36 Hours in Rancho Cordova

Rancho Cordova is the ideal basecamp for exploration of northern California’s history, culture, and recreation, with easy access to Gold Country, Sierra Foothills Wine Country, the State Capital, and the Sacramento Valley region.

Day 1 – California Gold Country and Wine Country

Start in Rancho Cordova. Travel to the historic Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, where fortunes were made during the California’s Gold Rush. James W. Marshall discovered gold in 1848 on the South Fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah. This event led to the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and was the spark that ignited the spectacular growth of the West during the ensuing decades. The gold discovery site, located in the still visible tailrace of Sutter's sawmill, in present day Coloma, California, is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation. During the walking tour, see a replica of the original sawmill and over 20 historic buildings including mining, house, school, and store exhibits.

Travel along aptly-named Highway 49 to historic Placerville to explore the historic downtown, lined with art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. After lunch, continue down Highway 49 to the Sierra foothills Shenandoah Valley, where world-class wine tasting is offered in Amador County.

Dine at Hotel Sutter in Sutter Creek before heading back to Rancho Cordova for the night.

Day 2 – Capitol Exploration

Travel from Rancho Cordova to Old Sacramento. Explore the California State Railroad Museum, where train exhibits include beautifully restored engines and railcars, several which offer walk-through tours.

Afterwards, head across the street to explore Old Sacramento, and have lunch in one of the many restaurants, including riverfront establishments. Following a hearty meal, hop aboard the Hornblower Cruises boat for a narrated tour of the Sacramento River.

Once off the boat, head to the Crocker Art Museum to view the best collection of California art to be found anywhere.

Another option is to tour the California State Capital.

Day 3 – Waterways

Head to Lake Natoma and the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, which offers miles of flatwater famous for rowing, but also ideal for stand up kayaking, paddleboarding (SUP), sailing, and canoeing. Ply the placid waters and take in the wildlife surrounding this hidden gem onboard one of the Aquatic Center’s many rentals.

For lunch head to the Koreana International Marketplace, which features cuisine from around the globe. Choose from Russian-Ukrainian, Iranian, Mexican, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

After lunch, head to Folsom State Prison Museum - yes, the one made famous by Johnny Cash – for a tour.

To say cheers to the northern California tour, head to the American River Brewing Company for a sampling of the award-winning craft brews created by this establishment.