walls are built as tall as local pine trees of the day (50 – 60 feet).

The sixth California mission was established in 1776 at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War. Mission San Francisco de Asís, named for Catholic saint Francis of Assisi, saw the city of San Francisco grow around it. Original mission settlers had friendlier relations with local Native Americans: the beautiful mission ceiling was actually rendered by Indian artisans. Thousands of Native Americans are thought to be buried on the mission ground. Although mission priests wanted to move in search of a healthier climate, the mission remained in its original location.

The seventh California mission, Mission San Juan Capistrano, was named for Catholic saint John of Capistrano and provided access to southern California to Spanish Mexico. The chapel built by Saint Padre Serra is the oldest intact structure in California. The mission church’s original altar came from Barcelona. A statute of Saint Peregrine, patron of cancer victims, remains in the chapel. The mission successfully planted a vineyard and produced wine. Mission inhabitants used furnaces imported from Spain to convert ore to iron.

The eighth California mission was established the next year in 1777. Mission Santa Clara de Asís was named for St. Clare, the founder of the “Poor Clares” order of Catholic nuns. Today, the mission remains next to the oldest university in California, the University of Santa Clara. Floods and earthquakes besieged original inhabitants, and temporary relocations occurred from time to time. The Franciscans used cactus-based paint to make the chapel vibrant and colorful.

“Forgotten” California Missions

Mission La Purisíma Concepcíon and nearby Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer, both founded around 1780, were short-lived. Both were constructed in the Yuma territory and, according to California State Archives historians, both are practically “forgotten.” Mission La Purisíma Concepcíon’s historic park commemorates the mission today. The original mission building no longer exists but there are pieces of the walls that can be seen at the original site.

Richard Yates devoted years to establishing the location of the Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer in the 1970s. In “The Journal of Arizona History,” (Vol. 13, No. 2, Summer 1972), Yates states he believes the mission was on the Colorado River at the California side, not far from the Laguna Dam.

California Missions of the 1780s

The Mission San Buenaventura (1782) and Mission Santa Barbara (1786), California missions nine and ten, were established next. Mission San Buenaventura’s restored buildings, grounds, and artifacts draw thousands of visitors each year.

Mission Santa Barbara, known as the “Queen” of the missions, assumed the central headquarters role within the mission chain by the late 18th century. Today, Mission Santa Barbara draws history buffs and the faithful from around the world. Check the mission website for information about church services and tours.

California Missions of the 1790s

The 1790s saw the establishment of Mission Santa Cruz and Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad. Today, Mission Santa Cruz’s Parish Chapel (Parish of the Holy Cross of the Catholic Diocese of Monterey) is a popular wedding site. Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad is a popular tourist attraction today. Volunteers operate a gift shop and maintain the grounds.

Four missions–Mission San José, Mission San Juan Bautista, Mission San Miguel Arcángel, and Mission San Fernando Rey de España–were all established in 1797; and San Luis Rey de Francia followed in 1798:

  • Mission San Jose is a spiritual and cultural center now. To reserve a guided tour or to inquire about genealogy searches, contact the mission.
  • Mission San Juan Bautista is an active religious community today. Contact the mission about schedules but keep in mind that San Juan Bautista mission is also affiliated (but not directly part of) the California Parks System.
  • Mission San Miguel Arcángel is a historic landmark and religious community. A costly restoration project hopes to preserve the mission.
  • Mission San Fernando Rey de España celebrates mass and offers visitors with access to its archives by appointment.
  • Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was considered the “King” of California missions because of its large size. The first known pepper tree planted in California is found here. Mission San Luis Rey de Francis is a retreat center today.

California Missions of the 19th Century

The last three California missions were built within the first quarter of the 19th century. Mission Santa Inés (1804), Mission San Rafael Arcángel (1817), and Mission San Francisco Solano (1823) came next.

