Gay San Diego – Old Town

Published Date Author: , December 29th, 2014

Old Town - Apple Maps

Old Town San DiegoJust over the hill from Hillcrest, on the far side of the Mission Hills District and just north of the airport, Old Town San Diego exudes an unexpected charm – what could have been just another tourist trap filled with plastic doohickeys emblazoned with an Old Town Logo somehow instead manages to be a vibrant, colorful visit to San Diego’s Mexican roots.

Old Town San DiegoNestled against Mission Hills, Old Town is “The Birthplace of California”. Father Junipero Serra established the first California mission here in 1769, and a small community began to form around Father Serra’s Mission and Presidio in the 1820’s. By 1835, the town had become known as El Pueblo de San Diego, and in 1846 the American flag was first raised here. For more on the history, see the Old Town History Page.

There are a number of things to do here – we’ll cover them under several headings, starting with the History.

There are a lot of historical plaques scattered about Old Town, and of course there’s the wonderful Mexican Mission architecture that’s in evidence everywhere.

But there are also sites dedicated to historical preservation, including the Wells Fargo History Museum, once a hotel, saloon, and gaming palour, where you can take money out of a modern Wells Fargo ATM in front of a beautiful, restored historic Wells Fargo coach – a nice mix of the now and the then. There’s also a large painting of what the town looked like originally – a great visual aid to the imagination.

Old Town San DiegoThen there’s the Sherrif’s Museum, which has a great metal prison cell behind the building that will bring a smile to the more, um, leather-minded in our community – iamgine a night in this place!

Old Town San DiegoYou can also tour La Casa de Estudillo, a restored Hacienda with a large, enclosed garden. Though a bit sparse on details, this Hacienda offers free tours and a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the early San Diego residents, with rooms filled with period furniture and decor, and the ceilings (surprisingly) are gorgeous (see below).

The garden is a bit overgrown, but still beautiful, filled with natural, native vegetation and meandering paths.

Here’s another great site that features much more detail on the historic sites in Old Town: http://www.oldtownartfestival.com/history.html.

Old Town San DiegoNext, we’ll jump into the shopping, which is widespread and varied. Whe you first arrive, park in the large lot at Juan St. and Mason St. Walk down Mason a block to Calhoun, which runs through the heart of Old Town. Right here, you’ll find a cluster of infoor and outdoor vendors offering pottery, blankets, clothing, some lovely carved gourds, and yes, a few cheap trinkets too.

Old Town San DiegoFollow Calhoun west and you’ll quickly reach Fiesta del Reyes (http://www.fiestadereyes.com/), a beautifully restored Mexican villa built around a grassy central plaza that now hosts 19 shops, 3 restaurants, and a hotel.

Old Town San DiegoAs we first entered, we were greeted by a Mariachi, playing festive songs and giving us a big smile. Since it was fall, there was also a beautiful display of local Pumpkins at the entrance, perched upon hay bales and an old wooden cart to help get us into an Autumn frame of mind.

There are also artisans in historic garb scattered throughout the Plaza, including the woman we found sewing quilts under a red tiled porch. The whole place has an air of living history, and is filled with shady spots to stop on a warm afternoon and just watch all the things goung on around you.

old-town-san-diego-18The central Plaza is a green, grassy oasis, with many benches and a beautiful fountain. The plaza is also home to one of the four restaurants here, Casa de Reyes, with a wonderfully relaxing outdoor seating area, protected from sun and rain, and with views out on the Plaza.

Old Town San DiegoAlmost directly west of the Fiesta del Reyes (though you have to go around-about to get there from here) is the Bazaar del Mundo, (http://www.bazaardelmundo.com) another shopping area with a couple fantastic shops.

The Gallery featured some beautiful sculptures and works of art.

Old Town San DiegoArtes del Mexico was one of our favorites here – this two-story shop is just jam-packed with arts and crafts in so many amazing, technicolor-bright colors you hardly know where to look.

