If you’re ever in the San Diego and you’re looking for a fantastic historic tour that is completely FREE, then you need to check out the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I won’t like it.” Well, I am here to tell you that you will LOVE it. Here’s everything you need to know.
As part of our Spring Break vacation to San Diego, we were looking for some affordable activities that we could do with our five kids. The Mormon Battalion tour was not only entertaining for everyone, some of my kids said it was one of their favorite parts of the entire vacation! I would say that’s a success.
At a glance: Mormon Battalion Historic Site
- Ages: All ages welcome
- Cost: FREE!
- Duration: 1 hour
- Hours: Monday, Wednesday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m., Tuesday, 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m., Sunday, 1:00 p.m.-7 p.m. Walk-ins welcome or reservations can be made for larger groups
- Location: 2510 Juan St., San Diego, California. Parking is available
- Contact information: Phone: 1-619-298-3317
- Website: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/learn/historic-sites/california/mormon-battalion-historic-site?lang=eng
- Nearby attractions: Old Town San Diego, Old Town Trolley, Fodor’s San Diego Travel Guide
History of the Mormon Battalion
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Battalion was a group of about 500 Latter-day Saints who joined the United States Army in 1846, during the Mexican-American War, to help provide financial support for their families and other Mormon pioneers.
Serving under the direction of army officers from July 1846 to July 1847, the Mormon Battalion marched nearly 2,000 miles across the southwestern United States. Although the battalion never engaged in battle, 20 members died during the journey west.
The soldiers of the Mormon Battalion made several contributions to the settlement of the American West. They improved trails as they moved west, others helped build Fort Moore in Los Angeles, and still others helped build Sutter’s Mill and witnessed the discovery of gold there, which prompted thousands of people to migrate to the West Coast. Most battalion members eventually reunited with their family members and friends in the Salt Lake Valley or in Iowa and Nebraska.
What’s included in the tour?
The Mormon Battalion Historic Site tour is super engaging for toddlers and adults. The tour guides lead you through five rooms decorated to reflect life as a soldier in the Mormon Battalion. From talking pictures hanging on the wall to a desert campsite in the wilderness, you truly experience what life was like for a U.S. solider in 1846.
Room #1: When you sit down to the tour at the beginning, the people in the framed photos start talking! It was like Harry Potter coming to life. We had 11 children on the tour and every single one of them (even the teenagers) loved it.
Room #2: Then, in the next room, the scene changes to a cozy soldier campsite with trees, campfire and tents all around. Everyone sings and plays spoon noise makers with the soldiers in the presentation.
Room #3: The third room resembles an old town mercantile from the 1800s. Participants in the tour get to dress up in soldier attire and learn more about life during that time period.
Room #4: This room makes you feel as if you’re in the desert of the old west. As you sit on faux desert rocks, you get an accurate sense of everything these soldiers endured while serving in the battalion.
Room #5: Tour participants sit on wooden benches in a room replicating a town hall. The presentation sums up the accomplishments of the Mormon Battalion and the mark they left in history.
Panning for gold and brick making
At the end of the tour, everyone heads out to the courtyard and pans for gold! Each child is even allowed to take home one piece of fool’s gold as a souvenir. The missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who guided the tour were so friendly and welcoming. There is a wonderful spirit at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site that welcomes all who come in its doors.
Check out Old Town San Diego while you’re there
After our tour at the Mormon Battalion, we walked about a block away to Old Town San Diego. As the oldest neighborhood in San Diego and in the heart of this beautiful city, there are tons of shops, restaurants and grassy areas to explore and eat a picnic lunch. It was the perfect way to complete our visit. For more information about fun places to visit in San Diego, check out this full-color travel guide.
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