We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

Scarsdale, New York
Level Contributor
2 posts
5 reviews
Save Topic
Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

My husband and I have a little extra time on our return from Yosemite to SF during the first week of July and are planning an overnight visit to the Columbia/Sonora area with our two sons (ages 8 and 11) (probably with a focus on Columbia State Park). While I love my kids dearly, I'm not sure that a b&b or historic inn is the place for two ... um, rambunctious boys. Or maybe they are? Basically, I'm looking for advice on where to stay. Should I just book the Best Western and be done with it? Thank you!

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
25,450 posts
5,650 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

this is an older area - which at times means rustic lodging and bed and breakfasts. And as such, the BW there is one of your better choices in the area - with a nice swimming pool; and good location.

If you would like to stay about an hour away and do a day trip, Pinecrest Lake is a really fun area for a family by the lake ---easy drive, but distance a factor to consider.

http://pinecrestlakeresort.com/

Edited: 04 June 2013, 19:45
Napa, CA
Destination Expert
for Napa
Level Contributor
7,473 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

We like to stay in Murphys. It's quieter than Sonora and near some fabulous caverns. There's also wine tasting in town.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
14,725 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

It sounds like you've checked out the historic hotels in the main part of town, the City Hotel and Fallon Hotel. If you feel such a place would not be an ideal fit for young kids, I'd go with your impressions. We did have a family a few years ago on TA that took their children there and had a great time, and the kids felt very grown up, but you know your family best. The historic hotels have rooms with and without baths, and en suite makes sense for a family but obviously raises the rent.

There is one motel just outside the historic town, the Columbia Inn. I’ve stayed there a number of times and have reviewed it here, but it has changed owners since my last stay. Over the years, I saw it go through several stages, including times when it wasn't much above a halfway house or SRO. I never felt “unsafe,” but the place wasn’t very appealing. The new owners even acknowledge this on their website. Past owners did bare maintenance, usually didn’t staff the lobby (you had to ring a bell to call someone), and couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in getting the pool in shape. The new owners say they have renovated rooms and fixed and reopened the pool.

In past reviews, I recommended it with reservations. Although I haven’t been there since it changed hands, any improvement at all would enhance my recommendation. The rates are very reasonable, similar to what they were under the old owners.

This the NEW website: http://www.columbiainnmotel.com/

The old website was not reactivated, so disregard this one: http://www.columbiainnmotel.net/

Sonora is a wonderful town and one of the major towns to grow out of the Gold Rush. It has a busy main street lined with preserved 1850s buildings and lots of restaurants, shops, etc. If you do spend time there, check out Sonora Music on the level part of Washington, the main drag (yes, part of it is hilly). Don't be fooled by the name; it is not only a music store, but has an incredible selection of toys, games, school supplies, and everything parents and kids might be interested in.

Sonora is about 10 miles from Columbia. If your focus will be Columbia, I think it would help the experience to stay there. You can walk back and forth from the motel to the historic area, go over for an evening ice cream soda or sarsaparilla, and even walk around late at night. The shops in historic buildings keep regular business hours, but you can walk around any time and it's perfectly safe. You’ll feel like Marshal Dillon or Miss Kitty, in your own Western movie. The one possible minus is that Columbia has fewer dining choices and is heavier on lunch options. But you can find Mexican food, burgers, salads, etc., and the saloons welcome families with kids for meals.

Columbia is also closer to other Gold Rush towns like Angels Camp and Murphys, and to Moaning Caverns, a limestone cave that has tours. You can go down the steep ladder into the cave, take special rappelling or spelunking tours, or go on their zip line.

P.S. The Mother Lode gets balmy in summer. Temps are now in the 90s.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
14,725 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

P.S. Forgot to mention, if you're driving betwwen this area and SF, Jamestown has a railroad museum with old steam trains. Visitors can ride the trains, and this should be a big hit with the kids. Jamestown is west of Sonora on Hwy 108..

San Francisco
Level Contributor
36,629 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

Two rambunctious boys = Best Western to me. I stayed at a perfectly nice on in Sonora some time ago.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
32,167 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

We stayed at the Columbia Inn Motel mentioned by Roadrunner several years ago when it was a little "troubled". It sounds as if the new owners have made it very habitable. If so, I would consider it. The location is fabulous. It is just a short walk to the historic section of Columbia, so you can visit it during the day without driving from outside. We ate dinner at the saloon in the historic section which was fun, and, as Roadrunner says, they accept children at dinner.

I think your boys would love the Old West atmosphere of the town, and if you are near, you can walk around it at will. As I remember, they have gold panning, which the boys would like, and the old schoolhouse is available to see. In season there are people dressed in costumes of the time walking the streets, and exhibits, and etc. Good history lesson :~)

Edited: 05 June 2013, 00:22
Nevada
Level Contributor
1,969 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

Alot of good information has already been posted.

May I also suggest The Gunn House in downtown Sonora. They have rooms for families, so check out www.gunnhousehotel.com This place has a swimming pool, too. Personally, I like this place. Ask for a room not facing Washington Street (to avoid traffic noise which does die down at around 6:00 pm anyway)

One Small Correction: Columbia is only 3 miles from historic downtown Sonora (not 10 miles) so that should help knowing the distance is not as great as someone thought who posted already.

Also, back to lodging choices: There is a brand new hotel in the area (opened May 1 this year of 2013) which I understand is actually quite nice. It is at the Black Oak Casino, so go on www.blackoakcasino.com for hotel information and reservations. There is a bowling alley at Black Oak if that is of interest to your sons (the only bowling alley in the area). Not sure if they have a pool yet (don't think so). This is technically located in Tuolumne City, CA which is 6 or 7 miles south east of Sonora (not a big distance around this area).

The closest caverns in the area that someone mentioned already, are Moaning Caverns, so go on www.caverntours.com and click on MOANING CAVERNS. This place also offers zip lines if your sons want a real thrill.

If you want a beautiful cool place for a lovely picnic and nature trails amongst the giant sequoias, may I suggest to pick up supplies or sandwiches somewhere in Murphys, CA (such as Alchemy's on Main Street in Murphys) and go to Calaveras Big Trees State Park which is another 15 minutes east of Murphys, CA on Highway 4, so go on www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551 This might seem alot like the trees in Yosemite but it can't be beat for day use - $8.00 per vehilce at about 5,500 elevation. C-O-O-L. (Of course, this is a favoriate for camping, too)

Have fun!

Edited: 05 June 2013, 01:40
Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
32,167 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

I will second a visit to Calaveras Big Trees. Even if you have seen the sequoias in Yosemite, this is a place where you won't have crowds of people sharing them with you, at least that was our experience. Awesome.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
14,725 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

True, Sonora is 3 or 4 miles from Columbia; sorry for the inaccuracy. But either that or 10, it will require piling into the car and driving to Columbia. Being able to walk to the historic area and not have to use the car is what I think puter and I had in mind.

Does Black Oak have other activities for families? Since it's mainly a casino resort, and advertises fine dining, I wonder if the atmosphere would be too "grown-up" and therefore boring for kids. There wouldn't be much else for them to do since Tuolumne City is pretty much off the beaten track. If they were to choose either Sonora or Columbia, they could count on having more diversions, more to see and do.

I wish the OP from the thread about visiting Sonora with toddlers had come back and given us a TR. Even though jendem's kids are older, those folks might have had useful feedback.

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
25,450 posts
5,650 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Lodging in the Columbia/Sonora area

Black Oak - not that great for kids....but they do have an arcade area

blackoakcasino.com/family-fun/…

Get answers to your questions about Sonora