Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Julian is very kid-friendly. The close-knit and community-centered culture make it a great place to raise children. Being a short drive east of San Diego, Julian is an ideal day or weekend trip for many families. Kids are welcome everywhere, so you will have no trouble finding things to do with them. I want you to have the best time possible, so on behalf of every parent who has forgotten or wished they’d known about something prior to their trip to Julian, I am overloading this guide with must-haves and don’t-forgets. You can thank me later. I am excited to share with you some of my favorite places to take the little ones.
Before you leave... I have just a few tips to help make your experience the best it can be.
Be prepared for anything. I mean anything. If you might need it, bring it with you. Chances are you won't find it in a local store when you need it.
Make sure the kids have closed-toed shoes on. I can’t tell you how frequently kids forget shoes or break a flip flop while here.
Check the weather beforehand and dress your family members appropriately.
Have your children use the restroom right before the drive. Be prepared to stop in Ramona for a bathroom break if needed. There are no restrooms along the 23 miles between Ramona and Julian.
The drive is also very windy. I highly encourage you to bring extra clothes, barf bags, wipes, and some drinking water. If there is a mishap, Julian Mercantile has a very small selection of kids’ clothing.
Bring snacks and drinks. During peak tourism days (August through New Year, on a holiday weekend, or on a snow day) restaurants have long wait times. A snack to hold the kids over will keep everyone happy.
Lake Cuyamaca Recreation Park
Lake Cuyamaca is a local hub for outdoor recreation. You can camp, hike, fish, take a boat ride, and spot wildlife here. You just can’t swim in the water. The lake has many onshore fishing spots to give you an all-around fun fishing experience. It’s stocked with bass, catfish, trout, bluegill, crappie, and sturgeon all year long, you never know what you might catch!
Julian has been famous for its apples since 1907. Apple-picking is a great family-fun activity for all ages! Each year, multiple U-Pick orchards open to the public. The orchards open when the fruit is ready (usually mid- to late August) and close when they sell out (typically early October). Make sure the orchard of your choice is open before you make the drive. I definitely recommend coming during the week. If you can come only on a weekend, try to arrive at the orchard when it opens for the day. By noon, Julian is crowded during apple season. Closed-toed shoes are a must. P.S. Many of the orchards accept only cash. You can learn more about the apple season in Julian here.
Julian Branch Library
For years the local library has been a place where kids can read books and partake in fun learning experiences. The library hosts storytime, crafts, movie parties, and fun interactive presentations. The library is closed Sunday and Monday.
Julian and the surrounding mountain communities are the only places in San Diego County where you can find the ground covered in snow on occasion. Yes, snow in sunny San Diego! This is a great family activity. Snow in the San Diego mountains doesn't last long, so if you want to come up for the snow, don't dilly-dally. Fair warning, the San Diego mountains are EXTREMELY crowded when there’s snow. Nothing ruins a fun snow day like being cold. Everyone in your party needs waterproof snow gear (snow gloves, pants, jacket, and boots). A few stores carry a very limited supply of snow gear and winter clothing, so bring your snow gear and sleds with you. You will also want to bring a change of clothes for everyone. Even with waterproof clothes, you're probably going to be dripping wet and cold after playing in the snow. For more advice on experiencing snow in Julian check out my Guide to Snow in Julian.
Miner’s Diner has been a childhood favorite of mine. Growing up, my parents would take us here for ice cream when we got awards at school. The list of things to do and see is endless. The diner offers a large, kid-friendly menu, lots of seating, a train that goes throughout the restaurant, and newly renovated bathrooms. Their soda fountain menu and gold-mine-themed candy store has your favorite childhood treats so you can reminisce with your children.
The Santa Ysabel Nature Center
Santa Ysabel Preserve has 20 miles of trails throughout 6,347-acres of open space. Tucked into a grove of oak trees is a newly built 6,000-square-foot nature center. There you can find educational displays, interactive exhibits, restrooms, and a staffed information desk.
Julian Toy Chest and Faith’s Embroidery
This one-of-a-kind shop is filled with iconic toys from your childhood and Faith’s embroidery masterpieces. Faith makes chapstick holders, ornaments, hair accessories, and so much more, all featuring characters you are sure to know. You—or should I say your kids—are sure to find something they will love in this toy store.
Jess Martin Park
Jess Martin Park is a great place for kids. The park is just through town on the edge of the Julian Historic District. There is a playground, grassy fields, and a jog-walk trail. It’s a great place to release some extra energy.
Julian Mining Co. and Julian Farm & Orchard
Julian Mining Co. and its sister company, Julian Farm & Orchard, are both fantastic places for kids. At Julian Mining Company, you can pan for gold and gems. They also put on a variety of American history-themed programs. Across the street, at Julian Farm & Orchard they have seasonal berry-picking, a pumpkin patch, and apple-picking. Additionally, you can take a hayride, visit the petting zoo, and explore the farm.
The Romano family has been in the bar and restaurant business since the 1920s when Antonio Romano opened his first restaurant. In the 1960s, Romano’s Deli in Pacific Beach was famous for Italian food. Then in 1983, the family opened Romano’s Restaurant in Julian. Here you can find Chicken Piccata, Sicilian steak (without breading), and so much more. For the kids, they have a kids meal Italian sodas, and kid cocktails.
Oasis Camel Dairy
Camels in San Diego? Yes, that's right! Once a month Oasis Camel Dairy holds Open Farm Days. You can feed, pet, and ride the camels. This is a great family activity! The camels even have their own skincare line made right on the farm. You can buy Milk Soap, Camel Milk Lotion, Camel Milk Bath Bombs, Camel Milk Lip Balms, and Camel Milk Serum. Check their website for more details.
William Heise County Park
This 1,000-acre hidden gen has a playground, overnight camping, and lots of trails to explore.
Quecho Elevated Mexican Eatery
Tucked away one block off Main Street, this elevated restaurant has a wonderful indoor and outside atmosphere. Here you can find unique and simple dishes that are loaded full of irresistible flavors. With a kids menu and outside games, Quecho is a great place to enjoy a meal with kids.
I want to reinforce that just because I didn’t list a venue doesn’t mean kids aren’t allowed. Everywhere is kid-friendly. Even the local wineries and breweries don’t mind if the kids run and play while you relax. For more ideas on what to do in Julian check out these guides; Things to do In Julian, Free Things to Do in Julian, Only have One Day in Julian, and 7 Historical Must-Sees In Julian, CA.