Ramona

For many heading into the San Diego mountains or desert, Ramona is the last stop. It’s where drivers fill up with gas (sometimes less expensive than in the city), pick up provisions at one of several supermarkets (there are none farther east), and have a bite to eat. Increasingly, visitors are spending time in Ramona for a couple of reasons: to play golf at two highly rated courses and to drop some cash at the Barona casino, located along a country road a few miles south of town. Ramona’s history is intertwined with Julian’s, the town 22 miles east, where a gold rush drew argonauts in the 1870s. Descendants of those settlers still run cattle on ranches extending from Ramona to Julian. Today Ramona is a fast-growing unincorporated area of about 28,000 residents, most of whom have ranches. There’s a budding wine-making industry with more than 30 wineries now open to the public on weekends. The main thoroughfare also houses the largest selection of antiques shops in the backcountry. With the exception of the Barona Resort, lodging and dining fall into the simple and comfortable category. Don’t come here if you’re looking for luxury.

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