Sacramento is engulfed in history. Some of California’s most precious history comes straight out of Sacramento’s nearby hills. If you have had a fourth-grader enrolled in a California school, then you were reminded of the importance of James Marshall, John Sutter and everything related to the Gold Rush. In case you need a quick history lesson, the California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848 when James Marshall found gold in historic Coloma. News of the discovery brought more than 300,000 people to California in search of their treasures and led to the Gold Rush that lasted from 1848 to 1855.
If you would like to take a walk down history lane, or help your children learn first hand about the Gold Rush, then take a day trip to some of our famous landmarks. You can make it a day trip, weekend trip or even just an hour adventure. Here’s several places in or around Sacramento where you can immerse yourself in Gold Rush history.
Approximately 40 minutes above Sacramento is historic Coloma. Marshall Gold Discovery Park hosts the site of famous Sutter’s Mill, a museum with costumed docents, original and restored buildings of the gold rush and you can even pan for gold in the river. Gold prospecting equipment and pans are available for rent at local stores and you can even take lessons at the Mother Lode Prospecting and Adventure Supply (located at 7170 Ca-49 #8, Lotus). This is a great day trip destination that your family can enjoy the beautiful fall weather, learn about the gold rush and possibly even strike it rich!
Sutter’s Fort is located in midtown Sacramento between K and L streets and 26 and 28 streets. Sutter’s Fort retells the lives of the many cultures that lived during the Gold Rush history of the 1840’s. Mexican citizens, emigrating Europeans, American Pioneers and Native Americans – each had a story to tell and the history lives among the walls of Sutter’s Fort. Visitors to the fort can explore the cultural site, museum, exhibits, ruins, bike trails and enjoy the natural beauty of the fort. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Special events always take place at the fort. Upcoming events include: the Haunted Fort and Evening Candlelight tours. Check website for specific dates and times of any events.
If you are wanting to make a weekend trip, then head to the hills of Tuolumne County and visit the historic town of Columbia. Located approximately 2 hours from Sacramento, you will truly be in Gold Country, and transported back into the Gold Rush era. Columbia features the largest single collection of existing gold rush-era structures in the state and visiting this quaint town will transport you into the times of long ago. Streets are lined with blacksmith shops, leather making and quilt shops, bakeries – all adorned with merchants dressed in 1850’s attire. We visited Columbia for the first time and my kids went absolutely crazy! They loved watching the “old-timers” in the blacksmith shops, the stagecoach ride, gold panning at the Hidden Treasure Gold Mine and they especially loved the one lane bowling alley.
If you plan on visiting Columbia, I would suggest taking a tour to get the full Gold Rush history. But even without the guided tour, we learned several facts about the Gold Rush and the kids still talk about how much fun they had visiting
You could easily visit Columbia as a day trip, but why not spend the weekend in the Gold Country and take your time? Not only can you try your hand at gold panning, but there are also great hiking and biking trails. Plenty of opportunities to fish, canoe, even zip lining and wine tasting are available in the area.
So depending on whether you want to explore the Gold Rush in a couple of hours, a day or a full weekend, it doesn’t take long from Sacramento to be fully submerged in the history of our Golden State.
By Heather Crivellone