Columbia State Historic Park
Ages: 3 and up
Parking: Yes - free - dirt lot
Columbia State Historic Park — once a bustling, brawling gold rush town — sits at an elevation of 2,100 feet amongst the oaks of the Sierra Nevada foothills. In the mid 1800's, the town of Columbia was one of the largest cities in California, attracting people from other US states as well as other countries with promises of gold. In fact, between 1850 and the early 1900s, as much as $150 million in gold was mined in Columbia.
As deposits of gold dwindled, Columbia itself began to fall into a state of disrepair. Miners nearly cannibalized the town, tearing down vacated buildings to mine even the ground the town stood on. In 1945, the state of California acquired the town, making it a state park and began renovating the remaining buildings and rebuilding as needed to preserve the historic value of Columbia.
Today, Columbia State Historic Park has the largest single collection of gold-rush-era structures making the town an authentic, living mid-nineteenth century history lesson for visitors. Children will thoroughly enjoy gold panning at the Hidden Treasure Gold Mine (located at the south end of the Main Street), the Columbia Candy Kitchen (Main Street, south of State Street) where the walls are lined with old-fashioned confectionary treats, bowling down wooden pins with wooden balls on an uneven wooden plank lane at the Bowling Saloon (Main Street, north of State Street), Candle Dipping in the Garden Courtyard (Main Street, south of State Street), and walking through the small Columbia Museum (Main Street & State Street) where authentic weapons, personal care, household and schoolhouse goods are exhibited. On Main Street, visitors will find restaurants, a coffee & sweets shop, a child-friendly saloon and more.
Special events are held throughout the year, but the park is open everyday of the year aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas days, 10am - 5pm.
Some of the events Columbia holds each year:
- Columbia Birthday Celebration (March)
- Easter Victorian Parade & Easter Egg Hunt
- Firemen's Muster (early May)
- Memorial Day Salute
- Columbia Diggins 1852 (early June)
- Father's Day Fly-In
- Glorious 4th of July
- California Admission Day Parade (September)
- Back to School 1861 (September)
- Harvest FestiFall (early October)
- Illuminations of Jack-O'-Lanterns (Halloween weekend)
- Veterans Day Rememberance
- Special Holiday events (November - December)
Reviewed on 01/20/2012
Columbia State Park is a good place to introduce your kids to gold mining and the history of the gold rush. There's candle making and an old time candy shop which the kids always love. It's only 45mins from Modesto and just outside of beautiful Sonora. The gold mining activity was closed last time we were there because the cost of gold has risen so much they are actually mining there again, kind of a bummer for the kids but a good way to...more
Reviewed on 08/17/2011
A 45-minute drive is all it takes for old-fashioned fun and history to come alive at Columbia State Historic Park!
Columbia's Candy Kitchen is always the first stop we make on Main Street. Lollipops the size of their heads always entice the kids, but they typically end up with a handful of a modern favorite and a handful of an old-timey confection (candy coated licorice? sarsaparilla drops?).
With a sugar high...more
Reviewed on 08/09/2011
I love this Place! I went on a field trip to Columbia when i was in elementry school and loved it..and recently went as an adult with my husband and he liked the experience as well. This historic park is set up as a western town just like it would have looked in the 1800's. you can walk around and vist the local dentist, fire house, police station, restaurant, CANDY STORE, school, cemetary, blacksmith and jail. There is also a place where...more