SoCal Explorer Partner Highlight: Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano is a landmark and a museum. In fact, this historic destination has even been referred to as the “Birthplace of Orange County.” The mission was named after an Italian saint, San Giovanni di Capistrano, who was born in 1386, and after becoming a POW in a land conflict, began to re-think his life choices and delve into the world of spiritual clarity. Eventually, he decided to give up all material things and surrender his life to serving God by joining the Franciscan Order. 

After receiving his priesthood, he traveled all over Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia preaching forgiveness and penance. On his journeys, he preached to great crowds. John caught the deadly bubonic plague and died on Oct. 23, 1456 and was beatified in 1694 and canonized as a saint in 1724.  

The mission was founded more than two hundred years ago by Junipero Serra Nov. 1, 1776, as the seventh of the 21 missions statewide in California. Over 300,000 people each year visit this historic site – where in addition to several artifacts to view and interactive activities to explore, they will find a chapel still standing where Saint Serra once celebrated mass.   

Metrolink spoke with Kristin Bolda, brand marketing director at Mission San Juan Capistrano for her insight into the mission’s rich history.   

All Are Welcome, Here  

“Everybody who walks into this mission matters to our story – and we’ve opened our doors to visitors for over 230 years,” said Bolda. “It doesn’t matter what faith you are; you can come here and be a part of the community.”  

Bolda went on to describe the unique educational opportunities offered at the mission.   

“We’re the leading mission in the state of California with on-site educational programming,” she said. “We’re also the leading mission in offering cultural arts programming with a regular and ongoing museum – as well as regular events from cultural festivals to arts programming.”  

The mission offers accessible educational opportunities for visitors from a range of backgrounds.  

“We’re the only mission in California to offer a five-language audio tour,” said Bolda. “We offer ADA accessible programming, including offering programs to those who are on the spectrum and accessible pathways for those who might be mobility challenged. We also offer an audio tour for the hearing impaired.”  

Bolda explained how the virtual nature of recent events has expanded the mission’s reach for educational programming. 

“Now that we offer virtual events, we’ve expanded our reach and the world has become our audience, and we host visitors from all over the world,” she said. “It’s immensely rewarding to work at a place that has so much impact, and power to move people.”  

A Place of Comfort and Peace  

There have been circumstances where community members seeking help in a desperate time of need have come to the mission for solace, when they’ve had no one else to turn to.   

We’ve had people knock on our door at 5 a.m. distraught about a life-changing event, and we get them into the chapel where it’s clear they feel a better sense of relief and peace,” said Bolda. “At the events we’ve hosted, it’s moving to see the reactions and the joy created by our team, who work so hard to deliver such a meaningful experience.”  

Mission San Juan Capistrano is open Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Face masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. Visitors should expect that some museum rooms may be closed due to COVID-19. 

Guests can choose from a range of various visitation packages which can be purchased in advance on the mission’s website. Tickets and tours must be booked in advance online at

When SoCal Explorers take the train to the Mission and show their loyalty card or same day Metrolink ticket, they’ll get a free child’s admission with paid adult admission.

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