  • Mission Santa Inés was the last southern California mission. Named for the Catholic saint Agnes, its nearby neighboring town was founded by Danish settlers. The chapel was painted in bright colors. Like many California missions, Santa Inés had a vineyard and made wines.
  • Mission San Rafael Arcángel was named after Rafael the archangel. Residents of the mission treated thousands of natives during the smallpox outbreaks of the 1820s. Originally named as mission resource, or“Asistencia,” in 1817, San Rafael was named to full mission status in 1822. Hearst Foundations rebuilt the razed original buildings in 1949.
  • Mission San Francisco Solano, named after a Peruvian patron saint, was the final California mission. The “eye of heaven” positioned above the altar was said to represent God’s watching over the church. The location of the mission in Sonoma intersected many mission trails in northern Alta California. When California declared independence from Mexico in 1846, the new flag was hoisted over Mission San Francisco Solano.

California Missions Challenges

California’s weather was unpredictable to California mission settlers. Earthquakes and inclement weather created the need to constantly repair the chapels, churches, and residences. Drought, hunger, and fire occurred on the missions. Later missions included aqueducts to provide a steady supply of water. Filtration systems were in occasional use.

Relationships between natives and mission settlers were cordial in some areas and hostile in others. Thousands of indigenous Americans were buried on mission grounds.

Importance of the California Missions

The establishment of California’s missions provides a tangible representation of California’s history. Over time, cities sprang up around the missions and became today’s largest cities, including San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, and Santa Barbara.

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What’s your favorite mission? Do you have a different spot to recommend? Leave a comment below.

California Mission’s Museum & Cline Cellars in Sonoma

I have always been interested in the unique and controversial history that the California missions provided, so I recently set out to visit all 21 of them myself over the course of a week. You can read more about that here. After visiting the last mission in Sonoma, I headed over to Cline Cellars to visit the unofficial California Missions Museum located right on the back property. I felt like it would be a fitting way to end my time on El Camino Real, here is all the information the museum.

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Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Location: 24737 CA-121, Sonoma, CA 95476

History

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See a brief history below, taken from the official site here:

In 1939, the California Mission Models made their debut at the World’s Fair at Treasure Island. Their construction was based upon two years of research and was completed by a team of German cabinetmakers under the direction of Italian artist Leon Bayard de Volo. All were designed to scale, are faithful representations of the original missions, and are finely detailed down to the shrubbery and the figures utilized. In 1998, the Cline Family saved the models from being auctioned off individually, and in 2005 created the museum as a fitting showcase for these historical treasures.

The Museum

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After pulling into Cline Cellars on a busy Saturday afternoon, I was told where to park and how to see the museum that was housed on the property.

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The mission is located behind the winery itself in a large brown building, and there were a half dozen or so people in the museum with me when I went.

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The museum is one large main room with 21 replicas of each of the missions housed in glass cases.

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I thought the replicas would be like the ones I saw in a few of the other missions, which were not that detailed, but I was blown away by how much that was not the case. Each of these replicas had been meticulously created to scale and were absolutely stunning. I loved being able to relive some of my favorites from this vantage point as I had just visited most of them over the last week.

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They also had a replica of Father Serra there as well which was right next to the entrance.

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Lastly, they had two stained glass windows that were taken from one of the missions that was damaged in an earthquake and housed here.

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It was incredible to see this collection which functions as a nonprofit and is staffed. I was thankful for the Cline family and the fact that they bought all of these beautiful pieces of history and provided a way for the general public to see them.

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I would be remiss if I did not also tell you to visit the winery itself. The tastings were complimentary when I was there, and they had quite a few varietals that were from old growth vines of over 100 years old.

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All in all, this is a great stop if you are into California history or the missions themselves. I appreciated seeing the beautiful replicas and talking to the people working there who loved the unique history the missions provided as well. Check out my entire time on the California missions here and let me know what you think in the comments.

