California Welcome Center
Outside of Auburn off I-80, at exit 121, the California Welcome Center has statewide information.
The chamber of commerce has self-guided walking tours and tons of information.
The Tahoe National Forest Headquarters , on Hwy 49 at the north end of Coyote St, has hiking and backcountry info, including details about area mountain biking trails.
If you're cruising this part of the state without time to explore, the best pit stop is off I-80 at exit 121. This place feeds Tahoe-bound travelers thick, grass-fed burgers, homemade pies and snacks. The seasonal fresh peach shake is deliriously good.
The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park makes an eerily quiet tribute to the riotous discovery, with a replica of Sutter's Mill, restored buildings and short hikes. There's a statue of Sutter himself, who, in one of the many ironic twists of the gold rush, died a ward of the state.
One mile north of town on Bedford Ave, Gold Bug Park is on the site of four mining claims that yielded gold from 1849 to 1888. You can visit the Gold Bug Mine and Stamp Mill, do some gold panning and explore the grounds and picnic area for free.
Most buildings along Main St date back to the 1850s, and many places stock the good, free walking-tour brochure. One delightful stop is the still-authentic 1852 Placerville Hardware, the oldest continuously operating hardware store west of the Mississippi River. One area is devoted to gift items but much of the store is just the place to go if you want an unusual screw.
Placerville's bars are akin to the neighborhood watering holes in the Midwest: they open at 06:00, get an annual cleaning at Christmas and are great for people who want to soak up local color. Marked by vintage signs, the Hangman Tree is built over the stump of the eponymous tree, and the Liars' Bench.
Expect to see patrons sitting in the lotus position at this funky place in an 1859 building. The menu is organic and boasts vegetarian and healthy fare plus treats like fresh smoothies. There's a good selection of microbrews and live music on weekends, when it often stays open late.
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