Located just an hour outside of Sacramento, Sutter Creek is a convenient weekend getaway worth its weight in gold.
If the name Sutter is familiar, it's because of John Sutter (or maybe his namesake the late Sutter Brown) who is associated with the California Gold Rush and for the establishment of Sutter’s Fort, located in my current home town of Sacramento.
Sutter Creek itself maintains much of the gold rush charm. Historic buildings line the main road, which would make you feel like you are going back in time if not for the parked cars that also line the road.
The Main Street itself is small but has everything you could need for a mini-getaway. Wine tasting rooms, restaurants, dessert shops, antique stores and hotels make up the bulk of the businesses.
If you in need or a Northern California vacation, you will definitely want to consider this quaint little town. Here's a sample itinerary:
Breakfast / Lunch / Brunch
Arrive in Sutter Creek around 11 or 12 and make your way to one of just a handful of places for breakfast. Or lunch. Whatever you are craving.
We stopped at the highly recommended Element, which feels like a modern European restaurant in the middle of the historic town. It's a little strange because it's just not what you would expect, but with its unique good offerings international in their inspiration. While I opted for some regular flapjacks my partner tried the mandarin poppy-seed pancakes, a slightly sweet and unique treat.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast at Cina’s Back Roads Cafe. This is much more what you would expect in the town, and it didn't disappoint. Basic breakfast offerings like bagel and English muffin sandwiches are delightful. I wish we had another meal there so I could check out their sandwich selection.
Black Chasm Cavern
There is nothing I like more than a good cave. With standard hotel check in times in early to mid afternoon, we decided to take a mini-excursion to Volcano, another small town just 15-20 minutes drive from Sutter Creek.
Volcano is home to Black Chasm Cavern, a national landmark that is open to the public year round. For $15 you can descend into the beautiful cavern for a 45 minute tour. There are three main rooms available to the general public and the sites are stunning to say the least. If you visit after a heavy rain you might even be able to see water dripping off the stalactites, which after thousands of years might grow upwards of a half an inch.
Urban Wine Trail
After exploring the cave, drive back to Sutter Creek and check in. Once you've dropped off your belongings and parked your car for the night, take to the street to wine taste. There are 8 tasting rooms on the Main Street, making it easy to hop around.
Many of the wines are from the Shenandoah Valley, which is just north of Sutter Creek near Plymouth. While most places do have a tasting fee, they will waive the fee if you purchase a bottle (pretty standard) and there was one tasting room providing free wine. And of course we had to stop by.
By now you are probably getting hungry, so venture into a restaurant. I highly recommend the next stop on my itinerary.
Gold Dust Pizza
You know the food is good when you see the locals leaving with it as take out.
The small but inviting restaurant is the perfect place to wind down after wine tasting. It's just off the main drag and you can continue your wine drinking or grab a beer while you eat. Good portion sizes, and enticing smells are very welcomed after an afternoon of imbibing.
The Sutter Hotel
With occasional Groupon deals and it's central location, Sutter Hotel is a great pick. It’s strikes the perfect balance of old-timey charm and modern accommodations. The rooms are a tad dated, but they are clean and comfortable for an evening away.
In the basement of the Sutter Hotel is a bar and lounge that has Trivia Tuesdays and a live band on the weekend. Drinks are a little pricey, but it's convenient if you are staying at the hotel and looking for a cool place to relax and close out your day.