Blast into Placerville's Past

Get a taste of wines, gold mines, and pioneer history in the Sierra foothills.


The stained-glass windows gracing the lobby in Placerville’s Cary House Hotel ( tell of wagon trains crossing the Sierra Nevada, prospectors panning for gold, and fruit orchards bursting into bloom. Placerville began with the Gold Rush. As the rush slowed, the farms and timber continued, but this foothills town, a two-hour drive from Oakland, never lost sight of its history. From its 1857 origin as a stage stop and Wells Fargo office, the Cary evolved into a cozy hotel whose guests enjoy wine-tasting and Wi-Fi amid quaint Victorian décor.

Historic buildings along the Main Street of this county seat formerly known as Hangtown are filled with art, antiques, and funky shops. Step into Placerville Hardware, the West’s oldest, for a look at the original wooden tool bins and rolling ladders. Breakfast is the main event at Sweetie Pie’s (, where huge portions come with great service in the little Victorian house with the iron fence. In the Soda Works building across the street, the Cozmic Café ( offers vegetarian dishes, great coffee, and a side order of mellow. Don’t miss the tunnel at the back of the café in which ice and soda were once stored.

Held each month, the Third Saturday Art Walk ( is show-off night for Placerville’s thriving arts community. Enjoy a glass of local wine and savor live music as you meet local artists and watch them demonstrate their techniques.

Recent years have found old orchards just east of town giving way to vineyards and specialty farms. Between the apple-pie shops and wineries along El Dorado County’s Farm Trails (, you’ll find lavender, persimmons, honey, olives, citrus, and flowers. Most of the area’s wineries, including Boeger Winery (, offer free tastings and patios with lovely pastoral views.

For a deeper dive into history, the El Dorado County Historical Museum ( is packed with mining and railroad equipment, farm exhibits, a fully outfitted general store, and a stagecoach. Prospectors will love Gold Bug Park (, an authentic Gold Rush–era mine that features tours, a museum, and a working stamp mill.