Auburn is a small, picturesque California town 30 miles northeast of the state’s capital city of Sacramento and due north of Folsom Lake. The town sits at Interstate 80 and California Highway 49. The region is divided into North Auburn and Auburn, and history and topography are the primary differences.
But is Auburn, California, worth visiting? Well, if you love the outdoors, wine, beer, and history, all wrapped in a welcoming small town, then absolutely. It is one of the best places to visit on the west coast.
History is at the heart of Auburn. It was pivotal at the start of the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Old Town Auburn is a unique tourist attraction combining contemporary restaurants, retail shops, and preserved landmarks such as the historic Auburn courthouse.
And many local museums focus on the legends and history of the region. In fact, the area is registered as a California Historical Landmark.
Even though you are in a small town, there’s plenty of fun things to do. Outdoor enthusiasts will find hundreds of miles of horseback riding, biking, and hiking trails crisscrossing the region.
All have colorful histories, so there are often information markers or items to visit along the way. Some popular trail attractions include the Black Hole of Calcutta Trail and Hidden Falls Trail.
Auburn also offers boutique-style shopping and excellent food, from craft pizza joints to alehouses. Farm-to-table and locally sourced products are emphasized, and the menus take advantage of the region’s dozens of wineries and breweries. In fact, one of the best Auburn tourist attractions is the Wine and Ale Trail, which weaves through the area.
Below, we have compiled the best things to do in Auburn, California.
Looking for a unique and affordable place to stay in Auburn? Look no further than Park Victorian! This one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast offers comfortable rooms, a shared lounge, garden, terrace, and free WiFi throughout the property. You'll love being able to watch your favorite TV shows on the flat-screen TV in your room, and the private bathroom is a real perk. Plus, Park Victorian is located close to all of the best hiking trails in Auburn.
The Holiday Inn Auburn, an IHG Hotel is located in the hills of the Sierra Mountains, just 7.4 km from The Ridge Golf Course. It offers on-site dining and spacious rooms with a 37-inch flat-screen TV. Each of our bright rooms comes with hardwood furniture and blackout curtains, as well as pay-per-view movie channels and complimentary Wi-Fi access. Rooms also feature a refrigerator and coffee maker for your convenience
Foothills Motel is an excellent option for those looking for comfortable and affordable accommodation in Auburn. The rooms are equipped with all the necessary amenities, including a private bathroom, flat-screen TV, and air conditioning. Some of the rooms also have a patio. The motel offers free WiFi and private parking.
- Most significant landmark – Old Town Auburn
- Best park – Auburn State Recreation Area
- Best free activity – Gold Rush Museum
- Best activity for kids – Old Town Auburn Scavenger Hunt
- Best activity for adults – Auburn Axe Throwing
- Best food – Auburn Alehouse
- Best nightlife – Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center
- Best all-around accommodation – Park Victorian
Fun & Best Things to Do in Auburn, California
1. Old Town Auburn
Address: 1583 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603
Marked by a granite statue of Claude Chana, Old Town Auburn is a unique downtown district that defines the small town. A vignette into history, each preserved building celebrates a part of the area’s past.
Completed in 1898, the Placer County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its free museum houses numerous Native American artifacts and a bog of 194 ounces of raw gold. A red and white firehouse celebrates the Auburn Firefighters, a still active volunteer company formed in 1852.
Another area icon is the Joss House Museum. This simple wood building served as a Chinese temple — marking Chinatown’s boundaries. Just north, Brewery Lane marks Auburn’s old red light district.
In addition to top attractions, there are over 60 restaurants, taverns, and shops in Old Auburn Historic District. Across from the historic center is the Auburn Old Town Gallery — an artists’ cooperative.
Also downtown, The California Club is a local icon that has served drinks and entertainment since 1929.
One of the best fun things to do in Auburn is the Old Town Auburn Scavenger Hunt. It combines a self-guided historical walking tour with a two-mile Scavenger Hunt.
It begins at the Placer County Museum and uses smartphones to solve 20 puzzles. The Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour’s single ticket includes up to six people.