California Mission’s Museum & Cline Cellars in Sonoma

I have always been interested in the unique and controversial history that the California missions provided, so I recently set out to visit all 21 of them myself over the course of a week. You can read more about that here. After visiting the last mission in Sonoma, I headed over to Cline Cellars to visit the unofficial California Missions Museum located right on the back property. I felt like it would be a fitting way to end my time on El Camino Real, here is all the information the museum.

mission museum and cline-2

Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Location: 24737 CA-121, Sonoma, CA 95476

History

mission museum and cline-1

See a brief history below, taken from the official site here:

In 1939, the California Mission Models made their debut at the World’s Fair at Treasure Island. Their construction was based upon two years of research and was completed by a team of German cabinetmakers under the direction of Italian artist Leon Bayard de Volo. All were designed to scale, are faithful representations of the original missions, and are finely detailed down to the shrubbery and the figures utilized. In 1998, the Cline Family saved the models from being auctioned off individually, and in 2005 created the museum as a fitting showcase for these historical treasures.

The Museum

mission museum and cline-3

After pulling into Cline Cellars on a busy Saturday afternoon, I was told where to park and how to see the museum that was housed on the property.

mission museum and cline-8

The mission is located behind the winery itself in a large brown building, and there were a half dozen or so people in the museum with me when I went.

mission museum and cline-5

The museum is one large main room with 21 replicas of each of the missions housed in glass cases.

mission museum and cline-7

I thought the replicas would be like the ones I saw in a few of the other missions, which were not that detailed, but I was blown away by how much that was not the case. Each of these replicas had been meticulously created to scale and were absolutely stunning. I loved being able to relive some of my favorites from this vantage point as I had just visited most of them over the last week.

mission museum and cline-6

They also had a replica of Father Serra there as well which was right next to the entrance.

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Lastly, they had two stained glass windows that were taken from one of the missions that was damaged in an earthquake and housed here.

mission museum and cline-9

It was incredible to see this collection which functions as a nonprofit and is staffed. I was thankful for the Cline family and the fact that they bought all of these beautiful pieces of history and provided a way for the general public to see them.

mission museum and cline-13

I would be remiss if I did not also tell you to visit the winery itself. The tastings were complimentary when I was there, and they had quite a few varietals that were from old growth vines of over 100 years old.

mission museum and cline-12

All in all, this is a great stop if you are into California history or the missions themselves. I appreciated seeing the beautiful replicas and talking to the people working there who loved the unique history the missions provided as well. Check out my entire time on the California missions here and let me know what you think in the comments.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma: The Last California Mission

As I approached Mission San Francisco Solano after a week of driving the El Camino Real and visiting all of the California Missions, I was weary to see how the final one on my journey would be. This mission was the last of the 21 missions to be founded, and it has a special place as the northernmost of the California Missions. It is run by the state parks now though just like La Purisima in Lompoc was. I am glad to say that it was a fitting end to the trail and a beautiful yet small mission, here are all the details so you can visit it yourself.

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Details

  • Cost: $3
  • Time needed: 30 minutes
  • Location: 114 E Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476

Getting There

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Mission Sonoma is located right in the central downtown area of Sonoma. It is at the north end of the town square and surrounded by businesses and other historic spots. There is street parking all around, most of which is free.

The Mission

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As you approach the mission, you will notice how well maintained the exterior is.  I was impressed by how the state parks managed the two missions they controlled as both were unique and well preserved.

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In the corner, there is a sign right below the El Camino Real Bell that designates this as the end of the El Camino Real Trail.

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I thought it was fitting that the plaque and grounds were covered in beautiful blooming poppies, the state’s official flower.

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The facade of the chapel and mission was the stark white with brown trim I had come to expect from the missions but was beautiful in its simplicity.

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From the bell and sign, you head around to the right to pay your fee and enter the mission. They give you a map as well but the mission is tiny, so you don’t need it. Here are the main areas.

The Museum

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The first room you enter serves as the museum, compete with both Indian and mission artifacts.

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The next room is what used to be the dining area and what now holds dozens of paintings of the missions by famous watercolor painter Chris Jorgensen.

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This was the best room of the mission for me as it was beautiful to see how well done all of these paintings were and to learn more about the artist.

