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Which Mission to visit..

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Hamilton, Canada
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Which Mission to visit..

WE will be travelling from LA to San Fran and would like to visit one of the old missions. I am leaning towards the one in Santa Barbara and would like your opinion of which mission is the most interesting to visit...

San Francisco
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1. Re: Which Mission to visit..

I've been to all 21 Missions in the state and my favorite (by far) is San Antonio de Padua which is on the Fort Hunter Legget army base. One reason why I like it so much is that there hasn't been any development around the Mission and you can really get the feeling of how remote they were in the 1700s.

However, this Mission is off of Hiway 101 so if you're going through Big Sur it won't be on your way.

My next favorite is San Juan Bautista because, again, you get a bit of a feeling of how it was back in the day. It's also interesting as there is quite a drop off behind the Mission itself which is the exact location of the San Andreas Fault and there is one of the only remaining sections of the original "El Camino Real" there as well (they don't know exactly the historical route any longer).

After that: Purisima Concepcion is also being renovated to appear like it did in Mission times. This one belongs to the state rather than the Catholic church so there are no services being performed there.

Santa Barbara gets the tag "Queen of the Missions" and it has a lovely location but it's not one of my favorites from an historical perspective.

Carmel is where Father Serra is buried so is historic from that standpoint.

Oddly enough San Fernando del Rey de Espana (in the San Fernando Valley in LA) is quite lovely and has a beautiful garden.

Pacific Grove...
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for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey County
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2. Re: Which Mission to visit..

Even if you stop somewhere else (I also like Mission San Juan Bautista), the Carmel Mission is an extremely easy stop so you could also stop there. As you come down Hwy 1 in Carmel, you turn right on Rio Rd., and the mission will be on the left. You can walk through it and see the exhibits in 20 minutes, so if it interests you, it's a very quick and easy side-trip.

Monterey Peninsula...
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3. Re: Which Mission to visit..

Asking which of the missions is the most interesting is like asking what flavor if ice cream is best. Each one has unique characteristics. For example, the Carmel Mission is where Father Serra, who founded the mission system, is buried. It was heavily damaged in the 19th century (from neglect - after the original roof caved in) and much of it had to be rebuilt in the 1930s. Santa Barbara has the only mission that has two symmetrical towers. San Juan Bautista's played a prominent role in an Alfred Hitchcock movie (Vertigo). It also is surrounded by a state park that recreates the historic village atmosphere. San Antonio, as noted above by RamblinSal, is in a setting that has barely changed since it was built, but it is also the most isolated and hardest to get to.

Bottom line, they're ALL interesting. If you only see one, picking one at random is just as good as any other method.

-Mr. Toy


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4. Re: Which Mission to visit..

San Juan Bautista is one of my favorites. Carmel Mission is also very pretty and interesting. :).

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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5. Re: Which Mission to visit..

Along with Sal, I like San Juan Bautista and San Antonio de Padua. They are not directly accessible on Hwy 1 or 101, like most of the other missions. The "mission trail" (old El Camino Real, or Royal Highway) was laid out by the Spanish in the late 1700s when travel was by animal or foot. When modern highways were laid out, the old Spanish trails were not always the most practical places to build, nor where the bigger cities had sprung up that needed the highways.

San Juan Bautista is more accessible for most travelers on Hwy 101. It's part of a historic district that includes the mission itself, a state historic park with other 18th and 19th century buildings, and a small town that grew up around the mission and is a combination of Spansh-Mexican Colonial California ambience and modern quaint (antique shops, restaurants, etc.)

San Antonio is about 20 miles off Hwy 101 and is physically the most remote of the 21 missions. It is not even in a town any more; the community it's in, Jolon (pronounced "hoe-lohn") is almost a ghost town. I'm a native Californian and my family visited almost all the missions when I was a child, but I never got to this one until I was an adult.

From the Big Sur coast about 40 miles north of San Simeon, there is a backcountry road from the Big Sur area, Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. It's about 30 miles from the coast to the mission. I have never been on it but have heard it is very steep and twisty in places. Locals on the Monterey Peninsula forums can give you details. If you go to this mission, you will pass a military checkpoint and need to show your driver's license, car registration, and proof of insurance. From the mission, you can continue east to Hwy 101 for San Francisco, but it's a detour to go back to the coast for Monterey.

Realistically, San Juan Bautista is easier to get to. From Hwy 1 on the Monterey Peninsula, take Hwy 156 to Prunedale, Hwy 101 north, and the marked San Juan Bautista exit.

6. Re: Which Mission to visit..

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