The best town in Gold Country

Sutter Creek offers a mix of California history and the buzz of the new. Here's where to go and what to do

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  • Sutter Creek's Main Street is lined with 19th-century buildings.

    Sutter Creek's Main Street

    David Fenton

    Click to Enlarge

EXPLORE

Sutter Creek is compact - everything you want to see and do is along a few blocks of Main Street. The Sutter Creek Visitors Center (closed Tue-Wed; 71-A Main; 800/400-0305) has maps and info. History buffs can see exhibits of 19th- and early-20th-century life at Monteverde General Store Museum (donation suggested; reservations required; 11-A Randolph St.; 209/267-0493). Two other good attractions lie a bit farther out. On the north edge of town, the Sutter Gold Mine Tours ($16, $11 ages 4-12; 13660 State 49; 209/736-2708) are great for kids, who get to wear hard hats, ride deep into the Earth, and experience creepy total darkness when the tour guide turns out the lights. On a brighter note, Sutter Creek is the gateway to Daffodil Hill (10-4, weather permitting, through mid-Apr; donation suggested; from downtown, take Gopher Flat Rd. 12 miles east and follow signs; 209/296-7048). Each spring, it blooms in Wordsworthian splendor (remember "And then my heart with pleasure fills" from English 101?).

SHOP 

Like most Gold Country towns, Sutter Creek has its share of traditional antiques stores. More surprising are the contemporary home-furnishings shops. At Topia Home and Garden (closed Wed; 33-A Main; 209/267-0600), Bay Area transplant Marcy Miller has fashioned a shop - airy, elegant - that would fit nicely in the toniest San Francisco neighborhoods. Fine Eye Gallery (71 Main; 209/267-0571) has striking contemporary American crafts, fine art, jewelry, and furniture. In a class by itself is Chaos Glass Works (closed Mon-Tue; 121-A Hanford St.; 209/267-9317). After a stint at Stanford University, David Hopman returned to Sutter Creek to create handblown vases and dinnerware of astonishing beauty.

EAT AND SIP

As with shopping, dining has risen in sophistication. Caffé Via D'Oro ($$; closed Mon-Tue; 36 Main; 209/267-0535) offers stylish California cuisine, and Susan's Place ($$; closed Mon-Wed; 15 Eureka St.; 209/267-0945) has good Mediterranean food, a terrific roster of Sierra Foothills wines, and a pretty courtyard setting. If wine is all you're after, stop by Scott Harvey Wines (closed Mon-Wed; free tastings; 21 Eureka; 209/267-0122), where you can try and buy forceful Amador County Zinfandels. At Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium (51 Main; 209/267-0543), you can settle down to a sundae and listen to owner Stevens Price play a mean ragtime piano: Traditional pastimes have their merits, especially when hot fudge is involved.

STAY

For a tiny town, there's a good selection of places to stay. The Foxes Inn of Sutter Creek (7 rooms from $160; 209/267-5882), Eureka Street Inn (4 rooms from $125; 209/267-5500), and Grey Gables Inn (8 rooms from $115; 800/473-9422) all do the small, historic B&B thing very well. Hanford House Bed & Breakfast Inn (10 rooms from $109; 800/871-5839) is a little less froufrou and better for families with kids.

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