Archives For Maruska

Staycation in Julian

Maruska —  August 16, 2017

julianIf you are looking for a great family gateaway, Julian is the perfect destination! Julian is known for apple picking and delicious apple pies but it also offers tons of fun activities for families with kids. During our two day stay we visited several orchards to pick apples and pears, we experienced wine-making by stomping on grapes with our bare feet, we pet animals, panned for gold and even walked through a real gold mine! I personally loved our visit to the California Wolf Center where we listened to a kid-friendly presentation about wolves and actually got to observe two packs of wolves.

What to do in Julian with kids:

Grape Day Park


Half way to our destination we stopped in Escondido for a bathroom stop and to stretch our legs. Just off the freeway, we found the historic Grape Day Park that has a working barn, a blacksmith shop, the original Escondido library, the Santa Fe Railroad depot and a fantastic grape-themed playground.

The playground is always open. The library is open Tuesday thorough Saturday, 10am-4pm. I was told that the other buildings and the railroad depot are open Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday 1pm-4pm, except for the blacksmith shop which is open on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. 

321 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025

Apple/Pear Picking


Julian has seven apple and pear u-pick orchards to chose from. Apple picking season normally starts at the end of August and ends mid November. However, due to the drought several orchards need to close much earlier, sometimes as early as the end of September. So please call the orchards in advance to make sure that they are still open.

We picked apples at the Volcan Valley Apple Farm which is the largest orchard and offer 7 apple varieties. The trees are very small so this orchard is perfect for little ones. The price is $12 per bag which holds up to 20 apples.  If you would prefer to pick certified organic apples you can visit the Apple Starr Orchard. The cost is $25 for a 12lb bag. My favorite orchard was actually O’Dell’s which has around 400 certified organic pear trees. The trees were bigger than those at the Volcan Valley Apple Farm, so my kids got to use the special pear picking tool which made it a lot of fun for them. This orchard also has chickens, goats and horses.

Click here for a list of all the apple/pear orchards in Julian, including address and hours.

Apple Pie:

You can not leave Julian without trying one of their famous apple pies. Unfortunately I went during the busiest weekend of the year, so the line to get a pie was way too long and I opted for a smaller bakery…which was delicious anyway. But based on the lines I can tell you that the best pies are sold by Julian Pie Company and Mom’s Pie House. We ended up going to the Apple Alley Bakery and I was so excited to see that they also offer gluten free apple pies! It was just delicious!

Visit Downtown:


Julian Downtown is really cute and small so feel free to just walk around and check everything out. You can visit the Julian Pioneer Museum, or the Old Julian Book House. You can get some free apple cider samples at Julian Cider Mill or hop on a horse back carriage for a 15 minute tour. On Sundays you can also see the Julian Doves and Desperados perform their historic gunfight skits between the Julian Fitness Center and Julian’s Market and Deli. The shows are at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm.

California Wolf Center:


The California Wolf Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery of wolves in the wild. Basically wolves in the United states were hunted and driven nearly to the point of extinction. By the end of the 60’s there were only 5 Mexican gray wolf left in the United States and organizations like the California Wolf Center are working hard to preserve this animal. So they breed them and then release them into the wild. The ones that are not good candidates to be released stay at their center so the public can learn more about this magnificent animal.

A visit to the California Wolf Center is an absolute must. Your visit includes a presentation about wolves which was amazing, educational, and kid-friendly. During the second half of your visit you walk to two large enclosures where you will be able to observe a pack of gray wolves and a pack of Mexican gray wolves. The volunteers were passionate, energetic, articulate, and they knew every wolf’s physical and behavioral trait. We spent a good hour looking at the wolves and listening to the volunteers’ interesting stories. Just loved it

Weekend public tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 10am and 2pm. Reservations are required. They also offer tours on Mondays at 10am and 2pm.

Weekend tours are $20 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under. Monday tours are an additional $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Right now they have a great Groupon for $26 which includes admission for 4 people, so take advantage of this. Here is a link to the Groupon.

Julian Mining Company:


Julian Mining Company offers lots of great activities for the kids including gold panning, gem sluice, tomahawk throw, petting zoo and apple picking. If you purchase panning for gold, you can actually pan for as long as you want. And by the way, it is real gold not fool’s gold. But you do need determination and patience to do this activity since it is, understandably, not that easy to find the gold. Gem sluice might be more suitable for younger kids as you are basically given a bag of gems inside some dirt and kids have to scoop them out. This activity is much faster, so I opted for gold panning :).

