Santa Clarita Guide, What To Do in Santa Clarita
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California's Gold Country


Old Sacramento
Old Sacramento

Discovery Museum, Sacramento
Discovery Museum, Sacramento

California State Railroad Museum
California State Railroad Museum

California State Railroad Museum
California State Railroad Museum

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

Spend the night aboard the Delta King
Spend the night aboard the Delta King

Hwy. 49, just outside of Auburn
Hwy. 49, just outside of Auburn

Follow the El Dorado Farm Trail
Follow the El Dorado Farm Trail

Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia State Historic Park

Cozmic Cafe's gold mine, located in the back of the restaurant.
Cozmic Cafe's gold mine, located in the back of the restaurant.

Nevada City
Nevada City

Empire Mine State Historic Park
Empire Mine State Historic Park

Empire Mine State Historic Park
Empire Mine State Historic Park

Railtown State Historic Park is technically in the Central Valley region.
Railtown State Historic Park is technically in the Central Valley region.

When in Placerville, Emerald Bay in So. Lake Tahoe is about an hour's drive.
When in Placerville, Emerald Bay in So. Lake Tahoe is about an hour's drive.
California's gold rush all started on the chilly morning of January 24, 1848. James Marshall spotted shiny flecks of metal at the sawmill he was building for John Sutter on the American River in Coloma. Showing the gold to some of the workers, Mr. Marshall had no idea he was about to set off the largest gold rush in American history.

Sutter's workers abandoned the fort and mill and set out to make their fortunes. Mr. Sutter, owner of more than 150,000 acres, was known for his hospitality and warmly greeted travelers to his fort, New Helvetia. After all, in 1847 he had sent aid to the Donner party trapped in a winter storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. (Read more about the ill-fated Donner party next month in our coverage of North Lake Tahoe.) But the excitement of the gold seekers would cost John Sutter his hard-earned efforts, as his fort was overrun and by the 1850s all that was left was the central building. Sutter deeded the last of his property to his son, John Sutter Jr., who promptly began making plans for a new city he named Sacramento.

The Senior Sutter won a lawsuit from the High Court of California for his losses to the gold rush and died in Pennsylvania just prior to a decision by Congress to reimburse him for his actual losses. Had he lived long enough to learn of the court's decision, he would have been the richest man in the world.

While time has a way of romanticizing history, few found their wealth. Those who could be certain of making their fortunes during this time supplied services and provisions to the gold seekers. Females were the minority in California during the gold rush and those that were not prostitutes were eagerly sought, if for nothing more than for 'a glimpse of a petticoat.' When not mining, men who left their families behind to seek their fortune in California often left their morals behind as well. They could be found gambling, drinking heavily, cussing and seeking the company of 'women for hire.'

Tuck away with you this brief history lesson and then immerse yourself in the fun and lore of the gold rush. Dig in a real gold mine, pan for gold, and ride in a stagecoach. Spend the night in an historic hotel, on an authentic riverboat, or in a luxurious B&B nestled in gold country. The upcoming holidays provide a glimpse into the lives of California's immigrants. Join a candlelight tour at Sutter's Fort, a lamplight tour at Columbia State Historical Park, or take in the sounds of the Christmas carolers in Old Sacramento during Heritage Holidays.

When you've had enough of the 1850s, stop in at Blue Diamond Almonds, tour a cavern, or taste your way through Apple Hill, Shenandoah Valley, or the El Dorado Farm Trail. Spend the night at one of the state's newest resorts and casinos. Then return home to Santa Clarita where it is said gold was first discovered in California. In 1842 Francisco Lopez y Arballo was gathering onions in what is now Placerita Canyon when he found the gold flakes within the plant's roots. A memorial plaque marks the location.


SACRAMENTO
800-292-2334 or 916-264-7777
California history abounds in our capitol, and we've highlighted just a few of the cool things you won't find in Santa Clarita. Other things you'll find in Sacramento that may be worth a stop are the Port of Sacramento, the State Library, the State Indian Museum, and Waterworld USA (which features a five-story interactive playhouse for kids). Call for a free visitors guide or access their web site for a complete guide to Sacramento.
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Old Sacramento
This old west town set on 28 acres is complete with residents in period costume and features gift stores, arts and crafts, native American and wild west souvenirs. The Discovery Museum offers gold panning. Picture in your mind a town that Marty McFly may have visited in Back to the Future III, then clean it up and add modern amenities. It's fun for everyone!

