Southern California is known for its beaches. As soon as we hear a Beach Boys song we are instantly taken to magical place where surfer girls stand by the ocean’s roar waiting for a little deuce coupe to take them on a surfin’ safari.
Well, daddy may have taken the T-bird away, but the beaches are still going strong. And despite Los Angles being best known with Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, and Redondo, we’d have to say that the San Diego area has the best beaches.
And of those many beaches, Pacific Beach just might be at the top of the charts. So, what better place to stay for a quick right on the sand getaway than Tower23? We can’t think of any.
How could we when we could walk directly out the door and on to the beach? We’re not talking about some little funky bungalow either, this is a full service luxury, lifestyle hotel right on the seashore.
But San Diego has much more to offer than beautiful beaches, so after a day of enjoying the vast array of included amenities at Tower23, we headed to the heart of the city at Old Town San Diego.
This is much more than just an old part of town; this really is where the Golden State got its start. That’s why it is known as the Birthplace of California. As such, in 1968 the neighborhood was designated as a state park, officially the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
It is fairly unique as state parks go, because it is right smack in the middle of a major metropolitan area. But it is certainly more than worthy of the designation, since it is the site of the very first European settlement on the West Coast of what is now United States.
The San Diego Presidio, a Spanish military outpost, was built by Gaspar de Portolà in 1769. That same year Father Junípero Serra, established the first of the nine missions he founded in California, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
For the next hundred years after the fire this was the center activity for the city of San Diego, until more and more of the population began to move to what is now downtown, closer to the harbor as shipping and trade increased in the late eighteen hundreds.
So, what we visited is actually a bit of a recreation with the intention of presenting the town as it was from 1821 to 1872. While several of the buildings are original, many of the structures were reconstructed to be a part of the park. Still, all of the work was done to ensure authenticity and the result is that the feel of the village is remarkably realistic.
Just wandering around the square was like a trip back in time. We were a bit disappointed that several of the museums and other buildings were closed on our Tuesday afternoon visit, but still very happy with the overall attention to detail and accuracy displayed throughout the park.
We got to hang out inside the original office of the San Diego Union newspaper, see the first ever courthouse in California, and take a peek inside the fabulous Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Nearby we found the blacksmith shop and stables, along with La Casa de Estudillo. Often called the Estudillo House, this historic adobe from 1827 was considered one of the finest houses in California in its day.
At the other end of the square, the plaza Fiesta de Reyes was irresistible, so we took a stroll through the courtyards and fountains that are surrounded by over twenty locally owned shops and restaurants. Of course, we had to stop long enough to sample a hand made fresh tortilla along the way.
That brings up another interesting quirk about this park, many of the attractions inside the park perimeter are private companies operating under agreements with the state of California. This allows for some fun, entertainment, and food without sacrificing the integrity of the surroundings.
It also means that we didn’t need to leave the park to grab a bite to eat or some souvenirs. But it really would not have mattered too much, because there is no admission fee and a ton of other options for restaurants and shops are just a few steps beyond the boundary of the park.
So with our heads full of history, we happily headed back to the beach to watch the sun go down.
…and maybe listen to some more Beach Boys.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
Big thanks to Tower23 for providing this historic adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.