The Spanish Missions in California
Mission possible? Take a road trip along the coast of California and visit all 21 of the Spanish Missions along the way.
San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)On a site selected by Juan Bautista de Anza, the first mission church was a 50-foot-long log and mud structure. It was eventually moved to higher ground, adjacent to Lake Dolores. The mission was dedicated to Saint Francis by Father Serra in 1776. 960 1280
Santa CruzAlthough the soil was excellent and the location ideal, this mission never reached its potential. The dedication of Mission la Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz was made in 1791 by Father Lasuen, but the site was unfortunately located next to Branciforte pueblo, a community of ex-convicts and thieves.
San Juan BautistaFounded by Father Lasuen in 1797, this mission was unwittingly located directly above the San Andreas fault. Much of the original structure remains and has been restored. It's considered the largest California mission church and the only one with 3 aisles. It was named for John the Baptist.
San Carlos Boorromeo de CarmeloFounded by Father Serra in 1770 on Pentecost Sunday, this mission was considered to be his favorite. Both he and Father Lasuen are buried here. It served as the ecclesiastical capital of California, as well as Father Serra's headquarters for administrative duties as president of the missions.
Nuestra Senora de la SoledadThe padres named this mission for Our Lady of Solitude in 1791, which fits its isolated location. The rich soil and plentiful water helped the mission produce more than 100,000 bushels of wheat per year and raise nearly 17,000 head of livestock.
San Antonio de PaduaLocated 40 miles north of Paso Robles, this picturesque mission is nestled in the grasslands and oak trees of the San Antonio Valley. Named for a saint known as the "miracle worker," it was dedicated in 1771 by Father Serra. The church is known for its campanario and archway bells. 960 1280
San Miguel ArcangelThis mission was founded in 1797 by Father Lasuen. It completed the mission chain from San Luis Obispo to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Located in the Salinas Valley, it was the mid point between the San Luis Obispo and San Antonio Missions. Under the direction of Esteban Munros, the Indians painted the walls and ceilings with ornate designs; the original murals are the best preserved in California today.
San Luis Obispo de TolosaThis humble chapel, built of logs, was dedicated to St. Louis, Bishop of Tolosa in 1772. It was the first mission to use tiles extensively on the roof due to repeated attacks by Indians who used flaming arrows to ignite the original thatched roof.
San BuenaventuraThe ninth mission in the chain was founded on Easter Sunday in 1782 by Father Serra and dedicated to St. Bonaventure. It was the last mission the humble priest would christen. Restored in 1957, the facade exhibits an unusual triangular design which opens onto the gardens.
San Fernando Rey de EspanaFather Lasuen named this mission in honor of King Ferdinand III of Spain in 1797. Located 25 miles north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, the convent is the largest freestanding adobe in California and was originally used as a hospice for travelers.
San Gabriel ArcangelFounded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, this fortress-like structure with 5-foot thick walls and narrow windows is a design not found in any other mission. One-fourth of the wealth of the California missions' in stock and grain was credited to San Gabriel.
San Luis Rey de FranciaKnown as the "King of the Missions," San Luis Rey de Francia lies in a sheltered valley just east of Oceanside on State Highway 76. Named for Louis IX, the crusading King of France, the cross-shaped church was dedicated on the Feast of St. Anthony in 1798 by Father Lasuen.
San Diego de AlcalaThe mission trail in California began here on July 16, 1769, when Fathers Serra, Palou and Parron planted a large cross in the beachhead near the mouth of the San Diego River. A bell was suspended from a nearby tree, and the site was dedicated to St. Didacus.
