What to Expect

The Essentials

Who: Tours are geared to 4th grade school groups, however requests from other groups can be accommodated upon request.

What: Tours cover the history of California from pre-European contact to the 1850s, with a heavy emphasis on Native California and the Mission Period

When: Tours take place from 10-11:30 a.m. most weekday mornings during the academic year. Tours are not offered during summer.

Where: The tour begins and ends at the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University.

Cost: Our tours are offered free of charge, however a donation of $1 per person is encouraged.

The Details

Tour groups will be treated to an informative and interactive tour exploring the history of California from Native California through the Mission Period and up to the Gold Rush of 1849. The tour begins with a PowerPoint overview of this period of California's history. Docents show images, tell stories, and share historical facts to help set the stage for the coming tour. Following the presentation, the group is divided into sub-groups, which are taken on a walking tour with four main stops.


View of replica objects in Touching Cart.

Touching Cart

The Touching Cart is the most interactive component of the tour, engaging participants through touch, sound, and even smell. Groups are invited to handle replica objects while docents share information about the history and use of the items. The engagement of multiple senses  appeals to different learning styles and creates ample opportunity for docents to tailor their tours or re-visit key pieces of information.


Installation view of objects related to the California Ranchos.

California History Exhibition

The museum's California History exhibition features historical objects from Native California, Mission Santa Clara, local Ranchos, and the early days of Santa Clara College. Tour-goers learn about life in California through well-preserved objects including Native baskets and hunting implements; religious items and everyday objects from Mission Santa Clara; farm tools and portrait paintings from the California Ranchos; and scientific instruments and archival images from Santa Clara College.

View of geometric patterns on the ceiling of Mission Santa Clara.

Mission Santa Clara de Asís

Always a highlight of the tour, a visit to historic Mission Santa Clara is like stepping back in time. The sixth mission on the fifth site, the current structure harkens back to the 1825 mission. This section of the tour focuses on the architecture of the building and its importance within the California mission system. Tour groups are treated to a discussion of the Mission's history and an explanation of why Santa Clara was rebuilt six times since 1777.



View of old Adobe Wall with exposed adobe bricks.

Mission Gardens

Each of the California missions was established with a particular framework in mind—a church, a quadrangle, a source for water, and outlying buildings and farm lands. Mission Santa Clara was no different. A tour of the gardens allows participants to see and imagine the Mission as it would have been. Highlights of this section include touching the Adobe Wall and seeing the oldest building on campus, built in 1822.