El Dorado: A Traveler’s Guide

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The area around El Dorado was once the epicenter of the Gold Rush and packed with prospectors looking to make their fortune. Today, it is a relaxing locale that offers fun and comfort away from the throngs of tourists who visit many of California’s better-known attractions. If you’re willing to take a twisty drive through the mountains, the rustic charm of El Dorado will pay you back.

Where to Stay

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Image Source: Yelp, Historic Cary House

Historic Cary House
300 Main St
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 622-4271
TripAdvisor: 3.5 stars, 162 reviews
Check availability

This historic hotel amid the redwoods and hills of Gold Country offers down-to-earth accommodations reminiscent of the Gold Rush era. Long-dead celebrities including Mark Twain and Elvis Presley have spent the night at the Historic Cary House, so you might end up sleeping the room where the King once spent a night. While simple and relatively unadorned, the rooms are very modern and spacious.

Insider tip: For those seeking a spookier El Dorado experience, many claim that the Historic Cary House is haunted.

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Image Source: Yelp

Eden Vale Inn
1780 Springvale Rd
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 621-0901
TripAdvisor: 5 stars, 235 reviews
Check availability

Revel in forested elegance at the Eden Vale Inn, an upscale bed & breakfast with rooms that include private outdoor soaking tubs. The sunny, quiet accommodations are so tranquil and laid-back, it will be hard to leave your room. The staff will greet you each morning with a complimentary gourmet breakfast with items like made-to-order French toast and asparagus omelets that redefine what a bed & breakfast can be.

Insider tip: Eden Vale Inn offers a white water rafting package with a special price for anyone who stays there.

Where to Eat

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Image Source: Yelp

Aji Japanese Bistro
4361 Town Center Blvd
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
(916) 941-9181
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 60 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

Gold Country might not be known for its Asian cuisine, but the authentic Japanese food and sushi at Aji Japanese Bistro could change that. Come for the high-end sushi and sashimi, but be sure to order some fresh oysters and ramen as well. The dining area is spacious and relaxed, never getting too stuffy nor too noisy.

Insider tip: You may not opt for chocolate cake at a Japanese restaurant, but the slices served up here are fantastic, as is the green tea crème brulee.

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Image Source: Diamond Springs Hotel

Diamond Springs Hotel
545 Pleasant Valley Rd
Diamond Springs, CA 95619
(530) 621-1730
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 20 reviews
Reservations: Not required

Diamond Springs Hotel is a former hotel that now shines as a cozy restaurant serving authentic country cuisine that would appeal to any gold miner—from 1849 or 2016. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the Diamond Springs Hotel serves plenty of Gold Country locals as well as those traveling through to Lake Tahoe. With most entrees under $12 a plate, one visit will convince you why.

Insider tip: On Friday and Saturday nights, Diamond Springs Hotel serves up a prime rib dinner for just $19.99 a person.

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Image Source: Yelp

Ruffhaus Hot Dog Company
4355 Town Center Blvd #114
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
(916) 941-3647
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 35 reviews
Reservations: Not required

Ruffhaus Hot Dog Company brings Chicago’s most famous culinary export to the middle of Gold Country. The unpretentious chefs gets creative with the humble hot dog here, building meaty masterpieces slathered with condiments including blackberry jam, macaroni and cheese, and alfalfa sprouts. A well-stocked beer selection means you’ll have plenty of choices to wash it down with.

Insider tip: Even vegetarians are welcome at Ruffhaus Hot Dog Company—the menu includes veggie dogs as well as meatless options like fried pickles.

What to Do

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Image Source: Yelp

Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

Lake Tahoe might get all the press, but Folsom Lake is a much quieter alternative that doesn’t require a curvy, mountainous drive. Folsom Lake State Recreation Area provides plenty of beautiful views of the Sierra Foothills alongside fields of wildflowers.

Insider tip: Rent a pole in town and fish the lake, which is plentiful with trout, catfish, bigmouth bass, and perch.

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Image Source: Yelp

Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

The California Gold Rush might be over, but at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, you can find out the history behind how Gold Country earned its name. Many 19th century buildings and monuments are still standing to give a taste how some of the first migrants to California lived their lives.

Insider tip: Twice a day, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park offers Gold Discovery Tours where guides lead you through the area’s history and tell a gripping narrative about life in El Dorado’s early days.

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Image Source: El Dorado County Adventure Loop

El Dorado County Adventure Loop

El Dorado County Adventure Loop connects the region and ties together shopping, history, and outdoor attractions like biking and rafting. A drive around the loop gives a full picture of the various sites, which include Placerville’s Historic Main Street and Penobscot Historic Ranch.

Insider tip: A walk down part of the trail is a fine way to create your own adventure, like panning for gold at the south fork of the American River.

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Image Source: Apple Hill

Apple Hill

Apples might not be the first things that come to mind when you think of California, but the acres of the sweet fruit surrounding El Dorado will change your impression. Apple Hill comes to life in the fall, when a series of apple orchards open their fields to those who know that apples taste even better when you pick them yourself.

Insider tip: Stop by any of the nearby bakeries to purchase an Apple Hill cake, a moist streusel cake popular during harvest season.

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Image Source: Yelp

Lotus Bonsai Nursery & Gardens
1435 Lower Lake Dr
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 622-9681

Lotus Bonsai Nursery & Gardens contains five acres of property that offer an off-the-beaten-path respite from any crowds. For the green-thumbed, you can pick up your own bonsai at the nursery to take home and care for. Even if you aren’t in the mood to buy, the tranquil lakes, expertly curated landscaping, and tiny trees are a unique way to cap any trip to Gold Country.

Insider tip: Check their website for monthly workshops on bonsai care available first-come first-serve for $65.

For solace in a luxe hotel room, adventure on a raging river, or down-home coziness at a favorite local restaurant, El Dorado is a remarkable place any time of the year.