All aboard! It’s time to embrace the pioneer spirit and explore the frontier. At SmithRanch in Julian, CA you and the kiddos can tour gold mines and farms and learn about the lifestyle of those trailblazers who came before us. All Smith Ranch tours include train rides, which ought to be a major selling point for any little conductor. A day trip to Smith Ranch promises to be a fun and educational experience for the whole family!

Go: When the weather is nice so you can fully enjoy an open-air train ride and outdoor exploration.

Approximate travel time: The town of Julian is about an hour east of San Diego. Smith Ranch is located on the east side of Julian, less than one mile from the heart of town.

A tour that takes the gold: Smith Ranch’s big draw is the Julian Train & Gold Mine Tour. This 1 ½ hour tour includes a one mile scenic ride on a mining train, a tour of the authentic 1870 Smith Ranch gold mine, and the opportunity for little ones to pan for gold nuggets.

Lunch options: Bring a bag lunch, a picnic blanket, and enjoy your delights in the great outdoors like a true pioneer. If you prefer a sit-down, 21st century lunch then head back to the town center as Julian has an array of scrumptious dining options that the kids will love. Bailey Woodpit Barbecue offers tons of smoked meats and homemade dishes, as well as a great kids menu. Nosh on Italian at Romano’s Dodge House or go for Mexican at Pancho Villas. And for dessert, be sure to stop at the Candied Apple Pastry Company or the Julian Pie Company for a treat.

How to dress: While the open-air trains means that you’re treated to spectacular 360 views, it also means that it can get chilly so be sure to wear layers and bring coats or hats. We suggest checking the weather report before your adventure to be fully prepared. Closed-toe shoes are recommended.

Need to know: The Julian Train & Gold Mine tour fees are $15 for adults, $12 for kids ages 3-12, and kids ages 2 and under are free with adult purchase. Reservations are needed so you’re guaranteed seats on the train. The tours are held Monday through Saturday, generally at 10:00 am, 11:30 am, 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm.

Bonus: Smith Ranch offers several tours that are ideal for school field trips and a variety of special seasonal train rides like the Christmas Train Express and Apple Days Special. They also host birthday parties!

Online: pioneerw.ipower.com/

-Abigail Matsumoto