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Julian, California

Country Charm Near San Diego in Julian, California

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Born during a one-year gold rush in 1869, Julian, California is a small town cradled in the mountains, surrounded by apple orchards. Unlike other gold rush towns, Julian never became a ghost town. Maybe it's just too pretty to leave. Whatever the reason, today's Julian exudes small-town charm and country friendliness. And, its 4,200-foot location in the Laguna Mountains gives it a climate unusual in sunny Southern California, with four distinct seasons.

I enjoy visiting Julian for its laid-back charm and beautiful surroundings, but recommending the best time to visit is hard. Fall is its most beautiful season, and I love to sample apples then and enjoy a slice of apple pie. Unfortunately, so does everyone else, and with Julian so close to two major cities, it gets so crowded that it loses most of its charm. If you're visiting as a side trip from a nearby city, try to go during the week to avoid the crowds. Weekdays during other seasons are especially tranquil.

Lodging options abound around Julian, California. Reserve early during the fall, especially during the Apple Festival. Be aware that many properties require two-day minimum stays on weekends and holidays, and some charge hefty cancellation and/or early departure fees. Ask about policies before you make a reservation.

Julian, California Activities

Walking Tour: Pick up a map for a self-guided tour at the Chamber of Commerce office at the Town Hall (corner of Main & Washington Streets).

Shopping: Antique stores and local craft shops can be found along the town's main street.

Apple Country: Julian is at its most charming (and therefore busiest) during the fall, when leaves change color and local apples ripen. Stop by an apple orchard to sample local varieties not found elsewhere, pick up some of your favorites, or pick your own. Any time of year, Julian cafes serve apple pies and sell whole ones. They're all so good I've never been able to identify a favorite.

Eagle Mining Company: (760) 765-0036. Tour the history of Southern California's Mother Lode. Tours include underground operation and the gold milling process. Antique gold mining equipment on display. Open daily.

Country Carriages: (760) 765-1471. Carriage tours by appointment, for special occasions or a romantic evening.

Observer's Inn Sky Tour: Visit a private astronomical observatory and enjoy the view through their research-grade telescopes.

Julian Stables: Scenic, guided trail rides, instructional rides and horsemanship clinics.

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Getting To Julian, California

Julian, California, is about an hour's drive north of San Diego. Driving times vary from Los Angeles depending on your starting point and traffic. Allow about two hours from Long Beach off-peak and more during commute hours.

Get there via I-5 (north from San Diego, south from Los Angeles and Orange County) and US 79.

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