Going the extra mile for the fun of it

FOR A REAL TASTE OF FALL, there’s nothing like getting in the car and going for a drive through the hills and valleys of San Diego County. There are apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and tree farms just waiting to be discovered. Our apple picking season depends on the apple variety and weather conditions, but it basically starts as early as late August and draws to a close in mid-October. We have fields of pumpkins to decorate for Halloween and use for holiday baking through November. And don’t forget the fresh-cut pine trees, wreaths, and garlands! Sure, you can run out to the local market and scoop up all these things, but if you’re looking for a day to remember, why not head for the source and make a day of it with your family or friends?

Pack a picnic basket and plan your route. Since you have the whole day, ditch the freeway and follow a country highway or two. Whether you’re seeking apples, nuts, pumpkins, gourds, or the holiday tree, you’ll come home with a day full of good stories and wonderful memories.

The idyllic old gold mining town of Julian is San Diego County’s place to go for apples. Situated in the mountains at an elevation of 4,235 feet, its cool autumn nights produce crispy apples of many varieties. If you want to pick your own, plan your day trip in September or early October at the latest. There are several apple orchards within a mile or two of downtown Julian boasting Eye of the Hawk, Fuji, Empire, Gala, Golden and Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Pippin, Rome Beauties, and more. Many of the orchards are not open during the week, so be sure to check hours of operation.

If the trees are bare when you get there, no worries! You’ll find all kinds of apples and delicious apple butters, ciders, and those famous apple pies all over town. Stock up and enjoy the intoxicating aroma of apples as you head back home.

Like apples, pumpkins are available in several varieties including Big Max, Ghost Rider, Cinderella, and Jack O’Lantern. There are several pumpkin patches around San Diego that would make a great day trip, but Bates Nut Farm is a destination unto itself. It started as a local nut farm more than 50 years ago; today, they also grow pumpkins, squash, and gourds. Plus, there is so much more for kids of all ages to enjoy.

This year, if you plan your day trip between Saturday, September 18 through October 31, you can grab a wheelbarrow and pick your pumpkin from their fabled pumpkin patch. During the Pumpkin Patch event, they offer pony rides for youngsters under 52 inches in height and weighing under 70 pounds. There is also live entertainment, tractor hayrides, and a straw maze. The petting corral, filled with adorable farm animals, is open year-round. And, in late November, there’s the Christmas Arts, Crafts & Vintage Market. Stock up on nuts and dried fruits for baking. Don’t miss the homemade fudge!

There’s nothing quite like tromping through a sweet-smelling tree farm to pick out the perfect holiday tree. Late November is the time to head out to one of our local tree farms, where you’ll find a nice selection of trees. The Monterey pine, native to our area, is a popular local choice for its long, bright green needles and full shape, but you will find several pine varieties as well as wreaths and garlands for decorating.

Be sure to drive an SUV or truck to accommodate your tree and bring a tarp or old blanket to catch the needles and sap. If the farm offers tree netting, we recommend it to protect the branches on the drive home. Chop your own tree, ask for help, or choose a potted one. Some tree farms invite you to visit early, choose and reserve your tree, and come back when you’re ready to take it home.

Whether the quest is for apples, pumpkins, nuts, or pines, take plenty of photos and enjoy the simple things at an easy pace. It’s sure to be a wonderful day—quite possibly the start of a new holiday tradition.



Calico Apple and Pear Ranch & Cidery
4228 Firefighter Steven Rucker
Memorial Hwy
Julian, CA 92036

Peacefield Orchard
3803 Wynola Rd
Julian, CA 92036

Volcan Valley Apple Farm
1284 Julian Orchards Dr
Julian, CA 92036

Bates Nut Farm
15954 Woods Valley Rd
Valley Center, CA 92082

Carlsbad Pumpkin Patch
1050 Cannon Rd
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Oma’s Pumpkin Patch
14950 El Monte Rd
Lakeside, CA 92040

Family Christmas Tree Farm

300 Pepper Dr
El Cajon, CA 92021

Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm
18425 Highland Valley Rd
Ramona, CA 92065

Sand Haven Pines Christmas Tree Farm
19255 Wood Rd
Perris, CA 92570