16 Fun & Best Things to Do in Julian, California

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Falls Colors at Lake Cuyamaca, one of the best things to do in Julian

Welcome to beautiful and sunny Julian, California. If you plan a trip to this fair city, you will undoubtedly want to know a few things first. That includes information about the top tourist attractions and the best things to do in Julian.

The good news is you will find more than a few things to see, experience, and discover. You will find plenty of fun in this Southern California town. So grab your hiking boots and sense of adventure, and let’s get ready to discover all the exciting places to visit in Julian together.

Do not let its size fool you. There is more to the small town of Julian than meets the eye.

TL;DR

Here are some of the top picks. Happy exploring, and have a fantastic time exploring everything in Julian. 

  • Most significant landmark – The Pioneer Museum
  • Park to visit – Anza Borrego Desert, State Park
  • Best free activity – Julian Starfest
  • Activity for kids – Apple Starr Orchards
  • Activity for adults – Julian Wines & Chocolates
  • Place to eat – Julian Pie Company
  • Nightlife – Volcan Mountain Vineyards
  • Place to stayJulian Gold Rush Hotel

Things to Do in Julian, California

1. Tour a Gold Mine and Do Some Gold Panning

Eagle Gold Mine

Address: 2320 C Street Julian, CA 92036 USA

If you want to explore Julian gold mining or try gold panning, then this is an ideal opportunity. However, this is only the beginning of your gold-mining adventure in Julian because there is much more to explore. The Eagle & High Peak mine provides an hour-long tour of the mining site and an opportunity to learn more about gold mining techniques.

If you are looking for places to visit in Julian, California, another option for mining enthusiasts is Julian Mining. The Julian Mining Company also offers activities for kids. We aren’t saying you’ll strike gold, but your lives may be richer because of a fantastic time spent together.

Didn’t find any gold? Don’t worry. You can also journey to the Julian Mining general store for souvenir items. The Gold Mining experience will surely attract everyone, and exploring gold mines is an exciting adventure for anyone interested in the Julian Gold Rush history.

Are you interested in the history of gold mining? Would you like to tour a gold mine or try your luck at panning gold? Contact Julian Mining Co. for more information or to get signed up now.

See Related: Day Trips from San Francisco

2. Enjoy the Stargazing at Julian Starfest

Julian Starfest
Image by Jason Amunwa used under CC Attribution 3.0

Address: Julian Starfest Po Box 23215 San Diego, Ca 92193-3215

One of the town’s most magical characteristics is how close it is to the bustling metropolis of downtown San Diego. And yet, how far away it is, too. Julian’s more than 4,000 feet altitude also has something to do with that, but that distance offers more than a sense of peace and space from the big city.

If you are into the stars, bird wat, or things like constellations, you can’t get a better view than from the town of Julian.

Although it is only about one hour from San Diego, Julian feels like a thousand miles away from the big cities in California. That is notably visible in the dark skies above Julian, with its spectacular stargazing opportunities easily found at night.

Since 2016, Julian has worked to halt light pollution and was recently named the second dark-sky town in California by the International Dark-Sky Alliance. Book your stargazing tour now, and never look at the stars the same way again!

See Related: Things to Do in Monterey

3. Dive into History at the Julian Pioneer Museum

Julian Pioneer Museum
Image by Seauton used under CC Share Alike 4.0

Address: 2811 Washington St, Julian, CA 92036

The Julian Pioneer Museum provides the perfect opportunity to get an overview of Julian’s history. Previously the shop of blacksmiths for the mining village, the museum houses many items and exhibits. 

The site provides a good insight into the Native American heritage once in the Julian Valley, in addition to the Golden Rush and the Pioneer era. These are all rich aspects of San Diego’s history.

Being managed by volunteers, it is strongly recommended to call before visiting to ensure it is open. You can find more information or plan a visit today.

See Related: Things to Do in Oakhurst

4. Indulge in Apple Pie & Apple Cider Donuts at the Julian Pie Company

Julian Pie Company
Image by Ewen Roberts used under CC By 2.0

Address: 2225 Main St, Julian, CA 92036

You can’t visit Julian and never taste the apple pie. There is no shortage of apple farms in the area to go along with many apple-themed treats to eat. Apple pie is a top-rated favorite in the community.

