Photo Information

Handmade “Day Of The Dead” skulls sit on display in a local craft shop in Old Town. These shops carry large selections of handmade items from Mexico and Southwest America.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary L. Majors

Step back in time visit Old Town

16 Jul 2009 | Lance Cpl. Zachary L. Majors

The smells of open fires and roasted chili peppers permeates the air while the sounds of mariachi music fill the town square beneath an American flag originally raised over 145 years ago.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park has a wide variety of attractions including museums, national historic sites, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and shops all in an old-world setting.

California’s Old Town is a melting pot of different cultures.

 “This is a great place to bring the family,” said Old Town resident and former active duty Marine Josh Hammuck. “A lot of the attractions are free. It’s a great place to experience what it was like to live back in the late 19th century.”

Old Town was the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in America.

Now, the historic park is the home of some of the finest Mexican Cuisine, unique shops, museums and national landmarks, explained Charles R. McGill, a local historian.

“This is the premiere historic place of San Diego,” said Hammuck.

Landmarks of Old Town include California’s first public school and the home of the first sheriff.

According to the Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted,” The Whaley House is the most haunted house in America, explained William Doyle, a docent who plays the part of Thomas Whaley, the original owner and inhabitant of the house.

Doyle gives daily tours of the house at a discounted rate for service members. Private, after-hour tours are also available. For information on The Whaley House visit their Web site at

Old Town Trolley Tours also offer a military discount for those interested in getting a well-rounded, informative tour of the historic park.

The park also offers a wide selection of some of the best Mexican restaurants in Southern California, explained Hammuck.

The shopping experience in the town is second to none, explained Piper Kincaid, a tobacconist at the tobacco shop in Old Town. There is a wide array of shops featuring things such as hand-made candy, crafts and jewelry.

With weekly live entertainment, a variety of restaurants and numerous educational opportunities, Old Town can be a great way to get away from the fast paced life of today and step back into the simpler, slower paced yesteryear.

Old Town is located on 2383 San Diego Avenue. For information on daily and upcoming events in Old Town visit their Web Site at