While Sonora is one of the closest cities to Yosemite National Park, it's also a popular attraction in its own right. This historic Gold Rush town is filled with character and characters, and plenty to see and do. Here are 7 things that must be experienced on any visit to Sonora.
Sonora was first founded way back in 1850 by miners from Mexico, who named the city after the Mexican state of the same name. Like many other communities of the time, it rose and fell with the Gold Rush. Once a bustling city of many thousands, today it's a small community comprised of residents who treasure the rich history of their town.
One of the best ways to experience that history is strolling through the downtown region and exploring the many shops that line the street. You can either browse the many art galleries, boutiques and amazing restaurants at your own pace, or embark on the Downtown Sonora Walking Tour which will ensure you don't miss a single highlight.
Try to time your visit to include the second Saturday of the month - any month - throughout the year. The merchants in Sonora's historic downtown open their doors to local musicians and artists for all to enjoy for 2nd Saturday Art Night. The festivities start at 5 pm and run until 8 pm. It's a fantastic display including art, performing artists and music, in the historic setting of downtown Sonora.
As one would expect of a city with so much history, Sonora has amazing museums that keep the stories from the town alive. The Tuolumne County Museum & History Center was created more than 60 years ago to protect and preserve the history of the region. Overseen by the Tuolumne County Historical Society, the museum features exhibits about the Gold Rush, pioneer guns, law and justice and other ways of life in the 1800's.
For a unique take on a specific aspect of the region's history, visit the Sonora Fire Museum & Senior Lounge. While one thing that hasn't changed is fire being a big concern, what is different is the gear and methodology used to combat it. The museum showcases a wide array of equipment and apparatus that crews used to protect Sonora and its residents for the past century.
Another museum honoring residents who protected the community is the Veterans Memorial Military Museum. You'll find uniforms, equipment, medals and even weaponry used by the the men and women of Sonora who served the armed forces.
Indigeny Reserve is a labor of love with a dedication to sustainability. The ranch has been turned into a 160-acre nature retreat with hiking trails, picnic areas and park-like settings. It includes an 80-acre apple ranch that the family purchased in 2005 to prevent the apple trees, many more than a century old, from being torn out to put in homes. Since then the family has earned an organic certification for the business. They also started making hard cider so no apples would go to waste. They then realized they still had enough to start making the brandy and vodka, to ensure everything is used, and used quite effectively as well.
You know you're going to get hungry on your trip, might as well make dining part of the experience, right?
Emberz is one of the most popular spots in all of the region. With a nod to the history of Sonora, they take classic dishes and drinks and put a new twist on them. The result is amazing burgers, pizzas and cocktails, among other choices.
Located in a historic, Gold-Rush era building, the Diamondback Grill is a family-owned restaurant. They focus on hand-crafted dishes and fine wines from throughout the region. The historic setting of downtown adds to the ambiance, and the experience.
If you're staying in a vacation rental with it's own kitchen, you could always go the fancy route and bring in a chef. The Salt of the Earth Personal Chef brings all the amazing skill and culinary talent of Chef Jess to you. From decadent and luxurious to classic American comfort food, everything is stunningly delicious. It's a great way to have a quiet evening without having to do the cooking, or impress some friends who are coming with you on your trip.
The Sierra Repertory Theatre brings together local talent with actors from throughout the country in one of the best regional theater programs around. You can take in classic shows, musicals, and dance performances that will have you thinking you were transported to the big city.
The Dragoon Gulch Trail winds through Mother Lode oak woodlands and offers more than three miles of trails of varying difficulty. There's options for someone looking for a peaceful morning stroll on up to the serious hiker looking to challenge themselves. The views of Sonora and surrounding countryside are worth the effort of those difficult choices.