Located on Presidio Hill in San Diego, the Father Juniper Serra Museum is an excellent spot for an event in San Diego or to explore if you are interested in California Mission history like I am. This museum is known as the site where California began and it is where the first mission was established in California (one of its first non-Native America structures). I got a chance to check it out, and here is all the information.
- Cost: $6
- Location: 2727 Presidio Dr, San Diego, CA 92103
- Read about all 21 of the California Missions here
- Information from my visit in 2016
The museum is located at the top of Presidio Hill, which can be seen from Old Town San Diego and is a very recognizable site. The easiest way to get there is to take I-5 to I-8 E then get off on Taylor St, which will direct you to the Presidio, which is to the right and up the hill.
The primary mission in San Diego, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, is where you will dive into San Diego’s mission history, but this is where the first mission began. Father Serra elected to build the mission here because of its location overlooking the bay but then eventually moved it 4 miles east to be closer to the native population in the area and have a more consistent water supply. This museum, as it appears now, was built in the early 1900s to store history and artifacts from the San Diego area.
The highlight of the museum for me is the exterior. This building was built in the same style and architecture as the California missions, so it has a beautiful facade that is the backdrop to many photos taken in San Diego.
Walking across the street from the parking lot, you will see the old bell, which marks the El Camino Real road used to visit all of the missions. There are also three flags for the USA, Mexico, and Spain, which all had a part in developing California as it is today.
From here, you can head up the stairs and see the beautiful archway before going into the museum proper.
The museum has a fee of $6 to enter (as of 2016), and you will need to decide how much you care about the history before deciding to visit. For me, it was an easy purchase, but I will say that it is relatively expensive for what you can see in the museum. The museum is one main room of exhibits which looks a lot like the style of the chapels you would find at many of the other missions. There is information on the history of San Diego, the missions, and Father Serra inside.
There is another room on the first story that has a few more artifacts and a video you can view as well.
From here, the museum heads up as you climb the stairs to the lookout at the top of the tower.
The first spot you will stop at is the overlook for the one-room museum below. It provides an excellent vantage point of the room and a great place for photos.
From here, you will head to another room with a lot of history on how the museum itself came to be.
Lastly, you will make the walk up the last set of stairs and be greeted with a small room that provides many windows for you to view the surrounding area from. It is a high vantage point and was my favorite part of the museum’s interior.
I especially liked that they had large pictures of what these views would have looked like in the past so you could compare them to what they look like now. It was pretty amazing to see as the views have changed immensely, and I can’t even imagine seeing San Diego like that.
After taking some time at the lookout, you will head down and complete your time at the museum. For me, it is was cool to see all of the history, as I had just finished my time visiting all of the missions in California the previous week. I would say that the price seemed a little steep if you brought your whole family though in terms of what you got to see. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought and read about my time at the missions here.