Travel Tips For Visiting The California Missions
    A trip to a California mission can be a fun and rewarding experience for all involved. Most people in the state live within a fairly short distance of a mission. When you arrive at your mission destination be prepared to meet up with some elementary age students. Fourth graders in the state study early California history, including the mission period. Their enthusiasm for the missions can be catching!
Here at The California website we have visited the twenty-one missions on many occasions. The following are some thoughts on how to best enjoy and learn from your mission trip.

First, invest in a good statewide map. There are several available; we use the Thomas Bros. Map. Like any good traveler, know where you are going. Become familiar with the route that you will take. Today there is the option of using Internet based map services, such as, that can help you plan your route. Their instructions should always be checked out on your map for added confidence.

Second, don't assume that the missions all have the same visiting hours. They don't! Local parishes control all the missions, and visiting hours widely vary. Even at the same mission, hours can change by season. Always call ahead for hours! Generally, hours are about 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week. That is only a rule of thumb! Most of the missions charge an entrance fee of a few dollars per person.

Third, be aware of the location. Some missions are further off the beaten path than others. Mission San Antonio de Padua, for example, is about a 45-minute drive off the freeway. There are no conveniences any where near this mission to speak of. On the other hand, other missions are located in major metropolitan areas. At these missions, a short walk takes you to restaurants, fast food, and hotels. Examples are, San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano. Be prepared with snacks and drinks, even a picnic lunch.

Fourth, arrive at the mission prepared to spend some time. Take a few minutes to walk the mission grounds for a quick overview of the mission. Note the items that interest you, then walk the grounds again at a leisurely pace to learn more. If you take the extra time to become familiar with the mission, you will remember more and have a better understanding of that particular mission. Each mission has it's own highlights and areas of special interest.

Fifth, here are other items to take with you. Everyone loves to take pictures. Some missions offer great opportunities for picture taking before the mission opens. Mission San Miguel, for example, is very accessible before and after hours. Don't assume that you will be able to buy film and other supplies at the mission; you may get lucky, but you may not! Bring appropriate clothing. Depending on the location you may experience very cold or hot weather. We visited the Sonoma mission on a very early December day and needed heavy coats. If you visit San Antonio in the summer it may reach 100F. If you are comfortably dressed you will enjoy your visit more. You will be walking everywhere on the grounds, so good shoes are a must.

All the missions have gift shops, some more extensive than others. You may wish to bring along some money to buy souvenirs or religious articles. For those studying the mission bring a notebook and pencil or a hand held recorder for your notes.

Lastly, please remember that nearly all the missions are functioning today for the reasons they were built, as churches. You will likely see church services, funerals, weddings, etc. Be respectful of others who are using the church. Obey posted signs regarding prohibited areas and rules for taking pictures. Often the museums will request no flash photography because the light may damage articles that are very old. Caution the children that are visiting the mission with you so that they will be prepared to be quiet when necessary.