Monday, August 25, 2014

Day Trip: Mission San Juan Bautista

About a week ago my wife and I had a day off together (that doesn't happen as often as you might think), so we decided to take a little day trip to Mission San Juan Bautista. We had been there before about six years ago. It is one of those peaceful, beautiful places that you just want to go back to.

Mission San Juan Bautista was established on June 24, 1797 by Father Fermin de Lasuen, the successor to Father Juniper Serra. San Juan Bautista was the fifteenth of the twenty-one Spanish missions built in California between 1769 and 1833. Read more about Mission San Juan Bautista's history at the mission's website or at the Wikipedia entry for the mission.

San Juan Bautista, California, is located about 125 miles west of my home in Fresno, or approximately 33 miles northeast of Monterey. So it makes for a nice day trip. If you don't want to spend the whole day at the mission, there are other attractions nearby like the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Or you might just want to check out some of the small agricultural towns that have an interesting history all of their own like Hollister or Gilroy. On this particular day, we spent the morning checking out the mission and then visited Gilroy in the afternoon (more about Gilroy in a future post).

San Juan Bautista, like several of the other missions, is an operating Catholic church, even though the buildings are nearly 200 years old. For that reason it is not a playground but more of a place to quietly view. The mission opens daily at 9:30 am. We arrived about thirty minutes early and walked around the outside of the mission taking pictures. I always like to arrive early before the crowds. There is a small gift shop where you pay your entry fee ($4 for adults). From there you can tour the mission's museum, visit the church, and walk through the mission gardens.

The mission is operated by the Catholic Church, however, there are historic buildings that surround the mission that are part of San Juan Bautista State Historic Park and are managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. These buildings are worth walking through as well, particularly for viewing the stables and the collection of nineteenth century buggies and wagons. I know how geeky that sounds, but they really are pretty cool.

We brought our lunch with us and ate on a picnic table situated in a large grass area that was formerly the mission's plaza. Very relaxing. If you don't want to pack your own, the small town of San Juan Bautista has a grocery store and a deli so you can go buy a sandwich. I highly recommend it. Because that is one of the benefits of visiting a California mission: the quiet park-like atmosphere.

We have a bit of a dearth of historic buildings here in California, especially compared to some of the places we visited back east. The exception is the California Missions. If you are interested in visiting them all, then check out The California Missions Resource Center website for historical information before you travel. Happy wandering!


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