That said, the limits of what kind of apple treats you can enjoy are virtually non-existent! While in town, you won’t miss stopping in at the Julian Pie Company to experience some of these delicious concoctions – including plenty of apple pie!

Although there are many shops and restaurants, the Julian Pie Company is one of the town’s favorites. Bring your appetite, and don’t hesitate to contact the Julian Pie Company for more information about their store or hours of operation.

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5. Go On a Wine-Tasting Adventure at Volcan Mountain Winery

Address: 1255 Julian Orchards Dr, Julian, CA 92036

Looking for a great idea for a group of friends or things to do in Julian for couples? Then how about an adventure and a wine-tasting experience? Taste the hard work and craftsmanship in the vineyards at the Volcan Mountains Vineyard.

Priding itself on responsibly produced wines, the restaurant now contains pinot grisel and noir plants. It is also a great way to spend a romantic afternoon and evening.

You can also feel free to purchase a bottle or two. Amour sparkling wine is their top-selling product, along with 2018 Viognier white wine 2017, 2017 Carignan wine 2017 & Rose Grenache. Reach out to Volcan Mountain Vineyards if you want to try the wines in this area or schedule a tour.

See Related: Things to Do in Bishop

6. Go Apple Picking in Autumn

Apples scattered in a farm

Address: 1020 Julian Orchard Dr, Julian, CA 92036

Apple-picking at one of the many apple orchards in the area is an excellent adventure for you and your full-of-energy little ones. Julian is one of the most popular apple-picking destinations in California.

The orchards of apple trees are beautiful, and the family will enjoy them. Peak apple seasons at Julian are September and October. So, if you want to go apple picking, you should plan to visit during these times and leave with a bushel of your apples!

Additionally, Julian does a summer fruit harvest. It typically includes options for picking strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. This event runs July through October on certain farmsteads. Apple Starr Orchards is a great venue to begin your apple-picking journey.

7. Revel in Rustic Wines and Chocolates at Julian Wine & Chocolate

Julian Wine & Chocolate

Address: 4470 Julian Rd. (Hwy. 78) Julian, CA 92036

If you want more grown-up-oriented activities, visit Julian Wines & Chocolates. Do not let the chocolate part fool you, though, because this is a sophisticated and delightful experience created for adults.

Julian Wines & Chocolate is an excellent place to unwind and enjoy Southern California’s refined and simple pleasures. Julian Wines & Chocolates is a fantastic option for anyone who loves chocolate. A charming rustic wine shop,

Julian Wines and Chocolate offers a diverse range sourced from the high-elevation vineyards of California. It also provides an exceptional variety of wines.

Enjoy fine wines and chocolates accompanied by exquisite homemade treats to please every kind of palate. Contact Julian Wines & Chocolates for more information.

See Related: Things to Do in San Jose

8. Take a Day Trip to Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image by RuggyBearLA used under CC BY 2.0

Address: 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004

Only one-half hour away from Julian is the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. This is not only a great park to visit if you have time, but once you get to Anza Borrego, you will feel like you’re entering another world. 

For nature lovers, hikers, and anyone who loves the outdoors, this is an experience found only in Julian. The southeastern desert of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park has stunning sunsets in shades of yellow, red, and purple that paint the sky and an abundance of hiking trails.

The park is famous for its wildflowers in spring when traveling there. To learn more about this and other area parks, visit the California State Park Facebook page for more information.

9. See the Wolves at the California Wolf Center

Address: 470 K Q Ranch Rd, Julian, CA 92036

You can not miss visiting the California Wolf Center, as this is an activity you can’t do just anywhere. The California Wolf Center offers an intimate opportunity to see the wolf population and its naturally corresponding habitat. The Wolf Center also affords the chance to observe and learn about different types of animals throughout this mountainous desert region.

