(credit: Konrad Summers )

(credit: Konrad Summers )


Field trip anyone? Between 1769 and 1823, 21 missions were established along El Camino Real, the road named in honor of the Spanish monarchy that financed expeditions into the west in search of new territory. The religious outposts form an 800-mile trail from San Diego to Sonoma that’s a connect-the-dots of California history where priceless art and artifacts mingle with Spanish-style architecture and gardens. If you visit, don’t be surprised to find groups of California public school fourth graders who spend part of the year learning about California’s missions and often take an educational field trip during the year. Here are the best ones around Los Angeles to visit with your kids for an educational trip they won’t soon forget.

What are your favorite missions in and around California? Share in the comments below!
(credit: Allan Ferguson)

(credit: Allan Ferguson)


San Diego de Alcala
10818 San Diego Mission Road
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 283-7319
www.missionsandiego.com

Fondly called the “Mother of the Missions” because it was the first mission founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, San Diego de Alcala is the birthplace of Catholicism in the New World. After falling into disrepair and abandonment, the mission was rebuilt in 1931 with a new basilica and bell tower. Look for the bell with the Spanish crown which is original and dates back to 1802. Today, the mission is a cultural center and active parish. Hours: Daily, 9am to 4:30pm.

(credit: Sharon Mollerus)

(credit: Sharon Mollerus)


Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 234-1300
www.missionsjc.com

Founded in 1775, San Juan Capistrano is the seventh mission and one of the most vibrant of the California missions, a center of cultural and community activities. Made famous by a 1940’s love song, many visitors come in March to see the swallows that return every year to the area. Often called the “Jewel of the Missions” for its beautiful architecture, visitors flock here to see the ruins of the Great Stone Church which collapsed in an 1812 earthquake, the chapel with ornate golden altar from Spain and beautiful grounds. There are many activities here for kids especially on the weekends. Hours: Daily, 9am to 5pm.

(credit: Chris Brown)

(credit: Chris Brown)


Santa Barbara Mission
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
(805) 682-4713
www.santabarbaramission.org

Santa Barbara Mission is known as The “Queen of the Missions” for its beautiful architecture and commanding presence on a hill with views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains. Founded in 1786 as the tenth mission, it still functions as the cultural heart of Santa Barbara. Meandering the ten acres of gardens, many with fruit trees, is a highlight. There are self-guided tours as well as specialty garden and art and architecture private tours by advance reservation. Hours: Daily 9am to 4:15pm; 9am to 4:30pm in Summer.

(credit: Kristi Marcelle)

(credit: Kristi Marcelle)


La Purísima Concepción
2295 Purisima Road
Lompoc, CA 93436
(805) 733-3713
www.lapurisimamission.org

La Purísima Concepción, the eleventh mission constructed in 1787, was restored in the 1930’s and is considered the most completely restored mission in California. Siting within the almost 2,000 acre La Purisima State Historical Park, the large grounds recreate life in the 1820’s giving visitors a good view of how mission life functioned. Kids especially like the expansive grounds and animals that live here. The missions feels distinctly different from the architecturally grand missions of San Juan Capistrano or Santa Barbara as it’s off-the-beaten-path location in Lompoc (21 miles west of Solvang). And that means it never feels too crowded. Score! Hours: Daily, 9am to 5pm.

(credit: Adam Fagen)

(credit: Adam Fagen)


San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo
3080 Rio Road
Carmel, CA 93923
(831) 624-1271
www.carmelmission.org

Founded by Father Serra at the present site in 1771, San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo is the second of nine missions that he would eventually establish in California. The location in Carmel-by-the-Sea and its Moorish architecture place it in on the popular list of missions to visit. You can see first-hand why Father Serra chose this location as the headquarters for the missions. He lived, died and is buried under the sanctuary floor at the Carmel mission. Hours: Daily 9:30am to 7pm.

What are your favorite missions in and around California? Share in the comments below!

Kristi Marcelle is a travel and lifestyle writer and regular contributor at Ciao Bambino and CBS Los Angeles. She loves planning travel adventures with her family, a good glass of wine at the whining hour and the Green Bay Packers. Follow her on Twitter @kristimarcelle.

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