Travel Back to Julian’s California Gold Rush Days Just One Hour Outside San Diego
If you are taking a road trip to San Diego, I highly recommend taking a detour on your return home to spend the day in Julian, California. This former California Gold Rush town features historic architecture, family entertainment and fantastic bakeries.
I had heard of Julian as a great place for apple picking, but it turns out, there’s more to do in Julian than pick apples. You can spend a full day in Julian with the kids and enjoy several different activities, or just spend a few hours at an apple orchard or on a mine tour.
Things To Do in Julian
From mid-August to September, you can visit one of the seven U-pick apple and pear orchards in Julian. Many of the orchards have trees with branches low enough for your kids to reach and there are even organic orchards to visit. If you have city kids, this is a great opportunity for them to see fruit in its natural environment, not the grocery store.
In addition to the U-pick orchards, there are also orchards you can visit to purchase fresh produce and goods such as olive oils, nuts and hand-made soaps.
I had always wanted to go to Julian for the apple picking, but we were off-season so we decided to try a mine tour. I knew my seven year old would enjoy it since he had a taste of gold mining at Knott’s Berry Farm, but I wasn’t sure my three year old would have the tolerance to do a mine tour. I was mistaken. Both kids – and my husband and I – thoroughly enjoyed the mine tour.
We chose The Eagle Mining Co. tour, mainly because it was first on the list of mine tours. We really enjoyed learning about how mining was done in the 1800s, as well as seeing the various rock formations.
The tour started with a look at machinery used to break up rocks. Once we learned about some of the tools, we had a quick lesson in panning for gold and each had the opportunity to do our own panning (you have to return the gold).
After panning for gold, we began the actual mine tour. The nice part about the tour is that the mines are nice and cool, which is great on a warm day! We went through various sections of the mine and saw actual tools that were used for gold mining. The mine is fairly dark and uneven, so if there is someone in your group who has mobility issues, they may want to sit it out. That being said, I have difficulty walking for extended periods and had no problem with the tour.
They have picnic areas at the mine, however, they don’t sell food on-site so if you are going near mealtime, pack a lunch.
On our way to the gold mine, we passed several wineries. We didn’t stop since Julian was a detour on our way home from San Diego, but I noticed that there are a few companies that offer wine tours through Julian.
There are several large parks and hiking trails in Julian. From easy half mile hikes to more challenging eight mile hikes, you should be able to find something that fits your family’s fitness level.
Julian also offers boating, fishing and horseback riding opportunities if you are planning to visit for more than an afternoon.
There are several restaurants on the main road of Julian. One caveat, it seems that everyone visiting Julian on a weekend wants to eat in a restaurant at the same time. We tried several restaurants and the wait time was more than one hour – not ideal with hungry kids. If you’re planning to have lunch in Julian, get to a restaurant early or pack a picnic lunch.
We tried to go off the main road and settled on Buffalo Bills Restaurant. Unfortunately, our experience was really disappointing. We waited for thirty minutes for a table, which wasn’t bad, considering the wait time at other restaurants. However, it took almost an hour to get our food once we were seated, and we ordered cold sandwiches! The restaurant was full, but I’ve never had such disappointingly slow service.
While our lunch was disappointing, we were quite pleased with the apple pies we took home. We ordered a traditional apple pie and crumb top apple pie from Apple Alley Bakery. I preferred the crumb top pie, but both were amazing. You could taste the freshness of the apples. Julian is famous for their apples and you will not be disappointed by their pies.
If you’re looking for a new stop on a Southern California road trip, I highly recommend visiting Julian – even if it isn’t apple picking season!