By Miriam Raftery
San Diego’s Ramona Valley has emerged as a nationally recognized wine region that also has a historic downtown district and beautiful natural settings including many parks, preserves and trails to explore. You’ll also find seasonal activities such as a musical festival, country fair, grape stomp, camel dairy festivals and holiday celebrations.
Local lodging options include the Starry Night Inn, a bed and breakfast at a Ramona winery.
The Ramona Valley Vintners Association hosts many wine-themed events through the year, from the Ramona Grape Stomp each fall to a holiday wine trail in winter.
Find a guide to Ramona’s many wineries at their website, including award-winning vintners in this American Viticultural Association (AVA) wine producing region. Some are gaining national attention, such as Vineyard Grant James, rated #2 vineyard in America by Travel and Leisure magazine. Many have regional accolades, such as Ramona Ranch Winery, a certified sustainable California wine grower and took double gold medals recently at the county fair. Known for its family-run wineries, the Ramona region offers opportunities to meet local winemakers as well.
There are some unusual winery experiences ranging from wine caves to cozy tasting rooms to outdoor patios with lovely views, wood-fired pizza ovens, a sculpture garden with opera singers, and concoctions such as wine slushies.
Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Murals project has commissioned numerous murals on downtown buildings reflectin the regions history, hiking, equine, arts, antiques, agriculture, rural vistas, trails and tasting of fine wines. Download a map and take a drive to enjoy these artistic creations.
Stroll through the historic district on Ramona’s Main Street downtown to browse antique and gift shops, galleries and more. Restaurants in the historic district include Marinade on Main ,cooking up farm-to-table fresh cuisine, and the London Bakery with high teas and authentic British pastries. At Reds, Whites and Brews, a saloon in one of the town’s oldest buildings, you can savor local wines and craft beer brews. Also on Main Street there’s the Pamo Valley winery tasting room if time or weather prevents driving backcountry roads to visit rural wineries.
Also the Ramona Main Stage Theater, built in 1947, offers performances by local bands and serves up Old Town style barbecue.
Guy B. Woodward Museum in the heart of downtown offers a fascinating glimpse back in time to Ramona’s colorful western heritage including the original doctor’s residence, a blacksmith shop, carriage house and more.
The Ramona Chamber of Commerce events page lists annual and seasonal events such as a Taste of Ramona, Ramona Open Studios Tour showing local artists’ works, and a Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony with holiday festivities.
The Ramona Rodeo hosts a rodeo each May. In August, the Ramona Country Fair has midway rides, live music, and vendors serving up everything from barbecue to hand-crafted souvenirs. There’s also a Ramona Music Fest held in April.
Ramona’s American Graffiti Cruise group organizes classic car nights.
You can also visit the beautiful new Ramona County Library in town, where you can check out books, access computers and wi-fi, or check out events from author-signings to fitness classes acoustic music concerts and more.
Beyond downtown and the wine country, here are additional attractions:
Oasis Camel Dairy has open houses most months as well as annual Pomegrate Days and Watermelon Days festivals where you can feed camels, ride camels, see shows with camels and exotic birds, watch turkey races, and shop for camel milk soaps, lotion, bath bombs and more.
Dos Picos County Park is a wonderful place for picnics that also has camping and cabins, shaded areas and a fishing pond.
The Ramona Grasslands Preserve, a county park, has trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians through rolling grasslands where you may spot birds of prey including eagles. Other county preserves in Ramona include the Mt. Gower County Preserve and trails at Barnett Ranch, all with their own unique scenic vistas.