The Best Things to Do in Placerville
Once the stomping ground of gold miners and prospectors, Placerville was a crucial player, if not the key player, in California’s growth. Nestled in the Sierra foothills in El Dorado County just 45 minutes from Sacramento, Placerville is centrally located between the urban landscapes of California’s capitol city and the natural wonders of the Lake Tahoe basin. It also has a rich agricultural heritage and is known for its mountaintop apple orchards and vineyards. Plus, its downtown core has quaint shops and delightful restaurants and cafés. Such diversity means there’s plenty to do in and around the Placerville area. Following are our top picks.
Step Back in History
The California Gold Rush began in 1848 with the discovery of Gold in Coloma, which is just ten miles from downtown Placerville. Eager gold miners flocked to the area in the hopes of striking it rich. The mining camp quickly grew into a city, and its 19th-century buildings and landmarks still line Main Street.
In the plaza, you’ll even find Placerville’s historic Bell Tower. The tower was erected in 1865 as an alarm system for firemen. Today, it stands as a monument in honor of Placerville’s volunteer firefighters. It serves as a gathering place for nearly all the community events, parades and celebrations.
Just minutes from downtown Placerville, the Eldorado National Forest has hundreds of opportunities for biking, hiking, camping, picnicking, swimming and fishing. Some of the best campgrounds near Sacramento are just minutes away, including Sunset-Union Valley and Sly Park Reservoir. It’s also home to Desolation Wilderness, a federally protected area with breathtaking landscapes and high alpine lakes. Serious hikers can even catch the Pacific Crest Trail from the Eldorado National Forest, a world-renowned trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada.
Passing through the forest is also the Rubicon Trail, one of the most revered 4-wheel drive trails in the world. It attracts adventurers from all across the globe during annual events like the Jeepers Jamboree and Rubicon Challenge. Though the trail is easily accessed in the summer, you can still access it in the winter to see some of the most beautiful icy snowscapes in the state.
Go Wine (or Beer) Tasting
Placerville is located in the heart of the El Dorado viticulture area. Varied terrain and elevations means dozens of wine grapes can be grown here, each reflecting their unique profiles in award-winning wines. Some good bets include Lava Cap Winery, which produces hearty Cabernet Sauvignon and fruit-forward Chardonnay, Madroña Vineyards, known for their Malbec and Gewurztraminer, and Boeger Winery, which has a lovely garden-like setting.
Wine not your thing? Luckily, the Placerville area is also home to several amazing craft breweries. Placerville Brewing Company is known for their strong blonde ale and vanilla stout, and they also serve pub fare like wings and burgers. Jack Russell Brewery is located on a scenic hilltop farm in the Camino area, and makes English-style ales from estate-grown hops. Located on Main Street, Outbreak Brewing Company has everything from lagers to IPAs, plus a fruity hard seltzer.
Visit Apple Hill
A visit to Apple Hill is the quintessential autumn day trip from Sacramento. With dozens of apple orchards, farms and wineries, it makes for a fun family outing. You can buy apples straight from the grower, of course, as well as apple pie, apple fritters, apple donuts, apple cider, apple jelly, apple wine — you get the idea. There are also local craft vendors, pumpkin patches, and beautiful fall scenery to boot.
Placerville’s Historic Main Street is a charming area known for its 19th-century architecture and locally-owned stores and boutiques. Following are some of our favorite spots for a little retail therapy:
- Placerville Hardware. The oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi, this old-timey hardware store is much more than nuts and bolts. They also have kitchen items, novelty gifts, holiday décor and souvenirs.
- The Bookery. This cozy bookstore has been a Main Street staple since 1981.They have every genre you could possibly want — from history and tourism to literature and theater.
- Tree House. This quaint shop is reminiscent of a cozy forest, filled with unique home décor, artwork, garden sculptures, and kitchen goods. During the holidays, it transforms into a sparkling wonderland with seasonal collectibles and ornaments.
- Placerville Antiques. It’s only natural that an old-fashioned town would have a store of old-fashioned things. Placerville Antiques has everything you can imagine from days gone by, from furniture and jewelry to glassware and books. They also have a large selection of collectible coins.
- Body Basics. If you’re in need of a little pampering, this longstanding bath and body shop will fit the bill. They have a custom fragrance bar with every essential oil imaginable, as well as shower gel, bath bombs, lotion and jewelry.
Grab a Bite to Eat
To stay fueled through all your outdoor adventures and shopping, you’re going to need a few square meals. And Placerville can provide! The farm-to-table mentality is alive and well here, so expect to see farm-fresh cuisine along with some old-school classics. Here are our favorite spots:
- Timmy’s Brown Bag. With a focus on seasonal ingredients, the menu here changes regularly. Everything is made in house from scratch, and includes tantalizing options like a cauliflower sandwich with Indian gravy, apple mustard braised bratwurst and a crab Rangoon sandwich.
- Heyday Cafe. Heyday has been family owned and operated since it opened back in 2007. They provide a relaxed community gathering place for locals and visitors so stop by for an amazing selection of fine foods. Dishes include pork osso buco, seared tuna with herbed farro, and flat iron steak with chimichurri.
- The Farm Table. The Farm Table uses the best of local and seasonal ingredients to offer some of the most decadent meals in town. Options include house-made sausage and pâté, empanadas, and gourmet soups, salads and sandwiches. They also have a large selection of local wines.
- Bricks. Bricks has created an amazing atmosphere by combining the history of their historic Main Street building with contemporary art and modern decor. They serve classic pub fare like calamari and wings alongside more elevated dishes such as blackened lamb chops tarragon Dijon cream and beef tenderloin with mushroom rosemary sauce.
- Powell’s Steamer Co & Pub. A Placerville staple since 1987, Powell’s serves classic pub fare and gourmet seafood. Try Powell’s Steamers — a bowl of fresh steamed clams — with one of 24 beers on tap. Or, sip on a glass of local wine with oysters on the half shell.
Make Yourself at Home
Placerville’s small-town charm, rich history and breathtaking natural beauty are a draw for visitors and locals alike. If you’re looking to put down roots here, there are a variety of options to suit your needs, from condos and townhomes to family homes and ranch properties with plenty of land to roam. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Placerville.