A Weekend in Julian
By Linda Kissam
The quaint mountain town of Julian, California, has a reputation for killer apple pie. While you could go there just for that slice of heaven, you’d be missing a whole lot more. A recent two-day stay in Julian tells me this place is much more than apple pie. It’s trending in all the right places: food, wine, and unique travel activities four seasons a year.
The key to getting to know this special place is to stay awhile. It is about an hour away from San Diego and Palm Springs; add another 30 minutes when coming from Orange County and Los Angeles. Driving that long for a cup of cappuccino and a slice of apple pie just doesn’t make sense, even if you live just a few miles away like I do. This is a smart, hip mountain town that combines all the elements foodies and small-town aficionado’s look for.
Julian has an easy-to-walk downtown area with lots of different shops, a microbrewery, a multitude of incredible restaurants small and large, a charming tea shop and, my favorite of course, a wine-tasting room. This is Julian? Yup … and there’s even more. Ahhh, I see I have your attention now.
Here is a roundup of my favorite places. Use it as a quick guide about what to do and enjoy in Julian.
Orchard Hill Country Inn
Book here for a serene and romantic AAA four-diamond experience. I know you’ll love the choice of 22 well-appointed rooms, 10 comfy lodge rooms, and 12 secluded cottages near downtown Julian. Stroll the grounds and sit awhile in this lovely mountaintop retreat. Enjoy your own personal “ahhh moment” while viewing gorgeous sunsets and wandering through the seasonal gardens. The Orchard Hill Country Inn includes many in-room amenities, Internet, a full breakfast, and afternoon hors d’ouevres. Be sure to make reservations for the four-course sophisticated dinner served on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Room rates run from $195 to $450. Check out the website for specials and packages.
Julian Tea & Cottage Arts
Despite the name this place is definitely all about the tea. A gracious staff makes your time here a welcome retreat. I loved the way the staff members explained each course and the tea that accompanied it. Tea is served in a charming turn-of-the-century home. Afternoon tea consists of finger sandwiches, scones with whipped cream, homemade jam, and dessert. However, if you just want a cup of tea or tea and cookies, you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Ask to try the Yorkshire Gold. Seriously, for those of us who love all things afternoon tea, this has to be on your list of places to visit and do some major shopping.
Witch Creek Winery
Witch Creek Winery is a boutique winery focusing on quality over quantity by producing small-lot, handcrafted wines. The result is full-bodied, well-balanced wines rich in flavor that have earned many medals over the years. Server Tammy told me “We’re all about the reds.” She was right. Be sure to taste the 2009 Screaming Kitty ($23), the gold-medal-winning Tre Amici ($29), and the Cat’s Pajama’s ($21).
Candied Apple Pastry Company
Owner and executive pastry chef Charles Scott brings quality, made-from-scratch pastries and delicious lunch entrees to Julian. This is the bakery you’ve been longing to find. Sit outside and people watch while munching on unbelievable treats, enjoying unique lunch offerings, sipping some fresh-pressed apple cider (seasonal), or enjoying the full espresso bar. This place has passion for its product and the community it works in. Don’t miss it.
The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue & Julian Brewery
This is the place for dinner and live entertainment. The Bailey has a big-boy barbecue menu, 16 draft beers, and a full bar. Enjoy live music and dancing every Saturday night and some Friday nights. The place was packed and rocking out when I was there. There’s a special vibe to this place that will call to your artistic side. The Julian Brewing Company (a brewing facility located in the garage of the historical Bailey house) released the first brewed beer in Julian in more than 100 years. Trust me, it’s all good: the food, the music, the beer. Check out the website for the menu and live entertainment schedule.
Julian Pie Company
You know you’ve come to the right place for apple pie when you find out each one weighs 2.85 pounds—give or take an apple slice. Hot, juicy, and luscious come to mind when thinking about this ultimate apple pie stop. I recommend combining your visit with lunch first. Julian Pie Company offers a simple lunch menu, but its sandwiches are the best for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. This is one of my favorite places.
Eagle & High Peak Mine
Tour one of Julian’s original gold mines just a few blocks from downtown. Guides lead you through the intricate path of tunnels in the hard rock mine and share tales of the life of early residents of Julian. It is great fun and perfect for all ages. Wear sturdy shoes, have good balance, and understand there are some steep stairs to climb and pathway inclines to navigate.