When you think of Southern California, your mind generally goes to images of picturesque beaches, palm trees, and fast-paced city living. Get ready for that stereotype to be busted with this month’s travel guide to Julian, California. Julian is about as far as you can get from palm trees and beaches (although not distance-wise as it is only about an hour east of San Diego) with its small-town charm and old fashioned country friendliness.
Born during the gold rush in 1869, Julian is a small town in the Laguna Mountains, surrounded by apple orchards and brimming with history. While Julian is famous for its delicious apple pies, the second best thing is the fact that it is probably one of the only Southern California towns that experiences all four seasons. Mind blown yet? That’s right, this quaint little town gets snowfall in the winter, foliage in the fall, awesome hiking weather in the summertime, and a colorful blossom of daffodils and lilacs in the springtime. Basically, Julian is an awesome place to go anytime of year. But, since it is currently springtime leading into summer, we’ll focus on those warmer weather activities for now. So, put on your mining boots and get ready to dive into 1860s California….
Activities in Julian
Julian may be small in size, but we guarantee you will need at least two days to do everything there. Whether you want to take it easy and spend the day strolling through the specialty shops that line the historic streets, take a hike to one of California’s coolest waterfalls, or enjoy an apple pie by Lake Cuyamaca, Julian offers a little something for everyone.
While in Julian, we recommend reliving the days of the gold rush at Eagle and High Peak Mine. For only $10, you get to mine for gold and tour underground mining operations as well as get a first-hand look at the milling process they used back in the day. Now, if you’re claustrophobic, we suggest you sit this one out as you will see 1000 feet of underground rock tunnels, authentic machinery, as well as miles of what they call “gold veins”.
Image via: www.atlasobscura.com
Or… take advantage of the unique opportunity to observe a pack of gray wolves in their natural habitat on a hike through the Cuyamaca Mountains. Okay, we’re kidding we wouldn’t send you out there with a pack of wolves. Actually, Julian is home to the California Wolf Center – home to several packs of North American gray wolves and Mexican gray wolves. The center is open to the public for public or private tours in which they hope to “bridge the gap” between humans and wolves.
If you aren’t in the adventurous mood, no worries! Simply stroll down Main Street and wander into the quaint wineries, cider shops, book stores, and historical landmarks. We guarantee you will find something that sparks your interest.
Lodging in Julian
Believe it or not, Julian is actually considered the “Bed and Breakfast Capital” of Southern California. From the antiquey Butterfield Bed and Breakfast to the romantic Wikiup Bed & Breakfast, there are plenty of options for couples, families, or solo travelers alike all within walking distance of Main Street. If you are more of a hotel guy or gal, we recommend staying at Lake Cuyamaca Lodge. With picturesque views of the lake and an abundance of wildlife, this is the perfect place to stay if you are looking to take a break from fast-paced city life or dreary suburbia and soak up the healing powers of nature.
Finally, for those more adventurous pioneers who don’t need no bed and no breakfast, there are several campsites that always welcome eager travelers. If you want to eat, sleep, and breathe adventure, we recommend camping out in Anza Borrego Desert State Park where you will get your fair share of hiking, biking, and sightseeing opportunities in one of California’s hidden gems. If you’re thinking of staying for a longer period of time, we recommend checking out Lake Henshaw Resort, a beautiful campground right on the lake and at the base of the Palomar Mountains. Here you get more amenities such as a pool and spa, children’s playground, a grocery store with ice, and clubhouse and laundry facilities. Pretty far from “roughing it” if you ask us…
Dining in Julian
Bring your appetite when you visit Julian – not only will you be consuming more apple pie than your chubby Uncle Bob does every Thanksgiving, but Julian is also home to some of Southern California’s most delicious dining options. For breakfast head on over to Granny’s kitchen for some organic fair trade coffee, espresso, and fresh pastries. From the moment you walk in to the moment you leave, you’ll feel like you are at your own grandmother’s house being coddled with warm coffee and delicious treats. We can’t think of a better start to the day.
For lunch, go back in time and have a refreshing soda from the soda fountain and a burger from Miner’s Diner. This old-time 50s style diner is decorated with patriotic memorabilia to ogle at while downing some delicious french fries. When it comes down to dinnertime, you have the pick of the litter. Try out some classic Mexican food at Mr. Manitas Taco Bar and Fruteria or enjoy a big plate of spaghetti at Romano’s Italian Restaurant. Or, just walk down Main Street, you’ll find something, we promise.
Oh, and one last thing, you can’t leave Julian without trying some of its world-famous pie at the Julian Pie Company as well as some of Julian Hard Cider. Words wouldn’t do either of them justice so you are just going to have to go to see for yourself.
Don’t forget to bring a bottle or two of Lost Republic. You’d be surprised how well apple pie and bourbon go together. Happy travels, Pioneers!