By Heather Crivellone
One of my favorite things about living in the Sacramento Valley is that we can take a day trip to great destinations on a moment’s notice. Whether we choose to hit the beaches of Santa Cruz, take a trolley ride in San Francisco, hit the ski slopes of Tahoe or visit some award-winning wineries in the foothills, we can pretty much choose our adventure any weekend of the year.
Recently, our family decided on a trip to Calaveras County. Just one day isn’t enough to explore all the sights of this region. Between the “big trees”, gold panning, train rides and caverns, a weekend is more what you need to enjoy it all. We were driving through on our way back from Yosemite, and chose to stop into the historic town of Jamestown for a quick tour of the famous Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. If you have little boys (or girls), they will enjoy exploring this intact and still-functioning steam locomotive repair and maintenance facility. Some of the buildings date back to 1897 and are still in perfect condition! This museum combines railroad history with Hollywood’s film industry, which gives it an allure that everyone will find fascinating.
Railtown 1897 is not only a museum, but they offer excursion train rides through October. You can enjoy a six-mile, 45 minute roundtrip ride through the scenic Sierra foothills. Vintage passenger coaches are pulled by an authentic steam locomotive that runs on Saturdays and Sundays, departing at 10:30am, 12pm, 1:30pm and 3pm. Train tickets for these excursions are $15 adults, $10 children ages 6-17 and children under the age of 5 are free. Special themed excursions happen throughout the year. The Polar Express is coming during the holidays – check their website for more information.
Railtown 1897 also has programs such as Junior Rangers and “Crew for a Day” for those who want to learn “hands on” about how these locomotives function.
During our quick trip through Jamestown, we also found Gold Prospecting Adventures– a tour group that will take you on a private tour and lead your through the Gold Rush Days and teach you how to pan for gold! We didn’t have an opportunity to take the tour this time around, but we will be going back for sure in an attempt to “Strike it Rich!”
Other activities to enjoy in the Calaveras County include the Calaveras Big Trees, California Caverns, hiking the foothills and exploring the historical towns such as Angels Camp and Murphy’s (to name a few).
Located about 100 miles outside of Sacramento, visiting the Calaveras County has plenty of family fun and educational activities for you and your family to enjoy. So pack some snacks, fill up the gas tank and enjoy the Sierra foothills!