Autumn is prime time to visit Julian, an historic gold-mining town an hour east of San Diego that is home to numerous apple orchards. A handful of these are open to the public for apple and pumpkin picking.
Housed in a 1920s cottage, the family-owned and operated Julian Grille (2224 Main St.; 760-765-0036; www.juliangrille.com) has extensive lunch and dinner menus. Try the Reuben sandwich or the pecan-breaded chicken topped with peaches. Dine inside or out on the patio by the fire pit.
Hungry for something more low-key? The 50s-style Miner’s Diner (2130 Main St; 760-765-3753; www.minersdinerjulian.com), open for breakfast and lunch, serves burgers, fries and hand-scooped milkshakes. The license plates on walls and the Coca-Cola clock offer a colorful diversion while you wait for your order.
You can watch them baking through the front window of Mom’s Pie House (2119 Main St.; 760-765-2472; www.momspiesjulian.com), but the menu also includes sandwiches, soups and desserts. Try a flaky cream cheese apple dumpling.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Julian Gold Rush Hotel (2032 Main St.; 760-765-0201; www.julianhotel.com) is within strolling distance of town. Amenities include a full breakfast, tea time with scones, and board games. The upstairs family suite has two adjoining rooms, each with a queen bed and private bath. Nightly rates range from $150 – $310.
The 30-acre Calico Ranch (4200 Highway 78; 858-586-0392; www.calicoranch.com) is among those that welcome the public to pick produce. More than 130 varieties of apple and several kinds of pear are grown onsite. Open weekends in fall, the no-frills working ranch has a small picnic area. $10 per half-peck of apples.
Learn about Julian’s gold-mining history on a one-hour guided tour through the 1870s Eagle and High Peak Mine (2320 C St.; 760-765-0036; www.theeagleminingco.com). Walk through a maze of tunnels, see period miner’s tools and try your hand at gold panning.
At the Julian Mining Company (4444 State Hwy. 78; 951-313-0166; www.julianminingcompany.com), you can press cider, pan for gems, ride hay wagons, throw tomahawks and pick pumpkins in the fall.