Rediscover Relaxation At The Historic Gold Rush Town of Julian

Julian Pie Company pies; Photograph by Paula Watts

Rediscover relaxation by heading about 100 miles southeast to Julian, a quaint town in the countryside of San Diego County renowned for its homestyle apple pies and agricultural roots. Whether you ride down Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage or explore a scenic hike, you’ll find that time seems to slow down here. With the end of apple-picking season (and its crowds), you’ll have more room to enjoy the autumn leaves, fresh mountain air, and small-town pleasures with locals.

Historic Romance

At the Victorian-style Julian Gold Rush Hotel, you’ll be steps away from the action. The restored bed and breakfast is a National Historic Landmark, and each unique room is decorated with antiques. Choose from a variety of accommodations, from first-floor rooms with private entrances and porches overlooking Main Street to the patio cottage complete with its own fireplace, veranda, and relaxing views of the garden ($115 and up). Each stay includes a two-course hot breakfast and afternoon tea.

Apple crumb pie with caramel and vanilla ice cream from Mom’s Apple Pie; Photo by Kristen Mattern

World-Class Apples

It’s no surprise that Julian apples took first prize at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Though the u-pick season is over, you’ll still be able to enjoy the prized produce. For the best pie in town, get the Dutch apple topped with caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream at Julian Pie Company ($24.95 for a whole pie, $2.25 for ice cream). Take one home for the holidays. Also, try the pies and baked goods at Mom’s Bakery.

Local Fare

Owned by a pair of brothers from the Mexican town of Quecholac, Quecho Elevated Mexican Eatery is new and worth a visit. Start with pineapple guacamole and chips ($10) and end with apple pie tacos ($9). Grab a round of local brews such as Jalapeno Gold and Apple Pie Ale at Nickel Beer Co. ($4.50 to $6.50 a pint). For unique wine pairings, head to the tasting room at Julian Wine & Chocolate, where bottles from local wineries are paired with samples from Encinitas-based chocolatier Chuao ($16).

Shop The District

From the handmade, all-natural body products such as lavender lotion ($15) at Crow and Lilac to the wide assortment of home decor at The Warm Hearth, you won’t have a hard time finding souvenirs at the shops lining the historic district. Stop at Wynola Junction Antiques and peruse the 3,500-square-foot antique mall.

Hike photograph by Patricia Joyce (@pattijoyce)

Summit Hike

Step into nature by heading north of town to Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve and its 2,900 acres of oak and conifer woodlands. The Five Oaks Trail is a moderate 3.2-mile hike with switchbacks and spectacular views of the summit, the coast, and the desert. If you’re up for a challenge, climb a couple of miles farther to reach the summit. Reward yourself with a glass of wine at Volcan Mountain Winery afterward. Want a view without the hike? Drive to Desert View Park for a panoramic vista.

Astronomy Lesson

Most businesses close around 5 p.m., but don’t let that stop your fun. Reserve an hour-long guided tour of the night sky at Observer’s Inn and leave town with a new perspective ($30). The observatory houses research-grade telescopes with which you’ll be able to view celestial objects including star clusters, planets, and nebulae.

Strike Gold

Learn about the town’s history and pan for gold and gemstones at Julian Mining Co. Purchase gem ore buckets ($11.50 to $70), shovel the “rough” onto a screen tray, and immerse the tray in a wooden trough. Admire your dazzling finds under the shade of a walnut tree. Stop by the mercantile for farmhouse decor, and don’t miss the tour of the grounds and the display of antique mining equipment.

Wolf Encounter

The California Wolf Center is home to packs of North American and Mexican gray wolves and strives to recover wolves in the wild and return them to their natural habitats. Book a tour in advance to help support wolf conservation and get an intimate look at the endangered species ($20 to $50).

Photograph by Johnny Durazo Photography @durazocaptures

Mark Your Calendar

Nov. 29 to Dec.1: Locals gather at the annual Pomegranate Days Festival to feed camels pomegranates. (They love them!) You can also enjoy camel rides, turkey stampede races, circus acts, and food and drink. Admission is $15.

Photo courtesy of Sonja Kodimer

Tip From a Local
“We love our Main Street businesses, but don’t forget to venture out to B Street, out to Wynola, and Farmer Road—beautiful vistas and wineries! If you’re up for a drive, the journey to Lake Cuyamaca is just gorgeous.”
Sonja Kodimer, owner of Crow and Lilac in Julian


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