These included a virtual rainbow zoo of fantastically imagined and painted wooden animals and all nature of other wooden carvings, wall art, and other eye candy.

There’s also a macaw in a cage here just outside the store entrance, nature mimicing art? But be careful – he’s not finger-eating trained, despite his 46 years.

Old Town San DiegoAnother store here, Ariana, had some of the most beautiful, and again vibrant, textiles and clothing. And the Design Center, at the back of the Bazaar, featured wonderful southwestern arts and crafts, albeit a little more toned down from what we found in Artes del Mexico (below, right, and bottom row).

In need of a restroom? You’ll find public bathrooms here too in the courtyard between the main buildings. And you’ll also be greeted by random art as you turn each corner:

There are also four restaurants here – Casa Guadalajara, Casa de Pico, Casa de Bandini and Casa Sol y Mar. We had dinner this time at Casa Guadalajara after my aunt’s wedding – it’s on the northwestern edge of Old Town. The food was decent, and the ambiance was fantastic – if it’s available, sit out in the covered patio.

Casa Guadalajara Old Town San Diego

Old Town San DiegoFor lunch, we headed back down Calhoun Street, and stopped at Cafe Coyote y Cantina, (http://www.cafecoyoteoldtown.com), a cute Mexican cantina with covered outdoor seating on the street and a bunch of cute murals inside. The food was good and very affordable – we had the Chicken Fajitas, with tortilla soup and guacamole and chips, and the service was pretty good too. Be sure to go inside before you leave if you eat on the patio, to enjoy the coyote murals. As with many Mexican restaurants, the portions are generous, so come hungry.

Old Town San DiegoThere’s lots more to see here – including (we kid you not) Fred’s Mexican Cafe (http://www.fredsmexicancafe.com), which sits on eastern Calhoun street, amidst a bunch more shops and restaurants. You can also catch a watergun fight a little farther down the street between a posse of two-dimensional cowboys, and be sure to check out the beautiful mansions on the hills behind Old Town. There are also little gardens and surprises everywhere as you walk through Old Town.

Old Town San Diego is a great place to spend a day or an afternoon.

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

Comments reader  No Responses

Gay San Diego – Old Town - Gravatar

gaycationmagazine.com/gay-san-diego-old-town/ Gay San Diego - Old Town said on December 29, 2014, 8:48 am:

[…] By Scott and Mark – Full Story at Purple Roofs | San Diego Gay Travel Resources […]

Gay San Diego – Old Town | Sawatdee Network - Gravatar

sawatdeenetwork.com/2014/12/30/gay-san-diego-old-town/ Gay San Diego – Old Town | Sawatdee Network said on December 30, 2014, 1:23 am:

[…] post Gay San Diego – Old Town appeared first on Purple Roofs Gay Travel […]

Purple Roofs LGBT Travel Newsletter – January 3rd | Sawatdee Network - Gravatar

sawatdeenetwork.com/2015/01/04/purple-roofs-lgbt-travel-newsletter-january-3rd/ Purple Roofs LGBT Travel Newsletter – January 3rd | Sawatdee Network said on January 4, 2015, 2:29 am:

[…] USA, CALIFORNIA: Gay San Diego – Old Town by Scott and Mark Just over the hill from Hillcrest, on the far side of the Mission Hills District and just north of the airport, Old Town San Diego exudes an unexpected charm – what could have been just another tourist trap filled with plastic doohickeys emblazoned with an Old Town Logo somehow instead manages to be a vibrant, colorful visit to San Diego’s Mexican roots. Nestled against Mission Hills, Old Town is “The Birthplace of California”. Father Junipero Serra established the first California mission here in 1769, and a small community began to form around Father Serra’s Mission and Presidio in the 1820’s. By 1835, the town had become known as El Pueblo de San Diego, and in 1846 the American flag was first raised here. For more on the history, see the Old Town History Page.Full Story […]

Leave Your Comment  Leave a comment

All fields marked with "*" are required.