One of the area’s most popular attractions, the Mission San Juan Capistrano is located on Ortega Highway about an hour south of Los Angeles. Orange County’s only Mission, the site documents and preserves over 230 years of Native, Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. history. It also serves as a fun and educational resource for visitors of all ages. People from all over southern California travel to the Mission to discover bygone eras and to take part in various special events such as the Saint Joseph’s Day celebration and the annual battle of the Mariachis festival.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1775 by Father Lasuen in order to bring Christianity to the Native peoples of California. Natives were encouraged to join the Mission and convert to the Spanish Catholic way of life. By 1806, the Mission’s population had grown to over 1,000 people.

Over the next several decades, however, the Mission suffered a decline due to natural disaster, illness, and Mexican rule. Things began to improve slightly after the U.S. won the Mexican American War in 1848, and several territories, including California, became part of the United States. By the early 1900s, a number of artists, photographers, visionaries, and wealthy individuals had taken an interest in the decaying site. Restoration and preservation efforts began in earnest in the 1910s and continued throughout the 1940s.

Today, the preserved adobe Mission serves as a historic landmark and museum. It sits on 10 acres of grounds and gardens and features audio tours, educational tour booklets, exhibits, and historical re-enactments. Daily activities include Koi fish feeding, guided tours, and the Mission’s award winning audio tour. (There’s even one for children) Native American Basket Weaving takes place on the first and third Wednesdays of every month, and on weekends, visitors can pan for gold and make their own adobe bricks.

Museum exhibits change frequently, so there’s always something new to discover, such as the historic artifacts, rare paintings, and religious documents featured in the August Mission Treasures exhibit. Depending on the time of year, visitors also can enjoy the Mission’s outdoor concert series, Music Under the Stars, or spend an adventurous night camping on the museum’s grounds.

Veterans and current military get free admission on Labor Day weekend. For more information, including current hours and exhibits, visit the Mission at