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There is one more small room of history, and then you enter the chapel.

The Chapel

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The chapel is one of two that do not serve as actual churches. This is because they are run by the state.

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You will not see the traditional pews because of this, but it is interesting to walk around so freely in the chapel.

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The chapel here is relatively traditional for the missions, nothing too ornate or too plain.

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There is the standard altarpiece and an area where the priest can walk up and address the audience from above.

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I walked around for a while and looked at the art and altar before heading out into the courtyard.

The Courtyard

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The courtyard is relatively small with a selection of flowers adding a pop of color.

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There is a large stone fountain in the center with some bench seating, but the fountain did not have water in it when I visited.

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The back area also has a traditional stone oven, restrooms and a large area of cactus that represented where one of the mission buildings would have stood.

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After walking around a bit more, I headed out of the mission. As this was my last mission to visit, exiting was a little bittersweet. You can read all about my time visiting all 21 here though if you want to visit some of the missions yourself. If you are in Sonoma, also consider checking out the rest of the places in the state park (your mission fee gives you access) or have some wine at the oldest winery in California. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Mission San Rafael Arcángel: California’s 20th Mission

Mission San Rafael Arcángel is the second to last mission you will visit if you are heading north like I did on the El Camino Real. It was one of my least favorite missions on the trip though as it seemed like its preservation was more of an afterthought. When I went on a Saturday, the mission was open, but there was no one there to talk to, and the gift shop area was closed. I took a few pictures and explored a little; you can read about what I saw below.

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Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Time Needed: 15 minutes
  • Location: 1104 5th Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901

Getting There

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Mission San Rafael Arcángel is located in the town of the same name, about two blocks up from 3rd Street, the main downtown road. There is street parking so it shouldn’t it be hard to find a spot.

The Mission

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After waking up from the road, you will see a massive church looming in front of you, and the mission itself is off to the right.

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Outside of the mission is the mission bell and the statue of Father Serra that is at every mission. There was also a sign that talked about the mission’s history and how the new building fits into the history.

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My favorite part was the old wood beam that hung right next to the mission chapel with an old bell hanging from it.

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The chapel was open when I went, and it was nice and small.

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It is still an active church, so there were pews there and a person getting stuff ready for service.

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I spent only about 5 minutes looking around and taking pictures before heading back out.

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I also went into the big church to look, but there was an event happening, so I stuck my head in for a few minutes then exited that as well.

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All in all, there was not much to see here for me, so I would recommend some of the other missions over this one if you can only see a few. It was still a well-preserved mission though and worth making a stop if you are in the area looking for something to do. Next time I will make sure to go when the gift shop is open, so I can check that out as well. If you are interested in visiting the missions, then check this post here for a full road trip guide.

Mission Santa Cruz: California’s 12th Mission

Mission Santa Cruz was founded in 1791 and was the 12th of the 21 Spanish Missions founded. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original mission today other than a crumbling wall. The rebuilt mission is now across the street from where the original was, and it was built in the 1930’s based on a painting they had of the original mission. It is a tiny mission to visit, and you can see it all in about 20 minutes, but it is still a good historical spot in the city. Here is all the information and you can read about my time visiting all of the California Missions here.

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Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Location: 130 Emmett St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Getting There

Mission Santa Cruz is located right off Pacific Coast Highway on the North end of the main downtown drag. There is street parking around the mission itself that is free.

The Mission

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When I arrived I was surprised by how small this mission was; it is a spot where you can spend 20 minutes and easily see it all.

The women working there was fantastic, and she spent a good amount of time telling me about the mission and its history. I would not have had as good of a time if she was not there to direct me.

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She let me know that the mission originally stood across the street where the massive church in the photo above is now and that you can go over there and see the remains of the old wall behind the church.

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I did that first, and it was cool to see it still there (above photo), then I went back and explored the current mission.

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Since it was built at half the original size, the museum portion of the mission is inside the gift shop. There are five main displays featuring garments worn and a few other artifacts.

