Mission San Juan Capistrano is the seventh mission from the twenty one that have been established in California. It was founded to further expand Spain's territories as well as spread Christianity. Here's a more thorough summary of the history of the Mission. I highly recommend reading it before going. It will give you a better understanding of the Mission and find it more interesting and awe inducing when you visit. :)

On a side note: The Mission is home to the oldest structure in California (how cool is that?!) and the birthplace of Orange County!

Getting here

date ideas in orange county mission saint juan capistrano
View of the Central Courtyard inside Mission San Juan Capistrano.

There is free 5 hour parking along the streets and in surrounding lots & free 3 hour parking available in the parking structure. This webpage from the City of San Juan Capstriano has a link to the parking map that will show you all the parking locations.

Tickets are $9/adult which you can purchase online or at the Mission the day of. Each ticket comes with a complimentary audio tour!

➼ tip: Head over to their promotions page for a free guided tour. Select "free guided tour" under the discount choice drop menu. Then enter your email, first and last name, and zip code. Then click submit~ You will be taken to another webpage with a coupon for the free tour!

The Mission

mission saint juan capistrano audio tour
The map of the mission with corresponding numbers for the audio tour.

saint juan capistrano bell wall great stone church
The "Bell Wall" and statue of "Father Serra and Indian Boy. "

saint juan capistrano great stone church
Ruins of the "Great Stone Church."

There are many exhibits at the Missions with rooms showing different artworks, artifacts, and displays of the rooms that were used. The exhibits will help you better understand the people that lived here, their culture, lifestyle, as well as the religious aspects of the Mission.

Serra Chapel
Make sure to stop by the Serra Chapel! The chapel was beautiful and had this calming spiritual vibe that I could not take a picture! Technically, I could have taken a hundreds, but I personally couldn't. I felt like it was a place I would appreciate much more with my eyes than a picture so I didn't take any hehehe. You will have to go for yourself to see and experience the Chapel in person~

As you walk in, you will see rows of candles and hear latin hymns playing in the background. Take a look around and you will see so many intricate details on everything from the alter to the ceiling and walls. It's believed to be the only surviving chapel in California that Father Serra celebrated mass in.

The Swallows
San Juan Capistrano are known for their cliff swallows and you will see many swallow related things in their gift shop on your way out and generally around San Juan Capistrano. The legend goes that these swallows return every year to the Mission grounds on St. Joseph's Day. Once their stay for the summer is over, they leave on the Day of San Juan after circling the grounds to say their goodbyes until next year.

Other points of interest

san juan capistrano los ríos
Los Rios is located across the train tracks of The Depot. 

date ideas in oc los rios
A post with directions to all the restaurants and other points of interest at Los Rios.

After your visit to the Mission, re-energize by dining at one of the many restaurants or continue with your exploration of San Juan Capistrano! Take a look at the map of Historic Downtown San Juan Capistrano for a list of the points of interest, restaurants, and shops.

➼ tip: Save the map to your phone so you can use it when you visit!

Places to eat
Take a look at the map and it will show you all the places to eat! If the number on the map is outlined in yellow, it means they are located inside a historic building or area. Under the name of the restaurant shows the name of the building and the approximate date it was built. I think it's pretty neat to be able to dine in historic buildings!

Another area you can go for food is in Los Rios! Restaurants located here are not shown on the map above, but I have compiled a list below!

Los Rios
Los Rios is the oldest inhabited community in California (located on the left of the map). A lot of the homes you will see are private residences, but there are a couple of homes that have been converted into businesses like restaurants, gift shops, and small museums.

Mission Basilica
The church was inspired by the Great Stone Church inside Mission San Juan Capistrano that was destroyed by the earthquake. In 2000, Pope John Paul II announced the church has been given the title of a basilica. For a church to become a basilica is a great honor. It's a nice place to shop by if you are interested in architecture or if you want to experience the religious ambiance inside the church.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts or if you have any places you would like to share with the rest of us!


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