Flanked by Interstate 5 to the west and Interstate 8 to the north, bordering Bankers Hill and Mission Hills to the south and east is Old Town, San Diego’s oldest and most historically significant residential area.
Old Town got its start in 1769 with the founding of California’s first Spanish outpost by Catholic missionary Father Junipero Serra. It holds the distinction of not only being the first site of European settlement in California but also the old settled area in San Diego.
Since its founding, Old Town was considered to be the heart of San Diego. This changed in the 1860s when real estate developer Alonzo Horton started building up the area around San Diego Bay to take advantage of its closer proximity to docking ships. Residents and businesses quickly moved to Horton’s new developments called ‘New Town’, and eventually, the seat of government shifted. Old Town gave way to New Town, which eventually became Downtown San Diego.
While Old Town may no longer be the focal point of San Diego, it is still a highly sought-after neighborhood for homebuyers thanks to its central location, close proximity to mass transit, historic parks and abundance of dining and shopping options.
Old Town is covered by the 92110 ZIP code. Land use and other planning issues are handled by the Old Town Community Planning Committee while the Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce takes care of local business interests and promoting tourism.
Homes in Old Town are mostly Craftsman and Spanish-style. There are also many Victorian style homes here, all lovingly restored and upgraded to modern standards by their owners. Old Town’s designation as a tourist-commercial zone means that business owners are encouraged to renovate already existing properties to cater to visitors.
The community is home to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park, both of which are popular tourist destinations and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to Old Town State Historical Park will find perfectly preserved working 19th-century homes and businesses - a living museum that offers a glimpse into San Diego’s colonial past.
Old Town is home to numerous restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries and preserved historic buildings. The community is also a public transit hub in San Diego, thanks to the Old Town Transit Center, a major intermodal transport station that connects to San Diego Trolley light rail, Coaster commuter rail, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner passenger train network as well as several San Diego Metropolitan Transit System bus lines.
Annual Events in Old Town
Old Town residents celebrate their community’s Spanish colonial heritage with several open-air festival and parades every year. Here are some of the most popular annual events:
- Old Town Art Festival, a celebration of art and culture held every October. The festival highlights contemporary works from local artists and craftsmen plus fashions and home décor artisans, wine tasting, food trucks and live music.
- The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a two day community-wide celebration held every November.
- Fiesta Navidad, an annual Christmas tradition with a Mexican twist held every December. The highlight of the festival is Las Posadas, a nightly procession that symbolizes Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem.
- Old Town’s annual Fiesta Cinco De Mayo, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration north of the Mexican border.