If you have a car, be sure to drive up the winding road from Old Town to Presidio Hill's rolling lawns and outstanding 360-degree panoramas. While there, take 30 minutes or so to learn about San Diego's origins. William Templeton Johnson (the architect for many of Balboa Park's buildings) designed this Spanish Revival mission with white arches and red-tiled roof in 1929, commemorating San Diego's first mission. Displays cover San Diego's early days, including the native peoples, Spanish explorers, and Mexican residents who were here when Southern California was part of Mexico. Archeological digs uncovered the historic artifacts now on display in the museum. The 70-foot tower is sometimes open and visitors are allowed to climb to the top for even better views. Note: The place is staffed by volunteers and can occasionally be closed when it should be open. If you're determined to visit, call ahead. 

-Maribeth Mellin