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California Challenges

California Missions: A California Challenge

Stretching more than 600 miles from San Diego, California up to Sonoma, California (just north of San Francisco), the Royal Road is an iconic California road trip. Known in Spanish as El Camino Real, this road connects all 21 of the California missions. Founded in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s it provided a way to connect the missions. Visiting all 21 of the California missions is perfect for history buffs, 4th grade Californian students, or anyone wanting to learn more about the history of California.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

In 2018 I decided that I wanted to do more travel in my home state of California. And so the California Challenges were born. In 2018 I decided to visit all 21 of the California missions. I headed south to San Diego and as far north as Sonoma to cross all 21 off my list. So let’s hit the road and go visiting the California missions. If you want a sneak peek without reading the whole post, you can see the highlights on my Instagram story.

San Diego De Alcala

Located in San Diego this became the first mission when it opened on July 16, 1769. The gardens are beautiful and the grounds are peaceful. Since this was the first mission you are able to learn more about the origins of the missions while visiting San Diego De Alcala.

San Luis Rey De Francia

Mission San Luis Rey De Francia was founded on June 13, 1798 as the 18th mission. Named after King Louis IX of France, this remains an active parish. Not only can the church and cemetery be explored but also the grounds beyond the church to see what life would have been like in the early 1800’s.

San Juan Capistrano

This mission is located just a bit north of the last one, in San Juan Capistrano. It was the 7th mission and it was founded on November 1, 1776. (History lovers will appreciate the timing as it provides context for what was happening several thousand miles away when the Declaration of Independence was being signed) This mission is considered the birth place of Orange County and is known as The Jewel of the Missions. This was the largest structure built by the Spanish during their 65 years in the west and offers many interactive exhibits today.

San Gabriel Arcangel

Home of the first orange and tangerine trees in California, the San Gabriel Arcangel mission was founded on September 8, 1771. This makes it the 4th mission and was the first to produce wine grapes in Southern California.

San Fernando Rey De Espana

Founded in 1797, San Fernando Rey De Espana is located in the Mission Hills community of Los Angeles. It was the 17th mission and is the final resting place of Bob Hope.

San Buenaventura

Located in downtown Ventura San Buenaventura was founded on March 31, 1782 making it the 9th mission. It is not a very big mission, but it has an absolutely gorgeous courtyard.  This was the last mission founded during Fray Serra’s lifetime.

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Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara is said to be founded on December 16, 1786 as the 10th mission. However this is the only mission that has potentially two founding dates because Father Serra died before being able to confirm the founding date. This is also the only mission with twin bell towers.

Mission Santa Ines

I spent 24 hours in Solvang when I visited the mission, which was founded on September 15, 1804. It was the 19th mission and is located within walking distance of downtown Solvang.

La Purisima Concepcion

La Purisima is probably the most well visited of the missions as it is incredibly visitor friendly. The mission was founded on December 8, 1787 and is the 11th mission. There are quite a few interactive exhibits available at the mission and you can see various animals and workshops in action.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the 5th of the missions and founded on September 1, 1772. It is worth visiting if you would like to see all 21 of the missions, but due to its location in downtown San Luis Obispo there is less to see than many of the other missions.

Mission San Miguel Arcangel

San Miguel Arcangel was founded on July 25, 1797 as the 16th mission. After being closed for nearly three decades in the mid-1800’s it was reopened in 1878. Today the mission is known for it its well preserved murals.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Most of the missions are located along Highway 101 but this one will take you off the beaten path…and on to a military base. This was the 3rd mission and was founded on July 14, 1771. It is located in Jolon and be warned that because of its location, if you go in the summer it will likely be quite hot! You are able to book overnight stays if you would like to experience more of what mission life was like in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s.

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

In its present-day surroundings Nuestra Senora de la Soledad gives you one of the best visuals of what the missions would have been liked when they were founded. It is out in the middle of rolling vineyards so you get an idea of what it would have been like when it was founded on October 9, 1791 as the 13th mission.

