Updated: Mar 10, 2022
What is there to do in Julian? A lot actually! Julian offers locally-owned restaurants, charming shops, scenic hikes, animal attractions, historical must-sees, agrotourism, craft distilleries, and so much more! I promise you, Julian is more than just apples.
Check out this list of all the things to do in Julian, CA!
Long drives can be boring with few entertainment options. As you make your way out of the city, there are lots to see on these backcountry roads so let’s play a game of I Spy on your way to Julian!
I Spy My Way To Julian along Highway 78 East, linked here.
I Spy My Way to Julian: Highway 79 North, linked here.
Feeling like Mexican, Italian, American, or BBQ? Julian has your cravings covered. Our local restaurants offer a variety of tasty restaurants for you to choose from.
Julian with Kids
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.
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.
Learn more about exploring Julian with kids here.
Stop by the Julian Town Hall to get the History Hunt answer card. Historic landmarks throughout the Julian historic district have plaques with a brief history of that building. Answer the questions about the buildings on your card. Before you leave town, drop your answer card back at the Town Hall to be entered for a chance to win $50. (Not too many people know about this opportunity so your chances are good.)
Julian Historical Society
The Julian Historical Society has three fantastic historic locations open to the public: The Witch Creek School House, Julian Stage Line, and the Washington Mine. Head to Pioneer Park at the corner of Washington Street and 4th Street.
Julian Pioneer Museum
This museum was once the town's blacksmith shop. Today, it displays local artifacts, Native American history, animal mounts, and much more Julian history. Thanks to volunteers, the museum is usually open 10am to 4pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To confirm that the museum is open, you can call ahead: 760-765-0227.
Historic Tours of Julian
Fourth-generation Julianite, David Lewis, has spent the last 10 years researching discover the history of Julian and surrounding areas. Whenever locals have a history question, he is our go-to person. Lucky for you, David offers private tours of Julian. "Julian’s history is a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. How they did them and why they did them is what I strive to understand. History is so much more than dates and places. It is a human story, a story I hope to see through their eyes." -Lewis
Julian Backcountry Quilt Trail (JBQT)
Since 2014, the Julian Woman's Club has been working with property owners and businesses to create a Southern California's first quilt trail. Each of the over 30 painted quilt squares shares something about local history, the owner, and the property. For those looking to see the whole collection, a nice drive through the San Diego Backcountry is required. If that's not for you, there are 6 quilt squares all within walking distance of each-other hanging in store windows in the town of Julian.
Julian Mining Company and Julian Farm & Orchard (Wynola)
Come pan for gold and gems at the Julian Mining Co. They are open weekends for tomahawk throwing, hayrides, panning for gold, and more! At their sister company Julian Farm & Orchard you can pick berries, apples, and pumpkins depending on the season.
Eagle Mine Tour
Ever wonder what it was like to work in an 1870 gold mine? Come tour the Old Hardrock Tunnels, The Eagle Mine, with their knowledgeable staff. Just 5 blocks up C Street from Main street will make you truly feel like you stepped back in time. Explore the mine and see the equipment required to mine for gold.
Doves and Desperados
Julian's own re-enactment group, Doves and Desperados, roam the streets of the historic Main Street Julian every Sunday. At 1 and 2 p.m. The famed group performs a historic and hysterical gunfight skit.
There are so many beautiful campgrounds to choose from you might just have to come back and try them all out! Be sure a take some time to enjoy our beautiful night sky. It is sure to take your breath away.
Fishing/Boating at Lake Cuyamaca
Lake Cuyamaca has many onshore fishing spots as well as boats available to give you an all-around fishing experience. You never know what you might catch! With Lake Cuyamaca being stocked with bass, catfish, trout, bluegill, crappie, and sturgeon all year long, there's always fish.
The Judith A Bassett (JAB) Canid
Education and Conservation Center
In memory of Judith A Bassett, David and Amy Bassett founded the JAB Canid Education and Conservation Center in Santa Ysabel, CA. The center is focused on both wolf and dog-like animals (canines) and fox-like animals (vulpines). Here you can find Russian domesticated foxes and many other gorgeous animals. Visitors can schedule appointments for close encounters.
Emus at the Barn Vintage Marketplace
This is a popular antique shop. They just also happen to have emus! You can find Daisy and Duke just to the right of the barn near the parking lot.
California Wolf Center
California Wolf Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping wild wolves return to their natural habitat. The center offers a variety of public and private tours (reservations required for all tours).
Oasis Camel Dairy (Witch Creek, 13 miles west of Julian)
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. How cool is that? 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.
The San Diego Backcountry is home to many wonderful native animals. Bighorn sheep can be spotted in the Borrego State Park. Lake Cuyamaca has frequent bald eagle, duck, deer, and fish sightings. Coyotes, mountain lions, raccoons, skunks, and other wildlife are frequently seen by backcountry locals. If you know where and when to look, you are sure to have a wonderful experience.
What better way to see the backcountry than from the back of a horse? I can't think of one. Integrity Stables is owned and operated by Jennifer Smith. Jennifer offers riding lessons for all ages and abilities. For more information, call (760) 484-2929.
