Things to do in Placerville, California
Placerville is at the heart of everything. It’s surrounded by vineyards, within minutes of Apple Hill farms and serves as the county seat for El Dorado. Nestled in the Sierra Foothills between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, there are sandy beaches in one direction and ski slopes in the other. Proximity to these natural wonderlands makes it a popular destination for recreation. Determined outdoorsmen can explore El Dorado National Forest and Ice House Reservoir in the same day!
That’s not to say Placerville is made just for the outdoor adventurer. It’s the perfect town for history buffs, foodies, antiquers, and connoisseurs of every type. Whether you’re spending an hour or a lifetime in the area, there’s plenty to fall in love with in this quaint town.
A Quick History Lesson
The California Gold Rush of the 1840s was essentially started when the discovery of gold in Coloma became national news. Just ten miles from Placerville, people rushed to Coloma, panning and mining throughout the area until they eventually spread into the rest of California.
Founded as a gold rush town right in the heart of the movement, Placerville was named for the placer deposits found in the river bed between Spanish Ravine and the town plaza. As the city developed from a mining camp to a city, Main Street became the hub for every man, woman and child to come together. This treasured heritage is reflected in the charming nineteenth-century architecture of downtown — the heart of Placerville.
Historical buildings, landmarks and placards are all over the city. In the plaza, you’ll even find the historic Bell Tower. For just $380 the tower was erected in 1865 as an alarm system for firemen. Today, it stands as a monument in honor of Placerville’s volunteer firefighters. It serves as a gathering place for nearly all the community events, parades and celebrations.
For more Placerville and area history, visit Fountain-Tallman Museum while you’re in town! Located in the Fountain & Tallman Soda Works Building — the oldest building in town — it is referred to as the “Biggest Little Museum in the West.”
Because Placerville is in the perfect spot above the fog line and below the tree line, it has ideal weather all year and four distinct seasons. So no matter what time you visit, you’ll be able to spend time outdoors. This time of year, just remember to bring a few extra layers.
Photo courtesy of USFS | J Garcia
Eldorado National Forest hosts over 2.1 million visitors each year. Just minutes from downtown Placerville, you’ll have access to over 80 developed campgrounds and picnic areas, hundreds of miles of roads and trails, multiple large lakes and reservoirs, innumerable miles of rivers and streams, great scenery, and an abundance of plant and wildlife. It’s the ideal destination for anyone who enjoys the outdoors — whether you’re an adventurer or a sun bather.
Photo courtesy of Donna Peter
The sport of auto racing arrived in Placerville in 1965 with the construction of Placerville Speedway. Now in its 50th year of operation, the speedway is home to one of the best Saturday night racing programs on the west coast. Since its debut, the track has been an excellent resource for family entertainment and has brought in fans from all over the county. It is now one of California’s oldest racing venues and is recognized in the nation as one of the crown jewels in dirt track racing.
The Rubicon Trail System is famous across the country as a destination for hiking, biking and ATVing. Running from Georgetown, CA to Tahoma, CA at Lake Tahoe, the trail can be reached one hour from Placerville.
It started as an Indian trade route before Europeans ever arrived in California, became a stagecoach route and is currently one of the premier 4-wheel drive trails in the country. Though it is easily accessed in the summer, you can still walk it or bike it in the winter and see some of the greatest landscape views in the state.
Explore Main Street
Main Street is historical in its architecture and its abundance of locally owned stores and boutiques. Get a feel for the history and the modern character of the town via some of its best shopping destinations.
Photo courtesy of The Bookery
This cozy bookstore has been a Main Street staple since 1981. They have every genre you could possibly want — from history and tourism to literature and theater. What’s more, they have a lovable store dog named Abbie, so you’ll always be greeted with a smile and a wagging tail.
The Painted Owl + The Green Sparrow Boutique
These two boutique shops share their Main Street location so you can revamp your home furnishings and your wardrobe all in one place! Heidi, owner of the Painted Owl, crafts and repurposes home decor pieces and sells materials so you can create your own masterpiece.
Alongside this decor, The Green Sparrow Boutique sells adorable, hand-picked clothing and accessories for everyone in your family. Stop by to restyle your life and your home!
Photos courtesy of Fox and Forage
If you’re looking for something to spice up your home, stop by Fox and Forage. They sell vintage treasures for modern decor in a charming Main Street boutique. For a preview of their products, check out their Etsy shop, buy a couple statement pieces, then stop by and say hello!
This store is one of our favorites because of its products, of course, but especially because of its atmosphere. Walk in during the holiday season and you’ll enter a festive wonderland. The rest of the year, the store reminiscent of a cozy forest — but a forest filled with home decor and lifestyle treasures!
Grab a Bite to Eat
To stay fueled through all your outdoor adventures and shopping trips, you’re going to need a few square meals. And Placerville can provide! Since it’s so close to Sacramento, a bit of that farm-to-table mentality is thriving in this small town, as well as a few old school, hearty classics!
Photo courtesy of Native Grains
Native Grains is a health food bakery making breads, pastries, pizza crusts and — our favorite — waffles, all from scratch! They use only whole grain stone-milled flour and use organic ingredients as much as possible. Stop by for breakfast and grab a freshly made waffle topped with either greek yogurt or butter, almonds or walnuts, and blueberries, strawberries or bananas. You can even get organic maple syrup and peanut butter!
Alongside their cozy coffee house atmosphere and artfully crafted espresso drinks, Cuppa Cuppa serves a small breakfast menu filled with homemade classics. Try a slice from one of their delicious quiches or a fresh scone for something sweet.