Saturday 10-5pm
Sunday 12-5pm

4444 State Hwy 78, Julian, CA 92036

Eagle And High Peak Mine:


Our visit to the Eagle gold mine was my kids’ favorite activity. This was a one-of-a-kind learning experience and we were actually able to walk through an abandoned gold mine from 1870s. The tours are offered daily and they run continuously, so you don’t have to get there at a specific time. No reservations required.

Mon-Fri: 10am-4pm
Sat-Sun: 10am-5pm

Adults: $10
Kids 5-13: $5
Kids 4 and under: $1

2320 C Street Julian, CA 92036

Other Activities:


Julian offers several other activities including horseback riding, hikes, wine tours, and more. We were able to go to their grape stomp festival where we crashed grapes with our feet. Lots of fun but this festival only takes place during Labor day weekend. There are other great festivals planned during the rest of the year that you might like to check out. Click here for a list of upcoming special events in Julian.

Also, keep in mind that on the way to Julian you drive by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. So if you haven’t visited this park, consider adding it to your itinerary. And if you are going in October, kids enter for free, so it might be a great and economical idea to visit during that time.


I decided to rent a cabin through VRBO since it is much easier with the kids and I like to be able to cook some of the meals during my stay. Depending on when you are visiting you can get a small cabin for $100 per night, so it might turn out to be cheaper than staying at a B&B or hotel. Click here to find cabins that you can rent in Julian.

If you would like to stay in a hotel or B&B, click here to check out your options.

OC Zoo Preschool Classes

Maruska —  August 15, 2017

Last week, I took my 2 year old to a Preschool Program at the OC Zoo and it was incredible. First, we worked on three fun crafts including a peacock paper plate made with real feathers. While working on the crafts, we got to meet and pet several animals: a weasel named Raspberry, a rose-colored snake, and a hairy armadillo. After the class we visited the zoo and attended story time which was held beneath shade trees on split log benches. And it only cost $5 for both of us.It was such a fun day and a must do for 3 and 4 year olds.

Next Class:

Here is a link to the OC Zoo listing. You can scroll to the the bottom to see all the upcoming classes–>


Alysia, Blog Contributor

Irvine Park Railroad’s 12th annual Pumpkin Patch is fun for the entire family. Children and adults are invited to the Pumpkin Patch which is open daily at 10:00 am, beginning September 16th through October 31st. Irvine Park Railroad is located inside of Irvine Regional Park in the foothills of Orange, California.

The Pumpkin Patch is located in Locomotive Loop and Miner’s Meadow just behind the train station. Thousands of pumpkins, in all shapes and sizes, fill the areas behind the train station. All visitors are sure to find the perfect pumpkin.

Pumpkin Patch activities include:  Train rides, hay rides, panning for gold, a child-friendly haunted house, a hay maze, a moon bounce, pumpkin ring toss, carnival games, cookie decorating, John Deere tractor racers, face painting, picture stands, great food, and a lot more.

Irvine Park Railroad’s 2nd annual “Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off” will take place on Saturday, September 23rd starting at 11:00 am. Come see if pumpkin growers have what it takes to grow the biggest pumpkin. Cash prizes will be awarded. KTLA Channel 5 weatherman Henry DiCarlo will host this event and a live band will play on this day only from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.


Admission into the Pumpkin Patch is free. Prices for all other activities vary; please visit for additional information and costs.

Photo Credit: Irvine Park Railroad


The Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch is open daily from

September 16th through October 31st, 2017

Weekdays 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Weekends 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Irvine Park Railroad’s 2nd annual “Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off” will take place on Saturday, September 23rd starting at 11:00 am.

Photo Credit: Irvine Park Railroad


Irvine Park Railroad @ Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA, 92869


The parking fee for Irvine Regional Park is $3.00 per vehicle on weekdays and $5.00 per vehicle on weekends. Important parking information: As Halloween nears, we encourage visitors to plan to arrive early to help avoid crowds, particularly on the weekend. Visit this page on our web site for special event parking information.

Photo Credit: Irvine Park Railroad

Other Activities:

Visit Irvine Regional Park’s other activities including Wheel Fun Rentals® at Irvine Park — fun and unique bike rentals that can be enjoyed by single riders or an entire family — paddle boat rentals, the Orange County Zoo and pony rides. Bike and paddle boat rentals are open daily at 10:00 am. Visit for full details including hours of operation and costs.

Photo Credit: Irvine Park Railroad



One lucky PlanADayOut reader will win the following package

  • 8 Tickets (which can be used to ride the train OR participate in Pumpkin Patch activities)
  • 1 Double Surrey Rental 
  • 1 Paddle Boat Rental

For a chance to win leave a comment under the post about this giveaway on our Facebook page.