This year, 2019, marks 250 years since the founding of San Diego—an anniversary some call a sestercentennial. By any name, it’s a great excuse for exploring the history, culture, and spectacular views of America’s finest city on a 2-mile trek through time.
Park at the Junipero Serra Museum lot in Presidio Park, a 40-acre National Historic Landmark named after the first-ever Spanish establishment on the Pacific coast in what’s now known as California. A yellow wall and interpretive signs at the south end of the lot denote the original location of the presidio, which is now dominated by local flora. Look for century-old statues of Father Serra and a Kumeyaay—the Native American tribe that first inhabited the area—overlooking the city and Mission Bay.
Then head up the hill for a quick stop at the museum, which features Kumeyaay, Spanish, and Mexican relics. Continue east along the park’s edge, enjoying views of the San Diego River and beyond. The trail crosses the road and passes a Mormon battalion memorial honoring the only religious-based unit in US military history, before sidewinding down the hill and turning left downstairs to the intersection of Jackson and Mason Streets. Continue southwest on Mason Street, where signs inform you that you’re on the Old Presidio Historic Trail.
At the next block you have reached Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Explore all the historical haven has to offer, from the functioning blacksmith shop to the historic plaza to La Casa de Estudillo, a historic adobe house turned museum that offers free tours daily at 11 and 2. The food (try Casa de Reyes!), shopping, and even the live music here are focused on San Diego’s varied past. Take plenty of time getting lost in history, but when you’re ready, head back to the Jackson and Mason crossing. This time, head up the stairs and take the trail to the left that will lead you back through Presidio Park to your car and the present.
From the westbound I-8, take Exit 3 toward Taylor St. and turn right after crossing the freeway. After a half-mile, turn left onto Presidio Dr., followed by an immediately left up the hill. The lot will be on your right across from the museum. Alternatively, take the I-5 to the I-8 east, exiting Taylor St., and turn right. Dog-friendly!