Mission La Purisima Concepción was the 11th of the California Missions established on December 8, 1787. At its peak, the Mission controlled 470 square miles with 24,000 cattle and sheep making it famous for hides and blankets. Today, state runs the site as a State Historic Park and is the most complete mission. The Civilian Conservation Corps and National Park Service meticulously restored the structures and dedicated it on December 7, 1941 allowing visitors to travel back to the 1820's in an authentic setting.
Mission San Buenaventura or 'Mission by the Sea' is the 9th California Mission founded on Easter Sunday: March 31, 1782. It was the last Mission under the vision of Padre Serra. The current church was built between 1792 and 1809 making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in California. Native Chumash created an aqueduct with a steady water supply allowing the mission to flourish and create beautiful gardens which can still be enjoyed to this day.
Presidio Park in San Diego marks the spot of the first European settlement of the Western United States. Founded in 1769, the Presidio or military fort was established here to protect the land from invasion. Abandoned in 1835, it decayed for 75 years until local civic lead George Marston purchased the land for preservation. He donated the land to the city where a Museum to honor Mission Founder Father Junípero Serra was built. The museum is open today and provides sweeping views of the city in an idyllic setting.
Mission San Antonio de Pala Asistencia was founded on June 13th 1816 as an assistant to nearby Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. It currently resides on the Pala Indian Reservation making it the only mission still serving a tribe and only assistant mission that survives. The campanario or bell tower is the only freestanding one in the California Mission System. It served as notification of meals, work and religious services.
Mission Santa Barbara is nicknamed the 'Queen of the Missions' because of its graceful, yet grand exterior. Founded on December 4th, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, it is the 10th of the 21 Missions. The current Mission was completed in 1820 after an earthquake destroyed most of the original in 1812 and the interior remains almost completely unchanged. Each May, the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival showcases beautiful chalk paintings by 150 artists.
Founded in 1772, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the fifth of the California Missions. A successful hunting expedition of grizzly bears to feed the Spanish and Native Americans at the mission in Monterey nearby led to the founding of this mission with the nickname 'Mission in the Valley of the Bears'. Abundant food & water, a mild climate and friendly Native American Chumash allowed the mission to thrive.
The Mission Rose Garden is a must-see in Santa Barbara. Located directly in front of the Mission, the garden contains more than 1,500 varieties of roses and makes for a perfect stroll in this peaceful city.
Grant Park is one of the best views in Ventura. Sweeping views of the ocean, Channel Islands, Santa Monica Mountains and the city itself go on for miles. A cross has marked the top of the park since 1782 named 'Serra Cross' after Father Serra, the father of the mission system. It lies directly above Mission San Buneaventura. A new 2 mile trail makes a great hike to the top from City Hall though can also be reached by a short, winding drive.
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was the 18th of the California Missions founded on June 13, 1798. Known as the 'King of the Missions', it was once one of the largest at 950,000 acres in its prime and had a population of almost 3,000. The mission was named after King Louis IX of France for his Holy Land crusades of the 13th century. Life was difficult for the Luiseño Native Americans who lived here because of the new lifestyle and diseases brought over. By the time the Mission system had ended, their population dwindled by almost forty percent.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first of the 21 California Missions founded on July 16th 1769. It is known as the birthplace of Christianity in the West and was created to convert the Kumeyaay Native Americans. The Mission System was a new way of life for the Kumeyaay whose lives now consisted of living and working by the ringing bells. This linear idea of time did not serve the Kumeyaay well and the mission system crumbled during Mexican Independence. Unfortunately, many Native Americans had passed away from the diseases they were exposed to during Mission times.