See Related: Fun & Best Things To Do in Ontario, California
2. Auburn State Recreation Area
Address: 501 El Dorado St, Auburn, CA 95603
The Auburn State Recreation Area (Auburn SRA) winds over 100 miles of hiking and horse trails for one of the best places to visit in Auburn, California. There are several fun things to do for outdoor lovers: visitors can hike, boat, fish, and camp. And both mountain bikes and off-road motorcycles share the trails.
Once blanketed with gold miners, the area is exclusively recreational, welcoming over 900,000 visitors a year.
When in the Auburn State Recreation Area, it is only natural to try your hand at gold panning. Commonly known as rockhounding, the recreational gathering of stones and minerals is permitted. Discovering gold? Can you imagine what a fun trip that would be?
The Auburn SRA includes 40 miles of North and South American River Forks. Over 30 private outfitters are licensed for whitewater trips with Class II, III, and IV runs available.
Without a doubt, Auburn State Recreation Area has enough to keep even the most particular outdoor expert occupied and is one of the best places to visit in Auburn.
3. The Claude Chana Statue
Address: Lincoln Way and Park Street, Auburn, CA 95603
A larger-than-life-sized statue of a Gold Rush-era miner stands at the entrance to Old Town Auburn. The 45-ton sculpture celebrates Claude Chana (1811-1882), the prospector who discovered the first gold in the Auburn area, in Auburn Ravine, on May 16, 1848.
On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in nearby Coloma, starting the California Gold Rush. Soon after, a French immigrant working as a cooper on a local farm, Claude Chana, quit his job to pursue his dreams. Surprisingly, he quickly panned $25,000 worth of gold in Auburn Ravine.
Beyond the statue is the hub of Auburn, the historic town area. The Old Auburn Historic District is an organized square of shops, restaurants, historic sites, and coffee shops.
Stop into The Pour Choice, commonly referred to as Auburn’s “living room” for its welcoming atmosphere. Whether it’s a perfectly poured Cafe Americana or the local live music, this hip coffee shop has something for everyone.
The cafe-styled food menu offers salads and charcuterie boards. Most days, you will find friends hanging out with a coffee or beer. But you can also find kombucha and wine on tap.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Santa Ana, California
4. Wine and Ale Trails
Address: 10850 Mt. Vernon Rd., Auburn, CA 95603
One of the surprising things about Auburn, California, is the number of wineries in the area. Part of the Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area (AVA), Auburn is a terrific spot if you are looking for a small, peaceful getaway with great-tasting wine — and beer.
In fact, there are about a dozen wineries in the Auburn zip code, with an equal number just outside of the area. The same goes for breweries, brewpubs, and tap houses.
One of the best ways to taste a sampling is to take a tour on a wine or ale trail. Wine Trails offer intimate wine tastings at a relaxed pace. Auburn area wineries on these boutique trails include stops at Lone Buffalo Vineyards or Mt. Vernon Winery‘s tasting room.
The Ale Trail of Auburn is home to 12 award-winning breweries for beer lovers. There are also numerous tap rooms and brewpubs, such as the trendy and award-winning Knee Deep Brewing Company, Crooked Lane Brewing Company, or the northern California brewpub, the Moonraker Brewing Company.
Once the local wine route is complete, grab a room at the Holiday Inn Auburn, just five miles from Mt. Vernon Winery, to relax before dinner at one of the dozens of local restaurants.
See Related: Northern California vs Southern California: What’s the Difference?
5. American River Canyon Overlook Park
Address: 855 Pacific Ave, Auburn, CA 95603
Overlook Park’s breathtaking views of the American River form the backdrop for this unique recreational spot. American River Canyon Overlook Park has a skate park, hiking trails and horseback riding, and stunning canyon views.
Also known as Auburn Hiking Trail, the mostly-level walking trail accesses the canyon and allows leashed dogs. The trail loop is extremely popular with trail riders as the American River Overlook equestrian staging area is nearby.
In addition to the main loop, Overlook Park’s Skate Park is part of the larger green space. The park is known as a safe place to learn to skate or work on skills. The skate park is smooth with effortless transitions and made of an open, uniquely red-tinted concrete bowl. The deepest part is five feet.
The outer walls feature un-commissioned urban art and murals by local artists, many with a prominent skate theme.
