Sometimes referred to as the “King of the Missions,” Mission San Luis Rey (4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside, 760/757-3651, www.sanluisrey.org , tours daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m., adults $6, children $4) certainly is the biggest of the California missions. It is also one of the most lavishly restored.
You can visit the stately formal gardens, complete with manicured lawns, roses, antique sculptures, and ruins of structural elements of the mission buildings. Or take a tour of the museum and church, both of which contain the history of Mission San Luis Rey through interpretive panels and many artifacts.
Out in front of the mission, a unique experience awaits as you explore the ruins of the Lavanderia. This large open space contains the remains of the area where Native Americans washed their clothes and themselves outside of the mission grounds. Take the stairs down to seek out the remains of the gargoyles that once sprayed water for laundry.
The cemetery is one of the largest and best maintained in the mission system, with memorials dating from the earliest days of this 1798-founded Franciscan church.