- Hours: Open daily, but museum is closed on Thanksgiving and December 25
- Reservations: Not required
- Cost: Free admission and free tours. Some special events and activities require a fee
- Location: North of Sonora (directions below)
- How Long: Allow 2 hours to walk around, more if you have a meal or do some of the activities
- Best Time to Visit: Weekend, when more activities are held
Visiting Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia began in 1850, during the California Gold Rush and soon boomed into a thriving town with a busy commercial district, once the second largest city in California. Today, the mid-19th Century shops and buildings are preserved for 21st Century visitors to see.
That doesn't mean that Columbia is a sterile museum, though. Many of the shops house modern enterprises selling hand-made candies, souvenirs and other items. More than half a dozen restaurants, cafes and saloons serve a wide array of food and drink. Visitors can even stay in the old Columbia Hotel (which is said to be haunted).
People of all ages like to visit Columbia, but children seem to especially enjoy it, having so much fun they don't realize they're learning a little about history. The whole family can pan for gold, ride a horse-drawn stagecoach, make a strike of a different type at the bowling alley or get a sugar rush licking a handmade lollipop from the Columbia Candy Kitchen.
In summer, you can take a free, guided town tour and on the second Saturday of every month, costumed docents lend a touch of reality to Gold Rush Days.
Fans of Western films should note that scenes from the classic High Noon was filmed in Columbia. Find all the High Noon Locations
Columbia's event calendar is one of the busiest of any state park, with something going on almost every week. In April, an adults-only nightlife event recreates the bawdier side of the Gold Rush era, if only for a few hours.
Getting to Columbia State Park
Columbia State Historic Park
11255 Jackson St.
Columbia State Historic Park website
Columbia is 3 miles north of Sonora on California Hwy 49.