Enriching family adventures in California’s Gold Country

Looking for an enriching family adventure? El Dorado County is the place to go.

Whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River — where James Marshall’s gold discovery started California’s famous 1849 gold rush — combines natural beauty, rich history and exhilarating rapids into one great family experience.

Let your pioneer spirit soar at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park where the whole family can try panning for gold in the American River and enjoy a picnic under the huge oaks. Hike to the statue of James Marshall overlooking the beautiful river canyon, and plan ahead to attend the park’s interpretive programs and “Live History Days.” Gold Bug Mine & Park features 60+ acres to explore, a 362-foot hard rock mine and gold panning.

A mile south of Coloma and Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, the first known Japanese settlement in North America and the gravesite of the first Japanese woman buried on American soil. The Wakamatsu colonists were the first to introduce traditional Japanese horticulture to California, including silkworm farming and the cultivation of tea, rice and fruit.  The 272-acre ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Get to know “locally grown” with an agricultural tour through Apple Hill® which boasts more than 50 farms featuring apples, you-pick berries, llamas, a fishing pond, Christmas trees and pumpkin patches. Enjoy artisan crafts and the aromas of fresh-baked apple pastries and other locally made goodies along the farm trail.

Looking for a true western experience? Dress the family in period costumes and register to ride along with the annual Wagon Train, celebrating its 74th year in June 2023. The region honors its golden past by welcoming the Wagon Train with events at stops along the way between Nevada and Placerville, culminating with a parade through downtown Placerville, cowboy poetry, music, a BBQ rib cook-off and entertainment.

Family-friendly lodging choices include:

Family-friendly trip ideas: