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A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

los angeles
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A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Hi,

Can anyone recommend a good place to stop on our drive from just north of LA to Calaveras county this weekend? We are travelling with 2 kids and it would be good to get out of the car for a short visit and lunch somewhere along the way. We've never been north--any ideas?

Thanks!

Pauline

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1. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Where is your final destination in Calaveras County? And how long do you want to take to get there?

The trip will be around 400 miles, depending on where you start in L.A. Unfortunately, that makes the halfway point some fast food joint on I-5 or SR-99; logistically, the Fresno area would make the most sense. But if you wait until you get into the Gold Country, it will be more fun and you'll find more unique choices.

If I were doing the trip on either 5 or 99, I would stop for a small snack around halfway, just to stop the growling. Of course, this is if your kids can hold out. Then follow the directions for Hwy 120 to Manteca and Oakdale and 108 to Sonora. Sonora is the major southern Mother Lode town. It has a good-sized historic main street with restaurants, shops, and lots going on. It can get busy, but these local places are more enjoyable than a McDonald's on 99. On the way from Sonora to points east and north in Calaveras County, you'll find Columbia State Historic Park, a preserved Gold Rush town with several eateries, and plenty to see and do. Angel's Camp, Murphy's, and Arnold are also on the way, if you are going as far as Big Trees State Park.

You didn't say how old your kids are, but eating in a more "Old West" setting might be lots of fun for them.

los angeles
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2. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Hi,

Thanks for the response. Our final destination is Columbia State Park for one evening and one day, then Angel's Camp and Big Trees on Sunday. Unfortunately, time is limited, so we wanted to stop for maybe and hour or two (if there was something to see, not at Mc Donalds :))

Thanks for the advice, it sounds like a good idea to just take a quick break along the way and get up to Sonora. Kids are 8 and 10 and are pretty excited by everything.

The more I research this trip, the more I wish we had more time. I'd love to visit SF and Monterey. We're originally from NY, now in LA and have not seen much of CA., so we're looking forward to this little trip.

Thanks again.

Pauline

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3. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

I knew your screen name seemed familiar--your daughter studied the Gold Rush in 4th grade California history. I looked up your OP to refresh my memory.

Be sure your daughter has a camera and journal if she wants, to record what she sees. Even though she's done with the California history class, it could make a great show & tell or "what I did on my summer vacation" when school starts.

Even before you get into Sonora, depending on time and energy, there is a state historic park in Jamestown for old steam trains, called Railtown 1897. You can ride them. You could do it going up or coming back--or if you can't manage it, save it for another trip (maybe Yosemite in a year or two?)

http://www.csrmf.org/railtown/default.asp

Columbia is great for kids. It's history without force-feeding them :) I go every year or two because I like it; in fact, I had thought of going this weekend but it may not happen. If you have dinner in Sonora, you can relax in the evening in Columbia, maybe see an old-fashioned stage show at the Fallon Theatre, and cool off at the Fallon House Ice Cream Parlor. The Fallon is a historic hotel.

The Columbia House cafe is good for B/L, and you can have dinner at the City Hotel, Lickskillet Cafe, or a Mexican restaurant. There are several places for light snacks or sweets. Stores are set up as 19th century replicas and it's a cool experience for kids to see real blacksmiths or candlemakers at work.

There is a place just off the main street where kids can pan for gold.

The Wells Fargo Express office was a mainstay in every Gold Rush town, where people had gold weighed, entrusted it to the stagecoach to ship out, or booked rides for themselves. You can ride a stagecoach there. When you get home, if your curiosity (or your kids') has been aroused to learn more about the Old West, Los Angeles has a Wells Fargo Museum, one of several operated by Wells Fargo Bank.

https:/…museum_info.jhtml

Stockton, CA
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4. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

If you will be traveling north on 99, there is a tiny stand just north of Madera called Mammoth Orange. Literally blink and you will miss it. However, it is worth a stop for their delicious Orange shakes.

This is a piece of Americana that rarely exists today. The drive in is in the shape of an orange. They have hamburgers and other things to eat. No indoor seating, and literally right off highway 99 with a few covered picnic benches.

Mammoth Orange is north of Madera, but just south of the highway 152 junction. You will only see one sign advertising the place approximately 1 mile south of the restaurant. This stretch of the road is not freeway, so there is no official "exit."

Due to construction, it's only accessible when driving North. Hard to find, but amazingly delicious orange shakes. I hear the hamburgers are pretty good too, but haven't tried them.

los angeles
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5. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Thanks so much! Wonderful info (and great memory Frisco roadrunner). This has been amazingly helpful. Guidebooks and internet searches were OK, but not nearly as informative. And we will look for that Orange-stand, too. Sounds fun.

Pauline

los angeles
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6. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Another question--

How far from Columbia State Park to Railtown. Trying to decide if we can do both of those things on Sat. or best to save Railtown for another day. We like to hang out, we're not rushing types. I'm used to horrible LA distances and traffic so doing 2 things in 2 locations one day sounds daunting :) but maybe it would be fine.

thanks!

Fresno, California
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7. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Unfortunately the Mammoth Orange closed down for good last week.

They are widening that section of highway 99 and CalTrans closed the entrance to Mammoth Orange to convert the road to a freeway.

The only way to reach the stand anymore was a 5 mile detour so the owners felt it was time to close.

www.fresnobee.com/170/story/105031.html

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8. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Awwww, I'm sorry to hear about the Mammoth Orange. I ate there once, years ago, when Hwy 99 was not yet all freeway. I often take 99 instead of I-5 because it's much more interesting. I have to have some scenery and variety, and I have a tendency to get drowsy on I-5 :(

There used to be a Giant Orange (similar concept) on I-80 between Vacaville and Davis. That's been gone for years, along with the Nut Tree and the Milk Farm (but the Milk Farm sign is still there because it's a historic landmark).

Back to Pauline's questions--Railtown is in Jamestown, the town just before Sonora. From Jamestown to Sonora is 4-5 miles, then another 5 miles to Columbia. These are all Gold Rush towns with nicely preserved homes and main streets, and the ride will be scenic and pretty.

Where are you staying? Hopefully right in Columbia, where you can experience the atmosphere and maybe go for a walk in the old town when the shops are closed and only the madames (you can tell your kids they are lady saloon owners), miners returning from a night of revelry, and stray cats are out. It's perfectly safe to walk around the streets at night. You'll feel like you are in the middle of a Western movie.

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9. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

* "From Jamestown to Sonora is 4-5 miles" *

4 to 5 miles, not 45.

los angeles
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10. Re: A good place to stop between LA and Calaveras County?

Hi,

We are staying in Columbia one night. Hotel was only available one night so we grabbed it, and will stay in Angel's Camp the 2nd night.

Too bad about Mammoth Orange, that's sad they had to shut down.

Since Mammoth Orange is closed, we'll try to convince kids to hang on til we get up there :)

Thanks again for all the good advice.

I'll post and let you know how it goes!

Pauline