Since 2011, the wolf population has gradually moved from Oregon to California. They’ve been threatened by other predators, modernization, and the loss of their land. Nonprofit groups like the California Wolf Center help keep them from becoming extinct. Contact the California Wolf Center to learn more or visit the wolves in their natural environment.  

See Related: Things to Do in Anaheim

10. Take a Revealing Tour of Julian Ciderworks

Address: 17552 Harrison Park Rd, Julian, CA 92036

If you like cider or don’t care much for cider, there is a better-than-good chance you will love the cider at Julian Ciderworks. No, this isn’t your typical cider; this renowned cider manufacturer isn’t your ordinary cider company.

Julian Ciderworks offers an impressive assortment of hard ciders, delicious sparkling apple wine, and more. Sample the Crooked Tree, a distinctive dry cider with an aroma and mild pineapple taste.

For a different cider experience, the Arkansas Black Dry is a popular pick that produces a good fruit flavor with hints of cherry and blackberries.

See Related: Things to Do in Petaluma

11. Meet the animals at Oasis Camel Dairy

Camels at Oasis Camel Dairy
Image by Seauton used under CC Share Alike 4.0

Address: 26757 Ca-78, Ramona, CA 92065

Places like Southern California and San Diego have always been popular tourist destinations for families. The good news is that within 30 minutes of Julian, you can visit Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona.

Yes, camels! This farm in San Diego County offers grazing grounds where mother camels raise adorable calves. A farm tour can be a fun way to spend time with your family and children on your trip. 

If you want to do something you won’t soon forget, visiting the Oasis Camel Dairy fits the bill. Tours are available now. If you want to arrange a private tour or ride the camels, contact the Oasis Camel Dairy here.

See Related: Things to Do in Fresno

12. Explore local shops along Main Street

Aerial view of historic Downtown Julian, California
Unwind / Adobe Stock

Address: 2129 Main St, Julian, CA

It is challenging to consider any trip complete without a visit to the heart of the city you are visiting. That is no different and even more true for the town of Julian. 

Don’t be surprised if you have visions of the Old West flashing before you as you travel down Julian’s historic Main Street or past the town hall in downtown Julian. One of the many experiences that visitors enjoy is experiencing the many shops along the main drag. 

It is not only this city’s historic center but also the centerpiece of the city. No trip to Julian is complete without a trek down Main Street.

Be sure to stop at one of the local eateries, like Mom’s Pie House, for some famous chicken pot pie! You can find more information about downtown Julian or upcoming events right here.  

See Related: Northern California vs. Southern California

13. Visit Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca

Address: Lake Cuyamaca, CA 92036

Fishing, camping, or an afternoon picnic are perfect for a day. When traveling or on vacation, that time feels like a getaway and an adventure. That is also precisely what visitors discover when they visit Lake Cuyamaca. 

Lake Cuyamaca is a 100-acre water reservoir located only 15 minutes outside Julian. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, the lake is an inviting reason to go swimming. Boating is another popular activity on Lake Cuyamaca, and boat rentals are available for those who want to explore the lake. 

A restaurant near the lake also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you have no reason not to make a day of it at Lake Cuyamaca. Take a day off, hike, or find some good food – a day at Lake Cuyamaca can be whatever you want!

See Related: Things to Do in Blythe

14. Spend an Afternoon at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Lake Cuyamaca, California
jia / Adobe Stock

Address: East of San Diego, Park is on Highway 79, Five Mi. North of I-8

From sightseeing to picnics and more, a great way to spend an afternoon is a trip to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It may not technically be a part of Julian.

Still, it is worth the short trip from Julian for locals and those looking for outdoor activity. This beautiful park is also great for families and anyone looking for free things to do in Julian.

To check on park hours or to learn more about Cuyamaca Rancho or other state parks, contact them at the California Parks Department page on Facebook. They’ll have information about all the hiking trails, the best biking places, and horseback riding excursions.

Are you planning a trip to Julian? Then consider visiting some of Southern California’s natural wonders and beauty and Julian with a trip to the park.

15. Satisfy Your Sense of Adventure at the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve

Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve

Address: 1209 Farmer Road at Wynola Road, Julian, CA 92036

The Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is one of the most popular parks in the area and is on the shortlist for many who are into hiking and the great outdoors.

