Summer Mission Tours Add Inspiration and Preparation For California's Incoming Fourth Grade Students

Debbie Sipe
(530) 885-1624


Summer is upon us, and it won’t be long before parents of fourth grade students will soon be faced with one of the biggest art and research projects in California’s elementary school curriculum: The 4th Grade Mission Project.

But instead of simply taking your child to a store and purchasing a mission kit, why not take the family on a mission tour and see one or more of California’s 21 historic missions?

“Nothing captures California early Spanish heritage better than our historic missions,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which hosts, a statewide travel planning website.

“Our missions provide beautiful examples of Spanish architecture and most of them have tours that are suitable for families with fourth grade students,” she said.

Sipe added that mission trips can be combined with tours of other scenic attractions, including beaches to art museums, wineries and even state or national parks. recently added a section that highlights the locations of California’s missions as well as nearby campgrounds, RV parks and resorts that could serve as base camps for families as they build their own mission tours.

Here’s a north-to-south overview of California historic missions along with nearby campgrounds, RV parks and resorts that could serve as “base camps” for mission trips:

Sonoma Area

The Sonoma Mission, also which is also known as the Mission San Francisco Solano, is the 21st and last of the California missions. Founded in 1823, it was named after Saint Francis Solano, a Spanish Franciscan who served for 20 years as a missionary in Peru and Paraguay.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Novato RV Park in Novato: (415) 897-1271 or

— San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA: (707) 763-1492 or

San Francisco Bay Area

The greater San Francisco Bay Area is home to two missions, including the Mission San Francisco de Asis, which was founded in 1776 and named after Saint Francis of Asis, the founder of the Franciscan Order; and Mission San Rafael Arcangel, which was founded in 1817 and named after Saint Rafael, the patron saint of good health and travelers.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Candlestick RV Park in San Francisco: (415) 822-2299 or

— San Francisco RV Resort & Campground in Pacifica: (888) 479-5144 or

San Jose Area

The greater San Jose area is home to two missions, including the Mission San Jose in Fremont, which was built in 1797 and named for Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus; and the Mission Santa Clara de Asis in Santa Clara, which was built in 1777 and named for Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun.

Nearby campgrounds include: — Garden City RV Park in San Jose: (408) 288-9481 or

— Saratoga Springs in Saratoga: (408) 867-9999 or

Santa Cruz Area

Santa Cruz is home to the Santa Cruz Mission, which was built in 1791 and named in honor of the Holy Cross of Christianity.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Cotillion Gardens RV Park, Felton: (831) 335-7669
— Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort, Felton: (831) 335-8312 or

San Juan Bautista

The Mission San Juan Bautista is located in this city. Founded in 1797, it was named after Saint John the Baptist.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Betabel RV Resort in San Juan Bautista: (831) 623-2202 or

Monterey Area

— Carmel is home to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Founded in 1770, this is the second oldest of California’s missions. It was named after Saint Charles of Borromeo, a 16th century Italian cardinal. Father Junipero Serra, who was also the founding missionary, is buried at this mission.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Big Sur Campground and Cabins in Big Sur: (831) 667-2322 or

— Carmel by the River RV Park in Carmel: (831) 624-9329 or

— Fernwood Resort in Big Sur: (831) 667-2422 or

— Marina Dunes Beach Resort in Marina: (831) 384-6914

Soledad Area

Soledad is home to the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad. Founded in 1791, it was named after Our Lady of Solitud.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— San Benito RV Resort & Campground in Paicines: (888) 479-5144 or

Greater Paso Robles Area

Ten miles north of Paso Robles is the Mission San Miquel Arcangel in San Miguel. Founded in 1797, the mission was named after Saint Michael the Archangel. Another isolated mission called Mission San Antonio de Padua is located in Jolon, a small community in an isolated area about 50 miles northwest of Paso Robles. Founded in 1771, the mission was named after Saint Anthony of Padua, a 13th century Franciscan.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Wine Country RV Resort in Paso Robles: (805) 238-4560 or

Greater San Luis Obispo Area

San Luis Obispo is home to the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Founded in 1772, it was named after St. Louis, a 14th century Franciscan who was bishop of Toulouse, France.
Nearby campgrounds include:

— Bay Pines Travel Trailer Park in Morro Bay: (805) 772-3223 or

— Cypress Morro Bay in Morro Bay: (805) 772-2515

— Mathews Trailer Lodge in San Luis Obispo: (805) 543-3033

— Morro Dunes Travel Trailer Park and Resort Campground in Morro Bay: (805) 772-2722 or

— Pismo Coast Village RV Resort in Pismo Beach: (888) 782-3224 or

— Rancho Colina in Morro Bay: (805) 772-8420

Solvang and Lompoc Areas

The greater Solvang and Lompoc areas are home to two missions, including Santa Ines Mission, which was founded in 1804 in Solvang and named after Saint Agnes of Rome, a 13-year-old Roman girl who was martyred in 304 A.D. The Mission La Purisima Concepcion in Lompoc was founded in 1787 and named after Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton: (877) 783-5247 or

Greater Santa Barbara Area

The greater Santa Barbara area is home to two missions, including the Santa Barbara Mission in Santa Barbara. Founded in 1786, it was named after Saint Barbara, a legendary martyred church figure from the third century. This region of California is also home to the Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura. Founded in 1782, it was named after Saint Bonaventure, a 13th century Franciscan cardinal and well known philosopher.

Nearby campgrounds include:

— Ocean Mesa Campground in Santa Barbara: (805) 879-5751 or

— Rancho Oso RV Resort & Campground in Santa Barbara: (888) 479-5144 or

Greater Los Angeles Area

The greater Los Angeles area is home to two missions, including the Mission San Gabriel Archangel in San Gabriel. The fourth of California’s missions, it was founded in 1771 and named after Gabriel, the Holy Prince of Archangels. The Mission Hills area is also home to the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana. Founded in 1797, it was named after St. Ferdinand, the king of Spain in the 13th century.

Nearby campgrounds include:Camp Williams is a long way from from LA. East Shore would be a better recommendation.

— Camp Williams Resort in Asuza: (626) 910-1126 or

— Dockweiler Beach RV Park in El Segundo: (310) 322-4951 or

Orange County

Orange County is home to the Mission San Juan Capistano. Founded in 1776, it was named after St. John of Capistrano, a 14th century theologian.
Nearby campgrounds include:

— Canyon RV Park in Anaheim: (714) 637-0210 or

— Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in Newport Beach: (800) 765-7661 or

North San Diego County Area

North San Diego County is home to the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in San Luis, which is near Oceanside. Founded in 1798, it was named after King Luis IX of France, who led crusades to the Holy Land in the 13th century.

Nearby campgrounds include:

---- Paradise by the Sea and Oceanside

South San Diego County Area

South San Diego County is home to the Mission San Diego de Alcala. Founded in 1769, is is the oldest of the California missions. It was named after St. Didacus of Alacala, a 15th century Spanish Franciscan.

Nearby campgrounds include:

Campland by the Bay in San Diego: (858) 581-4200 or

Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego: (877) 219-6900 or

San Diego KOA in Chula Vista: (619) 427-3601 or

For more information on visiting California’s Missions visit