This charming historic city situated southeast of downtown Santa Ana in Orange County is considered one of the oldest residential areas in the state. A town of firsts, this is where the first ever vineyard and winery in California was built. Real estate in this romantic community is heavily influenced by its past, with elements of Spanish revival architecture bringing a unique flair and warmth to its neighborhoods.
A vibrant urban town with an old soul, San Juan Capistrano will give you a feeling of nostalgia, with its historic buildings and churches that seem to have been here for centuries. If only these walls could talk.
The town got its name from the word “Juaneños,” a Spanish term used by the early Spanish settlers to describe the original Native American settlers in the area, the Acjachemen. The community was built around Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the oldest landmarks in Orange County.
Home to less than 40,000 residents, the city has a land area of over 14 square miles and its motto, appropriately enough, is: “Preserving the Past to enhance the Future.”
Blas Aguilar Adobe House. Built in 1794 to serve as a home for the soldiers and local Native Americans who served in the mission, this historical site contains artifacts that tell the story of what happened during those early Mission years.
Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park. The largest park in all of Orange County, this highly accessible park just seven and a half miles from the city offers wide open spaces, extensive trails for biking and hiking, as well as a themed playground for the little ones to enjoy. It also has facilities for campers and joggers including showers and fountains with water suitable for drinking.
O’Neill Museum. One of the first wooden frame houses in the city, this historical architectural gem built in the Victorian style was constructed in the period between 1870 and 1880 and now serves as a museum. It was built by saloon owner Jose Dolores Garcia for his wife Refugio Yorba.
Historic Town Center Park. This community park is encircled with a jogging path and contains picnic facilities perfect for lounging and for barbecues with family and friends. It also serves as an outdoor event venue for concerts, town gatherings and outdoor theatrical productions.
Mission San Juan Capistrano. This town complex built in 1776 is one of California’s most treasured historic sites. It is a registered monument with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The complex spans over 10 acres and contains numerous adobe structures and gardens that visitors can still see today as they have been carefully preserved by the city government over the years.
Things to Do
There’s quite a lot to do in and around the city. Just 13 miles away from San Juan Capistrano, you can take a romantic sunset cruise by the beautiful Newport Beach coastline while sipping on refreshing drinks. You can also go whale watching!
If you’re an animal lover, visit Zoomars Petting Zoo at Los Rios Street, a family friendly attraction that the kids will surely love. This petting zoo is a great day trip destination and party venue. Take the kids on a pony ride, have them interact with and feed the animals, and let them explore the fun structures all over the zoo.
Go out to the tee and head on over to the San Juan Hills Golf Club, an 18-hole public golf course open to all skill levels right in Southern Orange County. The range features dynamic elevations and challenging slopes – not to mention gorgeous views of the green that never seems to end. After a fun day of golfing, hang out at the newly renovated 19 Sports Bar & Grill for a hearty lunch and refreshing beverages.
If you’re a history buff, go on a walking tour of historic San Juan Capistrano and stroll around what is considered to be the oldest preserved residential street in California. Know more about the city’s interesting past as you visit key landmarks such as the O’Neill Museum, the Egan House “Harmony Hall” and the well-preserved structures at Mission San Juan Capistrano, among many others. These tours happen every Sunday and they last for one and a half hours. If you happen to be in the area during the first Saturday before Halloween, try going on a ghost tour and hear the many eerie tales about this old town.
In keeping with the Spanish Colonial style of Mission San Juan Capistrano, which serves as the foundation of the city, a lot of the homes and commercial buildings here resonate with the same architectural themes. Some of the common architectural elements that you’ll see in the homes here include the use of warm homey tones, stucco walls and decorative wrought iron for everything from handrails to lamps to curtain rods.