Sweet Los Rios
Make a spring visit to California’s most historic neighborhood
Even for people who know Southern California well, San Juan Capistrano’s 40-acre Los Rios district comes as a surprise. In the shadow of Mission San Juan Capistrano, this Orange County neighborhood began life in 1794 and contains California’s oldest residential street, Los Rios Street. “The first homes were built by Juanenos Indians when the missionaries allowed them to live outside the mission compound,” says Tony Forster, president of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society.
What’s wonderful about Los Rios―and what makes it worth a stop for travelers on Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and San Diego―is that here, those mission days don’t seem very far away. A good place to start your tour is at the historical society’s headquarters, the O’Neill Museum (closed Mon and Sat; $2 donation suggested; 31831 Los Rios St.; 949/493-8444). Take a docent-led walking tour of the olive tree-dotted streets (1 p.m. Sun; call museum for details), or begin your own self-guided exploration.
The neighborhood centerpiece is the Rios Adobe (31781 Los Rios), best viewed from the street. Built in 1794 by Feliciano Rios, a Spanish soldier, it’s still inhabited―10 generations later―by his descendants. On May 8, during National Preservation Week, another Los Rios adobe, the 1794 Montañez Adobe (31745 Los Rios), will be included on a historic tour of San Juan Capistrano (visit www.sanjuancapistrano.org for more information).