The Discovery Museum and California State Railroad Museum make excellent rest stops.
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Classic Coach Carriage Service
916-834-3481
What better way to tour Old Sacramento than in a carriage suited for a princess? With 15-minute rides starting as low as $10 per group, it'll be a real treat for the family.

Discovery Museum
Walk through an 'old' mine shaft and past a miner's cabin, learn about the Pony Express, and discover the secrets of Sacramento's buried past. Kids can send a message by telegraph, try on old clothes, pretend to be a printer in the 1890s, or weigh vegetables at a roadside stand.
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Spirit of Sacramento Riverboat Cruises
Take a cruise on an authentic two- or three-deck paddleboat. Choose from one-, two-, or three-hour cruises and make it a special memory by combining it with brunch or dinner.
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California State Railroad Museum
Twenty-one meticulously restored locomotives and cars sit in 225,000 square feet of exhibit space at one of Sacramento's most popular attractions. Don't miss the 1876 Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station depicting life as it was. Six-mile rides along the Sacramento River bank take about 40-minutes and are offered weekends through September. "Spookomotive" train rides run the second, third and fourth weekends in October coinciding with the Halloween Festival taking place in Old Sacramento. This is one of those really "too cool to miss" stops.
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Gold Rush Days, Old Sacramento
The streets are returned to dirt, 'traffic' is limited to pedestrians, horses and horse-drawn carriages, and you'll believe you are right back in 1850s Sacramento. This is the "Williamsburg of the West" and takes place in late summer. Free Admission.

Sutter's Fort
The oldest restored fort in the United States, it has been furnished to reflect life in 1846. Imagine arriving at the fort after several days of traveling by wagon. See the immigrants' quarters where you and your family may have found temporary refuge. Visit the doctor's office the kids would have visited had they become ill on the journey. Volunteers re-create the past through programs and activities that will certainly enthrall adults and children alike. Located in midtown Sacramento, you may be tempted to leave Sacramento without seeing it; that would be a mistake. The web site has numerous photos and an interactive map of the fort. Restrooms are reasonably clean and appointed.
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Towe Automotive Museum
Beginning with the horseless carriage of 1896, you'll "travel through time" with 150 classic and vintage automobiles displayed in Dream Theme exhibits.
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California State Capitol Museum
This incredibly beautiful building is open to the public daily. You'll visit the executive offices and learn about the Senate, Assembly, and California architecture on this 45-minute tour. When you're done in the Capitol, don't miss the 40-acre Capitol Park that surrounds it. While the park is open daily to the public, a special tour is offered only at 10:30 am which will take you to the memorials, monuments, trout pound, and newly-dedicated Peace Garden.
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Governor's Mansion State Historic Park
Built in 1877, this Italianate mansion served as the home for California's governors from 1903-1967. Italian marble fireplaces, French mirrors, Persian carpets and personal items of former governors grace this 30-room mansion. Guided 45-minute tours are given daily.
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Delta King Riverboat Hotel
Sleep in a beautiful stateroom on this sister ship to the Delta Queen, which still floats on the Mississippi River. The staterooms have been doubled in size for 'passenger' comfort. The Pilothouse restaurant serves chicken fingers alongside Seafood Paella. Moored in Old Sacramento, it's a fun experience. (You'll want to minimize your luggage, because it is an effort to get it to your room across the dock, and the staterooms are still small compared to modern hotels.)

Make reservations to attend one of the plays in their intimate theatre, or partake in a Murder Mystery Dinner.
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Embassy Suites
Families may appreciate the open space and modern amenities offered at this hotel, located just one block from Old Sacramento.
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Fairytale Town
Mr. McGregor's Garden, Sherwood Forest, Old McDonald's Farm, and the Crooked Mile all await your little ones. They'll play while they learn how things grow. Real lambs (Mary Had a Little Lamb) and rabbits (Peter Rabbit) greet your kids.
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SACRAMENTO AREA

