48 Hours in Placerville
By Amelia McLear
Placerville is the county seat of El Dorado County and full of California Gold Country charm. It’s a one of my favorite seasonal destinations for apples and pumpkins and its surrounding wineries are a short—and tasty—trip from Sacramento. My finance and I have been taking weekend getaways in Placerville for the past four years and we are never disappointed. In fact, we just finished taking our engagement pictures up here last weekend, and it was a nice opportunity to relax and create some fun shots in a town we both adore.
Distance to Sacramento:
Approximately 45 miles northeast from downtown Sacramento along Highway 50. According to the Placerville Downtown Association, the City of Placerville (approximately 1,800 feet elevation) is perfectly located “above the fog line and below the snow line.”
Rolling foothills, apple orchards, vineyards, oak trees and views of the snow-capped Sierra mountains.
Casual. Jeans, boots and sweaters are the uniform up here.
With the laid-back vibe of the town and pet-friendly Apple Hill farms and wineries, Fido is definitely welcome up here on a day-trip. But double-check with your lodging before bringing him overnight—I didn’t find much listed.
Centro Coffee House (385 Main Street) has great coffee and a great view of the old downtown. It’s located directly across from the historic Bell Tower, which was once used as the town’s fire alarm, but is now a gathering place for parades and other events. Centro also has free Wifi.
Sweetie Pies Restaurant and Bakery (577 Main Street) is located inside an old Victorian house and is super popular. I have tried to go three separate times for breakfast and it’s always packed, so alas I have not personally tried their food. I will keep trying though, because their menu sounds pretty delicious!
Lunch and Dinner:
Z Pie (3182 Center Street) offers a variety of “gourmet pot pies” in a bunch of different flavor combinations and has a ton of vegetarian options. They also serve salads, soups, appetizers and desserts. This is another spot I have yet to try, but so many others have recommended it, that I’m adding it to the list.
Hey Dey Café (325 Main Street) is so delicious and my favorite spot for dinner in Placerville. If you eat anywhere in town, it must be this spot. Great wine list and tasty appetizers, pizza and entrées. The service is friendly and efficient. They also have a bar area where you can grab a drink before dinner if you so choose.
Café Luna (451 Main Street, #8) was recommended to us by the folks at our bed & breakfast. The food is delicious and comes in large portions. The staff is generous about providing tastes of various wines before you make your selection.
Liar’s Bench (255 Main Street) is definitely the local hangout/dive bar. Fun, lively atmosphere and cheap, stiff drinks. One of the only places open in town after 10:00 p.m.
The Wine Smith (346 Main Street) is a cute tasting room that specializes in local wines from the Sierra Foothills. The people are super-friendly and are generous with their pours. The Wine Smith describes itself as the “Cheers” of Placerville.
A Place to Lay Your Head:
Cary House (300 Main Street) was built in 1857 and offers 38 guest rooms steeped in local history (with furniture to match!). We stayed at the Cary House for our first weekend-getaway in Placerville, and it’s not fancy by any means, but it’s centrally-located and reasonably-priced. Walk in and grab a copy of the hotel’s history and learn about the ghosts who wander the halls.
Wine-tasting in El Dorado County
El Dorado Wine Country has some tasty gems and is easily accessible from Placerville. Some of my favorites are: David Girard (their Grenache is an amazing value, but is sold out until May 2011!); Miraflores (great Syrah and dessert wine) and one called Skinner Vineyards that I am anxious to try after reading this recent review in the Sacramento Bee. In general, the community of Fair Play, about 17 miles from Placerville, has the most well-known El Dorado County wineries.
There are over 50 apple farms in the Placerville area. They are typically open to the public between Labor Day and Christmas and offer everything from fresh apples and baked goods, to crafts and knick-knacks. They also have growers that allow you to pick the fruit yourself and growers that offer organic fruit. My all-time favorite apple farm is High Hill Ranch, which has literally everything: a hay ride through the orchards, a small lake to go fishing, huge apple pies, hot apple wine and amazing apple fritters! My mom always asks me to get a box of apples for her this time of year so she can make homemade applesauce. Many of these apple farms also have pumpkin patches and Christmas trees farms.
Gold Rush history
The town of Coloma, where James Marshall first discovered gold at Sutter’s Sawmill in California in 1848, is 10 miles from Placerville and worth a visit, if only to conjure up memories of your fifth-grade California history field trip. That discovery of gold on the south fork of the American River led to thousands of fortune-seekers flooding northern California in subsequent years, with Placerville serving as an important commercial hub and mining town. More gold rush history can be found at the El Dorado County Historical Museum (104 Placerville Drive).