If you ever wanted to know what a real Gold Rush town in California was like during its heyday, just travel to Columbia. The town is extraordinarily well-preserved almost as if frozen in time. The town has the largest collection of gold rush era brick buildings still standing in California. But this is no ghost town. The buildings are occupied with businesses like saloon, shops, hotels and restaurants.
Columbia was founded in 1850 by a group of prospectors. In 1854, a fire destroyed the entire town except for the one brick building. When the citizens rebuilt, they used locally made bricks and used iron doors and shutters to protect against fire. They also formed a volunteer fire department. Columbia survived further fire, vandalism and the end of the Gold Rush to become an incredible gem in the Gold Country. Columbia has been used in several TV shows and movies.
Every Saturday, a park staff member or docent leads an hour-long tour of the town. You can learn about the buildings and early merchants of Columbia. Every 2nd Saturday, Columbia hosts Gold Rush Days when many and venues that are not normally open to the public and staffed by people in period dress.
Many of the historic buildings are now occupied by merchants. You can saddle up to the bar for old-fashioned sarsaparilla, watch candy and candles being handmade the old-fashioned way, and even spend the night in an 1850’s hotel. You can also play 10-pin bowling, have a picture taken in period costume or watch a play.
List of merchants: columbiacalifornia.com
Stagecoach Rides/Gold Panning
Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can hitch a ride on an authentic stagecoach. If you want to strike it rich yourself, you can try your hand at panning for gold.
Stagecoach Rides – Quartz Mountain Stage Line: 209-588-0808
Gold Panning & Tours – Matlock Gulch Mining Company: 209-532-9693
Nearly every weekend, Columbia plays host to a special event from fiddle Contests to art shows and many, many holiday events. The candy cane making events at Columiba Candy Kitchen are so popular, you must sent a postcard BEFORE Labor Day to enter a lottery for reservations!!
For more information: Columbia Calendar of Events
Get there early, most shops and businesses close up at 5 p.m. Restaurants, saloons and theaters stay open earlier. Park exhibits and businesses are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Parking and admission are free.
Columbia State Historic Park
11255 Jackson Street
Columbia, CA 95310