Say hello to Julian, San Diego’s very own mountain town that is a mecca to all things apple.
Roam around Main Street, pick your own fresh apples, mine for gold, eat up a storm, or purchase an apple pie to take back to your RV. Julian is best when you allow yourself an entire day to explore.
This vibrant community is nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains with roots that go back to the 1870s gold rush. These days Julian is surrounded by apple orchards and known for its famous apple pies.
Their sweet, fresh flavor lures thousands to the mountains each fall, when visitors will find fruit stands overflowing with crisp fruit, homemade cider, pies, cider donuts, and other delicacies.
All Julian apples are sold locally as apple pies, apple cider, or whole fruit. In October, 10,000 apple pies a week are baked in Julian, when Southern California tourists flock to the area for the fall colors, cool breezes, frontier atmosphere, and its famous Apple Festival.
Since James Madison brought the first apple trees to Julian in the early 1870s, Julian apples have won many blue ribbons at places like the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the St. Louis Fair, and the San Francisco World’s Fair of 1915.
The first Julian apple celebration was held in 1909 , but wasn’t followed by another until 1949.
In 1907, Julian apples won the prestigious Wilder Medal, the highest award given by the American Pomological Society.
Hard-working ranchers wanted to celebrate, town leaders wanted to interest outsiders in Julian’s future so preparations got underway for a great event, a harvest home, a fall festival undefined and they called it Apple Day.
On October 9, 1909, colorful displays of various varieties of apples were set up in Town Hall, there was an all-night dance, free food, some speeches, and a baseball game with Ramona (small town 22 miles west on SR-79). There was foot racing, rooster-pulling on horseback, and fancy riding tricks by individual horsemen. Newspaper accounts estimated the crowd from 200 to 2,000. Subsequent annual celebrations would attract upwards of 45,000 people.
As part of Julian’s Apple Days Celebration, a two-day Apple Days Festival will be held September 24-25, 2016 at Menghini Winery featuring apple displays, music and dancing, an antique tractor display, children’s games and activities, gold panning demonstrations, a beer and wine garden, food and merchandise vendors, contests, and, of course, world-famous apple pie.
During the months of September and October, many orchards open up for u-pick apple visits.
No fall trip to Julian would be complete without a chance to pick some of your very own famed apples.
Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Farm, comes alive with 7,000 trellis-grown apple trees of red and green apples ready to pick. Choose between seven varieties of apples, including the famed Gravenstein, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith.
Choose between a small, medium, or large bag and then get out into the orchard to fill it up. You’re allowed to sample the apples as you pick to make sure you are getting the perfect one. Once you’ve finished picking check out one of the wineries and tasting rooms located on the same road as the orchard.
A Certified Organic Orchard (CCOF), Apple Starr Orchards has been growing apples and pears since 2000. Picking season at Apple Starr began Labor Day weekend and lasts until the fruit runs out (typically through early October).
If you’re not into the u-pick experience, you don’t have to miss out on getting some authentic Julian apples. Visit the Julia Apple Stand, which sells 37 varieties of fresh-picked, tree-ripened apples and pears. You can also stock up on apple butter, honey, jams, and jellies. And of course, locally-baked apple pies made with Julian apples.
See where gold was discovered, shop stores housed in historic buildings dating back to the 1870s, hike and picnic amid oaks and pines, and sample Julian’s famous homemade apple pie served year-round.
September through November is apple season in Julian. It’s also an ideal time to visit one of the local orchards to pick your own apples, or buy locally produced apple cider.
I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course.
―Jack Kerouac, On the Road