Built in 1897 by former slave Albert Robinson and his wife Margaret, today’s Julian Hotel honors the memory of its original owners with charming hotel rooms and cottages, thoughtful amenities and an ideal location in the midst of Julian, California — one hour and twenty minutes from San Diego.
Update 6/16/2020: Good news! If you are looking for a cool country escape after the long coronavirus lockdown, and you feel comfortable and healthy enough for travel, Julian Hotel is open! I just received this today: “CLEAN + SAFE CERTIFIED. The Inn has earned The California Hotel and Lodging Association Clean + Safe Certification, a safety seal of approval provided to hotels which complete a rigorous checklist of protocols for guests, employees and cleaning procedures.”
I was pining for a taste of fall in Southern California. I have been longing for the kind of autumn I used to have when growing up in Ohio. Unable to get back there this fall, I started thinking about places that could give me that fall flavor without having to get onto a plane. And then Andy and I remembered Julian, California.
Make no mistake; we still stand by the idea that a Saturday in October is only for those who love crowds and are genuinely determined (as we wrote after our first visit). However, a mid-week writing retreat sounded like exactly what we both needed. So, we packed up our laptops and our good intentions to get some serious work done on our thriller script and headed southeast.
We booked two nights at the thoroughly charming Julian (Gold Rush) Hotel. Ideally set in the middle of all the action in Julian, the hotel grants visitors the perfect perch from which to explore the town. How perfect? We were there for two days and never moved the car. And the world-famous Julian apple pie is only a short walk away.
The History of the Julian Hotel
Thought to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California, the Julian Hotel began on the foundations of the Robinson Restaurant and Bakery, the first successful business of Albert Robinson, born into slavery in Missouri, and his wife Margaret (nee Tull). Margaret’s parents gifted the couple land in Julian – the same land that now houses the Julian (Gold Rush) Hotel. As it went from restaurant to hotel, its influence grew. The hotel became a social hub for everyone from gold rush settlers to visiting senators. If you want to read more about the history of the Julian Hotel, read their website and an excellent piece over at Black Past.
The Common Rooms
From the moment you step into the hotel from the gracious front porch, you feel like you have stepped back into time. No electronic swipes or check-ins here; you meet an actual person (and she was lovely). We got a little bit of history, some advice about things to do and the tips about their delicious two-course breakfast and delightful tea. The front rooms are filled with cozy seats, games, books and historical photos. It’s too bad we weren’t writing historical fiction because this would be the place to do it!
The parlor is dotted with tables boasting parlor or board games. It also offers tempting books and fascinating glimpses into Julian’s past (both the town’s and the hotel’s). We loved listening to songs from yesteryear over breakfast and chatting with other travelers at tea. I didn’t hear anyone giving the 1914 Kayton piano a go, but it is there waiting. As they mention on the website, you are dining at “linen covered tables in the same room once frequented by historic figures such as James Joyce and Lord Curzon.”
Julian Hotel’s Honeymoon House
Andy and I knew that we need a quiet space to work while we were in town. After taking a look at the website, we booked the Honeymoon House. Not only would it give us privacy and provide a relatively quiet place to work, but it had a delightful living room with a work/dining table perfect for our cause.
Pro Tip: Book directly through the Julian Gold Rush Hotel during the week for some terrific, discounted rates.
While set slightly apart from the hotel, the décor carried the theme of days gone by in it. My favorite touch was the fireplace/stove in the living room. While the temperatures were still in the low 70s last week, the evening temperatures were already down in the low 40s at night. As October goes on, you will be very grateful for that fireplace!
Our second favorite thing was the super-speedy Wi-Fi! Seriously, that was something we were not expecting, but it came in very handy.
As I mentioned earlier, when you book your stay, either in the main hotel or in the cottages, you will get a chance to enjoy their two-course breakfast in the parlor and afternoon tea. Breakfast ran from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and it was delicious! From the homemade granola cereal to the eggs Florentine and waffles, we loved every bite. They will ask if you have any food issues, and you should definitely tell them (they will adjust as they can). I forgot to tell them about my lactose sensitivity, but they bagged up my homemade granola for a snack throughout the day (which we happily enjoyed). Do not miss their date raisin nut bread!! I think we’d make the two-hour-and-forty-minute drive from Los Angeles just for that.
Afternoon tea is also in the parlor. Scones, coffee cake, pastries, pound cake, cookies, fruit and more are waiting for guests every day. Andy made a beeline for the tea, and I sampled the lemonade. Tea runs from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It can be a social hour, or you can take your drink and nibbles to your room or out onto your deck chairs/porch to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine.
Overall Impressions of the Historic Julian Hotel
While the leaves on the trees had not yet started to turn in Julian, California, it ended up being the escape that Andy and I both needed. We got some solid work done on our script, and we still had time to enjoy the hotel and the sights around town.
Everyone at the Julian Hotel was lovely, from the woman who greeted us at registration to the person who brought us breakfast. Everything felt cozy and welcoming – exactly what you want when visiting a historic town. The location is incredible – everything you want to do is close to the hotel.
