Credit: Fiesta de Reyes
Credit: Fiesta de Reyes

Your Guide to Exploring the Historic Neighborhood of Old Town San Diego

Steeped in History, This Charming Enclave Is the Perfect Place to Spend a Day

A typical day in San Diego might call for sunsets and sand between your toes, but there comes a day that you’ve achieved the perfect shade of sunkissed and it’s time to dig deeper. Learn how San Diego came to be among vibrant haciendas, delicious cuisine and non-stop happenings in Old Town San Diego! Complete with over 35 free museums, eclectic shops, Mexican history and so much more, we’ve rounded up just a few of our favorite spots to create the perfect guide to discovering the city’s rich history. Paint a picture of the past and spend a relaxing day in historic Old Town San Diego. Old Town San Diego


9 a.m.

Coffee at Garden Coffee

Credit: Fahmi Fakhrudin / Unsplash

‘Morning’ may start with M, but every good morning starts with a coffee. Grab your latte in the lush gardens of Garden Coffee, an adorable open-air coffee shop with a greenery-filled patio. Sit and sip among unique, thrifty seating areas complete with everything from ironing board tables and a piano covered in succulents. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m, they also host live music events on select Saturdays beginning at 10 a.m. Stick around for a moment and you might catch some vibey tunes!


10 a.m.

Explore Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Credit: © California State Parks, all rights reserved.

Start your San Diego day and step out into the many sights of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a protected historical landmark commemorating the early days of the city. Holding some of the richest aspects of San Diego history, it’s impossible not to immerse yourself in culture and the arts. As you discover over 35 historic buildings dating back to the 1800s, you may even uncover San Diego’s slightly haunted history. Hint: ever heard of the Whaley House? We don’t mean to spook you, but the doors do open at 10 a.m. (No, not on their own.)

Old Town San Diego


Lunch at Bara Bara Saloon

Credit: Fiesta de Reyes

Turns out, this town is big enough for all of us. Stop off for lunch at Bara Bara Saloon, a period-themed restaurant serving up Mexican-meets-American cuisine, representing the San Diego traditions that came about in the 1800s. Enjoy traditional Mexican faire in an old ranch atmosphere lined with old artifacts. Not to mention, they’ve got a huge assortment of flavored margaritas by the glass or pitcher. Kick back and stay a while as you munch on classic sizzling hot fajitas or vegetarian empanadas. 

2 p.m.

Shop at El Centro Artesano

Stroll on over to the Shop at El Centro Artesano to uncover the hidden gems you never knew you needed at Old Town’s largest pottery gift shop! Find funky flair sure to spruce up your space at this outdoor courtyard filled with hand-painted Mexican pots, figurines and classic sunfaces to liven up your home or garden. Discover hand-crafted works here from all over the world—we can hear your garden’s future wind chime already.

Old Town San Diego

5 p.m.

Live Entertainment at Fiesta de Reyes

Every Friday through Sunday, the Fiesta de Reyes stage houses free live musical entertainment, charming endless crowds with their lively folklorico dancers and Old Town’s beloved mariachi band. You can find times and a complete lineup of entertainment on their website, but we recommend taking it easy and happening upon the experience. Dinner is not necessary to be a part of the party, but the experience can only improve with a delicious La Nina Fresa or a Reyna’s Sangria in-hand. No matter what, it’s always a fiesta.


6:30 p.m.

Dinner + Drinks at Tahona Bar

End your day of activities at a hard-earned sit-down dinner at Tahona Bar, specializing in mezcal tastings and classic Oaxacan-inspired cuisine. Grab a seat in the beautiful hacienda or on the street patio and prepare for perfectly seasoned tacos, entrees and appetizers. Be sure to pair your pick with one of their 120 different kinds of mezcal! Tahona is on a mission to educate and pay respects to the beauty of Mexican culture through its most iconic beverage and cuisine. Pro tip: cap off the night at Oculto 477, their neighboring speakeasy (just keep it on the down-low).

Old Town San Diego

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Jaclyn is a sunshine chasing San Diego native with an extensive writing background. When she isn’t word-smithing, you can find her playing beach volleyball, skating the boardwalk, or on a rooftop enjoying a drink in the sunshine with her pals.




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