This post was most recently updated on July 8th, 2017
Poway calls itself ‘The City in the Country’ and true to its name is its Old Poway Park. The park is full of majestic oak trees, a winding stream and bridges, an old-fashioned gazebo, and a real operating steam train. Old Poway Park also hosts a historic museum, the Templars Hall (built in 1886), the Porter House, and the Nelson House, built between 1915 and 1920. These are relics of Poway’s past that have been lovingly restored. Poway is located only 24 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. It’s an easy drive if you’d like to explore more of San Diego’s surrounding neighborhoods.
Whether you’re looking for a place to keep your kids entertained, or for a couple’s date idea, you might really enjoy what Old Poway Park has to offer. This is a park where you can stroll beneath the maple trees and enjoy the shade, set out a picnic blanket, tour an old home, visit a military memorial, or check out an old schoolroom setting in the museum. Kids can run and play on the green lawns, climb the trees, ride the train, chase each other across the bridges, and take center stage on the gazebo. If a playground is what you want, there’s a very nice play structure just north of Old Poway Park in Audrey Park. You literally just walk across the street!
Old Poway Park is also very popular for birthday parties and photo shoots. Nearly every weekend in May, for example, you will see large groups of youth dressed to the nines, having their pictures taken before heading off to their Proms. You will also see family portraits and senior photos being taken along the railroad tracks (when the train isn’t running, of course!), on the bridges, or under the beautiful shade trees.
The Old Poway Village Farmers Market
Saturday is my favorite day to visit Old Poway Park. Three blocks of Midland Road, on the east side of the park, are closed to vehicle traffic, creating a “mall” for pedestrians to stroll. A Farmers Market is set up here, and you are sure to find something you like! Food, flowers, live music, and more give off an energetic vibe and make it a ‘happenin’ place to be.
There are plenty of places to sit in Old Poway Park, so once you’ve made your purchases, feel free to sit on a bench, use a picnic table, or sit on a log while you enjoy your treat. A beautiful green lawn is perfect for picnicking! The Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Old Poway Park’s Fourth of July Celebration
There’s probably no better time to visit Old Poway Park than for the Fourth of July! My husband and I went last year, and it was a July 4th celebration straight from old-fashioned Americana! A community band played in the gazebo decked with patriotic bunting, the Templars Hall showcased a quilt exhibit, and children rode on ponies.
Booths were scattered throughout the park with hands-on activities: games for children, coloring stations, and photos with Uncle Sam. Historic military exhibits and gun-powder demonstrations were also very popular! There were food vendors, free tours of the museum and historic homes (donations accepted), and also a craft fair lining the boardwalk surrounding the museum and Hamburger Factory. Extra seating is set up near the gazebo where you can sit in the shade and enjoy the band or people-watch.
The old west motif spreads beyond Old Poway Park
Across Midland Road from Old Poway Park is the Old Poway Village Shopping Center. It continues the old west theme with old-fashioned storefront facades, fencing, signs, and walkways.
Midland Elementary School, just down the street, also duplicates the fun old west vibe. I think it’s very fitting that they chose this theme when they recently re-built the school.
And if you thought this was all, there’s a beautifully preserved historic Community Church, a Victorian chapel, at the corner of Hilleary and Community Road. They are celebrating their 130th anniversary this year!
Poway Midland Railroad
One of the most unique things about Old Poway Park is that there’s a real full-size, narrow-guage railroad, which carries passengers on vintage and antique railroad cars. The railroad is owned by the city of Poway and operated by the Poway Midland Railroad Volunteers. Railroad equipment includes an 1894 Los Angeles Trolley Car, a 1907 Baldwin Steam Locomotive, a 1956 Fairmont Speeder, and a 1906 San Francisco Cable Car. The steam locomotive is currently out for repairs but will be back in business by September of this year.
I took my grandson to ride the train just last week, and he absolutely loved it! He also enjoyed visiting the train depot gift shop with a train table for children to play with and train memorabilia for sale. This is also where you can buy tickets to ride the train. For more information about ticket prices and hours, please see the Poway Midland Railroad website. I purchased the annual pass which will give me unlimted train rides for two adults and five children. I’ll be taking my grandchildren for rides as much as possible.
Dining near Old Poway Park
If you visit Old Poway Park in the heart of Poway long enough, you’ll want a bite to eat. What are the options? It’s typical to bring a picnic to Old Poway Park, or to enjoy something you’ve purchased from the Farmers Market. One of the most popular places to eat is the western-themed Hamburger Factory within the park. They have large rooms for group dining, and some of the best hamburgers, as well as many other family-friendly items on their menu. Our kids used to beg us to take them to the Hamburger Factory after games and special occasions.
I recently discovered another tasty gem at Wholly Crepe. They specialize in crepes — both sweet and savory, and you will not be disappointed. I treated myself to a banana-caramel crepe and really enjoyed watching them make it just for me. And I enjoyed eating it much more!
Have you ever been to the heart of Poway? If you haven’t had the chance to visit Old Poway Park yet, be sure to bookmark this post! Please share it with your friends, too.