While Julian, California is traditionally known as the hot spot for apple picking (and apple pies) in late September and October, there are still loads of things for you (and your family) to enjoy if you are visiting out of season. From a gold mine tour to wine tastings, there is something likely to inspire in this town near San Diego.
Julian Apple Pies Tastings
The days for u-pick apples may be ending (check here for the latest u-pick schedule), but the days for tasting all the different pies that Julian has to offer is just starting. If you find yourself in this historic Southern California town in the fall (or anytime), there are a few places you need to try: Mom’s Pie House, the Julian Café & Bakery and the Julian Pie Company.
We’ve had Mom’s pie before, and it was very traditional and utterly delightful. It’s also extremely popular (check out the line the last time we went). So, if you are concerned about getting in, you’ll be happy to know that there is a Mom’s satellite shop just outside of town in Wynola (off of Highway 78).
This time around, we taste-tested the pies at the Julian Pie Company. I got the Dutch Apple with the crumble crust, and Andy went with the Original Apple (with loads of whipped cream). We took our slices out onto the charming patio to enjoy the late afternoon sun along with our treats.
As you may notice in the pictures, the patio is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your well-behaved pet along. As for the pie, I devoured mine, and gave it two thumbs up – or I would have had I slowed down enough to give those thumbs up. Likewise, Andy found the tarter pie delicious.
Honestly, this town knows how to do pie, so anything you order is going to be incredible. We haven’t been able to narrow down our favorites yet, so, clearly, we need to set up some sort of blind tasting to make that work. We are both willing to make ourselves available for those efforts.
Blue Door Winery
The Blue Door Winery was ideally close to the Julian Hotel (they also have a tasting room in San Diego). In fact, we could see it from our living room window in the Honeymoon House. This made it somewhat difficult to concentrate on writing as the afternoon rolled around, so we decided to incorporate a tasting into our afternoon break. Gabby, a wonderfully knowledgeable person working the tasting, took her time explaining the various options and even offered us a taste of their ice-cold sangria after the main wine portion of the event was finished. I’ll give you a full rundown of the wines in another post, but here is a hint of how things went down: we bought a bottle of the Nebbiolo and the Petite Sirah.
Related Article: Sampling Fine Wines at Blue Door Winery
There is no shortage of places to eat in Julian, California. From kitschy comfort food to fine Italian, there is a little bit of everything. As we were getting spoiled on the riches at the Julian Hotel in the morning, we only had a chance to sample a couple of the other restaurants in town.
The Miner’s Diner offers an old soda shop feel with a modern touch. The portions are large, the service is friendly, and if you love feeling like you stepped back into time, this is a great place for you. Keep an eye out for the miniature train that runs through the back of the adjoined eating areas. Kids should enjoy the place! Also, I hear the ice cream floats and sodas are fantastic.
Julian Café & Bakery is in the middle of town and leans into the town’s gold mining past. From the boots on the wall to the singed menus in the windows (the original building once burned down), you’ll have a chance to learn more about the area and the café’s part in that history. The food was delicious, plentiful and very popular. Be sure to get to lunch there early before the crowds come in. We sat by the window and people watched before finishing up the meal. I went with my traditional club sandwich, and it was wonderful (everything seems so fresh here). And, also, it became a writing break snack later because there was too much food for me to eat in one sitting.
Historic Marker Hunting
As I mentioned, Julian, California was once a gold mining town. The original commercial buildings, private homes and the hotel all have a story to tell. The weather was beautiful when we were there, and we took a late afternoon/early evening stroll through the town and some side streets just to read the markers. You’ll learn about the families that lived there and the businesses that thrived. You can also stop in at the Town Hall to get more details on how to find each one and about the activities in town.
Museums and Tours
Does visiting a historic gold mine capture the imagination? You can tour two of Julian’s original mines with a guide daily through the Eagle Mining Co. You can also pan for gold, see some antique equipment, and pet some farm animals at the Julian Mining Company. If you are staying at the Julian Hotel, the mines are just up the road. There is also a Pioneer Museum in town that will both entertain and educate, no matter the age of the visitor.
Beyond all of these things, there are tons of shops, beautiful scenery, new craft breweries and farms that allow berry picking and other adventures, depending on the season.
Pro Tip: As you are heading out of town, stop at the Julian Station for a taste of the Julian Hard Cider. We brought a growler of the Harvest Apple, and we wish we had brought more back. It is effervescent, light and so refreshing. It’s not too sweet, and if you are inclined toward hard apple cider at all, you love this.