When I published my Orange County Bucket List and began making plans for how I could start crossing things off my bucket list, I knew one thing with certainty. I had to begin at Mission San Juan Capistrano. This mission is considered the birthplace of Orange County so it seemed fitting. The Mission was the 7th of 21 missions and was founded on November 1, 1776 and is considered the Jewel of the Missions.
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I have vague recollections of visiting a couple of missions in 4th grade as we studied California’s history but don’t recall visiting many missions since then. Now I regret this and I realized I should be planning a road trip to visit all of the missions. One of the biggest things I walked away with after my time at the mission is the importance of studying history. And not just from a textbook where I’m absorbing facts I can find in any number of books. But actually exploring history and studying the people and places of our past.
The stories of the passion and conviction of the priests in their missionary work.
The stories of the way of life for the Acjachemen people.
The stories of how the priests and Acjachemen people co-existed.
These stories helped me understand a piece of California’s history and I think when we take the time to truly study history we’re able to build connections between what was, what is, and what can be. And those connections are what help us learn from past mistakes, repeat past successes and gain a better understanding of people and culture.
Tips for planning a trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano
*Go early. I was there right when Mission San Juan Capistrano opened and it allowed me to enjoy the first hour or so in peace. I could spend as long as I wanted at each exhibit and never felt crowded. And I could capture pictures without other people in them. This is especially valuable if you’re working on a mission project for school!
*Take advantage of the resources. There is a complimentary audio tour available and there were docents throughout the mission. Both were an excellent source of information and provided stories I would not have heard had I only explored the mission on my own.
*Plan your trip. Head online before you go to the Mission San Juan Capistrano website and browse the schedule of tours, exhibits and hands-on opportunities. There are days when you can pan for gold, try your hand at basket weaving, hear from descendants of the Acjachemen people and more. So if you’re able to plan your trip around things that are interesting to you, I’d highly recommend it!
*See the swallows. If you’re able to time your visit to go in March during the Swallows Day Parade you’ll be in for a treat as you learn about the legend of the swallows.
Have you ever been to any of the missions in California? What is your favorite?