A Weekend in Jamestown California
By accident, I had the recent opportunity to spend a weekend in the Gold country of California. Turned out this was a cool way to spend the weekend, and I recommend it. It is relaxing, fun and fairly inexpensive. This is a good family alternative for a long vacation that you may not have the money for this year.
I wound up tagging along with my son's Boy Scout troop, because I couldn't stay home alone for the whole weekend due to some medical conditions. I spent the weekend stationed in Sonora and Jamestown and it was wonderful. I intend to return. I still have places to see.
First, let's talk accommodations. Between Sonora and Jamestown, there are all kinds of rooms to rent and they run from expensive to less so. The is a full service Best Western in Sonora with a conference center for those who want modern accommodations. Then there are an assortment of bed and breakfasts, with local hotels thrown in. So, it is just what you want to have, and what you can afford. The rooms on the weekend start at around $50. Not to bad for two people. And they are even less expensive if you can go up during the week, although not all the parks are open.
Eats are next. There are many kinds of eats available. The Jamestown Dairy Queen is very good, and Jamestown has a pizza parlor that makes the best pizza I have ever had. Jamestown has a steak house in a haunted former hotel, and an upper scale restaurant. Sonora has more of the usual chain restaurants, plus several great breakfast places. We had a great time at this local restaurant which was covered in cows. Then there was the wonderful ice cream restaurant and gift shop. The food available in this area of tiny towns is amazing.
Activities? Well, they are definitely not the usual ones. First, there is the railroad museum in Jamestown. I don't like trains much, but I enjoyed this place up close. The train ride is fun too, although I recommend not riding the "movie" train engine if funds are at a premium. Look at the movie train, ride the cheaper ride that goes to the same place on the same track. The water tower from Petticoat Junction is here. Tired of trains? Well, there are the local gold panning places. For a small fee, you can pan for gold, and you will find some. You can keep it, or sell it back to the folks operating the site. This is cool, and not real expensive. From Jamestown, you can take a drive to Columbia state park. This park has caverns you can explore, stagecoach rides, more gold panning, horseback riding and more haunted eats. Columbia features a blacksmith if you go on the right days, and lost of old fire engines. Columbia has a great ice cream shop and a saloon that you can still get a drink and lunch at. There is also an area near Jamestown dedicated to the Chinese who worked there buliding the railroads. An early church is still preseved here, as is an older cemetary.
Sonora is a modern town, but it has the preserved home of General Vallejo, who used to own the whole area. This is a cool thing to see, and gives an example of how people lived in the past. Actually, you can see two homes of General Vallejo, the older one and his last home. If you want to do something modern, Sonora has a nice movie theater at very reasonable prices and there is shopping available at stores you will recognize.
What else? Well, it seems Jamestown is near two casinos. One of these is bigger, and has a great bowling alley. Not to mention the casino. Of course the casino is for adults, but the larger casino has some things like bowling, arcades and restaurants that those below age might enjoy. And who knows? You might just win your fortune here.
Back in Jamestown, the downtown is preserved in past shape. It is cool to walk around on the wooden sidewalks, which are pretty noisy. Trust me, you know if someone is coming on a wood sidewalk. Jamestown is also full of wonderful shops. My favorite was the animal carvings out of wood. I don't know what I would do with one, but I want one. Honorable mention goes to the the poppy china sold at the railroad park. I never made it to the Jamestown bookstore. Jamestown is a town of about 2000, and I enjoyed actually seeing a small town in California.
For those of you who are church going, Sonora features a variety of churches and modern stores. There are plenty of areas you can hike and picnic at. If you like visiting California missions, there are those in the area as well. Really, the Gold Country has something for everyone.
If you come from the Bay Area, it is a short drive of 2 to 3 hours through a beautiful area. You arrive feeling like you traveled, but not exhausted. You can't miss with a trip to the Jamestown-Sonora area.