Mount Vernon (Mt. Vernon, VA)'Visitors watch as "America's smallest parade" takes place at historic Mount Vernon, Virginia near Washington, D.C., February 20, 2006. The U.S. is celebrating President's Day with parades and pageantry throughout the country. REUTERS/Mannie Garcia' 960 1280
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (Washington, DC)President Clinton touches the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's dog, Fala, as he and first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, view the FDR Memorial. The memorial places Roosevelt, the country's 32nd president, alongside giants of US history, Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson with monuments in the heart of the capital. 960 1280
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (Simi Valley, CA)Nancy Reagan touches the grave marker of her husband, Ronald Reagan, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA, on June 5, 2005, the one-year anniversary of his death. 960 1280
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (Boston, MA)The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, dedicated in 1979, is located on Columbia Point in Boston, MA. The building is the official repository for the original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration. 960 1280
Presidential Destinations 15 Photos
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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial‘Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.’ These words -- from MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech -- inform the design of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Unveiled in October 2011, the memorial is the first of its kind on the National Mall in Washington, DC , to honor an African-American leader. 960 1280
9/11 MemorialThe single largest loss of civilian life on US soil is commemorated at the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Located on the grounds where the Twin Towers once stood, bronze parapets are inscribed with the names of 2,983 individuals -- including John Robert Cruz, a 32-year-old employee of Cantor Fitzgerald who became engaged 2 weeks before the attacks. 960 1280
Trail of Tears National Historic TrailThe Indian Removal Act of 1830 cast a long shadow on America. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans had been removed from their homes in the southeastern US. Thousands died along the way from exposure to harsh winters, disease and starvation. Today, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail runs through 9 states, including Village Creek State Park in Arkansas. 960 1280
USS ArizonaFDR declared Dec. 7, 1941, 'a date which will live in infamy.' The surprise military attack against the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, HI, shocked the nation. Today, the USS Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the battleship that morning. 960 1280
Lincoln MemorialInside a marble temple, Abraham Lincoln sits -- his gaze cast straight ahead upon the US Capitol, a symbol of the Union he helped defend and preserve during this country’s bloodiest conflict. Today, the words of the 16th president’s greatest speech, the Gettysburg Address, live on, inscribed inside this stirring memorial. 960 1280
Mount RushmoreCarved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, SD, this national memorial commemorates America’s 4 greatest presidents. The idea came from a South Dakota historian who wanted to create a memorial that would attract people from all over the country. Today, nearly 3 million people visit each year. 960 1280
Arlington National CemeteryAmerica’s most hallowed ground is the final resting place for more than 300,000 active-duty members of the US armed forces. In addition to these rows of white marble headstones, the 624-acre grounds are home to many stirring memorials, most notably the Tomb of the Unknowns, as well as the graves of 2 US presidents. 960 1280
Korean War Veterans MemorialOver 38 months, more than 54,000 American soldiers lost their lives defending South Korea. The Korean War Memorial honors those who served in this 'Forgotten War.' These 19 figures represent a squad on patrol, from each branch of the armed forces. 960 1280
Statue of Liberty National MonumentHer torch held high, this Roman goddess of freedom was one of the first things that many immigrants who entered through New York’s Ellis Island saw. 'I saw the Statue of Liberty,' recalled one Greek immigrant, 'And I said, ‘Give me a chance to prove that I am worth it, to be someone in America.' 960 1280
George Washington BirthplaceGeorge Washington was born here, in Westmoreland County, VA, in 1732. The 662-acre property includes a family graveyard for 5 generations of the Washington family, including George Washington’s father, grandfather and paternal great-grandfather, who emigrated from England in 1657. 960 1280
Gettysburg National Military ParkNearly 8,000 soldiers died during the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg. Today, hundreds of markers dot the battlefield -- including the State of Pennsylvania Monument. The largest monument on the grounds, it commemorates the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who served in battle -- the single largest group of Union forces to do so. 960 1280
Manzanar National Historic SiteDuring World War II, more than 110,000 Japanese residents of the US -- two-thirds of them US citizens -- were forced into remote, military-style camps. Manzanar National Historic Site is one of 10 internment camp locations that have been preserved. More than 135 internees died at Manzanar. In 1943, internees erected this cement memorial -- its words loosely translate as, ‘This is the place of consolation for the spirit of all mankind.’ 960 1280
Little Bighorn Battlefield National MonumentFor decades, this battlefield in Montana was named after Gen. George Custer -- and told just one side of the story of the battle between US and the Native American forces here. Then, legislation signed in 1991 renamed the park Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The law also said that a Native American memorial should be built on the grounds -- this sculpture by an Oglala Sioux artist is one of the results. 960 1280
Fort McHenryThis year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Remember it with a visit to this star-shaped fort that successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from the British. During the bombardment of the fort, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was inspired to write what would become the national anthem. 960 1280
Vietnam Veterans MemorialMore than 58,000 names are inscribed on this black granite wall. Each name is listed in the order in which they were reported to have died or gone missing in action. For surviving vets, the wall is the closest thing to an address that many have to pay their respects. Mementoes such as baseball mitts, notes and old photos are often left at the wall. 960 1280
US Memorials and Monuments 16 Photos