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They also have the painting that the mission was designed to replicate. They believe this mission may have been an L and not a quadrangle like most of the others.

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After browsing the museum, I went out into the garden. The garden is small as well, but it features a lovely fountain in the middle.

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It also has the typical statue of Father Serra in the garden as well.

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From here you can see the top of the large church that stands on the old mission ground popping up from behind the wall.

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After browsing the garden, I headed back in and saw the chapel.

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The chapel here is small, as I’m sure you could have guessed, with only a dozen or so pews. They do hold mass here on the weekends though, so it is a working chapel.

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I was the only one here to I took some time to explore and look around a little bit.

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After finishing in the chapel, I said my goodbyes to the nice women working there then headed back out to see the mission from the front.

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Even though this is not a long trip, it is still a great 15 minute stop. Especially since it is a free mission that is still trying to maintain California’s mission history. If you want to see an original part of one of the buildings built around the mission, be sure to head two minutes down the street to Santa Cruz State Historic Park as well, which you can read about here. Lastly, check out all of the missions I visited here and let me know what you think in the comments.

Mission San Francisco de Asís: California’s 6th Mission

Mission San Francisco de Asís is the 6th mission established under Father Serra and one of the most visited due to its location in San Francisco. The mission itself was completed in 1791, and it is one of the oldest intact mission, having survived many earthquakes to be still standing today. As far as the Spanish California Missions go, San Francisco de Asís is one of my personal favorites due to the unique chapel design. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

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Details

  • Cost: $5
  • Time needed: 45 minutes to an hour
  • Location: 3321 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Getting There

If you are staying in the city, I would recommend an Uber or public transportation as there is no parking lot so you will have to use street parking if you go. There is street parking available, but it is always up in the air whether you will get any.

The Mission

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After parking, make your way to the older of the two churches. This is where you will enter and pay your fee to visit the mission. After paying the fee, the first place you will walk into is the chapel.

The Chapel

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When you walk into the chapel, you will notice it is a beautiful mixture of both Catholic and Indian designs.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-3

The altarpiece is ornate and beautiful, while the ceiling has an Ohlone Indian design on it which adds a unique touch to the chapel.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-4

The two side altars are from Mexico and were installed at the mission in 1810.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-7

There is a baptistery right in the middle of the chapel, and it is said that more than 28,000 baptisms have taken place here.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-8

After exiting the chapel, you will be in a small courtyard and will see a diorama that was created for the worlds fair and shows what the area looked like in 1791.

The Basilica

Mission San Francisco de Asis-9

From there you will head into the Basilica which is not a part of the mission but is a church that was built in the mid-1800s. It did not survive an earthquake in the early 1900’s that luckily the mission did, so it is has been completely rebuilt. It is a fantastic place to see though as it is immaculate inside and you can access it while touring the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-10

The altar itself is domed, and there is a second large dome ceiling right in front as well.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-23

The part I enjoyed the most about the Basilica is the stained glass windows along the back that are each made in honor of one of the 21 missions.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-5

After exploring the Basilica, you can head back outside and continue the tour of the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-15

From here the walkway you go through has copies of actual period drawings and photos.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-13

Next, you will head into the museum. The museum is tiny at just one room, but it has a few unique artifacts.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-11

First, is the collection of sacred items, some which were owned by Father Serra.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-14

Next, is the original roof support that was taken out when the chapel was fortified.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-16

After leaving the museum, there is a fountain and the typical statue of Father Serra that is at each of the missions.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-18

The next door leads you to the cemetery which has all sorts of graves ranging from massive to small and from many different time periods.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-20

I found the stone statue of Father Serra of particular interest as it was different than any others I had seen before.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-22

Also, while walking around the cemetery be sure to look up at the roof of the structure as you can see both the mission bell tower and the new church as well.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-21

When you are done in the cemetery, you will walk back through the gift shop and out of the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-26

I recommend carefully walking to the median as it gives you a great view of both of the church’s and you can see the interesting juxtaposition between them both.