Overlook Skate Park is beautiful and well worth the day. Bring your canvas or camera, a picnic lunch, and enjoy the serenity.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
6. Bernhard Museum Complex
Address: 291 Auburn Folsom Rd, Auburn, CA 95603
The Bernhard Museum is one of the oldest buildings in Auburn, California. The farm, built in the 1850s, was initially named the Traveler’s Rest Hotel. The structure is a Victorian-era white, two-story farmhouse. It was bought by the Bernhard family, who changed the name to the Bernhard Museum.
Bernhard expanded the property’s grape vines and fruit orchards. A winery was built, serving as the family home e for the next century. Albert Maver Winn’s Native Sons of the Golden West built a carriage barn on the property, housing many restored wagons.
The Bernhard Museum is considered a part of living history. Curated by the Placer Arts League, docent-led tours highlight the farm’s history and daily life activities.
The home beautifully tells the story of a German immigrant family’s journey through its perfectly preserved period furniture and curated artifacts. There are 19th-century winemaking accessories and wagons in the barn. Visitors can view the grounds through a free guided tour.
7. Black Hole of Calcutta Falls
Address: 150 CA-193, Auburn, CA 95603
If you are wondering what hiking-related things you can do in Auburn, California, try the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Trail. It is a short, easy route along a section of the Western States Trail that is great for hikers of all ages.
The trailhead is well marked with an obvious gate and sign. Just about 2.2 miles round-trip, it is mostly level with a wooden footbridge in front of a seasonal waterfall.
The Railroad Bridge of the Mountain Quarries Railroad and Mine, which transported limestone, sits along the route. Surprisingly, it took 800 men to build the Railroad Bridge.
The trail’s northernmost point is near the Tall Green Bridge on Highway 49 and the Middle Fork American River, known for Class III and IV whitewater rapids. Further east on Hwy 49, visitors will find the trailhead to the Quarry Road Trail.
Winter and spring are the wet seasons in the area, with ample rainfall to ensure a breathtaking view.
See Related: Best Waterfalls in California: SoCal & NorCal Spots
8. Lake Clementine
Lake Clementine is a beautiful feat of engineering. It was created when the North Fork Dam along the American River was completed in 1939.
The water is referred to as Upper Lake Clementine and Lower Lake Clementine. The upper lake is for day-use only, restricted to boats, kayaks, or canoes. The activity on Lower Lake Clementine is limited by parking space. Even waterskiing is limited to low wake. And best leave your family pup at home.
But one of the best things about this Auburn attraction is that it allows boat-in camping.
Lake Clementine also has its own set of trails. Lake Clementine Trail takes hikers out past Clark’s Pool – also known as Auburn swimming hole on the American River. The total out-and back-trip is a 4.5-miles. The Lake Clementine trailhead is where the North Fork of the American River meets the rocks. But along the way, the path passes under Foresthill Bridge, California’s tallest bridge.
Despite a significant list of do’s and don’ts, Lake Clementine has enough things to make it worth the extra time on your trip to Auburn.
9. Auburn Axe Throwing
Address: 11905 Dry Creek Rd Unit 1, Auburn, CA 95602
There is an ancient saying — “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It means — act like a local. And the locals in Auburn, California, love axe throwing!
Axe throwing combines the precision of darts with the friendly competition of sports trivia night, all with an upbeat, casual bar vibe.
Auburn Axe Throwing is one of the best things to do in Auburn. Surprisingly affordable, this is perfect for a quirky date night on a romantic getaway. Solo travelers, families, and anyone 12 and up are welcome.
Throwing axes is safe, and the facilities use World Axe Throwing League (WATL) compliant axes. Yes, that is a thing. Axe throwing is a fun thing. And it has to be one of the best things to do in Auburn, with or without kids!
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10. Lavender Farms
Address: 2450 Paddock Ln, Newcastle, CA 95658
There is something magical about experiencing the purple-blue hue and the unique aroma of a whole field of lavender for the first time.
Just a few miles from Auburn is Lavender Farms. While not technically in Auburn, this unique family-owned lavender farm is worth the 10-minute drive.
The farms grow Grosso Lavander, a hybrid lavender. Grosso is favored for its strong fragrance and high oil content. If you have a choice, try visiting in summer, the high point of the harvest season when the fields are in full bloom.
