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Gold Bug Mine Sign in Placerville, California
Gold Bug Mine by Caitlin Childs/Flickr

Placerville

Placerville
See old and new in this historic Gold Rush town

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.

Valley in California's Gold Country
Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover Gold Country

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December
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
15°
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Mar - May
26°
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June - Aug
33°
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Sept - Nov
30°
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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.

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During California's Gold Rush, over 25 million ounces of gold were mined from the Sierra Nevada foothills.
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Spotlight: Sacramento

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Golden past, bright future

Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

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Laura Flippen
July

Back in 1854, the first California State Fair was held in San Francisco, with the cows standing on display in Mission Dolores. The fair moved to Sacramento for good a few years later, but the...

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Lucas Himovitz
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A Shop Owner in the California Gold Country town of Nevada City,
Laura Flippen

Nevada City

Great food, wine and shows find a home in the Mother Lode

This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles north-east of...

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Lorres Gold Mine

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Tour a Gold Rush mansion then go underground

Get a one-two punch of experiences with a visit to this remarkable site in Grass Valley, roughly 60 miles north-east of Sacramento. First, spend...

SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Auburn

Explore an ideally situated Gold Country town with a sporty side

History and modern culture merge with outdoor adventure in this appealing town on the west side of the Sierra Nevada. While Auburn has long been...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Take on whitewater rapids, pan for gold and explore California history

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...

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Rafters on the American River
Rob Brodman

The American River

Rush for gold, rush for adrenaline

The most popular white water-rafting river in the West, the American tumbles through the Gold Country, an inviting jumble of churning rapids, deep...

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Laura Flippen

Columbia State Historic Park

Step into the 1850s in this Gold Country gem

With throw-back charm and a mine-full of historic artefacts, this park presents the Gold Rush in living, breathing colour. Costumed docents...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Elegant estates, relaxed wineries, urban tasting rooms

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,...

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Laura Flippen

Sip Wine in the Gold Country

Sample vintages from old vines and new varietals

The roots of old Zinfandel grapevines run deep in this north-eastern region of California, with wine making here dating back to the Gold Rush days...

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Jenny Martin

Murphys

Explore a blossoming country town with big-city appeal

Like San Francisco in the mid-1800s, Murphys was one of California’s richest boom towns, but this appealing town in Calaveras County still feels...

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Jenny Pfeiffer

Apple Hill

Wine, beer, a bliss-out spa—and juicy, sweet apples

Autumn in the Gold Country means clear blue skies, fiery red grapevines and an invigorating snap in the air. It’s apple season too, with more than...

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Jenny Ella Pfeiffer

Moaning Cavern

Walk, climb, or rappel into a subterranean wonderland

Discovered by miners in 1851, this vertical chamber near Angels Camp is so massive it is the largest public cavern in California—big enough to...

Jamestown's Railtown 1897

Jamestown

Climb aboard majestic steam trains for a cruise through the Sierra foothills

It’s unbelievable but true: you can still wade into the shallows of the South Fork of the American River and find flecks of gold, just like the...

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Sutter's Fort State Historic Park was the first permanent European settlement in the Central Valley.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Amazing Agritourism Experiences

From almonds and olives up north to avocados, oranges, and dates in the south, the Golden State has a crop (or 10) for nearly every stretch of terrain. After all, ...

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Tai Power Seeff

Golden Chain Highway

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This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles/98 kilometers northeast of Sacramento is one of the Gold Country’s prettiest towns. Originally settled in 1849 as a mining camp, Nevada City...

Sep 7 - Sep 9
Rub elbows with craft brewers and sample all manner of Californian beers at this annual three-day event

Beyond being the state capital, Sacramento has staked its claim as one of California’s nerve centres for great craft beer. The annual...

Beer drinkers at the California Craft Beer Summit
Courtesy of California Craft Brewers Association
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