A painted wood and metal Santa Morte skeleton statue behind a fence in Old Town San Diego

Visitors’ Guide to Old Town San Diego

San Diego locals and visitors alike know that our coastal gem of a city is a haven of warm sunshine, beautiful beaches, and amazing things to do. What may not be as widely known is that “America’s Finest City” is the birthplace of California. The first European visitors on the west coast were Spanish missionaries who made landfall in San Diego as early as 1542. Today, the area where these initial roots were planted is known as Old Town. It’s one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, and a great place to go exploring. Here are some of the best reasons to visit Old Town San Diego.


Fantastic Food

(Photo: @cafecoyoteoldtown)

Thanks to the amazing melting pot of cultures that have come to call San Diego home over the centuries, our food scene is the stuff of legend. And nowhere is that more apparent than in Old Town. Café Coyote offers some of the best traditional Mexican food in town, with everything made fresh on-site. The champagne brunch at Tequila Factory is a locals’ favorite. If you’re looking to sample some tasty tacos and some of the best microbrews the “Craft Beer Capital of America” has to pour, you’ll want to stop into the tasting room at Societe Brewing Company. And Tahona isn’t just an incredible place to sample artisanal Mezcal, it’s also home to Oculto 477 — one of San Diego’s most renowned speakeasies. Not to be outdone, the city’s Italian and Japanese communities are well-represented by Jack & Giulio’s and Sushi Tadokoro, which offer delicious continental cookery and spectacular sushi respectively.


Unique Shopping

(Photo: @bazaardelmundo)

The rich history of Old Town isn’t just reflected in the cuisine. Visitors looking to take home a little history will discover no end of great ways to do just that. Stop into the Bazaar del Mundo to find fair-trade merchandise including jewelry, fabrics, folk art, books, and kitchenware, and even watch as artisans weave traditional textiles. The Fiesta de Reyes is home to a collection of specialty shops offering everything from hot sauce, to children’s toys, to jewelry, gifts, traditional Mexican chocolate, and so much more. You’ll also want to make it a point to peruse Old Town Market during your visit.


Experience Living History

(Photo: @fiestaoldtown)

Thanks to the rich past of San Diego in general and Old Town in particular, history buffs will be enthralled by the area’s countless opportunities to step back in time. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is the most visited state park in California, offering visitors a glimpse into yesteryear. The Robinson-Rose House once served as an 1800s-era law office, and today is the area’s visitor center. La Casa de Machado y Stewart is a stunning example of period adobe, and is also home to a historical garden. And Presidio Park is both a gorgeous plot of green space, and the site of the state’s first European mission. If you’re planning a visit in May, you also won’t want to miss Old Town’s famous Cinco de Mayo festival — it’s one of the liveliest in the country.


Visit a Museum

(Photo: @sd.mom.shutterbug)

Old Town’s history is also preserved within some of the city’s most celebrated museums. The Junípero Serra Museum offers exhibits on the west coast’s earliest settlers. McCoy Museum House is a recreation of a house originally built in 1869 for the city’s first police sheriff. A visit to Seeley Stables provides guests with a closer look at the earliest days of San Diego transportation. Stopping at the Wells Fargo Museum is an informative peek into the west coast gold rush era.


Enjoy Some Entertainment

(Photo: @cygnettheatre)

Simply wandering around Old Town will afford visitors with plenty of opportunities to enjoy some quality artistic diversions. There’s music everywhere, so if you keep your ears open and follow the beat, you’ll be treated to buskers, Mariachi bands, live bands and singer-songwriters on street stages. Theatergoers will want to check out the schedule at Cygnet Theatre, which hosts thought-provoking original work and revivals of iconic shows from the past. The Cygnet has won prestigious awards from institutions such as the American Theatre Wing, so you know you’re in for a great show. And if you’re feeling brave, stop into the Whaley House — reportedly one of the most haunted spots in North America.


Take a Trolley Tour

(Photo: @aline_travelworld)

You could strike out on your own in search of an Old Town adventure. But if you’d rather trust the experts, you’re covered there, too! Old Town Trolley Tours offers excellent hop-on / hop-off “transportainment” tours through some of Old Town San Diego’s most can’t-miss sightseeing spots, all narrated by friendly local historians who know the city inside and out. Expect fun stories, informative trivia, more than 100 points of interest, and a relaxing ride. If that sounds fun, it is. That’s why we’ve put together a Trolley Tour Special Offer that includes tickets with your stay!


Ready to Explore Old Town? Book Your Stay at Days

Need a home base for your exploration? Days Inn is just minutes away from Old Town, so you’ll have easy access to all of the area’s best attractions.  Plus, you’ll find excellent rates, guest-first amenities and stellar service right here. Take a look at our exclusive specials and offers page, choose the San Diego travel deal that’s right for you, and we’ll see you soon!