Trip Time: 4 days
Begin your trip with a day in Downtown Sacramento. Start at the California State Railroad Museum. Whether you are a railroad fan or not, you can definitely enjoy this unique museum. The museum is a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions. It contains more than 40 exhibitions, including 21 trains. Next, visit the State Capitol. The beautiful Capitol, with its gilded dome, was built in 1860. If you join a guided tour, you can take a close look at marble floors, glittering chandeliers and monumental staircases.
After lunch at one of Downtown’s many small cafes (La Bonne Soupe Café is a hole-in-the-wall favorite), visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. Take a look at this unique park, where the life of the 1850s is well preserved. Then, enjoy art at the Crocker Art Museum, known for its extensive collection of Californian art. It also exhibits a collection of art from Asia and Europe. Celebrate your evening with a Sacramento River Cruise, followed by a dinner in Old Town Sacramento.
On your second day, travel back in time through California’s Gold Rush history. Visit Gold Bug Park and Mine, the only city-owned mine in the United States. You can take a look at four mines that were active in the 19th century, as well as mining equipment. The next stop is El Dorado County Historic Museum, which exhibits historic artifacts and photographs of the gold rush era.
Stroll around Downtown Placerville. The downtown, with its well-preserved 1850s buildings, is filled with more than 200 antique shops, art galleries and cafes. Then, try panning for gold in Coloma, where the California gold rush started. Polish off your day with a visit to Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. Learn the history of the gold rush in this park. You can also enjoy various activities, such as hiking and fishing.
Head to Sutter Creek, a charming town with historic Victorian buildings. Enjoy yourself in this slow-paced friendly town, and breakfast at the neighborhood favorite’s diner. Visit Columbia State Historic Park. The town’s old gold rush-era business district has been preserved, with shops, restaurants and two hotels. You can time-travel to the 1850s, riding a 100-year-old stagecoach, hiring a “fine steed” for a horseback ride through the “diggins” and panning for gold.
More museums are in store on your last day. Start at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. The museum is home to many interesting exhibits, including a giant gold nugget. Next up is the Mariposa Museum and History Center. The museum portrays the history of Mariposa County, which started with the arrival of the first Forty-Niners in the 1850s. Nearby is the Mariposa County Courthouse, built in 1854. The oldest courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains, a guided tour is provided on weekends.
Give your brain a break and your palate a workout – visit wineries in Mariposa. The first grapes were planted around here in the 1850s to help quench the thirst of many a hardworking miner. Try the small Chappell Vineyard & Winery, known for its high-quality red wine, or Butterfly Creek Winery. The creek that runs by the winery is perfect for a picnic.
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