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I know a lot of you are thinking, where the heck is Julian California and why would you visit there? I’ll admit, it wasn’t on my list of day trips, but when Fernando told me about it, it sounded like fun. Since the kids had a day off from school, it was the perfect time for a new adventure.
Julian California is in the northern part of San Diego. It’s this little quaint village. It took about and hour on the freeway and then another 35 minutes of mountain highway to get there. Despite the brown hills, some of the trees were starting to change color and there are a lot of farms and fruit orchards on the way. Before we got to Julian, we stopped at this even smaller neighboring town called Santa Ysabel and had lunch at this restaurant called The Apple Country Restaurant.
It is a very country style old time feel place and their food was delicious. Fernando had a bison burger for the first time and he loved it. The staff there is friendly and helpful and they just thought the kids were so cute. Bonus: they give the kids crayons and paper hats to keep them busy AND the food comes out fast. Those are a big deal when you have hungry kids that sat in a car for hours.
After lunch, we headed into town to take a tour of the quartz mines. That was an amazing tour. If you go, it’s a cash only admission and it’s worth every penny. Our guide, Matt, showed us the machines used to take gold out of quartz. He even turned on a smaller machine to show us how loud they are. So glad I don’t run those machines! Then he demonstrated how to pan for gold and we all took turns trying our luck. We weren’t allowed to take any of the gold, but it was fun to learn how people panned back then. It’s a lot of work!! We were then able to go into the actual mine and see how life was for a working miner.
Inside the mine, it is cold, and dark, and silent. There is no echo, as Azure pointed out. And it’s very eerie. I actually enjoyed it and secretly wished I had a silent mine to crawl into when my kids are being noisy.
Matt showed us the difference between the quartz and regular rock. And there are still machines sitting in the mines that we were able to look at. There are many levels in a mine, but we only visited two. Toward the end, I started to feel claustrophobic and walked as fast as I could to get out.
After the tour, we were able to practice panning for gold again as long as we wanted and visit the souvenir shop. It was starting to get late so we stopped at a pie place for a slice of pie. Their pie is amazing! I was able to finally try strawberry rhubarb pie for the first time. It’s now my favorite pie! We decided to bring home a pie for dinner. On the way back, we stopped by the lake we passed and took a few pictures. It was so quiet and calm, I really wanted to stay. But we had to go home.
There were a lot of other things to do there, but we just didn’t have time. The kids really wanted to go horseback riding or visit the California Wolf Center and I wanted to walk through town a visit some of the shops. We’ve decided next time we go back, we’ll stay a day or two to really explore this Southern California hidden gem!