All in all, I was impressed with the San Francisco mission. The chapel itself is one of my favorites with the unique Indians design on the ceiling. Also, seeing the amazing basilica next door is an excellent addition to the mission. Check out my trip to all of the missions here and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Mission San Francisco de Asís: California’s 6th Mission

Mission San Francisco de Asís is the 6th mission established under Father Serra and one of the most visited due to its location in San Francisco. The mission itself was completed in 1791, and it is one of the oldest intact mission, having survived many earthquakes to be still standing today. As far as the Spanish California Missions go, San Francisco de Asís is one of my personal favorites due to the unique chapel design. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-24

Details

  • Cost: $5
  • Time needed: 45 minutes to an hour
  • Location: 3321 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Getting There

If you are staying in the city, I would recommend an Uber or public transportation as there is no parking lot so you will have to use street parking if you go. There is street parking available, but it is always up in the air whether you will get any.

The Mission

Mission San Francisco de Asis-25

After parking, make your way to the older of the two churches. This is where you will enter and pay your fee to visit the mission. After paying the fee, the first place you will walk into is the chapel.

The Chapel

Mission San Francisco de Asis-1

When you walk into the chapel, you will notice it is a beautiful mixture of both Catholic and Indian designs.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-3

The altarpiece is ornate and beautiful, while the ceiling has an Ohlone Indian design on it which adds a unique touch to the chapel.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-4

The two side altars are from Mexico and were installed at the mission in 1810.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-7

There is a baptistery right in the middle of the chapel, and it is said that more than 28,000 baptisms have taken place here.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-8

After exiting the chapel, you will be in a small courtyard and will see a diorama that was created for the worlds fair and shows what the area looked like in 1791.

The Basilica

Mission San Francisco de Asis-9

From there you will head into the Basilica which is not a part of the mission but is a church that was built in the mid-1800s. It did not survive an earthquake in the early 1900’s that luckily the mission did, so it is has been completely rebuilt. It is a fantastic place to see though as it is immaculate inside and you can access it while touring the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-10

The altar itself is domed, and there is a second large dome ceiling right in front as well.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-23

The part I enjoyed the most about the Basilica is the stained glass windows along the back that are each made in honor of one of the 21 missions.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-5

After exploring the Basilica, you can head back outside and continue the tour of the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-15

From here the walkway you go through has copies of actual period drawings and photos.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-13

Next, you will head into the museum. The museum is tiny at just one room, but it has a few unique artifacts.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-11

First, is the collection of sacred items, some which were owned by Father Serra.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-14

Next, is the original roof support that was taken out when the chapel was fortified.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-16

After leaving the museum, there is a fountain and the typical statue of Father Serra that is at each of the missions.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-18

The next door leads you to the cemetery which has all sorts of graves ranging from massive to small and from many different time periods.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-20

I found the stone statue of Father Serra of particular interest as it was different than any others I had seen before.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-22

Also, while walking around the cemetery be sure to look up at the roof of the structure as you can see both the mission bell tower and the new church as well.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-21

When you are done in the cemetery, you will walk back through the gift shop and out of the mission.

Mission San Francisco de Asis-26

I recommend carefully walking to the median as it gives you a great view of both of the church’s and you can see the interesting juxtaposition between them both.

All in all, I was impressed with the San Francisco mission. The chapel itself is one of my favorites with the unique Indians design on the ceiling. Also, seeing the amazing basilica next door is an excellent addition to the mission. Check out my trip to all of the missions here and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Mission San Jose: California’s 14th Mission

Mission San Jose was the fourteenth of the Spanish California Missions, and it was founded by Father Lasuen in 1797. This mission is one that had extended periods of decline over the last two centuries, but it has been reconstructed so that it is currently a prime example of the missions system in California. I visited it on my trip to see all of the missions which you can read about here, and read on for all the information Mission San Jose.

Mission San Jose-1

Details

  • Cost: $5
  • Location: 43300 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539

Getting There

Mission San Jose-2

Mission San Jose is located right off Highway 680 on Mission Blvd. It is technically in the city of Fremont which is just North of San Jose. There is street parking around the mission that you can park at.