The only downside is that when you are stuck on what your heroine should do in a scene, you will look at people heading into the Blue Door Winery with envy. I’m just kidding – you’ll feel an urge to go whether or not you are stuck on a scene (and yes, stay tuned for our article on the Blue Door Winery).
Have you made your plans to visit the Julian Hotel yet?
Related Articles: Sampling Fine Wines at Blue Door Winery
Related Article: Things to Do in Julian, California (Other Than Apple Picking)
27 Replies to “Check Into the Charming Julian Hotel [Updated with COVID Status]”
I love historic hotels like Julian, where you not only get a comfortable room but also a piece of history! The rooms have a lot of character and preserved the atmosphere of the Gold Rush era. I’ve never been to Julian, although I live in Los Angeles and travel quite often to San Diego. I should add this to my list of nearby places to visit.
It takes about 2 1/2 hours, depending on traffic, to get to Julian from LA, so it’s great for a weekend or mid-week break. Plus, if you are already headed to San Diego, you build it in as a detour filled with some history (and loads of apple pie).
What a quaint little place! They definitely kept the rustic nature of the early 20th century. The treats for that afternoon sound delicious.
I love when hotel’s do that. It’s such a fun and unexpected treat to have an afternoon tea, happy hour, pie hour (which one place did in Avila), etc.
Looks so charming. And you are so right – like a step back in time. Love the fireplace in the living room and the genuine feel of coming onto a page of a historical fiction book. 🙂
How great is the fact that you didn’t have to move your car throughout your stay, so nice that everything is so close. Would love to visit. 🙂
I love visiting places where there is a lot to do within walking distance. It makes everything feel so much less stressful!
We used to work in Julian at the Girl Scout camp as high ropes course facilitators. That’s such a beautiful town. More beautiful if it’s not a fall weekend and you can find a parking space. Staying a the Julian Hotel and taking a couple of days to stroll through town sounds like an idyllic getaway.
I love that you used to work there!! And, the first time we went, we were there on a Saturday in late October, and we vowed to never do that again because there were so many people.
The Julian Hotel sounds like the perfect retreat! I really love history, so I appreciate that so many historic items are around to look at. I especially love that old phone on the wall. And I know you were there to work, but glad you seemed to escape for a bit to get some wine! 😉
Me, too!! The Blue Door Winery was the perfect writing break. 🙂
So I lived in Pacific Beach, San Diego for 5 years and became close to a family that lived in Ramona but I never ever made it over to Julian even on my return trips to San Diego County. I really need to take Darcee out there cause she loves that type of rocky mountain-esque mining small town experience plus if we can ever get up there in late fall she would love the changing of the leaves. Plus I showed her the pics of the Charming Julian Hotel and she loved it. For her to escape the hustle & bustle and just sit by any of those stoves and just relax sounds amazing!
It really does feel like a break from the pace of LA. We could just shut everything else out and enjoy the space, the writing and the history of the place.
We were lucky we passed by Julian at the height of its Apple Festival during Fall, This is a great historic hotel where we can stay longer during its Harvest celebrations!
It really is the perfect home base when you want to get in on all the apple festival fun!
We have visited San Diego several times and never heard of Julian. One to add to our list for a return visit. The Julian Hotel does look like a cozy hotel to stay in. I understand the need to book a larger room like the Honeymoon House so you can work while you travel. Especially if there is fast wifi.
It was really helpful to have a real desk and other seating besides a bed when working. Plus, we could pace. It’s always a critical part of any writing process. 🙂
I love Julian! I’ve visited many times and always walked past the Julian Hotel and wanted to explore. It’s true that everything worth visiting is within walking distance, and it’s such a fun place to come, especially in the fall. After reading your review, I’m thinking I’d better make plans to visit again soon — and this time I should stay at the Julian Hotel. Love that they have games in the parlor and period furniture!
It’s so much fun, isn’t it? And I hope you get a chance to stay at the hotel!
This looks fantastic! Not only is the touching story really interesting, I also love all the details they left. When I do back to San Diego, I’ll make sure to spend at least one night there and soak it all in. Thanx for the info!
Let me know if you do!
Julian hotel looks like a charming hotel. Never been and I’ve been to San Diego several times. I will have to put the hotel on my radar. Historic hotels like that are always full of interesting tidbits. I’ve stayed in a couple of Victoria Era hotels/hostels like Julian and it’s always been a treat!
We really love staying in places that have tried to retain the look and feel of the hotel through the years.
Wow! I am gonna love this 1897, Charming Julian Hotel. Everything is so well done there especially in your honeymoon room. I loved the decor of their living room, room near reception area and obviously bedroom which looks super comfy too. The personal touch in the hotels is our favourite part and additionally you got good WiFi too.
It was great fun and so beautiful!
What a lovely vintage hotel! Every item in this place transports you to a different era. Wonder how it would have been to live here a 100 year ago!
They really did pay attention to the details here!
The vintage touch of the Julian Hotel is exactly the kind of thing I am always looking for. From the fireplace, to the vintage telephone, the art and décor, everything looks absolutely marvelous! Thank you for sharing your rich experience Patricia. The homemade breakfast is just the icing on the cake!
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