Santa Barbara Spring Break Mission Road Trip

For Spring Break, we didn't have any big plans...we were going to head up to Tahoe again and possible squeeze in a couple days of Spring skiing.
About a week and a half before Spring Break, Kate's class went on a field trip to the San Juan Bautista Mission.  
(One of the 4th grade standards in California is learning about all the California Missions)
Kate came home from school that day and said it was one of the best field trips she had ever been on and Kate said that she wanted to visit all 21 California Missions this year.
That got me thinking. 
I thought it might be fun to switch up our Spring Break plans and instead of going to Tahoe, we could go on a road trip to see a bunch of the Missions. 
One of my childhood best friends lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and 3 kids and is always telling me to come visit them.
 The California Missions are all along Highway 101, so I thought it would be fun to take a road trip to Santa Barbara and stop at the Missions between our house & Santa Barbara.

Here is some info about the California Missions:
  • The Spanish missions in California comprise a series of 21 religious outposts; established by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order between 1769 and 1833, to expand Christianity among the Native Americans northwards into what is today the U.S. state of California.
  • There are 21 missions in the territory that was referred to as Alta (Upper) California. The first, San Diego, was founded in 1769, the last, called San Francisco Solano, was founded in 1823. There were no missions north of Sonoma. 
  • The missions had mixed results in their objectives: to convert, educate, and "civilize" the indigenous population and transform the natives into Spanish colonial citizens. Despite the fact that the original administrative system of Spanish missions no longer survives, still the impact that the mission-system has had on California culture, economics, and place histories can yet be felt to this day. Today, the surviving mission buildings are the state's oldest structures, and its most-visited historic monuments.

On Monday, we visited 2 missions that are local to the Bay Area.
The first stop was Mission San Jose.

There was a 4th grade class on a field trip, so they told us we could jump in on their tour :)

Inside of the church at the mission:

Then we drove over to Mission Santa Clara.
We may or may not have barged in during the middle of a church service. They still have a daily mass, which happened to be going on when we got there. Oops!

It was so beautiful.
On Tuesday the visit was to Mission Dolores in San Francisco.
It's in the heart of San Francisco
 The church is massive:
Highlights of this Mission included finding their great grandmother's name on the Mission Memorial wall.

 Wednesday was the day we were starting our 400 mile journey down the 101 to Santa Barbara.
Kevin was super busy at work, so the road trip would be me & the kids.
This is the first time I have done a solo road trip with all 3 kids, but they are older now so I knew they would do great (they did!!)

Our first stop down the 101 was our 4th Mission of Spring Break....Soledad Mission.
 It's in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farm land.
We were the only ones there besides the woman who worked there & we didn't even see her until we were leaving

It's a really small mission, so only took 15 minutes to check out.

It was very rustic & rural but it was surrounded by California poppies & succulents.

This was the parking lot....ghost town!

I thought Mission Soledad was in the middle of nowhere....our next stop really was.
 It's 25 miles off highway 101 on a 2 lane road.

 It was one of the prettiest drives ever...rolling green hills with tons of Oak trees, vineyards, California poppies, mustard & lavender wildflowers. I had to pull over & take some pics!

Then all of a sudden, we had to drive through an army base....Fort Hunter Liggett.
Then drive a few more miles through the base and bam...you are at Mission San Antonio de Padua, our 5th Mission of Spring Break.

It was a large mission that had a beautiful courtyard:

Luke liked that the gift store had Jesus & Mary "trophy's". LOL!

 Mission San Miguel....Mission #6

Highlights include the fact that it was only 45 minutes from Mission San Antonio de Padua, that is was right off the 101, it has a pretty courtyard.

It's a big mission & the kids liked the cemetery

 It had a really big courtyard

We took a quick tour of the mission.

 We took a quick tour of the mission.

 Then it was time to get back on the road!

We kept heading south for our next stop in San Luis Obispo.
Our first order of business was a very late lunch at one of our favorite places....Firestone's!

 Tri Tip Sandwich...delicious!

Then it was time for Mission San Luis Obispo,,,,,right in the heart of downtown.

 This was Mission #7 of Spring Break and our 4th & final one of the day.

 We all of us agreed that this is one of our favorites.

We did the tour...

 The SLO mission had such a pretty courtyard

Everything was pristine!

 We loaded up for the final stretch of our road trip...100 more miles to end in Santa Barbara for a few days.

Ahhhh.....the promised land...Santa Barbara. 
We got to Santa Barbara right before sunset, so the kids got to burn off energy in the pool. 

