Looking For A Quick Weekend Adventure? Maybe It’s Time For A Road Trip To Julian!See + Do Main Streets, mountain views, and apple pie await in this close mountain town
One of the best things about living in San Diego is that we have SO MUCH variety just a quick drive away. One of my favorite fast adventures is a road trip to Julian!
When I first moved to San Diego nearly eight years ago, Julian was my first official road trip in the area. Located just an hour east of the city, Julian feels like you’ve not only traded in the hustle of the city for a quiet day in the country but also traveled back in time more than a century.
From the horse drawn carriage that makes frequent trips along Main Street to the wooden storefronts, Julian captures the essence of a simpler time and embraces the memory of its mining heyday.
Over the years, I’ve made the trek out to Julian at least once a year and have discovered that there’s far more to the town than the delicious apple pie that it’s known for. There’s no denying, though, that the pie is a major selling point and is definitely not to be missed if you have a sweet tooth. From restaurants serving comfort food to old-fashioned activities that highlight the town’s history, there’s a lot to do in this little town.
Plotting Your Route
Of course, the first step to planning a road trip to Julian is to figure out your route. There are two main ways that you can access the town, depending on what part of San Diego you’re coming from. People who live close to Downtown can head east along the 8 before heading north along the 79. For those coming from North County, the most direct route is through the countryside of Poway and Ramona along the 67, 78 and 79. The second half of this route, once you leave Ramona and start climbing into the mountains, is quite windy so be prepared, especially if you happen to get car sick.
Once you arrive in Julian, it’s pretty difficult to get lost. The majority of the town’s activities take place along a short stretch of Main Street that is confined to a handful of blocks. You can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the shops, enjoying lunch at one of the local restaurants and, of course, treating yourself to a slice of the infamous pie.
There’s an assortment of restaurants in Julian and all of them offer something different. Here are a few of my favorite places to get a bite in the heart of Julian:
Julian Cafe and Bakery – Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Julian Cafe and Bakery offers home-cooked meals with a dose of nostalgia. If you still have room after your meal, you can also get a slice of apple pie in-house for dessert!
Julian Grille – If you’re looking for fancier fare, try the Julian Grille’s prime rib or seafood for lunch or dinner in a cute cottage setting. Bonus points for being dog friendly and having a full bar too!
Miner’s Diner – For those who have a soft spot for old-fashioned soda fountains, Miner’s Diner is the place to be for breakfast or lunch. Don’t miss their 1/3 Angus beef burgers or large selection of milkshakes and malts.
Soups & Such Cafe – While Soups & Such Cafe may be on the small side, it’s food is big on flavor. They specialize in an assortment of soups and salads and are open for breakfast and lunch.
It’s hard to pick a favorite spot in Julian when it comes to pie. Honestly, I typically choose the one with the shortest wait because they’re all delicious. Both Mom’s Pie House and Julian Pie Company lie along Main Street and offer an assortment of mouthwatering pies. Personally, my favorite are the caramel Dutch apple at Julian Pie Company and the bumbleberry, a combination of boysenberry, blackberry and blueberry, at Mom’s. Don’t forget to add a scoop of either vanilla or cinnamon ice cream to really take your pie to the next level!
From antiques to specialty shops, you’ll find lots of one-of-a-kind items in Julian. Stop by the Julian Cider Mill for an impressive selection of jams, dried fruits, honey, candy, cider and more scrumptious treats. Check out the Warm Hearth for an eclectic mix of country gifts.
Eagle Mining Company – Julian started as a mining town in the 1870s and two of the town’s original gold mines are still open to visitors. Explore the Eagle and High Peak mines on a guided one-hour tour and learn about the early days of the Julian.
Pioneer Museum – Continue your journey to the past with a visit to the Pioneer Museum where you’ll find relics from the good ol’ days, like clothing, household items, mining equipment and photographs of the bygone era.
Of course, there are more adventures to be found on the outskirts of Julian. Hop in your car and venture to one of these nearby spots:
Menghini Winery – Known as Julian’s first winery, this vineyard has been making wine since 1982. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while overlooking the expansive vineyards and stop by their tasting room that is open daily.
Volcan Mountain Winery – On the flip side, Volcan Mountain Winery is a relatively new addition to Julian wine country. The pet friendly winery is located just 10 minutes outside of town and sits adjacent to a huge apple orchard.
Nickel Beer Company – Although Nickle Beer Company is just a half mile outside of town, the lack of sidewalks make driving here a better option. Choose from 16 beers on tap and take home a growler of your favorite. Feel free to bring the kids and the dogs their spacious outdoor beer garden for a family friendly outing.
Julian Hard Cider – Given how famous Julian is for its apple orchards, it makes sense that the town has perfected the art of making hard cider. Visit their tasting room along Highway 78 en route toward Ramona and try their Apple Pie cider, which is basically like drinking a slice of apple pie.
Now that you know what you can do in Julian, you’ll need to decide when to visit. Unlike most of San Diego County, Julian is home to four distinct seasons thanks to its mountain elevation. You may find snow in the winter and sweltering temperatures in the summer. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during most of the seasons and my favorite is apple picking season in August and September. A trip to the apple orchard truly captures the essence of Julian. Plus, you can bring home a bag of freshly picked apples as a souvenir.
Whichever season you choose to visit, Julian promises to offer a good time and is well worth the drive from San Diego.
Have a great trip!