MilMomAdventures San Diego

The Old Mission San Luis Rey

I am a history geek. I enjoy looking Spanish colonial architecture. A way I can indulge both of those interests is visiting on of the Missions. In fact seeing as many of the Missions as I can while stationed here is part of this Milmom’s “California Bucket List”!

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The Missions are a part of Californian History. They are unique to this area. They are a remnant of Spanish colonial presence. There are 21 Missions in total. Each mission is different, but all of them are a series of buildings arranged into a compound –they house historic barracks, laundry rooms, food storage sites, distilleries and other fascinating structures that allow one to glimpse into a different era of life in California.

The Missions are all in various states of repair and operation. Some buildings have been restored while others have been left in ruins. All of them are open to visit and are maintained as museums. The first is located in San Diego and they stretch north from there all the way up to Napa Valley. They are spaced a distance that would be a day’s ride on horseback. They historically served as outposts for travelers, missionaries, traders, and other assorted characters in the late 18th and early 19th Century California landscape. The Missions are all located close to the coast and Historic 101 Highway. The road between the Missions is known as “The Mission Trail”.

There are three Missions between San Diego County and Orange County. This post isspecifically focused on the mission “in the middle” – The Old Mission in San Luis Rey. Located in Oceanside just off the 76.

The Old Mission San Luis Rey is unique in that is still has a fully operational church that has parishoners and holds services regularly. It also has a museum and a gift shop.

Photo courtesy of


Important to know

  • The museums is free for military and their dependents with ID
  • They are open most days except major holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years)
  • Behind the scenes tours of The Mission occur most Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 13:00
  • Parking is free. There is a large parking lot in front of the building
  • They sometimes host special events, fundraisers and retreats.

Although admission is always free for military families, Old Mission San Luis Rey participates in Blue Star Museums, an initiative we recently wrote about to provide free admissions to museums, parks, and other cultural sites across the country to military families during the summer months.

Have you been to one? Have you been to them all? Let us know which ones and how many you have crossed of your list! #Explorewherethemilitarysendsyou

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