The Museum

Mission San Jose-5

After paying your fee to enter the mission, there are eight rooms of exhibits and artifacts you can look at.

Mission San Jose-8

A couple of the rooms are dedicated to Indian artifacts and history.

Mission San Jose-7

Others are for ranch history, and others still are for the history of the church in this area.

Mission San Jose-3

There is even a replica of what a traditional room would have looked like.

Mission San Jose-4

After spending time in the museum, you can go out into the courtyard.

The Courtyard

Mission San Jose-15

The courtyard has a fountain and a garden with paths you can walk through.

Mission San Jose-14

There is a statue of Father Serra that you can see in the garden as well.

Mission San Jose-18

On the far side of the chapel, there is also a cemetery that I wasn’t able to walk through, but that looked like it had big gravestones and a cross from afar.

Chapel

Mission San Jose-10

The chapel of San Jose is really beautiful as it combines both the ornate with the vintage. The chapel walls have the same feel as Mission San Miguel did win the cracking adobe.

Mission San Jose-12

The altarpiece itself is ornate with gold, green and reds which offset the cracked white walls. I appreciated the way it was redone as it made it seem old, much like I would anticipate an original mission would look like now.

Mission San Jose-13

The chapel size is average for the missions with lots of pews since it is still a working church.

Mission San Jose-9

After exiting the mission be sure to take some time to look at the facade as it is very much in the traditional mission style and it is beautiful.

Mission San Jose-19

If you have time head a block down the street and grab a coffee at Mission Coffee, they have a fun atmosphere and a lot of great options.

Read more about my time visiting the missions here and let me know what you think of this mission below.

Mission San Jose: California’s 14th Mission

Mission San Jose was the fourteenth of the Spanish California Missions, and it was founded by Father Lasuen in 1797. This mission is one that had extended periods of decline over the last two centuries, but it has been reconstructed so that it is currently a prime example of the missions system in California. I visited it on my trip to see all of the missions which you can read about here, and read on for all the information Mission San Jose.

Mission San Jose-1

Details

  • Cost: $5
  • Location: 43300 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539

Getting There

Mission San Jose-2

Mission San Jose is located right off Highway 680 on Mission Blvd. It is technically in the city of Fremont which is just North of San Jose. There is street parking around the mission that you can park at.

The Museum

Mission San Jose-5

After paying your fee to enter the mission, there are eight rooms of exhibits and artifacts you can look at.

Mission San Jose-8

A couple of the rooms are dedicated to Indian artifacts and history.

Mission San Jose-7

Others are for ranch history, and others still are for the history of the church in this area.

Mission San Jose-3

There is even a replica of what a traditional room would have looked like.

Mission San Jose-4

After spending time in the museum, you can go out into the courtyard.

The Courtyard

Mission San Jose-15

The courtyard has a fountain and a garden with paths you can walk through.

Mission San Jose-14

There is a statue of Father Serra that you can see in the garden as well.

Mission San Jose-18

On the far side of the chapel, there is also a cemetery that I wasn’t able to walk through, but that looked like it had big gravestones and a cross from afar.

Chapel

Mission San Jose-10

The chapel of San Jose is really beautiful as it combines both the ornate with the vintage. The chapel walls have the same feel as Mission San Miguel did win the cracking adobe.

Mission San Jose-12

The altarpiece itself is ornate with gold, green and reds which offset the cracked white walls. I appreciated the way it was redone as it made it seem old, much like I would anticipate an original mission would look like now.

Mission San Jose-13

The chapel size is average for the missions with lots of pews since it is still a working church.

Mission San Jose-9

After exiting the mission be sure to take some time to look at the facade as it is very much in the traditional mission style and it is beautiful.

Mission San Jose-19

If you have time head a block down the street and grab a coffee at Mission Coffee, they have a fun atmosphere and a lot of great options.

Read more about my time visiting the missions here and let me know what you think of this mission below.