With approximately 2,900 acres of forest and incredible views from the summit, Volcan Mountain is one of the best hikes in Southern California – and a sense of adventure is all it costs. You can reach the summit by hiking the 5-mile Volcan Mountain Trail.

Check out Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve for more information about upcoming events and plan a trip or a weekend camping in the beauty of Southern California’s wilderness.

See Related: Things to do in Three Rivers

16. William Heise County Park

William Heise County Park
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 4945 Heise Park Rd. Julian, CA 92036

If you were to ask someone what Julian is known for, the answer probably wouldn’t be William Heise County Park. On the other hand, if you are looking for things to do in Julian with the kids or free activities, look no further!

In addition to options like camping and hiking, the park also provides a beautiful and scenic venue for weddings, parties, and other events.

To find out more about William Heise County Park and its activities, visit the park page on the San Diego Parks site. William Heise County Park may not be what Julian is known for, but it isn’t a place you will likely soon forget.

What is Julian, California, Famous For?

Falls Colors at Lake Cuyamaca, one of the best things to do in Julian
Denise / Adobe Stock

Julian is famous for not only being more than 4,000 feet above sea level, nestled in the San Diego Mountains, but also for its Julian apples. Yes, apples!

So if someone asks what Julian is famous for, you know. However, Julian’s magic and beauty begin with organic apples and its excellent mountainous location.

How to Get Around Julian

Walking and hiking are the preferred methods of travel in Julian. Most visitors drive their vehicles, campers, or RVs outside these options. The nearest location for rental car availability is Ramona, California, which is 22 miles from Julian. Making travel arrangements beforehand ensures you have covered all your transit needs.

Where to Stay in Julian

You won’t find any chain hotels in the small town of Julian, but you will find a selection of comfortable lodges, inns, and campgrounds. Check out the Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge and Retreat or a historic bed & breakfast, such as the Julian Gold Rush Hotel.

If camping is more your style, William Heise County Park offers cabins, trailer parks, and campsites. If you want a truly unique experience, Banner Ranch Julian is your place. Spend the night in a covered wagon or a tiny house!

1. Julian Gold Rush Hotel Top Recommendation

Julian Gold Rush Hotel is located in the heart of Julian in San Diego County. The hotel boasts a garden and a terrace, as well as free WiFi throughout the property. Complete with family rooms and a 24-hour front desk, this property also offers guests access to laundry facilities. The rooms at Julian Gold Rush Hotel are fitted with a wardrobe. All come with air conditioning, and some include a seating area.

2. Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge, Retreat & Spa

Set in a single-story house, Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge, Retreat & Spa offers rooms with a shared lounge and garden. It also features an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre. The accommodation is located 1 hour's drive from Julian. The rooms feature wooden floors and some have views of the gardens or the surrounding hills. A TV, a work desk and free WiFi are provided. Each room includes a private bathroom with complimentary toiletries and a hairdryer.

3. Julian Lodge

It's the perfect place to relax and enjoy breathtaking views of the Cuyamaca Mountains. For a more active getaway, guests can take advantage of the opportunities in Julian itself. The resort is just 10 minutes from Lake Cuyamaca and hiking trails, 15 minutes from Old Town, 20 minutes from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, 45 minutes from Legoland California Theme Park and 1 hour away from San Diego’s famous SeaWorld Adventure Park.

FAQ

What are the best tourist attractions in Julian?

Two things draw people to Julian from all over the country: apple cider and vineyards. Time to visit any of Julian’s cider companies, the Julian Pie Company, or famed vineyards is always well spent.

What are some fun things to do in Julian?

The city of Julian is filled with history and excellent outdoor activities. Walking down Main Street, visiting its many shops, and exploring downtown Julian is a great way to spend an afternoon. There are also many outdoor activities, such as bird watching or a picnic lunch at one of the local parks.

What is the best thing to do with kids in Julian?

For the very young, apple picking is a popular family activity. If you have older children, a trip to the Oasis Camel Dairy or the California Wolf Center is always a hit.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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