You don’t have to be a history buff to understand how the discovery of gold pretty much put California on the U.S. map. The Gold Rush began in 1849 and by the fall of 1850 California became the country’s 31st state. But a little bit of history goes a long way in places likes Sacramento and Placerville. You’ve cruised through both places a hundred times on the way to Lake Tahoe, so while you’re counting the days until snow, take a weekend to strike getaway gold.
Jaded San Franciscans will turn their noses up at the mere mention of Gold Country and sneer, "why would we want to go there?" However, if you give the rustic and under-the-radar Nevada City--the region's epicenter--the chance, you'll find it offers much-needed R&R with an authentic Western backdrop.