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Explore the unique history of a Gold Rush town in the Central Valley

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As you walk around Marysville, it’s difficult to imagine that this historic Gold Rush town in the Central Valley once had ambitions to be the New York of the Pacific. But back when Marysville was a hub for gold mining activity, it was one of California’s largest cities and the future looked limitless.

These days Marysville’s population is roughly 12,000—about the same as it was during those 19th-century boom times. So instead of becoming a global metropolis, the Yuba County town now boasts the honorary title of “California’s Oldest Little City.”

Located at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers about 40 minutes north of Sacramento, Marysville has retained its unique historic character, especially in the downtown where a number of Gold Rush–era landmarks survive. The building that houses the Silver Dollar Saloon, popular for its burgers and aged Angus ribeye steaks, was an important Gold Rush commercial center (and had a second-floor brothel). Less than a mile away in an impressive 1855 Gothic Revival house, the Mary Aaron Museum preserves local artifacts, displays vintage photos, and hosts tours. For a more recent (and sweeter) taste of town history, The Candy Box has been a Marysville favorite since 1954, thanks to such treats as its gooey, chewy chocolate turtles.

Marysville once had the country’s second-largest Chinatown and, inside a building that dates to 1858, this distinctive aspect of the town’s past is commemorated at the Chinese American Museum of Northern California. The first temple that Chinese residents built in Marysville was destroyed but the Bok Kai Temple, the 1880 successor to the original structure, still stands and is one of America’s oldest Taoist temples. It houses a museum and is open during the annual Bok Kai Festival, a celebration that features a parade with lion dancers and a 175-foot-long golden dragon snaking through the streets.

Marysville may seem like an unlikely sports town but there’s plenty of action here. Head over to Marysville Raceway for winged 360 sprint car and hobby stocks competitions on the quarter-mile clay oval. Or for horsepower of a different kind, September’s annual Marysville Stampede rodeo began in 1933. The minor league Yuba Sutter Gold Sox, complete with its gecko-like mascot Mr. G., carries on a local baseball tradition that dates back 140 years. The Gold Sox take to the field at Colusa Casino Stadium and the intimate ballpark is perfect for a summer night of America’s pastime. Across from the stadium, take a stroll along the shores of Ellis Lake, the city centerpiece that was created from a slough along the Yuba River.

Outside of town, you can discover Gold Rush and Native American history while learning about current attempts to restore the Yuba River’s salmon populations on the three-mile roundtrip Yuba Goldfields Trail. The trail explores an area with dozens of ponds created by gold dredging. Or get up close and personal with owls and hawks—and maybe even take a class in the ancient art of falconry at West Coast Falconry.

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