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7 Things to Do in Julian

San Diego’s Historic Mountain Town

Charming Julian, an hour east of downtown, could aptly be described “as American as apple pie.” Nestled in the picturesque Cuyamaca Mountains in East County, Julian is famous for its mouth-watering apple pies and cider from local orchards along with a rich California gold rush history. You can find Victorian-style architecture, old-fashioned stores, country-style restaurants, scenic hiking trails and a friendly country atmosphere in one of San Diego’s rural treasures.

Before visiting, please check with each point of interest on their operating status based on Covid-19 safety requirements.

Get in the Apple Picking Spirit

The most popular time to visit Julian is during the annual Julian Fall Apple Harvest, held each autumn from mid-September through mid-November. With colorful fall foliage and numerous orchards ready for the picking, you can experience a delicious local tradition that began in 1909. If you'd prefer others to do the baking, Mom's Pie House is often lined up outside the door, especially on weekends, for traditional apple pies and imaginative fruit-filled creations like the "Ruby" pie filled with apples, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Just like home, Mom's pies are always worth the wait.

Hike and Bike Scenic Mountain Trails

Julian's mountain setting provides great scenic routes for leisurely hikes and mountain biking. A diverse selection of trails can be found in the forested Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, meadows of the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, and woodlands of the Santa Ysabel County Preserves. Head over to the water's edge of Lake Cuyamaca where biking and hiking are just some of the many activities available to nature enthusiasts. The lake is stocked annually with more than 38,000 pounds of trout, so bring your rod and tackle.

Shop along Historic Main Street

Shoppers and browsers alike love sauntering along Julian's Main Street with its old-fashioned stores and specialty shops offering everything from one-of-kind artworks, antiques and crafts to homemade quilts, clothing and jewelry. Julian Station is set inside a rustic, former apple cider house with many unique shops, antiques, local art and three different tasting rooms (hard cider, wine and chocolate, beer). You can see the works of local artists at the Julian Arts Guild, a collective of talented painters, sculptors, potters, jewelry makers and craftsmen and women.

Enjoy Tasty Homestyle Cooking

If you're hungry for hearty, homestyle cooking, Julian Cafe & Bakery serves classic American plates like roast beef with mashed potatoes, fried chicken and waffles, and "chili in the saddle," plus delicious desserts like the popular apple-pumpkin crumb pie. Miner's Diner is a 1950s-style diner that brings back the nostalgia of Julian's rich history and serves old-fashioned soda fountain items like hand-mixed milkshakes and malts along with tasty burgers and fries. At Romano's Restaurant, enjoy old-school Italian and Sicilian cuisine in a historic house with wood-plank floors, a relaxing outdoor porch and friendly lounge.

Pan for Gold in Those Hills!

Few know that Southern California was also part of the Golden State’s gold rush in the late 1800s. Within weeks after former slave and cattleman Fred Coleman discovered gold in 1869 in a creek just outside of Julian, more than 800 prospectors from around the country flocked to the area in search of gold, making the town the second largest in San Diego County at the time. Future prospectors can check out the Eagle and High Peak Gold Mine with tours offered daily. You can also learn the basics at the Julian Mining Company, which offers panning for gold and gem mining on weekends.

Relive Rich and Colorful History

History buffs need to take a self-guided walking tour of Julian's colorful history to learn about the first pioneers and families who settled the town. Stop by the Julian Town Hall and Visitor Center, built in 1914, for a walking tour map, brochures and display of historic photos. The Julian Pioneer Museum features an extensive array of mining equipment and pioneer photos along with an original "Julian City" buggy and sleigh and Victorian-era clothing from yesteryear. Even Julian's outlaws and ne'er-do-wells had a place to rest their heads at night. The two-cell Julian Jail was built in 1914 and is open to the public.

Relax with a Local Pinot Noir

The perfect end to a day of gold mining or local sightseeing is relaxing with a glass of Pinot Noir at Volcan Mountain Winery, a six-acre vineyard just outside town in the foothills of picturesque Volcan Mountain. Stop by Menghini Winery where you can bring a lunch and sample a variety of locally produced wines. In the heart of Julian, Blue Door Winery offers a cozy tasting room tucked in the town’s old livery stables.

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