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San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is located in Carmel and was just the 2nd mission, founded on June 3, 1770. This was said to be Father Serra’s favorite mission and it is where he passed away.

San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista was the 15th mission and has been serving daily mass since June 24, 1797. This mission is uniquely positioned right on the San Andreas fault so it is quite a feat that this mission has never been abandoned.

Mission Santa Cruz

In its present day form there is a church located where Mission Santa Cruz was founded on September 28, 1791 as the 12th mission. Across the street there is a historical site where some of the mission activities would have taken place but very little is left of the original mission.

Santa Clara de Asis

Of all the missions I had the most difficult time finding this one because it is located on the campus of Santa Clara University. So it’s not as easy to plug into Google Maps. The mission was founded on January 12, 1777 as the 8th mission.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose is located in present-day Fremont and was the 14th of the missions, founded on June 11, 1797. It became known as the “Queen of the Missions.”

San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco de Asis was founded on June 29,1776 as the 6th mission. Located in the heart of San Francisco none of the surrounding land remains, but it is still a gorgeous church.

San Rafael Arcangel

Mission San Rafael was founded for different reasons than many of the other missions. Located further inland from San Francisco it was founded on December 14, 1817 as the 20th mission. Since it was located further inland it had much less fog and so was founded to be a place of medical respite.

San Francisco Solano

San Francisco Solano is located in Sonoma and is the furthest north of all the missions. The mission was founded on July 4, 1823 making it the last of the missions to be founded.

You can find more suggestions of things to do in California HERE. Or head here to see more of my California Challenges.

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California Pro Sports Teams: A California Challenge

A couple of years ago I decided that while I wanted to continue to explore the US and countries around the world, I needed to spend a bit more time exploring right at home. So the California Challenge was born. In 2018 I set out to visit all 21 of the California Missions. For 2018 I decided to attend a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams. Let’s take a virtual tour of the 18 California pro sports teams from the San Diego Padres to the Golden State Warriors.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Here are a few fun facts from attending a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams…

•The home team won nine out of 18 times, lost eight times, and tied once.

•The Los Angeles Rams played in the oldest stadium – the LA Memorial Coliseum, built in 1923. However, they’ll be moving to their new permanent home in Summer 2020 so then the Dodgers will lay claim to the oldest stadium in California, built in 1962.

•The San Jose Sharks play in the SAP Center at San Jose, the smallest capacity in California with 17,496 seats. The Los Angeles Rams played in the largest stadium, with a capacity of 78,467 in the Coliseum. Their new permanent home, SoFi Stadium, will also be the largest pro sport stadium in California when it opens, with a capacity of 70,240.

•Attending a home game for all 18 teams meant visiting 15 stadiums. The Los Angeles Kings, LA Lakers and LA Clippers all play at the Staples Center. The LA Galaxy and LA Chargers both play at Dignity Health Sports Park.

California Pro Sports Teams Awards

Biggest Fan Award goes to my dad. Eighteen different people attended games with me during the challenge, but my dad went to the most games at five.

Favorite Stadium Experience Award goes to the LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.

Frequently Seen Player Award goes to Erik Gudbranson. He played for the Vancouver Canucks when they played against the LA Kings and then was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.

Favorite Player Award goes to Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

San Diego Padres

A gorgeous baseball stadium in downtown San Diego. And since the team is in San Diego you’re almost guaranteed gorgeous baseball weather! (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This game was an adventure! We don’t get a lot of rain in the spring, summer or autumn in Southern California so this was just the 12th rain-delayed game in Angel Stadium history. Fortunately I was able to attend the make-up game the next day to check the Angels off the list.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Not my favorite team or stadium, but I will admit it’s gotten a lot safer in the last few years. Dodger Stadium is the largest MLB stadium at a capacity of 56,000 so it should be included on any MLB Stadium Bucket List.

