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Main Street Columbia State Historic Park
Visit Tuolumne County

Things To Do When You Visit Columbia

By VTC Author | 01/01/2024 | Exploring Tuolumne County, Family, Gold Country, Gold Panning, Pet Friendly , State Parks

Conveniently located off of Highway 49, Columbia, "Gem of the Southern Mines,"  is a small town with a significant history. Home to Columbia State Historic Park, a living, breathing Gold Rush town. Several affordable lodging options are available in town including hotels, cottages, cabins, and campgrounds for RV’s and tents, giving you a perfect place to stay and explore.

From the bountiful foothills of Tuolumne County comes a limited and premium wine at Inner Sanctum Cellars Winery & Tap Room at Basecamp. Inspired by the Gianelli Family of Gianelli Vineyards, owners Karen and Pete ensure Inner Sanctum is driven by lasting friendships, deep family roots, and the creation of remarkable wines. The tasting room, tap room, and picnic grounds are located between Sonora and Columbia. You'll often find live music performances on site.

Stepping into Columbia State Historic Park is just like hopping in a time machine and heading to the Old West, and it's free! Experience what Gold Rush life was like in this town that feels like it's still the 1800s. Here's what you'll want to do there.

The second you get here, ditch the car and opt for something a bit more appropriate for the location, like a stagecoach!

The Quartz Mountain Stage Line is the closest you can get to riding in a time machine here, without a Delorean. You'll hop aboard an authentic stagecoach and ride down Main Street and to the outskirts of town (where sometimes it can get a little rough like in the movies) just like the highfalutin visitor folk did back in the day. It's the perfect way to set the stage for a visit steeped in history.

The allure of gold brought tens of thousands of people here back in the 1800's. While the hills may not be as productive as they once were, gold can still be found here, and the Matelot Gulch Mining Co. will help you find it. Their experienced miners will teach you just how it was done back in 1849 and help you find gold and gems. You can choose from a variety of options, from renting the pan and going it alone to a full lesson that guarantees you find gold. Plus, you get to keep anything you find! Even if you don't get rich, you'll feel like a million bucks when you see that color shining in the pan. 

Gold Panning

Every aspect of Columbia is meant to immerse you in Gold Rush era history, including the shopping. The merchants are no different, as every shop is staffed by someone who looks like they belong in the 1800's. You will find just about anything you can imagine to feel as though you lived in that past. Discover old-fashioned provisions, dry goods such as fabric and hats, home-made candy, and much more. You could literally spend a whole day shopping through time.

Relax in God Rush ambiance and enjoy a delicious, elevated meal at the Columbia City Hotel Restaurant and What Cheer Saloon, which features fresh, locally sourced produce and a collection of outstanding Sierra foothill wines, beer, and signature cocktails. Columbia Kate’s Teahouse is perfect for a quaint, casual, delicious lunch with traditional tea and scones, and everything is made fresh daily. A trip to Columbia State Historic Park isn't complete until you've had ice cream from Brown's Coffee House & Sweets Saloon or the Fallon House Ice Cream Parlor.

Columbia City Hotel Restaurant salad     Columbia Kates Teahouse tea and sandwich

Theatre was an important part of the entertainment culture during this time. There weren't many options, so they put a lot of effort into every aspect of the experience. That holds true today, as these award-winning shows are held the beautiful, historic Fallon Theatre. Established in 1857,  the building has been fully renovated to both look the part, but also allow you to watch a show in comfort, namely with things like air conditioning. 

The talented casts of everything from musicals to comedies and dramas will delight, as you sit in comfort and maybe just forget what year it really is for a while. 

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