Of the 21 California missions built by the Spaniards in the 18th and 19th century, Mission San Juan Bautista remains one of the few churches that are still functional. San Juan Bautista Historic State Park, home to the mission, is located off of the historic El Camino Real, or "The Royal Road," that connected the missions.
Dedicated to the preservation of this historic town, four buildings have been turned into museums that you can walk through and tour. The Plaza Hotel, Zanetta House, horse stables, and the Castro-Breen Adobe are all the main features.
This town has an interesting history. This is the landing place for the survivors of the Donner Party, a group of travelers who got stuck in the Sierra during a bad winter and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Not only did the survivors end up here, but they thrived in their new environment.
John Fremont, an Army captain, occupied nearby Gabilan Point (today called Fremont Peak) to assess its military significance, which at the time was still occupied by Spain. Jose Castro, the captain of the military in San Juan Bautista, ordered Fremont and his battalion of 60 men to leave. Instead, Fremont constructed a rudimentary fort and raised a makeshift U.S. flag. Eventually Fremont left the peak but it nearly started a war with Spain.
This is just a taste of the rich history you will experience on your visit to San Juan Bautista Historic State Park. A few days a year, the park historians and docents will dress in period clothing, and the town comes alive with demonstrations and activities. If you are a history buff or just want to see some real historical culture, this is the place for you!