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Touch the Past at Historic Sites in Northern California

California’s history is fresh and easy to find. From Native American sites to relics of New Spain and the Gold Rush, you’ll encounter a rich past that has left its legacy on modern California.

It was only in 1849 that the California Gold Rush brought dream-seekers to the Golden State. Discover their stories in the ghostly mining towns of Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Visit historic Main Streets in unique Gold Rush towns like Sonora, Jamestown, and Columbia. Old Sacramento is a must for history buffs. Established in 1849, it’s home to 53 different historic buildings. Take a tour of the underground, see the Pony Express Statue, and explore the Sacramento History Museum.

Spanish missions were established just a few decades earlier, including the Mission San Jose (in Fremont) and the Mission San Antonio de Padua (in Monterey County). Visit both to glimpse the early attempts to settle California by Catholic monks. From the Old Customhouse in Monterey to the San Francisco Presidio and cable cars – discover captivating historic sites in Northern California.

Mission San Jose

Established in 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Mission San Jose is found near Fremont. Mission San Jose is the 14th of the 21 Spanish Missions. It helped to secure Spain's claim to the area and to teach Christianity. The Mission period lasted from 1797 until 1833. Visit the Mission for daily Mass or consider getting married in the Mission.

Self-guided tours of Mission and the Museum (the original padre's quarters) are available daily. Visit the Gift Shop to browse the selection of books, photos, paintings, maps, bibles, rosaries and jewelry. Enjoy your time in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

Sprawled across more than 5,000 acres, the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a top attraction in the San Francisco Bay area, southeast of Martinez. The land in the preserve produced almost four million tons of coal during the late 1860s, into the early 1900s.

There were twelve mines located in the area's five mining towns that became the largest coal-producing mines in the state.

While in this historical area, be sure to visit the Rose Hill Cemetery, where more than 200 people are buried from the area. Visit the preserve for a guided underground tour of the Hazel-Atlas Mine to learn more about mine operations. Go above ground for a wonderful afternoon of hiking on the preserve's sixty miles of trails.

Hanford Fox Theatre

A full restored movie palace theatre from 1929, the Hanford Fox Theatre is a historic destination located in the Central Valley of California. Head for Hanford and see one of the 900 atmospheric theaters built by William Fox, from Fox Theatres. It was designed to create an illusion of being in a Spanish courtyard with Mission Revival decor.

Historic preservationist J. Daniel Humason purchased the theatre in 1979, restored it and reopened it for movies in 1982. The stage now hosts live entertainers, silent films and movies. Movie-goers enjoy the plush rocking chairs in the balcony. Snacks and drinks are also available. The theatre hosts private parties, receptions and events.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Founded in 1771 by Father Presidente Junipero Serra, Mission San Antonio de Padua is situated in California's central coast region. The Mission is along the Santa Lucia Mountains, surrounded by the Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. The Mission San Antonio de Padua was the third Mission founded in Alta.

The first Christian marriage was performed in the mission. Present-day marriages are performed in the Mission, as well as retreats, events and parties. Visit the Gift Shop for Mission-related items and unique gifts. Make the short and scenic drive in from nearby Paso Robles and enjoy a tour of the Mission San Antonio de Padua.

Historic Placer County Courthouse

Built in 1898, the Historic Placer County Courthouse is a premier site in Auburn. This beautiful Classic Revival-style building features a Renaissance Revival dome at the top and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It remains one of four courthouses in northern California and the Sacramento area, with most of the architectural structure still intact.

Enjoy a tour of the courthouse to see the original jail, which is now the Museum Gallery, the Pate Collection of Native American Art and the recreated Sheriff's Office. Browse the selection of gift items in the gift shop, located in the old Treasurer's Office.

Old Sacramento

Make your travel plans for California and head for Sacramento. Old Sacramento was established in 1849, along the Sacramento River. This 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and Historic Park remains a beautiful area of Sacramento.

Tour the 53 historic buildings and view the landmarks, including the Pony Express Statue/Pony Express Park. Go underground for a unique hour-long Underground Tour or enjoy a Classic Coach Tour. Step inside the Sacramento History Museum to learn about the area's rich history. Enjoy your time in the Sacramento Gold Country.

McCloud Railway

See some Shasta Cascade history. The McCloud Railway began in 1897, near Mount Shasta. The railway began running on 17 miles of track from Mount Shasta to McCloud, mostly for logging purposes. Passenger service was available from 1898 to 1952, on over 95 miles of track with the main line running from Mount Shasta to Bartle. Steam engine #25 operated special excursions in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Shasta Sunset Dinner Train began began operating the passenger service for the Railway in 1996, with dinner train rides. McCloud Railway services the freight business for the company. While no longer in service, the McCloud Railway is an important piece of Mount Shasta history, and is well worth viewing. See it on your next trip to the Shasta Cascade region.

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Consisting of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument can be found west of Alturas in the Shasta Cascades. Explore the remains of what was considered the most controversial of the camps used to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II.

Established as a segregation center for inmates who were considered disloyal to the country, the site functions today as a reminder of the stories of the inmates and offers exhibits, tours, and a local fairgrounds museum. Make the most of your next visit to the Cascades – gain significant historical insights.