With a beautiful mountain comes stunning views. Hiking in our local mountains is posible all year long. If you do decide to take a stroll in the fresh air, please pay attention to the weather and hike during the cooler times of the day. Just to name a few hiking spots; try Stonewall Peak, Green Valley Falls, Lake Cuyamaca, Volcan Mountain, and Santa Ysabel East and West. We don't recommend Cedar Creek or Three Sisters despite their growing popularity. (See our blog post for additional information.)
Each season Julian organizations hold different events such as the Julian 4th of July Parade, Julian Daffodil Project. For more details on those events check out our posts on fall in Julian, winter in Julian, spring in Julian, and summer in Julian.
Picnic Around Julian
San Diego’s weather sets the stage for year-round picnics with unbelievable views. You can choose from an ocean, mountain, or desert view as you dine! Where else can you do that? Whether you pack a lunch or order takeout, picnics are a quick way to cure cabin fever on the fly. Here are some of our top picks for picnic spots near Julian, CA.
Green Valley Falls
Green Valley Campground is one of two campgrounds in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The main feature is the Sweetwater River, which runs seasonally through the campground. Visitors can camp or access the falls through the day-use area. Green Valley Falls offers sets of cascades and shallow pools. The hike to the falls from the Falls Picnic Area is only about half a mile round trip. It is a hike down and uphill return. This water attraction is safe and fun for all ages. The cold water cools visitors off on a hot day. Be careful—the rocks are very slippery. Notes: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park charges a day-use fee. Dogs are not allowed at the falls.
Agua Caliente County Park
Nestled within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Agua Caliente County Park is best known for its geothermally heated spring pools. During the winter months, visitors enjoy camping, hiking, and swimming. The grounds include an indoor pool (for ages fourteen and up) and two outdoor pools. The park has a large campground with hook-ups and seven camping cabins. Wildlife sightings are common.
Social Distancing Activities
Since March of 2020, the San Diego Mountains have been a safe haven for SoCal residents looking to escape COVID-19. The region is filled with a diverse array of geography, attractions, and culinary experiences. The low population is just a bonus…The catch is, the region may have a low residential population, but the pandemic has boosted tourism. The good news is that as long as everyone doesn’t go to the same places, the backcountry has room for everyone to spread out. Click here to learn about some of the best social distancing activities in the San Diego Backcountry.
Apple Picking (Seasonal)
In 1907, apples grown in Julian, CA won the Bronze Wilder Medal from the America Pomological Society at the Tri-centennial Exposition held in Jamestown, Virginia. This event became a major turning point in our town's economy and legacy. It has become very popular to go apple picking in Julian. U-pick apple orchards are usually open sometime between August-October.
Fall Colors (Seasonal)
Believe it or not, you don’t have to make a cross-country trek to experience fall on the West Coast. Each year thousands of visitors flock to the San Diego mountains to experience fall in Southern California.
It is so magical watching historic Julian completely transform as nature paints it with colors of amber, gamboge, crimson, rust, gold, and scarlet. I have put together a list of Instagram-worthy locations with beautiful trees rich in fall colors. Click here.
Yes, it snows in San Diego– the mountains in San Diego County do get snow a couple of times a year! The San Diego region has been known to get snowfall as early as November and as late as Mother's day in May. Julian gets most of our snow from January to March. The mountain communities do not have designated places for the public to play in the snow, like ski resorts. Do NOT play on private property, on the highway, in the Julian Pioneer Cemetary (see video above), in Frank Lane Memorial Park in neighborhoods, and in unsafe areas. Please be mindful of where you stop to play. Most of the region is privately owned. For those coming to play in the snow, here's some local advice for experiencing snow in San Diego.
21 and Over
Alcohol has played an interesting part in Julian’s 150-year history. As in any mining town in the early days, saloons were as much a part of the community as gold was. It wasn’t long before the townspeople earned a reputation for drinking too much. As the gold ran out, so did the alcohol. Locals often joke about how nonexistent bar-hopping is in Julian. We do have some great craft alcohol brands and multiple establishments where you can enjoy a drink, but your options for getting served hard liquor across the bar are still limited.
Julian has multiple beautiful wineries for you to enjoy. Check out Menghini Winery (Julian's first winery), Volcan Mountain Winery, Blue Door Winery (walking distance from Main Street), and Julian Wine & Chocolate.
The microbrewery revolution has come to Julian. With Nickel Beer, Julian Beer Company, The Pub at Lake Cuyamaca, and the Cooler there are plenty of unique beers for you to try.
Southern California's first Hard Cider company, Julian Hard Cider, has built a wonderful reputation for itself. Nestled in an old apple processing plant with over 10 flavors on tap, the Julian Hard Cider Miner's Saloon is a must-see.
We are very grateful for everyone who financially supports our community through purchases made at the local businesses. The revenue tourism brings in isn’t enough to keep up with the tourism demand the region receives. We ask that you please help us maintain a clean environment for the animals and the generations to come. Please, please take everything you bring with you back home.
I hope you found a few things on our list that you're interested in doing! Have a safe and fun trip to Julian.
**All information provided in this post was correct to the best of my knowledge at the time the post was published. Information provided in this post may change without notice. Please double-check with the individual business for the most up-to-date information.**