If your RV road trip planner takes you to Southern California, you should really consider a couple of days in San Diego. While San Diego is famous for Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, there is so much more to see and do in this historic city.
I went to meet my dad and stepmom for his Navy reunion for the USS Kitty Hawk sailors. The Kitty Hawk was stationed in San Diego from 1991 until it was set to be decommissioned in 2009. I hadn’t been to San Diego in about 20 years, so going for the weekend was like exploring it all over again.
One important thing I discovered and should be added to your RV road trip planner, San Diego is not known for RV parking, so be prepared to take your tow vehicle or an Uber/taxi to some of these suggested attractions.
San Diego was first settled by Europeans in 1769 by settlers who built Mission San Diego de Alcala. The Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra, making it the oldest of the Spanish missions in California. After some back and forth battles with Mexico, America finally won San Diego in the Mexican-American War in 1846. San Diego became incorporated as a city shortly after California was admitted to the United States in 1850 – and it has been growing steadily since then.
San Diego is rich in Mexican culture and is nowhere more firmly rooted than in its dramatically beautiful missions. It was here that monks, led by Father Junipero Serra, began their chains of 21 missions throughout California. 2 missions can still be found in San Diego County.
- Mission San Luis Rey (RV parking) – Often called King of the Missions, this is the largest of the California missions. Established by Father Fermin de Lasuen in 1798, the mission was the 18th founded and was named after King Luis IX of France. The mission now serves as a Parish church and retreat center. It is open to the public 7 days a week and is located in Oceanside, 43 miles north of San Diego off the I-5.
- Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala (no RV parking) – Established in 1769 Gaspar de Portola and his expedition founded the military post of San Diego and raised a cross, establishing the first mission. The mission was set on fire by natives and re-built by Father Serra as a fire-proof adobe structure. In 1774 the mission was relocated to its current location to ensure a good water supply. It is open to the public 7 days a week.
San Diego is proudly home to the largest concentration of military personnel in the United States. If you’re into maritime history be sure to check out USS Midway and the Star of India.
You can stand by the USS Midway, Seaport Village, Tuna Harbor, Broadway Pier or the Embarcadero Marina Park North and look over to NAS North Island Port and see many of the military ships docked at the base located in Coronado.
- USS Midway (RV parking) – USS Midway is an aircraft carrier, formerly of the US Navy and was the lead ship of her class. It was the largest ship in the world until 1955. She operated for 47 years, during which time she saw action in the Vietnam War and served in Operation Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1992, she is now a museum ship and the only remaining inactive US aircraft carrier that is not an Essex-class aircraft carrier.
- Star of India (no RV parking) – A sailing ship built in 1863 she was re-rigged as a salmon hauler on the Alaska to California routed. Retired in 1926, she was restored as a seaworthy museum ship in 1962 and home-ported at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Old Town San Diego (no RV parking) – Called “The Birthplace of California” because this was the first European settlement on the West Coast and home to California’s first city. Today it is a community filled with rich traditions, many cultures, and a myriad of free museums, historic sites, performances, and of course authentic Mexican cuisine. We ate at Old Town Mexican Café (2489 San Diego Ave), and as a native Southern Californian who’s had a lot of Mexican food – this was a really great place to eat! Then we walked to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, an open air living history museum. Learn about life in the Mexican and early American periods of 1821-1872 with its core of restored original historic buildings. 5 original adobe buildings are part of the historic park which include museums, unique retail shops and restaurants. We got ice cream and a fresh churro at El Mercadito, simply the best churro I’ve ever had.
Gaslamp Quarter (RV parking is available at a public pay lot on the corner of First Ave & Island Ave) – Gaslamp Quarter is a 16-block neighborhood in downtown San Diego and is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the 94 buildings were constructed in the Victorian Era, and many are in use as restaurants, shops and nightclubs.
Campgrounds: There are many campgrounds in the San Diego area. A couple are near the bay area close to downtown San Diego and there are other campgrounds east of downtown that are out in the suburbs that you will also enjoy.
Away from the big tourist attractions, San Diego is a place where the entire family can have a great time for a week or a weekend. Contact RV Adventure-USA today. We are experts in the RV road trip planner department, it’s what we do! Let us start planning your family RV adventure. We offer complete, personalized RV trip planning anywhere within the U.S.A. from wherever you start your RV trip to wherever you end your RV trip.