Photo courtesy of Timmy’s Brown Bag
To stay entertained and keep up with seasonal produce and availability, the menu at Timmy’s Brown Bag changes daily. The owner, Tim, cooks everything with help from one other chef. And wait until you see their menu! You may be overwhelmed by all the options and the amazing descriptions, but whatever you choose is guaranteed to be delicious.
Heyday has been family owned and operated since it opened back in 2007. They provide a relaxed community gathering place for locals and visitors so stop by for an amazing selection of fine foods. Their lunch menu has salads, soups, paninis and pizzas all topped with some of the best and unique combinations we’ve seen. If you’re not sure what to choose, try the Artichoke and Bacon pizza with pesto!
Photos courtesy of The Farm Table
The Farm Table uses the best of local and seasonal ingredients to offer some of the most decadent meals in town. And in the friendliest atmosphere! Their homemade sausage is a must-try so we recommend the Daily Sausage Sandwich with a pretzel bun and house-made condiments.
Bricks has created an amazing atmosphere by combining the history of their historic Main Street building with contemporary art and modern decor. All this alongside fun, delicious comfort food and local brews and wines. You can’t go wrong with any of their gourmet options.
A Placerville staple since 1987, Powell’s serves classic pub fare and seafood in gourmet style. Try Powell’s Steamers — a bowl of fresh steamed clams — with one of 24 beers on tap. Or, sip on a glass of local wine while live music fills the space. There’s a show nearly every night. You don’t want to miss this exciting atmosphere!
Indulge at a Local Brewery or Winery
Located right in the foothills, Placerville is not only surrounded by apple farms. There are also world-class vineyards and breweries right down the street. So sample a little local color while you’re in town!
The Nello Olivo grounds are rich in history. In the gold rush days, the land was home to Bennett Winery. Right across the street from the old railway and the local stagecoach stop, it was a hot spot for locals. Now that Nello and Danico Olivo have renewed the land after its Prohibition-era destruction, the winery is reliving its glory days.
Visit their tasting room just 15 minutes from the vineyard inside the wine cellar of historic Bee-Bennett house. You’ll get the chance to sample their finest wines and learn a little history while you’re at it!
The atmosphere at Placerville Brewing Co. has a little bit of everything so anyone can feel comfortable. They have a full menu, local wines and ciders as well as their very own brews on tap. Embracing the rich agriculture and brewing history of Placerville, their decor features historical relics from area brewpubs — both old and modern.
Goldhill added a brewery to their winery operations in 1999 so they could have the best of both worlds. The vineyard has been producing award winning Bordeaux reds and Chardonnay since 1985 and more recently added Italian and Rhone varietals. A dog-friendly venue, you can bring your furry family member along for a picnic or reserve a private party on the grounds!
Celebrate at an Annual Event
As the seat for El Dorado County, Placerville is home to various county-wide events throughout the year. With a few local events thrown in, it makes this small town one of the friendliest and most community-centered. Plan your trip around one of our favorites!
Photo courtesy of El Dorado County Fair | Suzanne Wright
The history of the El Dorado County Fair dates all the way back to 1859. The first one was held in Coloma and it bounced around from town to town until it found a permanent home in Placerville. In an effort to promote agriculture and animal education, local resource and industrial promotion, entertainment, competition, youth development and community outreach the fair hosts a multitude of events.
You’ll be able to see livestock competitions and auctions, rodeo events, exotic animal exhibitions, concerts and more. In the past, Placerville has hosted everything from tigers to Willie Nelson. It’s held in June each year, so mark your calendars now!
Another county-wide event, the 4th of July Family Blast is a patriotic celebration you don’t want to miss. It’s packed with kid-friendly attractions — from bounce houses to hay mazes and water slides and it’s the perfect place for a festive picnic. Stick around until dark and you’ll get a concert and a firework show!
Cowboys and Cornbread is one of the most anticipated events in the area every year. It’s home to Brewfest, a horse show, mutton bustin’, the harmonica championships, cornbread, salsa and chili contests, and cowboy poetry. You’ll get to play horseshoes and corn hole, take a stagecoach ride, pan for gold and much, much more! Needless to say, schedule a visit to Placerville in July so you don’t miss this event.
Photo courtesy of Placerville Downtown Association | Bill H. Robinson
The Annual Festival of Lights closes down Main Street each year and opens the holiday season. Usually scheduled after Thanksgiving, the whole family is invited to meet Santa, listen to music, celebrate local businesses and start the town’s holiday celebrations. This year’s event is set for November 25. Don’t miss the lighting of the Christmas tree at 6 p.m.!
Photos courtesy of Placerville Downtown Association | Bill H. Robinson
On the first Sunday of December each year, Placerville comes together to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season. For admission, just bring along an unwrapped gift for the Toys for Tots drive. The whole family will get the chance to meet Santa, take a ride in the free stagecoach, watch the Christmas parade and much, much more. Visit Main Street on December 4th this year so you don’t miss it!
Every third Saturday of the month, downtown Placerville galleries and shops keep their doors open late and invite everyone in the community to celebrate together. You’ll get to see the openings of brand new art shows, experience live demonstrations and music as well as sample free refreshments from local makers.
Make Yourself at Home
So now you’re officially in love with Placerville, right? Its small town charm, community-centered environment and rich history have won you over. We know — us, too.
Real Estate in Placerville range from condos and townhomes to family homes and ranch properties with plenty of land to roam. Wherever you look, you’ll see homes with the historical charm we’ve all come to expect in Placerville.
What do you love about Placerville?
If we missed your favorite characteristic or spot in town, let us know! There are so many reasons to love Placerville.