A lovely day-trip destination, San Juan Bautista delights with a blend of history, culture, small-town charm, and delicious culinary adventures. After thoroughly exploring the mission, being sure to peek around corners into less-explored rooms and taking the time to absorb the architectural and historical details, stroll down to the adjacent and very walkable main street where classic old-town Californian architecture and the mom-and-pop local businesses provide a low-key backdrop to an aimless afternoon. Wandering from shop to shop, be sure to pause for a signature apricot margarita in a beautiful garden patio setting. Or for a dining experience that the locals would probably rather keep secret, leave the main avenues and go a block further from the mission, for some unassumingly wholesome and satisfying family-style basque cuisine.
The avenues were quiet on this mid-winter day, and as the gardens of the mission come into bloom, the warmth of this inviting town will draw more spring and summer crowds, including motorcyclists enjoying a ride through the pastoral countryside, and families seeking a sunny and simple getaway. From Monterey, Santa Cruz, or the greater San Francisco bay area, San Juan Bautista can be an easy weekend adventure, and beyond the attractions in town, there are extensive hiking trails and geological sites of interest providing even more accessible and active experiences. I am looking forward to returning later in the year, to further explore the charms of this classic California town.