Mission Valley and neighboring Old Town San Diego, centrally located in the heart of San Diego, offer a variety of year-round outdoor activities. Here are 7 “must dos” in Mission Valley and Old Town, from hiking, biking and golf to discovering San Diego’s rich early California history to shopping for the perfect gift or souvenir.
Enjoy Mother Nature at Mission Trails
Escape the hustle and bustle and get back to nature in the scenic 6,800-acre Mission Trails Regional Park, a jewel in San Diego’s park system and one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Explore the region’s history, culture and recreation along 60 miles of trails.
Trek to the top of Cowles Mountain, the highest peak within San Diego’s city limits at 1,593 feet, for spectacular views. Up for a challenge? Hike all 5 peaks including Kwaay Paay, North Fortuna, South Fortuna, Pyles Peak and Cowles.
Bike Along the San Diego River
Bike the San Diego River Trail and view an array of wildlife while biking. This network of paths passes along the San Diego River channel through Mission Valley. Keep an eye out for bird watchers and more than 500 bird species. To get the adrenaline really pumping, cruise toward the coastline onto more than 20 miles of paths along San Diego’s beautiful beaches and scenic Mission Bay.
Hike Through the Old Historic Presidio
Hike the Old Presidio Trail and relive the beginnings of Alta California in 1769. Start at the base of Presidio Hill just above Old Town San Diego. Hike up to the Junipero Serra Museum. At the top, view the site of California’s first mission and the ruins of the first European settlement on the west coast. While on Presidio Hill, find historical landmarks like the Pattie Memorial (aka Witches Tower), Serra Cross, Indian Statue, Statue of Father Junipero Serra, and the statue of a Mexican Vaquero (cowboy) commemorating the early Mexican settlers to the region.
Explore San Diego’s First Downtown
Grab a map of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and explore San Diego’s first “downtown”. Stroll through the six-block area which represents San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872. Search for some of San Diego’s first buildings like Casa de Estudillo, built 1825, and Casa de Lopez, built 1835. Get spooked at the nearby Whaley House, built 1856, one of only two designated haunted houses in California. Interested in more history? Check out neighboring Heritage Park which showcases San Diego’s Victorian era with six picturesque homes and the city’s first synagogue, built 1887-1910.
Get into the Swing of Things
Tee off at Mission’s Valley’s 18-hole Riverwalk Golf Club offering a full-length par 72 course. Play golf on one San Diego’s most scenic courses boasting mature palm, oak and eucalyptus trees and an array of picturesque water features including four lakes and the San Diego River. Practice your swing at Presidio Hills Golf Course in Old Town, one of the oldest golf courses in San Diego. Play 18 funky, challenging holes of short-course golf, making it a perfect course for beginners.
Go Climb Some Rocks
Test your strength, endurance and sense of adventure while rock climbing Mission Gorge. Begin on the one-mile Climber’s Loop Trail that leads to a great mix of rock climbing areas. The trail includes the popular Main Climbing Wall, Limbo and Middle Earth bouldering fields with aptly named rock formations like The Thumb, Skyline Pinnacle and Three Layer Cake. Check out nearly 200 different rock climbs in the area, with many suitable for beginner and intermediate climbers.
Shop for Special Souvenirs and Gifts
Lift your spirits with some retail therapy at the many specialty stores and gift shops in Old Town San Diego. Find authentic Mexican folk art and unique novelty items at Fiesta de Reyes, Old Town Market and Bazaar del Mundo.
For more luxury gifts, head over to Fashion Valley Shopping Center. This two-level, open-air complex in Mission Valley is home to high-end department stores, designer brand shops and more.
Bonus – Refuel with Delicious Mexican Food and Drinks
After your activity filled day, refuel with authentic Mexican cuisine at many popular restaurants in Old Town and Mission Valley. Relax on colorful outdoor patios with tasty margaritas and hearty portions of delicious food at Café Coyote, Casa Guadalajara and Casa de Reyes in Old Town. Feast on famous Mexico City-style tacos and Mexican Lagers from the full brewery at Puesto Cervecería in Mission Valley.