Adventure back to the 1840s when gold was struck in California! Officially discovered in 1848, the Gold Rush initiated the single largest migration in American history. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurial, hopeful prospectors left their homes and made their way to the West Coast where fame and fortune awaited. Sound familiar? There's plenty of things to be done with your student group on an educational adventure from exploring Gold Country to discovering gold yourself in a panning exercise deep in the heart of historic parks. California is still the Golden State, and for good reason, so explore its history and intrigue on an educational student trip!
- Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park - Head to the origin of the entire Gold Rush, in between the cities of Auburn and Placerville. See the place where it all started as you explore the park on the edge of the American River. There's plenty to see and do including taking lessons on gold panning to participating in the Junior Ranger Program or seeing the Living History events. See everything from the historic Blacksmith's shop to Emmanuel Church (ca. 1855), the old jail, Marshall's Cabin, and of course, the discovery site itself. Download the park's own app to take a more informational self-guided tour through the site.
- Empire Mine State Historic Park - During the Gold Rush, roughly 25 million ounces of gold was taken from the earth, 5.8 million ounces of which came from this historic mine. Located in lovely Grass Valley, Empire Mine comprises 367 miles of underground passages making it not only one of the richest mines in the state but one of the longest as well. Though the mine officially closed in 1956, the site is now a state park hosting a museum and exhibits, tours of the mineyard, and offers hiking and other recreational opportunities through the beautiful California country. Overall there are 13 acres of gardens to explore plus a historic mansion, so wear comfortable shoes!
- Columbia State Historic Park -
Travel back to the 1850s to a full Old West town, 30 buildings strong, all built during the Gold Rush. Designated a historic park in 1946, Columbia showcases the restored buildings, a museum, as well as living history presentations and activities. Visit a handmade candy store, take a stagecoach ride, and explore history through the Columbia Museum. Unlike many living histories and/or restored historic parks, Columbia takes the experience to a new level. Almost every aspect is period-specific down to the scent of coal smoke and the boutiques selling 19th-century goods.
- Moaning Cavern - The Moaning Cavern is one of the most interesting caves in
America, as well as an important archaeological discovery. Though technically not a Gold Rush site, it was officially discovered by Gold Rushers who heard a strange moaning, as of a person and found a deep cavern leading 165 feet underground. The strange sound had fooled people for centuries and archaeologists found one of the most important discoveries, a large collection of prehistoric human remains of those who had been tricked. Now, the cave is open for tours, rappelling, and spelunking, as well as public guided tours.
- Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown - Finally you get to be a gold miner yourself in historic Jamestown with Gold Prospecting Adventures. For over 25 years, the company has led groups through the Gold Rush era, teaching them how to pan for gold, and more. You can even take home whatever gold you find!
- Old Sacramento - The city was built during the Gold Rush, established in 1849 as a place to house the new population. As such, Old Sacramento has been preserved and showcased as a historic Old West attraction complete with museums, horse-drawn carriages, riverboats and railroads, and so much more. Ride the 19th-century locomotive or the Delta King Riverboat, explore the Sacramento History Museum, or spend a lazy afternoon touring the sunny historic area and sample the delicious, period friendly restaurants and boutiques.
- California State Railroad Museum - Finally we come to one of the country's best and largest railroad museums, located in Sacramento. Over 500,000 people visit every year to see the 21 restored locomotives and various exhibits containing everything from a Railway Post Office to a dining car filled with antique china. The museum is a perfect educational stop while your student group tours Old Sacramento.