Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is home to the oldest building in Santa Cruz County. Built between 1822 and 1824 by local Ohlonean and Yokuts Indians, the park’s signature adobe is the only remaining structure from Mission Santa Cruz, founded in 1791. One of just four adobe buildings left in Santa Cruz County — and sometimes confused with the nearby replica mission chapel — it is the only building of its kind preserved as a museum in the State of California. The adobe served as housing for Neophyte families who lived and worked at the Mission, which operated until 1834 when it was secularized. After decades of private ownership, the adobe was sold to the State of California, extensively restored and finally opened in 1991 to the public as the Santa Cruz Mission SHP. The park celebrated its 25th year in 2016. Learn more in the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe fact sheet.
Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks rallied the community to save Santa Cruz Mission SHP from closure in 2012. Friends funds interpretation services and a portion of park operations, and also runs the Mission ParkStore. In addition, Friends has implemented key improvements at the park, including a remodel of the patio, the opening of new interpretive exhibits, renovated outdoor cooking facilities and new hours of operation to serve local school children (approximately 2,500 third and fourth graders visit the park annually). Friends also established the Mole & Mariachi Festival, a bicultural celebration held annually in September for seven years (2013-19).
The Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is located at 144 School St., near downtown Santa Cruz. Take Highway 1 north to its intersection with Mission Street and turn left. Turn left on Emmet Street next to Mission Plaza and right on School Street.
By Bus: Take Santa Cruz METRO route 91X or 71 to the park.
Things to doPicnic Areas
Enjoy the park setting. There are picnic tables and grassy areas.Museum
Tour the historical exhibits at the Mission. Now open!Interpretive Programs
Free docent-led programs are offered at the Mission. Check the calendar for times and topics.
Visit the oldest building in Santa Cruz County and take in the educational exhibits depicting California Indians and life during the Spanish Mission Era. The Visitor Center is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For Whom the Bell Tolls Virtual Exhibit
Investigate the history of the bells in the California Missions in the virtual online exhibit, For Whom the Bell Tolls: Changing Symbolism of California Mission Bells, 1769 to today. This award-winning, bilingual exhibit explores the history of the bells in the California Missions and the bell markers along El Camino Real. Local State Parks Historian Martin Rizzo-Martinez, PhD, State Parks Interpreter I Julie Sidel and State Parks Interpreter II Rhiannon Sims developed the exhibit in 2021 to share how the bells held different meanings for different communities from the 18th century to the present.
The ParkStore carries a wide selection of local, Mission and Native American history books. The ParkStore is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Santa Cruz Mission has the distinction of being the oldest building in Santa Cruz, and the ParkStore reflects that history. It offers a selection of books about the Native American experience, as well as California Mission history and other Santa Cruz history books. The store also features an assortment of Mole & Mariachi Festival merchandise, including taco and avocado socks, chili pepper lights, and local olive oil and kitchen accessories for the home chef. And of course, it offers a wide variety of apparel and other items featuring Michael Schwab’s iconic Santa Cruz Mission image. Fourth-grade students and their families will find useful materials for Mission reports.
Fees and Passes
Parking is free. Donations are gratefully accepted.
- Picnic areas
- Historical displays
- Interpretive Programs
- Wheelchair accessibility throughout the facility.
Registration for field trips is now open. Sign up!
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is in the unceded homelands of the Awaswas-speaking Ohlone Tribe known as the Uypi, who stewarded these lands since time immemorial. Centuries of colonial violence led to the removal and displacement of the Uypi. Today, their descendants continue their stewardship and presence here, in partnership with State Parks.
Misión la Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz became the twelfth of 21 missions established in Alta California. Founded on August 28, 1791, by Father Fermín Lasuén, the mission was first built near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. The mission flooded the first winter, and Father Lasuén had to relocate to higher ground. The new location had a commanding view of the surrounding area, good climate, fertile soil and — from nearby Mission San José — native people familiar with Christianity. Construction began on the mission complex in 1793. The church and mission quadrangle, complete with grist mill, two-story granary, and workshops, were completed in 1795.
Today a complex of buildings stands on the site of the original Santa Cruz Mission, including a half-scale replica of the original church that contains some surviving mission relics. Built between 1822 and 1824 by local Ohlonean and Yokuts Indians, the park’s signature adobe is the only remaining structure from Mission Santa Cruz, founded in 1791.
One of just four adobe buildings left in Santa Cruz County—and sometimes confused with the nearby replica mission chapel—it is the only building of its kind preserved as a museum in the State of California. The adobe served as housing for Neophyte families who lived and worked at the Mission, which operated until 1834 when it was secularized. After decades of private ownership, the adobe was sold to the State of California, extensively restored and finally opened in 1991 to the public as the Santa Cruz Mission SHP.
Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks saved Santa Cruz Mission SHP from closure in 2012. Friends’ funding for the Mission has supported maintenance and operations at the park, as well as operation of the Mission ParkStore and a commitment to partner with the community and work with California State Parks to make needed improvements.
The Mole & Mariachi Festival was a benefit for nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in support of Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park held annually from 2013-19. The event became more successful than Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks ever dreamed and outgrew the Mission space. Friends remains supportive of the event concept and hopes another organization can continue the tradition at a new location. Learn more.
Mural designs by Mission Hill Middle School students Katherine Tkoch, 12, and Flora Chatwin, 13, were chosen for the new Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park mural in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the park. Their combined design was recreated in tesserae, a colorful tile that will be formed in the shape of the artist’s design to create the mosaic mural. Community volunteers, Mission Hill Middle School students, in cooperation with Friends and California State Parks installed the public art in May 2016 under the direction of noted local artist Kathleen Crocetti who has created murals on Water Street, Soquel Avenue and Laurel Street bridges. As a guidepost to draw visitors to the park, the mural is on a series of retaining walls along the park’s Mission Street boundary, facing downtown. The mural site is at the stairway entrance to the park on Mission Street, up the hill from the Town Clock.
- Dogs are allowed on leashes no longer than 6 feet.
- Alcohol is not allowed in the park.
Before you visit, check the Recreate Responsibly page to protect yourself, family, friends and your community by following these measures during your visit.