Folsom State Prison Museum
916-985-2561, Folsom
Johnny Cash made Folsom famous with his hit song, "Folsom Prison Blues." This is the nation's first maximum-security prison, built in 1878, and it is still in use today. In the prison's museum, you'll get to see a replica cell, a pair of guns made by prisoners in the 1930s, and handcuffs, belly belts, and other things from the past. Don't forget to purchase a sweatshirt in the museum store that reads, "Folsom Bed & Breakfast" or a "Bad Boyz" replica California license plate. Not open every day. Tours of the prison are not available.
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Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park
This 1892 power plant generated electricity with water-driven generators. You'll get a chance to see the enormous GE transformers, singularly capable of generating between 800 to 11,000 volts of electricity as well as the canal system that brings the water from the dam.
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Amador Flower Farm
This farm is best known for its 800 varieties of day lilies. The two-acre demonstration gardens are always blooming. In the month of October, join the kids and work your way through the one-acre corn maize. There are a gift shop and picnic areas. The farm is hosting an event October 4-5 to welcome visitors to their pumpkin patch. A caterer and micro breweries will be on hand so you may purchase food and beverages. Located in the center of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Country.
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Shenandoah Valley Wine Country
Twenty-seven hundred acres of wine grapes and twenty wineries adorn the hillsides on the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. The county is renowned for its heady zinfandels. October 4-5 is "The Big Crush," the Valley's Harvest Festival. Visit local wineries for grape stomping, a crush dunk tank, samplings, gourmet food, music and a raffle. Additional wineries are listed on the Sacramento web site.
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Apple Hill
Fifty ranches of orchards, vineyards and Christmas trees dot this ten-mile area. September through December is the best time to visit, as there is always something going on at the ranches. You'll find baked goods, old-fashioned kids' carnivals, crafts, barbecues, music and more. Check the web site for a great listing of events, ranches and maps.
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El Dorado Farm Trails
Over a hundred operating farms, ranches and wineries comprise these trails. Visit the web site for a complete listing and to request a map of the area.
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Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
One of the nation's most important historic sites, you can still see the place where James Marshall first discovered gold. A replica of Sutter's sawmill along with several historic buildings awaits visitors. Pan for gold, tour the museum and visitor's center, or enjoy a picnic under the trees.
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Sutter Gold Mine
Choose from a one-hour family experience or a two-hour deep mine expedition in a real California gold mine. You'll put on a hard hat and jump into the shuttle for your trip. Learn how to distinguish between real gold and fool's gold. When you're done with the tour, pan for gold or mine for gemstones. Please note our map takes you to Sutter Creek. Continue north on Hwy 49 to the Gold Mine.
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Columbia State Historic Park
Frozen in the 1800s, Columbia is said to be the best-preserved gold rush town in all of the California Mother Lode. Spend the night right in town in one of the original hotels, now completely restored. (Private half baths are in the rooms, but the shower is down the hall.) Take a ride in an original stagecoach, ride a horse or pony down the 'old mining trails,' pan for gold, tour a gold mine, cool off in the saloon or stop in at the ice cream parlor. You'll have a great time reliving the 1800's. Restrooms are reasonable.
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Black Chasm
The 50-minute tour descends sixty feet into a chamber 150 feet wide. Visitors will be awestruck by the marble arches, twisting and looping helictite crystals, stalactites, and deep, dark lakes. The tour includes crossing a bridge 80-feet above a lake, so those with a fear of heights may be bothered. A small amount of bending is involved.
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California Caverns
An 80-minute family tour walking on fairly level ground reveals 60 feet of crystalline 'vines' covering the ceiling and mysterious pools of water. The more adventurous may choose from the two-hour Mammoth Cave expedition or the four-hour Middle Earth expedition.
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Moaning Cavern
The Traditional Walking Tour descends 165 feet below ground through marble lined passageways. You'll see the spot where the bones of prehistoric people who had fallen into the cavern were discovered. If you are really daring, you can rappel by rope 165 into the huge main chamber. (They claim no experience is necessary and children as young as 12 can join in on the fun.) If that's not enough adventure for you, then take the three-hour journey, which begins with rappelling and continues as you explore deep chambers and passages.
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PLACERVILLE
Gold was discovered at Sutter's sawmill in Coloma, just ten miles from Placerville. Thus, thousands of gold seekers crowded into the town beginning in 1848. Antique stores, an actual gold mine tour, a former jail, a real stagecoach, and of course, gold, all await you. Stop at the Cozmic Cafe (530-642-8481) for a quick and delicious bite to eat. The kids will love exploring the back of the cafe, which is actually a gold mine. Cozmic Cafe offers 'healthy food in a fast world' along with gourmet coffees. (It's also known as the old Pearson's Soda Factory.) Cozmic Cafe provides a nice rest stop.
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Shafsky House
This little inn provides "luxury in the heart of Gold Country" with only three rooms, all with private baths. Amenities like a featherbed and goose down comforter, welcome snack and a full gourmet breakfast make you feel at home. The Shafsky House website is a great launching pad for discovering area attractions.
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NEVADA CITY
The historic district of Nevada City, dotted with original gas lights, is listed on the national register of historic places. The six-square block area, consisting of 97 buildings, has been selected as one of the 100 best small towns in America. Stop in at Confectionary Mine for an ice cream while browsing antique shops and art galleries. Pick up a walking tour brochure from the chamber office or sightsee via carriage. During Victorian Christmas the streets will be closed to auto traffic and filled with Victorian carolers, strolling musicians, costumed characters and the aroma of roasting chestnuts.

