You can learn a lot about a place from its name. Placerville, at the junction of Highways 49 and 50, started out as Dry Diggins, a nod to the old mining technique of using water to sift gold nuggets from dry soil. In 1849, a year after the discovery of gold in nearby Coloma sparked the Gold Rush, the settlement became known as Hangtown, a graphic reference to the Wild West justice that was meted out here.
In 1854, the town took on the more amiable name of Placerville, commemorating the gold placer deposits found in local riverbeds and hills. While it has long been a popular stop for travellers heading to Lake Tahoe’s south shore, it has even more appeal these days, with sophisticated shops like Dedrick’s, focusing on artisanal cheeses, tempting you to stay and browse a while. You could even take your cheese selection and have a picnic on the grounds of historic Gold Bug Park, where you can also take a self-guided audio tour or a guided group tour of a mid-19th-century gold mine.
A fifteen-minute drive away is Wakamatsu Farm, the original site of the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, the first Japanese settlement in North America. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it traces its history back to 1869, when 22 samurai and their families emigrated to establish what was the first tea and silk farm in California. Two-hour docent-led tours of the farm are available during events, when the site is open to visitors, or just wander the beautiful grounds and have a picnic. Each June, the site hosts a celebration of Japanese heritage, arts and cuisine in California.
Bumping up against the west side of the Sierra Nevada Range, on California’s eastern side, the Sierra foothills that make up the Gold Country are California classics.
Discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history, with more than 300,000 pioneers heading west.
Here, the state’s past, present and future merge into one unforgettable destination. Pan for gold like a pioneer, bike through meadow and oak countryside and raft a rapid filled river, then explore historic towns with Old West architecture and a new generation of pioneers, opening up outstanding wineries, farm to table restaurants, inviting shops and charming B&Bs.
Pluck a bit of gold from a riverbed scoured by the original ’49ers. Descend deep into the earth to check out unusual rock formations. Get your heart racing with a ride down whitewater rapids. For...
Elegant estates at the end of country roads lined with vineyards? Check. Low-key wineries housed in converted barns? Check again. Urban wine trails with hip in-town tasting rooms? Yup,...