Oakland Athletics

Constructed deep in the ground so fans enter at the upper decks, this stadium has a lot of concrete. Visiting RingCentral Coliseum feels like a throw back to stadiums of the past and I don’t recommend attending solo at night. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

San Francisco Giants

Located in the South Beach area of San Francisco you can be treated to a waterfront view from some seats. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

National Football League (NFL)

Los Angeles Rams

What an experience to see the Rams play at LA Memorial Coliseum. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium, but for now this was a memorable experience. The Rams and Chargers recently moved to LA and I am amazed at how quickly they’ve developed very different fan bases. In my experiences this year, the Rams seemed to attract more of an LA crowd.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers on the other hand seem to have attracted more of an Orange County crowd, which makes sense since Orange County is so close to San Diego. It’s not easy to judge this stadium because the Rams are only playing in a temporary home after their move from St. Louis. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium.

San Francisco 49ers

This was my very first NFL game so it will always be a bit special but the stadium itself felt fairly impersonal. Essentially, it is just a really large stadium designed to fit in as many people as possible. Definitely doesn’t have the character or personality of older, or smaller, stadiums. (Transportation Notes: This is in the suburbs so public transportation is a bit limited but there are some great places to park and ride to the stadium)

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Major League Soccer (MLS)

Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC)

Wow! This is the hands-down the best soccer game I’ve attended in the US (I imagine going to a game in Europe would be even better!). The energy was absolutely electric and the new stadium is worth a visit. (Transportation Notes: Parking is not cheap at this stadium so if you’re able to use public transportation I’d highly recommend going that route.)

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Los Angeles Galaxy

A fun soccer game with really passionate fans. The game was filled with chanting, scarf waving and excitement. I thought this was a really good experience until I went to an LAFC game, so I’d rank this second in terms of MLB experiences in California.

San Jose Earthquakes

This was probably my least favorite team/stadium of the challenge. The energy wasn’t very good and my favorite part of the game was getting to watch the planes take off and land from the San Jose Airport next door. (Transportation Notes: They have an easy park and ride option from downtown San Jose to help you save money on parking)

National Basketball Association (NBA)

I feel like I need a disclaimer for this whole section of my whole challenge…I don’t particularly care for the NBA. Basketball is enjoyable, but I prefer college basketball. So shelling out money to attend four NBA games was a bit painful!

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers and the Lakers both play in the Staples Center and it was amazing to see how different the atmosphere was for each of the games. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

Los Angeles Lakers

Admittedly this is one of my least favorite professional sports teams so I took a friend who is a big Lakers fan to help make the game more exciting. And then Lizzo made the game really exciting. And I discovered one of the Lakers newer players, Alex Caruso, and he became my favorite player of the challenge. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

Sacramento Kings

The Kings play at one of the newer stadiums I visited and it was quite impressive. The court is underground so you enter the stadium at the 200 level and then go down if you have seats closer to the court…I did not! It is also located in downtown Sacramento so there is a lot to do around the stadium.

Golden State Warriors

Chase Center is the newest of all the stadiums I visited, having just opened in 2019. It is located in downtown San Francisco not too far from where the San Francisco Giants play. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in San Francisco, public transportation can be easy to use.)

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National Hockey League (NHL)

Next up is the NHL and I will admit that before this challenge I had never been to an ice hockey game, at any level. My biggest surprise of the challenge was how much I loved hockey! I hope to more regularly attend games moving forward.

Anaheim Ducks

A fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Southern California, this is just a great family outing!

Los Angeles Kings

Another team who plays at the Staples Center, along with the Clippers and Lakers. I can’t imagine being the keeper of the calendar at the Staples Center…so many moving parts! Just like with the Clippers and Lakers, this was a completely different atmosphere at the stadium which makes me glad I committed to going to a home game of each team instead of just visiting each stadium. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

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San Jose Sharks

Another really fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Northern California, this is just a great family outing.

You can find more suggestions of things to do in California HERE. Or head here to see more of my California Challenges.

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