November is a photographer's dream as the area is noted for the Autumn foliage. Spend the day taking in the color in the Victorian neighborhoods or drive the 160-mile Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway where brilliant trees and vines play as a backdrop to old mining villages. The wild and scenic South Huber River boasts pictorial hiking trails for everyone.


At 2500 feet, Nevada City is located just under the snowbelt. Enjoy autumn weather and within an hour, you can be skiing or enjoying any number of snow-filled activities.


For a clean restroom, head to City Hall. It's located just inside the entrance.
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Nevada County Traction Company
Operating daily (except Tuesday and Wednesday) weather permitting, the narrow gauge railroad takes you on a 30-minute, open-air ride through rich forests. It is the only access to the privately owned and authentic Chinese cemetery where you'll get a guided tour of the cemetery and see the empty graves of those long deceased. Santa Claus will be at the depot greeting children in December. The Trolley Junction Restaurant and Northern Queen Inn motel is a favorite destination for families.
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The Outside Inn
This renovated 1940s era motor court offers fourteen themed rooms and suites. It sits on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest and is located just two blocks from downtown Nevada City. Optional kitchenettes, picnic tables, and barbecues easily accommodate active families. The inn staff will gladly help you find outdoor adventure including downhill skiing, back country ski tours, snow shoeing, hiking and mountain biking.
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Grandmere's Inn
If you're traveling sans children, you'll find this charming, and rather masculine, B&B your 'home away from home.' Prominent publisher and U.S. Senator Aaron A. Sargent built this grand estate atop Nob Hill in 1856. Luxury linens, handmade quilts, and tiled private baths are all part of the amenities you will enjoy. After a day of exploring the area, sit on the expansive front porch sipping hot tea and take in the beauty of the surrounding manicured gardens and quaint Victorian neighborhood. The inn's staff will gladly arrange a carriage ride to one of the best restaurants in town. Late night munchies are not a problem, because the well-stocked pantry is open to guests 24/7 to enjoy chilled or hot beverages, wine, cheese, cookies, fresh fruit, baked goods and of course, chocolate. The aroma of a delicious, full cooked breakfast and piping hot coffee will awaken you in the morning.
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GRASS VALLEY
Only four miles from Nevada City, the center of town is Mill Street, where you'll discover great restaurants, wine tasting, the Del Oro Theatre, the vintage Holbrook Hotel, and shops selling everything from gold panning supplies to souvenirs. The North Star Mining Exhibit features mining equipment from the 1880s. On specific evenings in December, "Cornish Christmas" will take over the downtown area. Streets will be closed to auto traffic for these vintage English activities. Folks dressed in period costume will be caroling, chestnuts will be roasting, and street vendors and horse-drawn sleigh rides will add to the festivities.
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Empire Mine State Historic Park
The mine here produced 5.6 million ounces of gold before closing in 1956. It is the richest, longest, deepest, largest and oldest mine in California. Visitors can still climb down into the actual shaft of the mine as well as view historic buildings and interesting exhibits.
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Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
When the gold miners of 1849 left after realizing they could no longer access the gold with a pick and shovel, companies moved in with hydraulic blasting equipment. The technique washed away entire mountains and was finally halted. Visitors can still see the huge cliffs caused by the mining and the almost 7,500 foot bedrock tunnel that served as a drain.
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DOWNIEVILLE
At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, November 27, 1885, twenty-year-old James O'Neill was the first and last person to be hanged on the gallows still standing next to the courthouse. He was found guilty by jury of killing his employer during an argument. While many executions by hanging took place in Sierra County prior to this, these official gallows were built specifically for O'Neill. In 1891, the California legislature mandated that all executions would be conducted at the state level. In February 1987, the gallows became California Registered Historical Landmark No. 971.
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CALIFORNIA'S CENTRAL VALLEY
The Central Valley yields wonderful treasures, such as Railtown State Historic Park. As you will most probably be driving through this area as well, check out our pages to complete your itinerary.


CALIFORNIA'S HIGH SIERRAS
Your travels will take you within a few miles of the spectacular Sierra Nevadas. Complete your travel plans by visiting these pages as well.


Endorsed by
County of Los Angeles SCV Chamber of Commerce California Travel and Tourism Commission
In association with
City of Santa Clarita SCV Tourism Bureau
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