The Short Version: Tucked away in Southern California, Julian is a quaint town surrounded by mountains and steeped in history. Settled in 1850 during the California Gold Rush, Julian began as a land of opportunity where gold miners came in search of fortune. Now it has become a getaway where today’s couples come in search of romance. Whether you enjoy apple picking or beer drinking, this small town has a little something for everyone. You can take a carriage ride through the countryside or have an intimate dinner at a family-owned establishment. While visiting Julian, couples can savor their time together and create lasting memories among the Cuyamaca Mountains.
Founded in 1850 by adventurous fortune seekers, Julian is a historic gold-mining town an hour east of San Diego, California. The mountain town currently has a population of just over 1,500 people. Its folksy charm has attracted many couples hoping to get away from the hustle and bustle of a big city.
“The joke around here is the sidewalks roll up at nine o’clock,” Robin Boland, Julian’s Spokesperson, told us with a chuckle. While Julian’s streets are active with shoppers and sightseers during the day, everyone hurries home by evening time to spend quality time together in a more intimate setting.
If you’re interested in making a date in Julian, we’ve got six recommendations to help you spend a wonderful day with your loved one. To start, you can find lodging at a hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or vacation rental and book a cozy place to spend your next vacation.
1. Enjoy a Farm-to-Table Dinner at Jeremy’s Restaurant
When planning a date, you can’t go wrong with an intimate dinner for two at a quality restaurant. Jeremy’s On the Hill is a local favorite for couples seeking a memorable meal.
The seasonal farm-to-table menu boasts many signature dishes, including grass-fed bison meatloaf and beer-battered salmon — with garlic-herb fries on the side.
Jeremy’s only serves beer and wine, but if you want spirits, you can always walk across the street to the Wynola Pizza and Bistro, which has a full bar. Robin said she and her husband often go to Jeremy’s for an early dinner and then have drinks or dessert at Wynola.
What’s great about Julian’s dining establishments is the personal touch and original flavors. “You won’t find one chain store or restaurant here,” Robin said. “Many places have been owned by the same person or family for generations.”
2. Go on a Peaceful Carriage Ride Through the Country
What could be more romantic than a horse-drawn carriage? Thanks to the Julian Carriage Company, you can take a relaxing 15-minute ride down Main Street or a 30-minute ride into the country to see the beautiful houses and foliage.
A knowledgeable carriage driver will give you an overview of the town’s history and point out the best sightseeing spots along the way. You can bring your own wine, champagne, or snacks to share during the ride. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for wild deer and turkeys.
Julian’s beautiful outdoor scenery has inspired romantic moments for residents and visitors alike.
Outdoorsy couples can also take a hike or go stargazing on cool evenings. Anyone interested in wildlife can book a public or private tour at the California Wolf Center, a wolf preserve, to see gray wolves in their natural habitat.
3. Kick Back & Relax on the Nickel Beer Company’s Outdoor Patio
If you and your significant other are beer lovers, you ought to check out the Nickel Beer Company, Julian’s most popular brewery. The laid-back atmosphere is perfect for daters who just want to chat and let the hours while by.
On Nickel Beer’s dog-friendly outdoor patio, couples can relax over a brew on a Friday or Saturday night. The brewery’s rotating taps feature dozens of locally sourced beers with rich flavors. You can sip Apple Pie Ale, made from Julian apples and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, or try a citrus-infused IPA to liven up your date nights.
Nickel Beer only sells snack food, so many people bring boxed meals from somewhere else and spend evenings eating, talking, and laughing with the brewery’s regulars.
Robin said she and her husband can often be found having drinks at Nickel Beer Co. “It’s always lively,” she said. “No matter what time of day. People are always laughing. It’s just a cool place to go.”
4. Pan for Gold & Tour a Historic Mine
Tired of the standard dinner-movie routine? Then you should try taking your date off the beaten path. Julian has plenty of interesting date spots where you can learn more about the small town’s long history.
For instance, the Eagle Mining Company gives couples a chance to experience what it was like to pan for gold in the 1870s. You can explore the tunnels of mine, view old mining equipment, and enjoy a hands-on gold-panning lesson. These public tours are great for couples in search of a few hours of daytime entertainment. Adult admission costs only $10, so it’s an affordable date spot.
On Julian Gold Rush Days in early April, dozens of folks come out to re-enact the gold mining fervor that so engrossed fortune seekers during the California Gold Rush. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can pan for gold, go on pony rides, throw tomahawks, visit a petting zoo, and win raffle prizes.
“This place was the high point of our visit to Julian,” wrote Lee Brett in a review. “Our tour guide was tremendously knowledgeable and oddly passionate about mining… we were truly impressed.”
5. Go Grape-Stomping or Wine Tasting at the Local Vineyard
When Robin’s cousin visits Julian, she makes a point to bring a bottle of wine or make a stop at a local winery. Robin prefers beer to wine but, as she said, “I like people who like wine,” so they always end up having a good time together, regardless of what they’re drinking.
For wine lovers, like Robin’s cousin, Menghini Winery is an ideal place to spend an afternoon. Located at the foothills of the Volcan Mountains, this six-acre vineyard produces over 4,000 cases of wine each year. It’s open seven days a week, so you can always stop in to share a glass of red or white wine with someone special.
Plus, Menghini partners with nine local wineries to put on a wine-tasting and grape-stomping fiesta in the fall. The 2017 Julian Grape Stomp saw over 2,000 people rolling up their jeans and jumping into a vat of grapes. For $50, you can reserve a VIP tent in the shade during this festival and have two mixed drinks and snacks with your date while waiting your turn to go grape-stomping.
6. Attend a Seasonal Family-Friendly Festival Together
Every Fourth of July, Julian bursts with patriotic pride. Flags wave. Children laugh. Couples picnic. And it all culminates in an afternoon parade. You and your date can make a day of it and bring a picnic lunch to share while watching the city strut its star-spangled best. Since 1993, the parade (and post-parade barbecue) has delighted people looking to celebrate on Main Street.
Julian does holidays right with plenty of family-friendly fun. In late November, the Country Christmas Tree Lighting is a must-see for any couples in town. Carols play all day to get people in the spirit, and local businesses arrange old-fashioned entertainment, including hayrides, candle-dipping, and rustic ornament making. That night, the town’s huge living Christmas tree lights up Pioneer Park and marks the beginning of the holiday season.
During the fall, apple pickers descend on Julian in search of ripe and fresh fruits from its surrounding groves. Julian’s traditional Apple Days Festival pretty much shuts down the town as thousands of visitors turn out for pie-eating contests, gold-panning demonstrations, and other apple-related entertainment. This year, Robin told us they plan to do smaller and more frequent apple-related events throughout September and October.
Check out Julian’s special events to find out what days would be best to bring a date to Main Street. From the Taste of Julian fair in May to the apple-picking season in September, the city has something special going on all year round.
Julian: A Small Mountain Town With A Lot Going On
If you’re looking to get away from it all with a special someone, Julian is a fantastic place to visit. Whether you come during apple-picking season or Gold Rush Day, you’ll definitely remember your time spent in this quiet, mountainous hamlet.
As Robin said, the town may not be known for its nightlife, but it offers a lot to see and enjoy during the day. In Julian, couples can have an adventure under the sun and then retire for an intimate evening at home. Robin told us not to underestimate the romance of Julian’s peaceful streets and breathtaking landscape.
“When you’re surrounded by beauty, you feel more emotional and grounded. You see what’s important,” she said. “You’re not distracted by the hustle and bustle — you’re more at peace, which allows you to be more romantic.”