Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for family, friends, copious amounts of food, and perhaps a football game or two. For folks looking for something beyond that, or families seeking activities that don’t involve shopping or television, you’re in luck, for there are plenty of interesting, fun, and educational things to do in El Dorado County this holiday.

Check out our top family-friendly activities in El Dorado County this Thanksgiving.

1. Watch the Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights in Historic Placerville is an annual family-friendly tradition that’s a great way to kick off the holiday season! Sponsored by the Placerville Downtown Association, the old-fashioned festivities will close Historic Main Street and feature music, entertainment, visits with Santa, and more at various locations up and down Main Street. The tree lighting begins at 6 pm at the Courthouse.
>> Festival of Lights – Runs Friday, November 23 from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Call 530-672-3436 for information.

Kids in Gold Bug Mine, El Dorado County

Gold Bug Park & Mine is fun for kids of all ages.

2. Visit a Gold Mine

Pack a picnic lunch (turkey leftovers optional) and head to the Gold Bug Mine and Park. This genuine gold mine, situated on 60 acres, is offering extended hours during Thanksgiving weekend. Take a self-guided audio tour of Gold Bug Mine or walk off that extra helping of pie on the newly opened Deer Hollow Trail. This interesting and educational self-guided walk explores the park’s unique mining history and how the landscape and natural habitats were altered in the quest for gold. The stamp mill, museum and miner’s blacksmith shop will all be open as well.
>> Gold Bug Mine – Open Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25 from 10 am to 4 pm.

3. Ride the El Dorado Western Railroad

Kids and kids at heart will enjoy the El Dorado Western Railroad, the oldest railroad line west of the Mississippi River. Take a ride on a special “Long Run” operating from Shingle Springs Depot to El Dorado Station and returning to Shingle Springs Depot on Sunday, November 25. This unique train ride only happens four times a year!
>> El Dorado Western Railroad – Open Sunday, November 25. To reserve your spot on the two-hour “Long Run” train ride call 530.626.8688.

Imagination Theater plays

There have been a variety of musical performances and plays at the Imagination Theater. Photo: Imagination Theater

4. Watch Live Musical Theater

Kids of all ages will enjoy the live theatrical performances at the Imagination Theatre in Placerville. This year’s performance is Madeline’s Christmas, which opens Friday, November 23. Advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged.
>> Imagination Theatre – Performances will be held Friday and Saturday, November 23-24, at 7 pm and on Sunday, November 25, at 2 pm. Purchase tickets online or call 530-642-0404.

Christmas Tree farm

The Christmas tree farms in El Dorado County aren’t just about trees, but also hot cider, mini train rides, and more.

5. Get a Christmas Tree

Get a leg on the Christmas season by getting your tree. Make it a fun outing and visit one of the Christmas tree farms in El Dorado County (think hot drinks, kiddie train rides, and more). If you’re looking for more adventure, you can cut down your own tree (but be sure to secure your permit early, as they do sell out!).
>> Christmas tree farms in El Dorado County
>> Christmas tree permits in El Dorado County

Woman hiking in grass cronin ranch

6. Take a Hike

Work off the holiday meal, enjoy some fresh air, and stretch your legs with a hike. You’ll find numerous trails of varying lengths in the foothills and lower elevations, including the El Dorado Trail, Dave Moore Nature Area, and Cronan Ranch trail network.
>> Short hikes in El Dorado County
>> Hiking trail map
>> More hiking information

Discover more holiday events and activities in El Dorado County.