This Tiny Town Is Full of History and Places to Eat, Play and Stay
Stationed just off the coast near Dana Point lies the historic town of San Juan Capistrano. This quaint community offers locals and visitors something other than surf and sand. Spatterings of Spanish architecture and a charming medley of locally owned restaurants, breweries, cafes and shops make San Juan the ideal day trip destination. Here’s the only itinerary you’ll need to explore the nooks of this hidden enclave. Explore San Juan Capistrano
Tucked behind the California Amtrak station in the Historic District of San Juan, Hidden House Coffee is a neighborhood nook that’s served up fresh beans and baked goods for over a decade. This little yellow house is a cozy, serene spot for a cup of joe and good conversation. Hint: order a fresh-baked cinnamon roll!
This historic landmark and museum was founded over 200 years ago, is the seventh of 21 missions and is the birthplace of Orange County. Set on 10 acres, Mission San Juan Capistrano is home to lush gardens, ruins of the Great Stone Church and the Serra Chapel—the oldest church in California! Take a tour and discover religious artifacts along with one-of-a-kind treasures and paintings.
Tavern at the Mission
A San Juan Capistrano staple that has been serving the community for over 25 years, Tavern at the Mission (what used to be known as Cedar Creek) is a tried-and-true, classic American restaurant. Whether you’re hopping off the Metrolink for a bite to eat or looking for a place to gather with family and friends, look no further than Tavern at the Mission. Under the new ownership of OC veteran, Chef and Restaurateur David Wilhelm, the lunch, dinner and brunch menus have all been revamped, along with the restaurant name itself. Diners can now indulge in prime rib sandwiches and Maine lobster salad for lunch, while digging into Tequila Shrimp Pasta with Green Chile Pesto and French Onion Filet Mignon for dinner. You’ll want to come back for brunch with your crew to try the fried chicken and waffles or Christmas burrito! Featuring a large tree covered pet-friendly patio, charming ambiance and a view of the Old Mission, Tavern at the Mission is not only a culinary delight but also a feast for the eyes, making it a perfect destination for a memorable meal.
Rancho Capistrano Winery, known for its bustling outdoor patio equipped with rustic furniture and a cozy fireplace, over 40 award-winning wines and delectable California cuisine, has opened an indoor tasting room to provide an elevated wine tasting experience. Kylie Aseltine, head winemaker at Rancho Capistrano Winery, explains, “Guests can expect an intimate private wine tasting experience just like they would get in wine country.” Upon arrival, guests will be seated at the prominent farmer’s table. For $35 per person, you’ll receive a complimentary tasting followed by a flight of five different pours from their best wines in Paso Robles, Napa and Washington. Pair your tasting with decadent cheese or chocolate for only $10. Rancho Capistrano Winery Founder and Owner Kyle Franson says, “We’ve contracted with a chocolate company to make us a variety of different chocolates from around the world that we will match with the specific wines we are pouring that day.” Tastings are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be available by appointment only. A $10 voucher to purchase an award-winning bottle of wine will be included with your tasting. Whether you’re planning a date, celebrating an anniversary or searching for fun weekend plans, this is the spot!
Local Insight: Rancho Capistrano Winery is Orange County’s largest winery!
Pack your bags and check-in to the stunning Spanish-inspired hotel in the heart of downtown for a girl’s getaway! Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano effortlessly aligns with the town’s history, balancing old-world elements with modern-day amenities. Hacienda-style rooms, mission-inspired furnishings, colorful Spanish tiling and a signature restaurant make this hotel a must-stay. And with their SoCal Your Way offer, you’ll receive a $100 credit to enjoy on property. Dine under the twinkling lights on the patio of Ysidora Restaurant for contemporary Spanish cuisine including wood-fired grilled seafood and tapas. Stay awhile at the spa before getting all dolled up for a curated afternoon tea experience at the Ysidora Lounge.
Local Insight: Local to San Juan Capistrano? Enjoy the hotel’s live, family-friendly (and free!) summer concerts in the Olive Grove. The first show is scheduled for June 17th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. with country band Sandy Boots. Be on the lookout and visit their website for other upcoming shows!
Not everything in San Juan is old—in fact, the town is home to an assortment of trendy, modern eateries that’ll make your Insta feed look fuego. Mayfield is one of our favorites! This Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is outfitted with marble countertops, pink leather booths and mid-mod furniture, making it the ultimate spot for a sit-down lunch. Snack on tasty plates like baba ganoush, burrata salad and crispy smashed Yukon potatoes.
Local Insight: Mayfield has a market stocked with natural wines, homeware, kitchenware and other goodies you’ll love!
The Ramos House Café Explore San Juan Capistrano
This adorable cafe on Los Rios Street is an iconic San Juan spot for brunch and lunch. Take a seat on the shaded patio surrounded by potted plants and climbing vines. Indulge in a Ramos House Famous Soju Bloody Mary for $15 (add a Scotch egg for $5!) and dig into southern-style favorites like buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon apple beignets and huckleberry coffee cake. If you prefer savory over sweet, opt for the huevos rancheros or the flannel hash.
Heritage Barbecue Explore San Juan Capistrano
There’s nothing quite like authentic Texas barbecue! Smoky beef ribs, brisket-stuffed sandwiches and baked beans are the ultimate comfort foods of our great nation. If you consider yourself a carnivore, Heritage Barbecue is the place to be. This farm-to-table restaurant in San Juan’s historic downtown district serves up handcrafted smoked meats and decadent sides in a casual “picnic table” setting. Oh yeah—at Heritage, calories don’t count.
Located just across the train tracks lies Zoomars, a family-friendly farm with a petting zoo, train rides, mining station, playground and more. This is a great daytime spot for families looking to entertain their kiddos. Watch as your little ones hold and pet guinea pigs and feed animals like goats, sheep, rabbits and pigs!9/26
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Looking for a fast-casual spot to feast? Bueno Bueno is a tasty spot for a quick bite and features a menu chock-full of organic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. Notable dishes include the Enchiladas de Mole Negro, el calamar (calamari) tacos and Elote e Esquite. The restaurant also offers a variety of beers, mescal-based cocktails and crafty horchatas. Take notice of the tortilla-making station and tequila sipping bar.
If happy hour isn’t your thing, enjoy an afternoon cup of tea at The Tea House on Los Rios. This homey spot not only offers a variety of loose-leaf teas, but it also serves a delicious weekend brunch with morning plates like the salmon Benedict, hash brown quiche and Farmhouse Scramble. Pinkies up!
The Ecology Center Explore San Juan Capistrano
In the heart of San Juan lies a 28-acre regenerative organic farm—one of the only ones left in the county. The Ecology Center is a “living system, classroom and laboratory for tomorrow’s leaders.” The on-site farmstand sells a variety of fresh, seasonal produce like fruits, flowers, herbs and veggies. Take a stroll around the gorgeous grounds of the center and learn more about sustainable living as well as how to create a healthier future.
Docent Brewing Explore San Juan Capistrano
SJC’s first brewery, Docent, is a well-established place for a pint. Sip on a variety of brews, ranging from ales and IPAs to pilsners and imperial stouts. And while what’s on tap is typically the draw, their menu of eats is a real treat. Try the Cubano sandwich, spicy vegan tostadas or the house favorite, fermented veggies.
When it comes to al fresco dining, there isn’t much that compares to this happenin’ hotspot. Located just steps from the train tracks, Trevor’s offers diners a taste of California cuisine
In a historical, open-air setting. The restaurant was refurbished in 1995, but the Mission revival architecture and majestic dome remain prominent features in its design. The heated patio features a central, wraparound bar with string lights—a setting that’ll make you want to stay awhile. Order one of their “garden-to-glass” cocktails while feasting on a selection of tasty small plates.