Exploring Jamestown, CA will have you reminiscing on old episodes of Gilmore Girls. You can just picture Lorelai and Rory trotting down Main Street, arm in arm, drinking coffee and bantering about the best songs of the 80’s. This town is picture perfect and reminds you of all the reasons why small towns can be so great.
History of Jamestown, CA
Jamestown is located in Tuolumne (pronounced two-all-oh-me) County and is one of three towns that are full of Gold Rush History. The other two are Sonora and Columbia, both just a few miles away. The town was named after Colonel George F. James, who was the first mayor but ended up fleeing the town in shame after a number of failed get-rich-quick schemes.
The town revolved around the railroad and the gold mines. In mid 1800’’s, trains and gold determined the way of life. Many residents of Jamestown worked on the railroad, while many miners were digging in hope of fortune.
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Things to do in Jamestown, CA
Wandering down Main Street
When exploring Jamestown, CA, wandering down the town’s Main Street is enough to keep you occupied for a while. There are a number of quaint shops, hotels and restaurants. The gazebo and classic architecture make for nice photographs.
I saw at least three antique shops while walking down the street. Whether you’re interested in antiquing or just want to do some window-shopping, these little shops are full of fun trinkets to see!
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
Just a ten-minute walk from Main Street, the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is a sight to behold. It has been in operation since 1897 and holds the historic roundhouse complex. A railway roundhouse is a place where trains are serviced and stored. These locomotives carried lumber, marble, ore, as well as passengers and goods.
This historic park was also the site where many movies and TV programs were filmed in Jamestown! These include “My Little Chickadee,” “High Noon,” and “Petticoat Junction.” The open space, historic railroad equipment and scenery made the location ideal for old movies!
For some more history of the Railtown you can read this article.
There are a few tracks with several trains on them. The day we visited the workers were dressed in their traditional uniforms to serve guests on the train and it was the last weekend of the Polar Express. Sad for us, the tickets were sold out in October when they went on sale. Every year from Thanksgiving to the third week of December, a train ride is organized based on the movie The Polar Express. It sounded like an amazing experience and we are determined to go next year now that we know about it.
While we were at the store learning about this polar express inspired train ride, I found a locally-made soda that was delicious. It is called Sarsaparilla Soda by Columbia Soda Works. I love supporting local businesses. This root beer was originally made in Columbia, CA just a few towns over. Once they became more successful, they needed to move to a larger facility. Now it is made in Modesto, CA (still local!).
Pan for Gold
Okay, honestly, we did not go on a gold-panning adventure, but it is an option! I have heard, allegedly, that due to the droughts in the recent past, the river level has lowered causing more nuggets of gold to emerge! So who knows, maybe you can strike it rich on your trip exploring Jamestown.
There is a small shop on Main Street called the Gold Prospector, which houses a huge sign in the front “Pan for Gold.” You can’t miss it! They have a cute shop inside and can help you get started on your gold panning adventure.
There are a few places on Main St. that offer wine tasting. Gianelli Vineyards was voted the “best local wine” and their tasting room is located right across the street from Jamestown Hotel. My aunt is a member of the Inner Sanctum Winery, which is also a great place to taste.
There is certainly more to do while exploring Jamestown, CA, so check it out and let me know what other things you enjoyed!
Where to Eat in Jamestown, CA
We got hungry about an hour into exploring Jamestown, CA so we headed to Willow Steakhouse and Seafood Grille. We saw the list of specials outside, which looked amazing and were fairly priced.
We both decided to order specials, which were sandwiches that came with a side of soup. We both chose clam chowder, which was my husband’s first time trying it. I tried to explain that clams are a type of seafood, but later we realized, he thought I meant it was chicken! He tried it and loved it, which made me so happy. He is not the most adventurous eater. Later when we got home and realized his misunderstanding, we agreed it was a good thing or else he would not have tried it.
He got the Prime Rib Sandwich and I got the Ham Delight. His had beef, grilled onions and bell peppers, and Monterey Jack cheese. Mine had ham, bacon, and cheese. Both came with a generous-sized slick of a pickle. It was the perfect lunch in a quaint little space. We chose a table next to the small furnace, which gave warmth to the entire restaurant. My husband got a coffee to go and we continued on our journey of exploring Jamestown, CA.
Traveling to Jamestown, CA
Jamestown is in Tuolumne County and we drove there using Highway 108-E. This will change depending on where you are coming from. Tuolumne County is located right by Yosemite National Forest and places like Half Dome and the cliffs of El Capitan are not too far via Highway 120. Jamestown is just under 150 miles from San Francisco.
Local Life in Jamestown, CA
We arrived in town around 11:30 am, which was even later than I had originally wanted. We parked on Main Street and started walking by the shops. Then I noticed something funny. Hardly anything was open, yet!
Since we couldn’t venture inside, we decided to start snapping some pictures on the street and in a small park with a beautiful gazebo (re: Gilmore Girls episodes). Since it is Christmas time there were decorations everywhere and it made the charm 11/10. We also noticed some Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting at the park, but they didn’t try to convert us as we passed by. I appreciated that.
After about an hour slowly walking up and down the same street, we were a bit hungry. That is when we headed to Willow Steakhouse and Seafood Grille. While we were there, the bartender and a man were talking about aliens for about twenty minutes as we at our clam chowder. Right as we sat down, the man asked the bartender “Do you believe in aliens?” and it just spiraled from there. It was pretty good lunchtime chatter.
Every time we walked passed someone on the street they would say “Hello,” “How are you?” “Getting some good pictures?” and “Have a nice day.” It was startling in the best way possible. A couple offered to take a photo for us as we tried to take a artsy picture of my locally made root-beer. Every time we had to cross the street, cars yielded to us. I grew up in a small-ish town, but this was another level of politeness. I thought it could be in the Midwest! Needless to say, Jamestown is a charming city that had equally charming people to go along with it.
We finished our day drinking hot chocolate (for hubby) and hot cider (for me) in the town of Sonora, CA. It is just a few miles over from Jamestown, and Sonora’s downtown was just as quaint as Jamestown’s. We visited the Heart Rock Coffee Company, which had a room full of knick-knacks for sale that you’d see from grandma’s house. I both enjoyed its quaintness and felt irritated with the clutter at the same time; but the drinks were delicious!
While walking down the street we saw the most beautiful red church and the same historic architecture we saw while exploring Jamestown. I am looking forward to seeing more of what Sonora has to offer and plan to share about it in the future! For now, I hope you enjoyed this article about exploring Jamestown, CA!