"San Juan Capistrano" Top 5 Page for this destination San Juan Capistrano by Goner

San Juan Capistrano Travel Guide: 157 reviews and 474 photos

A Town with a Mission

San Juan Capistrano is located three miles from the ocean in Southern California, midway between LA and San Diego. It’s best known for its Mission and the swallows that return there year-after-year. This beautiful Mission is known as “The Jewel of the Missions”. Junipero Serra founded it in 1776, named for Giovanni de Capistrano, a missionary. Capistrano Mission is the 7th of the 21 Spanish Missions in California, inside the Mission walls lay the ruins of the Great Stone Church, a Roman Greco style cathedral - the largest building in the California wilderness. An earthquake destroyed it in 1806 and efforts are being made to preserve this national treasure.

The miracle of the “Swallows” of Capistrano takes place each year at the Mission on March 19th, which is St. Joseph’s Day. A few “scout swallows” precede the flock to clear the way for the main group which arrive in early dawn on St. Joseph’s Day and return to their mud nests which are still clinging to the ruins of the old stone church of San Juan Capistrano. After camping out for the summer, on October 23rd the swallows take their young and fly away until the next year. This phenomenon has been occurring for as long as anyone can remember.

Los Rios Historic District

Los Rios is the oldest neighborhood in California, it runs along the railroad tracks across from the Capistrano Depot. There are 40 homes still standing which include 3 original adobe structures. These 3 adobes housed the builders and ranch workers in the 1700’s and early 1800’s. During the time the Great Stone Church was built, the mission was prospering as the center of economy for the Spanish and the Acajachemen Indians. European immigrants built many of the other homes here in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Most of the homes are now private residences, and some are businesses open during business hours to the public. A walk through this area takes you back in time and recaptures the slower pace of life that existed here before the turn of the century and before. Large willow and eucalyptus and palm trees tower above the cactus and wildflowers that grow beneath the large sprays of bougainvillea. Visitors come here for the arts and crafts and bring their children to Jones Mini Farm where children can ride the ponies and feed and pet the rabbits, goats and other animals.

The Depot

San Juan Capistrano’s train depot was completed October 8, 1894 and considered by many as the finest depot on the Santa Fe system. It’s a lovely building with mission arches, a dome 40 feet high with a mission bell, dainty ticket office and quaint old fashion fireplace. However, the depot is now home to Sarducci’s Italian restaurant.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful Mission & Look at California History
  • In a nutshell:Just a Lovely Mission Town to Visit
  • Last visit to San Juan Capistrano: Jun 2003
  • Intro Updated Aug 8, 2003
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Reviews (24)

Comments (11)

  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo
    Oct 7, 2007 at 12:12 AM

    The garden looks beautiful! Great page!

  • keida84's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2005 at 5:21 AM

    Hi Nancy, I wanted to take a look at your pages as I just returned from SJC. We both had turkey avocado sandwhiches at Ruby's. You wrote some excellent tips as it was a pleasure to peruse your pages. Kat

  • TinKan's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2005 at 3:48 PM

    AWESOME.... that is how you have made it all look. Your pictures are beautiful and your tips are wonderful. We enjoyed ourself there with the kids and all.

  • naranja's Profile Photo
    Feb 29, 2004 at 9:29 PM

    Lovely page on San Juan Capistrano. I am planning to be there together with the swallows in 3 weeks!

  • keeweechic's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2004 at 5:52 PM

    A great write up on San Juan Capistrano. The Serra Chapel and mission compound are really interesting with great history. Maybe that restaurant should be named 'Died-rich & Happy ' :-)

  • acemj's Profile Photo
    Nov 7, 2003 at 12:01 PM

    I loved this page. I can't believe I never stopped here and paid a visit!!

  • zrim's Profile Photo
    Oct 7, 2003 at 7:41 PM

    I have passed by this town so many times on my forays into southern California, but never stopped to explore the town and mission. Obviously, my bad. Next time I will take the time to explore the mission and its environs.

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Jul 21, 2003 at 5:09 AM

    Great page on beautiful place... I skipped :-((. Good reason to come back, I am sure. Wonderful flowers, interesting architecture and your info!

  • janika's Profile Photo
    Jul 1, 2003 at 10:14 PM

    Nice gardens in The Central Courtyard! I love the flowers. This place looks very relaxing in a layed-back surroundings. Well done Nancy! :)

  • Jun 24, 2003 at 10:40 PM

    Freshness is what i can describe with your Sn Juan Capistrano garden photos! I could almost smell the flowers all over. :-) Bravo!

Goner

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