Mission San Jose is spacious and well maintained. I was able to take my time looking around and snapping photos. My exploration was not hindered by other visitors due to the vastness of the grounds. The church (open to the public) displays some of the first examples of Baroque architecture in the U.S. including a beautiful piece of artistry called the Rose Window. “The Rose Window is known as the premier example of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the United States”. Historians are unsure as to the significance of the window, however, there are a few theories out there explaining the mystery. Mission San José gives visitors a glimpse of what missions might have looked like some 250 years ago.
Mission Espada was about a fifteen minutes away so I headed there next. I found the Spanish detailing on the small church doorway, the stone archways, and remaining mazelike irrigation structures to be picturesque. The Espada Aqueduct and Dam are still functional and is said to be the oldest aqueduct of Spanish influence in the U.S. The system is about two-centuries-old and can be explored if you are so inclined.
Mission San Juan was significantly less busy than the other missions and it didn’t take me long to explore the grounds. The church, partially restored, is a smooth whitewashed stone façade which is drastically different in appearance from the other three missions. Due to recent structural issues the church is not open to visitors.
I would suggest visiting San Antonio Missions National Historical Park if you are in town. Parking was easy and the visitor centers were helpful and loaded with information. Perhaps combine visiting the park with one of their events!