Just an hour east of downtown San Diego is one of San Diego’s most popular tourist destinations – the quaint mountain town of Julian. The town was founded in 1870 during the Gold Rush era and is immersed in history, but unlike other tent-cities that disappeared when the gold played out, Julian became a productive community and is still thriving today.
The entire township of Julian is a Designated Historical District and attracts tourists from all over the world with its historical charm, tranquility, and natural beauty. However, the drive to Julian is just as picturesque as the pioneer town. A drive along winding roads through the Cuyamaca Mountains is one of San Diego’s most scenic drives, especially during the autumn season and even during winter when there is snow and a peacefulness falls over the surrounding landscape.
Apples came to Julian in the early 1870’s when former President James Madison brought the first apple trees to Julian. Since then, Julian has built quite the reputation around its apple pies. Locals travel from all over San Diego County just to taste the deliciousness of Julian’s famous pies, but there is much more to see and do than eat pie. However, eating pie isn’t a bad thing and should be the one of the first things on anyone’s ‘to-do’ list when visiting Julian.
Julian holds numerous events throughout the year. In June, Julian celebrates its history with its Julian Gold Rush Days. Visitors can take gold mining tours, try their hand at gold panning, enjoy historic skits and other reenactments, partake in a scavenger hunt and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of Julian. In September, the streets come alive with boot-stomping bluegrass music during the Julian Music Festival where visitors can root for their favorites during the banjo fiddle competition. In October, residents and visitors celebrate the Julian Apple Days Festival with music, dancing, antique tractor displays, gold panning, food, and of course everything apple, including pie! To learn about more events held in Julian throughout the year, visit the events page on their website.
Visitors can partake in a variety of other activities, including taking a wine tasting tour and gold mine tour, riding a horse-drawn surrey through the town’s streets, shopping the many antique and local craft boutiques, enjoying a train ride at Smith Ranch, horseback riding, hiking Volcan Mountain, biking through the local mountains, picking apples at one of the nearby orchards, taking a walking tour of historic downtown Julian, visiting one of the many historic buildings – Julian Jail, Julian Pioneer Museum, The Old Well, Spencer Valley School, or the Pioneer Cemetery, or even go camping and fishing. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes serving everything from BBQ to Mexican Cuisine.
Another popular attraction in Julian is the California Wolf Center. Reservations are required, but visitors can take guided tours to see wolves and learn about conservation and their continued recovery. The California Wolf Center is located about four miles south of Julian on Hwy 79.
To plan your mountain getaway, visit Julian’s website and don’t forget to grab a warm slice of pie while your there.