Get Your Arts and Culture On: Sure, you could learn all about the history of the mountainous former mining community from a host of books, pamphlets and wall signs. But to have a group of tour guides like those at Smith Ranch (www.pioneerways.com) answer just about any Julian-related question tossed their way while riding in their railcars makes for quite the experience. Running gold mine tours (reservations required) on their ranch, this native family’s mining train transports guests to their discovered cave, where you’ll learn all about those who panned for nuggets, the locale’s vegetation and, of course, the history of residents in the area.
Why You’ve Gotta Come Back: There’s wonderful food, festivals and artwork. Sample an apple pie from Mom’s (Julian’s known for its apple-related fare), and land terrific meals at Jeremy’s On the Hill (in nearby Wynola) or the Julian Grille (housed in an old residence on Main Street). The Julian Art and Images galleries (www.julianimages.com, www.thejulianartgallery.com) at A Rose Path feature gorgeous plein air oils and photos of the region, including those of the Anza-Borrego desert, which is a small trip down the 78 East (it’s hard to believe in such a lush setting). Plus, there’s fishing at Lake Cuyamuca a few miles south of Julian’s downtown and the Palomar Observatory (www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar) an hour away will find you taking advantage of those gorgeously clear night skies.
Butterfield Bed & Breakfast, 2284 Sunset Dr., Julian, (760) 765-2179; www.butterfieldbandb.com.