Save Money / Consumer News

Ric Romero's one-tank getaway: San Juan Capistrano

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More than 200 years ago, Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded, and today, it stands as a monument to California's multi-cultural history.

If you haven't been to the jewel of the California missions for awhile, now is the time to go. After 10 years of a privately funded restoration, Mission San Juan Capistrano has become an incredible outdoor museum.

One structure seen at the mission is what is left of the great stone church. It was built in 1979, but in 1812, a deadly earthquake brought it down. Forty-two people died in the quake.

New for the summer at the mission is the treasures of the mission exhibit.

"We have in our collection, the document that Abraham Lincoln himself signed just three weeks before he was assassinated that returned the mission to the Catholic Church," said Mechelle Lawrence, executive director at the mission.

The gorgeous Mission San Juan Capistrano is open daily and is $9 for adults and $5 for children 4 to 11.

Just a few blocks away is an area of town many visitors miss - the Los Rios Historic District.

"Our street is really unique. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, and the reason why is because it is the oldest residential street in California," said Don Tryon, vice president of the Historical Society.

Visitors can see several vintage buildings, including an adobe house built in the 1790s, a steel portable jail from 1860 and a home built in the 1890s that is now a coffee house.

Also in the district is the old Santa Fe Train Depot from 1894 that is now home to one of the longest running restaurants in San Juan: Sarducci's Capistrano Depot. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu has quite a variety of items to choose from.

Sarducci's is known for having $10 dinners Monday through Friday, and every second Sunday of the month, the restaurant holds mystery dinners.

Mention ABC7, and you'll get 15 percent off your meal.

If you're in San Juan on a Wednesday, you may want to stop by the farmer's market from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. One vendor sells fresh fish from all over the world.

And one cool place for kids is Zoomars Petting Zoo. Pick up some animal friendly food so your kids can feed the goats, cows, pigs, llamas, emus and more, or they can cuddle a rabbit or guinea pig in the bunny patch or pan for real gold, fossils or shark's teeth.

"It's unique to Orange County. I mean in a county of glitz and glamour, to be able to pet a cow or feed a pig or hold a little chicken, the kids love it," said Carolyn Franks, owner of Zoomars.

There are also pony rides and miniature train rides at the zoo. Mention ABC7, and your child can get a ride on the train for free - normally a $3 value.

Zoomars Petting Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and costs $6 for adults and $5 for kids.

In South Orange County, San Juan Capistrano is a fabulous one-tank-of-gas getaway. Actually, you don't need to use any gas.

The Amtrak train can take you round trip from Los Angeles for $40, but you can get a 10 percent discount if you book your tickets three days in advance or use your Auto Club card.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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