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Destination Third Thursday: El Dorado County

By Ashley Bisek 06/01/2021

For May’s Destination Third Thursday, El Dorado County Visitor’s Authority showed Visit California staff that their destination, famous for its Gold Rush history, has become a bonanza of outdoor adventure and tourism experiences that blend new and old fashioned.

Off the Dusty Trail
Though El Dorado is just up the road from Sacramento, visitors will find themselves transported by rustic architecture and rich history that harkens back to the California Gold Rush. For many, simply exploring the region’s backroads, trails and old-fashioned historic main streets provide more than enough reason to make the short drive.

Marshall State Park

El Dorado offers some of the most authentic mining and history of any California destination. This is no surprise: The nugget that kicked off the Gold Rush was discovered in El Dorado. Visitors can learn more about this history at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park — and try their hand at gold panning. The Gold Bug Park and Mine is a real mine with an immersive museum and historically accurate mining activities.

Outdoor Recreation

American River Raftgin
El Dorado County is home to numerous parks and recreation areas that show off spectacular California landscapes and are light on crowds. The area also offers many year-round accommodations for enthusiasts of popular outdoor activities like fishing, horseback writing, rock climbing, and cycling.

Perhaps the biggest draw for outdoor adventurers, however, is whitewater rafting on the American River. Visitors can book trips with OARS, which has safely guided groups of all ability levels down the river since 1969.

A Food & Wine Goldmine
The vibrant food scene found throughout El Dorado County reflects the areas more than 100 farms and ranches. In fact, one of the most popular activities in the area is fruit picking, famous in particular for its apples and berries.

It’s unsurprising that an area famous for its history would offer old-fashioned treats. One local favorite is Nibblers Popcorn, famous for its root beer flavor and 59 additional flavors.

Dining at Placerville winery

Grape-growing has also become a major industry in El Dorado, which is now home to 70 wineries boasting 76 varietals — many hard to find elsewhere in California and in high demand by winemakers throughout the state. There’s no better way to experience the variety on offer than the three-day Passport to the Great Out There tasting event, featuring local wines and farm-to-fork cooking. Organizers have reworked the event with table service and reservations to ensure COVID-19 safety and provide a more intimate experience.

Accommodations for All Types
Though many in California can make it to El Dorado County in time for a day trip, few will be able to experience even a fraction of the activities on offer. The area is known for its quaint bed and breakfasts, many of which are dog friendly.

Those looking to get outside without the hassle can book a tipi at Camp Lotus. El Dorado Visitor’s Authority has highlighted several equally unusual accommodations that can only be found in Gold Country.

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