It had been years since I visited Santa Barbara, I forgot how pretty it is.
My dad loves it here also, so he gave me a list of restaurants we needed to go.
The next morning we went to Sambo's for breakfast

It was AMAZING. I got the California Eggs Benedict.

 Then we headed to the Santa Barbara Mission:

 It is massive.

Santa Barbara mountains as a backdrop

 We loved the architecture of it.

 View of the cross on the front lawn

The inside courtyards are gorgeous.

 This was another one of our favorite missions!
We spent the rest of the day with my friend & her kids.

We had lunch at the Shoreline Cafe

Amazing fish & shrimp tacos

 More swimming back at the hotel

 Firepit & chatting while the kids swam. Perfection.

  Blurry photo of me & Sue...thanks Kate. LOL.

Santa Barbara is such a beautiful place

Breakfast at East Beach Cafe. We walked there from our hotel.

 I got the Santa Barbara omelette. Delicious.

The kids played on the beach for a few more hours and it was time to visit a few more missions on our drive home!

You are beautiful, Santa Barbara...we will be back again soon!

Spring Break Mission road trip continued on our drive home. 
 We had 2 misssions to stop at on the way home. 
Mission #9 of Spring Break...Mission Santa Ynez (Ines is the Spanish version) in Solvang

 Love the architecture of this one also.

It was another massive & absolutely stunning mission.

They have gorgeous courtyards & landscaping.

 This is a working mission so highlights included seeing the 3 Padres who live here along with 3 brothers from Mexico who are also living here to learn.

The cemetery:

 The view from the parking lot was so pretty: 

After we were done with our mission tour, we headed 1 minute down the road to the cute Danish town of Solvang. 

 Solvang, aren't you the cutest little town.
I've lived in California my entire life & I can't believe I've never been here, especially since I'm part Danish. 
The kids said they felt like they were in Belle's village from Beauty & The Beast while we were in Solvang. Cute, cute town! 
We had the best waffles & crepes.
So delicious.

  And, the little cafe we had them at reminded me of my Grammy's house...Grammy has a huge collection of these blue Danish plates. My mom and aunt have some also. Brings back memories of Grammy's house!

Then, we were headed to our 10th and final mission of the Spring Break Road Trip.
La Purisima Mission...what a great mission to end on....it sits on 2000 acres surrounded by green rolling hills & located on a state park. The mission is the largest one we have seen on this trip.

 Back in the early 1800's this mission was home to over 800 Chumash Indian converts.

 This mission has buildings for weaving, pottery, leatherwork, blacksmithing, grain mills & olive oil production. 

There is livestock still here along with the church, chapel, cemetery & gardens.

 All 3 kids liked this one the best because it represented what the missions actually did during the Mission era in California. 

All of the buildings & rooms have been restored & preserved to what they used to be. 
Glad we ended our trip seeing this mission. 
 Then we headed back for the 300 mile trip back home/

Kate took this photo as we were getting back on the road for our final drive home.

It was such a fun Spring Break & all 3 kids did amazing on this road trip.
I am really proud of them. It helped that each mission was different and unique.
I learned a ton about California Missions :)
If I don't see another Mission for a while, I am good. LOL!

If you live in California and have a 4th grader who is studying the Missions, or if you love California History, I HIGHLY recommend doing a road trip like this. 
As I was planning the trip, I found THIS blog post.
He started in San Diego and visited all 21 missions in 7 days. 
He has some great tips & info as well. 
We have seen 10 missions, so we have 11 more to see on our list.
I also recommend doing this type of Road Trip during the Spring. 
All the hills were green from all the rain and the wildflowers were in full bloom.
Plus, the weather was mild and in the 70's, so it wasn't too hot.

Road Trips with my family were some of my favorite childhood memories, and we definitely made a lot of memories on this Spring Break Mission Road Trip. 
My kids are already talking about doing another Road Trip :)


  1. I LOVE that you did this!!! What a fantastic idea!!!!

  2. Love this idea. So fun and educational.

  3. My mom was a teacher & I have the best memories growing up of taking road trips with her and my brother during Spring break and Summer. Looks like a great time!

  4. Okay, this is an awesome idea! We live in San Diego, so may have to try this over the summer or next Spring Break. We have a 5th grader and a 3rd grader, I think this would be fun. Don't know if we would do all 21 at a time though. Maybe to SLO and back.


  5. I have such good memories of visiting missions when I was in 4th grade! I wish so badly I could figure out the name of the one I visited that I have such vivid memories of... I grew up in Southern California so it wasn't one of the ones you listed. Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Yay! My social studies teacher heart is so happy right now! Way to be a trooper and go with your daughter's request. It's something she won't forget!



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