So, as part of my yearly birthday tradition, I would pick an activity/site for my college friends and I to do (or go to). The year of 2013, I decided to check off one of the 1,000 sites by going to at least one of the missions recommended in the state of California. Since Mission San Juan Capistrano was the closest, it seemed like the best option to start with. The mission was so beautiful, and much more enjoyable with the warm and sunny weather we had that day of our visit. There is a $9 admission fee, but it also comes with a free audio tour. So you can walk around the large site and enter the corresponding number on your remote, and it spits out history of that particular item or structure. Overall, the mission was beautiful and a great way to spend the afternoon with a loved one or family. It's a great stop between LA and San Diego, and I would recommend it! If you are able to, they recommend checking out the mission around March 19th, when the swallows of birds fly over from their migration.
The second mission I was able to visit was the Mission San Diego Del Alcala during my weekend getaway to San Diego. There is ample parking and it's smaller than the San Juan Capistrano one but still a beautiful mission. There is a docent tour on Saturday's at 11:30 a.m. that you can partake in if you want to learn more about the mission, which I did. You might as well since it is free and comes with your $5 admission fee. This mission is called the "Mother of Missions" because it was the first ever mission built in California, so it really isn't as fancy as the other ones. Some of the area's I recommend you checking out is the nave (the main part of the church where the congregation sit) and the courtyards next to it. Since it is a smaller mission, you'll be able to see everything within the hour and still have time to explore the rest of San Diego.
The next mission I ended up going to was the San Buenaventura Mission, which is about an hour drive north of Los Angeles in Ventura County. Unlike the other two missions I went to before, this mission was right in the middle of town where it was surrounded by shops, thrift stores, and restaurants. Unfortunately, that was the only thing I really enjoyed in Ventura. The mission itself (which comes with a $5 entrance fee) was pretty small, and I was able to see it all in under twenty minutes. There were some similarities that I've seen from the previous two missions, but also a few distinctive items that stood out as well (such as the Pieta statue). However, I wasn't sure if I should have been thankful that there was so little to see or that there wasn't enough to see. In the end, it wasn't much of a sight to see. However, I loved exploring the rest of the town! I've been to Ventura before and stayed at one of their beach hotels a few times, but this was the first time I actually explored the town. And I liked it! The small beach town is walking distance from some of the hotels on the beach, so it's a great spot to go for a quick weekend if you haven't done it before. So, yes, come visit Ventura....but you can probably skip visiting the mission.