Just three miles below Sonora, California is a little gem of a town, called Jamestown, or by some, “Jimtown.” I never miss stopping here when I’m on my way to Sonora or elsewhere in the Gold Country. For this article, I won’t write much about Sonora, but about a couple of other little towns in the area.
I enjoy the little antique shops, unique gift shops and eateries that line Main Street. I stayed there once years ago when I did a craft show. It was a very hot summer weekend and late Saturday afternoon the power went out – all over the western US. But I didn’t know this because I was in a teeny part of Sonora eating dinner where the power didn’t go out. Strange! When I got back to my B & B in Jamestown, we had no power all night or the next morning. It’s been a long time so I don’t know the name of the hotel I stayed at but it was a little inn on a corner on Main Street that had wonderful antiques and charming rooms. I remember being upstairs overlooking the courtyard where people congregated most of the night due to the heat and lack of power.
There is a little tiny antique and gift shop with a little white picket fence I like to visit. It’s also right on the main street and I think it might be called Jean’s. There is also a little Italian restaurant that is excellent. The ice cream at the coffee shop/diner (if it’s still there??) used to be excellent.
If you go through Sonora (instead of taking the freeway past most of it), and you make a left turn at the stoplight (Washington Street I think?) and drive a few miles you’ll reach the interesting of Columbia. This is a little mining town whose downtown that has been restored to look like an authentic western mining town. They have a fall festival and craft show every October and it’s a lot of fun. Most of the shop owners and workers dress up in period costume and so do the crafters and some of the visitors.
On the left side of the main highway there is an old drive in restaurant that has been converted to a regular restaurant. They have one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. It was very crowded the day I was there so be prepared to wait. There is also a very unusual tea shoppe in town – well, this was before tea became so popular and you do find many tea houses now. Lunch was very good, the tea excellent as was their bread. They sell the bread by the loaf also – it’s delicious. There are also gift items for sale throughout the shop.
There are several other good restaurants in town and a couple of motels. I recall a restaurant in front of a two or three story motel but I didn’t see it the last time I was in town so perhaps it’s no longer there. There is a single story motel on the right side of the highway and it’s a nice clean place to stay and fairly inexpensive. Unfortunately there is no pool.
If you have kids with you when you visit Columbia be sure to take the stagecoach ride – there is always a hold up somewhere en route. Take time to go through the shops and check out the saloon even if you don’t go indulge in an “adult drink.” And, remember to go stop at the candy store – they have the best black licorice ever and lots of other yummy treats. There is a very good restaurant on the same street but at the other end of the block – it’s excellent.
Columbia is also home to an excellent culinary college and a very good repertory theatre. The college hosts several groups of teenagers during the year for retreats and other activities.
There used to be a weekend flea market/swap meet that we sold at once but I don’t think it’s there anymore; I was unable to find any information on it and the site looked deserted the last time I was there. There is a flea market/swap meet every weekend at the fairgrounds in Sonora – it’s just below the buildings out in a large field. You can also fly into Columbia at their tiny airport. It’s close to downtown so you won’t need additional transportation.
There is lots to do in the area – good golf courses, antique stores to browse through, craft shows several weekends during the summer – Columbia (in the fall), Arnold – Memorial Day & Labor Day weekends, Twain Harte at the Epperson House in mid July and other ones one at Pinecrest and Big Bear. The Sonora Fair (ok, that’s not what’s its called! – it’s their county fair) is held every summer and is a lot of fun. Gold panning is fun, especially for the kids. The annual Jumping Frog Jubilee is held every spring in Angels Camp which is less than half an hour from Sonora.
Most of the motels and B & B’s are located in Sonora but there is one in Columbia, two just outside of Jamestown and one in Twain Harte (just above Sonora on Hwy. 108) If you prefer to camp there are several campgrounds in the area and cabins to rent are plentiful Many of the cabins are large enough for two families to share.
For those of you who enjoy gambling there is the Black Oak Casino near Sonora in Tuolumne. Chicken Ranch Bingo just below Sonora. I’ve not yet been to either places.
There are many places to explore in the Gold Country and you’ll want to return again and again.