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. But did you know “America’s Finest City” is actually considered 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 San Diego. As one of the most vibrant parts of the city, this historic neighborhood is well known for its fantastic shopping, unique attractions, and an amazing variety of cuisine (especially famous for its large amount of Mexican Restaurants). Here are some of the best reasons to visit Old Town San Diego next time you’re in the area.


Old Town San Diego’s Delicious Dining Scene

Mexican Food, Lobster, salsa and tacos

(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 San Diego. If you’re looking for some of the best traditional Mexican food in town, Casa Guadalajara, Café Coyote and Old Town Mexican Café are just a few of the many spots with everything made fresh on-site. Don’t forget to stop by and visit the women who make homemade tortilla’s in front of Café Coyote daily- for your own fresh batch!

The champagne brunch at Tequila Factory is a locals’ favorite, and If you’re looking to sample some tasty tacos with 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. Don’t forget to visit Home & Away, one of the most fun bars in the area- with live music, a dog-friendly patio, pinball games and fantastic craft cocktails!

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 (and the only cemetery-adjacent speakeasy in the country!)

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

Shops in Old Town

(Photo: @bazaardelmundo)

The rich history of Old Town San Diego 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 & Seasonal Events

People Dancing in front of Crowd

(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. 

Celebrate Mexican Independence Day in Old Town San Diego with the annual Old Town San Diego Fiestas Patrias festival starting at historic Casa de Estudillo in September. This family-friendly celebration features a colorful parade, traditional music and dance, crafts, games, and more!

Visit a Museum

Mccoy House Museum


Old Town San Diego’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

Two people performing in a Theater

(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

Old Town Trolley

(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!

Old Town’s Historic Haunts

Whaley House sign Old Town

(Photo: @whaleyhouse)

While Old Town is a lively, vibrant neighborhood, its rich history also makes it known for its number of haunted locations. The most famous of all is the iconic Whaley House. Known as the most haunted house in America, tons of visitors flock to this famous location each year.

Old Town is also home to El Campo Cemetery and Pioneer Park, both two of the oldest cemeteries in San Diego. If you’re looking to get spooked in San Diego- you can book tours to all of these locations year-round, either directly or via Ghosts and Gravestones Tour, highly recommended during the October Halloween season!

Ready to Explore Old Town? Book Your Stay at Days Inn By Wyndham San Diego Today!

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!