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East County News Service

April 17, 2019 (Julian) -- Most people know that Julian is a popular tourist destination located in the high country of San Diego County. It’s not only a beautiful place to escape to, with its picturesque surroundings, apples, pies, and rich history, but it’s also growing into a springtime hotspot because of the wonderfully fragrant lilacs that grow throughout the area.

What makes lilacs in Julian so special? What makes them different from many other places that grow lilacs in southern California?

“It’s because of the higher elevation and colder climate. Although lower elevation lilacs are more drought tolerant, the smells and size of the flower are not as commendable as those growing in high elevation,” says Doreen Cross, co-owner of Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures, which hosts the annual Lilac Festival each spring. “The best lilacs experience at least 1,000 hours of frost in order to produce the beautiful smell that they are known for. Julian lilacs give off a magnificently aromatic scent, a perfume that has often been commented on. People are delighted to see and smell them!”

These flowers bring back the nostalgic wonder of childhood memories for many that grew up back east, and even visitors native to Europe and Asia! Seeing as lilacs originated in Eastern Europe and temperate Asia, it’s no wonder that visitors from all over are excited to visit Julian during this special time of year.

So, where do you go in Julian to see, smell, and purchase these high quality lilacs? And when is the time to come for them?

Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures, an outdoor educational farm that specializes in living history field trips, is also home to five acres of beautifully fragrant mountain lilacs near the town of Julian. This small family business run by husband and wife team, Jesse and Doreen Cross, is something that few people know about but is steadily becoming a popular field trip and tourist destination.

“Lilac season is one of the most anticipated times of the year for us because the farm is so fragrant and beautiful in full bloom,” Doreen Cross says. “We meet people from all over the world that are so happy to find a place with lilacs because they grew up in an area that had them as well. It’s nostalgic for them and it feels good to see them so happy to be here!”

Because of the unpredictable weather, this year’s Lilac Festival dates are to be determined. The prediction is for mid-April, and will continue every weekend for as long as lilacs are available; about a month.

Julian Station, located directly across the street from Fort Cross, also offers lilacs for sale directly to the public. Both properties were formerly owned by Franklin “Woody” Barnes, who planted a large grove of over 1500 lilacs between 1947-1949. He was also recently elected to the board for the International Lilac Society. With decades of experience and knowledge, he is known around these parts as the lilac expert.

Tickets for activities may be purchased through their website at  once ticket sales are posted. It is recommended to buy ahead of time to guarantee your place in the day’s events. Walk-in participation will be dependent on open availability for activities. Lilac sales will be available 7 days a week, while supplies last.

Ticketed activities will include archery, tomahawk throwing, slingshot range, petting zoo, reptile show, hayrides, candle dipping, fair and dino garden making.

Free activities include a lilac maze, old-time games and tire swings.

Throughout the year, Fort Cross also offers Family Camp Outs, U-pick berries and vegetables, an Autumn Jubilee with a pumpkin patch and cider pressing, and a Holiday Hayride event Thanksgiving weekend. Field Trip events are offered year round. For more information on everything that Fort Cross has to offer, visit the website at

The Lilac Festival and Spring Tours are held at Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures, 4425 Highway 78 in Santa Ysabel, CA 92070, just outside of Julian.

Exact dates to be announced once lilacs are blooming but are anticipated starting in mid-April to last about a month.  During the festival hours will be Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit

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