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 www.mapquest.com, 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
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.