Columbia State Historic Park is the kind of place where lasting family memories are made. Come in summer or during a special-event weekend, and youíll encounter rumbling stagecoaches, itinerant musicians, bonneted ladies in sweeping skirts and black-hatted characters who could go mano a mano with John Wayne. For city kids who have never before dipped candles, panned for gold or dressed up in 19th-century costume to have a portrait made, this Gold Rush town that never died can be as much fun as Disneyland (well, almost). Visitors with dogs will find lots of canine company on Columbia's old-timey streets and boardwalks, in its shady parks and even on those picturesque stagecoaches. The historic hotels in town don't accept four-legged guests, but the Columbia Gem not far away does, and for no additional fee.
Columbia is unique among California state parks in that it is an inhabited community. All businesses within the pedestrian-only historic district are themed to the Gold Rush, with merchants in 19th-century garb selling everything from hand-dipped chocolates to dinner triangles forged at a working blacksmith shop. Free, pet-friendly walking tours departing the park museum daily at 11 a.m. in summer and weekends the rest of the year offer an engaging way to learn about Columbia's colorful history.
The most lively time to visit is during Gold Rush Days on the second Saturday of every month, when volunteers in period dress staff a variety of venues. There's more outdoor activity to make tails wag on special-event weekends.
Photo: "Stagecoach Dog" - Peggy Harwell
Story posted 5/30/2011