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LA budget family daytrips: San Diego's historic Old Town

The Colorado House, originally a hotel in the 1800s, in San Diego's Old Town.
The Colorado House, originally a hotel in the 1800s, in San Diego's Old Town.

San Diego may be a seaside town, but it has more to offer than just beaches. If you're searching for a budget-friendly family daytrip, check out Old Town San Diego. Just a couple li'l hours south of Los Angeles, San Diego's historic Old Town is packed with fun, free stuff for your whole family.

As California's first Spanish settlement in 1769, San Diego's Old Town is rich in history and offers a glimpse Mexican and early American life. Restored, historic buildings including the Mason Street School (CA’s first public schoolhouse), San Diego Union Printing Office (site of the city’s oldest surviving newspaper office), the town's first brick courthouse, beautifully restored houses from the early 1800s, and Seeley Stables Museum with one of the finest wagon and carriage collections around are just some of the fascinating displays of old San Diego you’ll discover.

A working blacksmith shop, historic games, music, animals, and staff dressed in period costume help transport visitors back in time to the 1800s.  Daily blacksmith, woodshop, and printing press demonstrations teach visitors about what life was like for San Diego's earliest settlers. Living history presentations and activities take place Wed. and Sat. from 10 AM to 4 PM, and tours are given daily at 11 AM and 2 PM. 

Weekend Stagecoach Days bring extra fun in July and August with games, living history activities, cannon and anvil firings, and more. Also, Old Town's free July 4th celebration offers wagon rides, parades, crafts, pie eating contests, music, and more.

If Shakespeare in the park is what you crave, San Diego's own Cygnet Theatre presents their free show, "Storytelling on the Green," Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 2 PM, and Fridays from 1 to 3 PM. And if you're feeling brave, visit the Whaley House - one of only a few Congressionally certified haunted houses in the United States, and the choice of Travel Channel show, America's Most Haunted, as the most haunted house in America. Visit the house's website for admission and hours of operation (admission is cheaper for daytime visits). Visit Old Town's website for more detailed information on upcoming events.

With free parking, free entrance to the park and museums, and a myriad of things to see and do, San Diego's historic Old Town is a budget-friendly family daytrip worth its weight in gold.


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