There’s nothing like docents in period costume and demonstrations of old-time skills to get kids interested in history. Each fall at Marshall Gold Discovery Park, families (dogs included) from around the region turn out for Coloma Gold Rush Live, an evocative event featuring a living-history encampment, panning for gold, music of the miners and re-enactors telling stories of old.
If you can’t make it to that Oct. 12-15 event, mark your calendar for Gold Discovery Day, Jan. 20, commemorating the original 1848 discovery with living history, period trade demonstrations, music and a symposium.
In Tuolumne County, Columbia State Historic Park, “the Gold Rush town that never died” is the kind of place where lasting family memories are made. Unique among California state parks in that it is an inhabited community, Columbia’s business district is filled with businesses themed to the Gold Rush, with merchants in 19th-century garb selling everything from hand-made candy canes to dinner triangles forged at a working blacksmith shop. The most lively times to visit are on special-event weekends, including Gold Rush Days on the second Saturday of every month, when docents in period attire provide interpretation of exhibits not otherwise open to the public. There’s more, including a Fiddle & Bango Contest and Chili Cookoff Sept. 30, a Harvest FestiFall Craft Fair Oct. 14-15.
Dogs aren’t allowed inside buildings at the park, so plan on eating at a picnic table or, if it’s cool enough, letting your pup cuddle up in the car while you dine inside.