One of the best things to do in Auburn with kids is the lavender wreath-making classes. If you get hungry, there are pop-up food trucks on site and picnic tables where you can enjoy the lavender aroma while you grab a bite. Newcastle Lavender Farms is also open for private tours and photography sessions. And starting in June through peak bloom season, visitors can wander through the farms for a U-Pick session.
11. Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center
Address: 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603
Downtown Auburn has a hidden gem. Once known to many as the State Theater, the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center is everything stage and screen. Initially built in 1930 by a San Francisco company, the building offered every level of comfort and grand opulence.
Over the years, building failures and restructuring caused losses to most of the original architecture. Recently, supporters combined the old State Theater, and an adjacent movie theater, into the modernly familiar Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center.
Today, patrons enjoy performances from the local Auburn Symphony, musicals, jazz, folk, and unique musical diarists. There are also classic movies and beer nights.
Both the State Theater Acting company and the Auburn Symphony call the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center home to a variety of short vignettes and scripted recognizable plays. The Symphony features regional pieces and a seasonal series.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Napa Valley, California
12. Gold Rush Museum
Address: 601 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603
Miners extracted over 125 million gold ounces from California’s hills during the Gold Rush. And some say there is still gold in the rivers and creek beds. Whether true or fantasy, there is no better place to learn about the area’s obsession with shiny metal than at the Gold Rush Museum.
This unique gallery celebrates the local history of the gold rush era. On-site visitors can explore a mining tunnel, interactive exhibits, and an indoor panning stream.
Visitors are encouraged to pan for gold at the Gold Rush Museum while learning about the memorizing metals’ cultural and social importance through the centuries. Even when the museum is closed, a self-guided online tour provides a historical overview of the site.
Once you have panned for gold, it’s time to quench your thirst. Locals gather at the Auburn Alehouse. This trendy brewpub offers full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus and a host of craft beers.
And a quaint bed and breakfast is less than a quarter mile from the museum. The Park Victorian is an intimate inn that offers quiet accommodation in the heart of Auburn, perfect for couples or solo travelers.
13. PlacerGROWN Farmers Market
Address: 150 Auburn Folsom Rd, Auburn, CA 95603
PlacerGROWN Farmers’ Market is open year-round and a great place to spend the day. Local organic growers and vendors sell their products every Saturday.
Visitors to the farmers market can find fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, olive oil, honey, and vinegar. Fresh flowers are popular, and seasonal blooms and fir trees are available during the fall and winter. There is even alpaca yarn and clothing for sale.
One of the best things to do in Auburn is to grab a basket of hand-picked goodies from the PlacerGROWN Farmers Market and spend the afternoon at a winery or ale house.
See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit
14. Regional Park Auburn
Address: 3770 Richardson Dr, Auburn, CA 95602
Regional Park Auburn is a beautiful urban green space serving the local community. It has a sprawling pond encircled by a walking path, and a creek wanders through the park. And the playgrounds, picnic areas, ball fields, and pickle-ball courts are nested in shaded areas.
Regional Park Auburn is also known for its challenging 18-hole disc golf course. Disc Golf is a fun time for the entire family because all ages can play. But watch out. Disc golf is similar to golf and equally as frustrating.
And if you time your visit to Auburn, you may see the Auburn Chain Zombies Golf Club and disc golf experts at a tournament or demonstration.
But if you are looking for traditional golf lessons, you may need to find a public course such as Ridge Golf Course north of Auburn. The master, Robert Trent Jones Jr., designed this course and is a few miles from Nevada City. At Ridge golf course, you can play golf, take lessons and enjoy lunch on the on-site grill.
There are twelve parks total, plus a dedicated Ashley Off-Leash Dog Park in the Auburn Recreational Park District. And depending on the season, the parks are home to various community festivals.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Auburn?
The intimate Gold Rush Museum is a great thing to do with kids. Many interactive exhibits are focused on children. And everyone can try their hand at panning for gold.
Another great, fun thing for kids in Auburn is the Old Town Auburn Scavenger Hunt. It combines fun with some outdoor exercise while exploring the Old Auburn Historic District.
Is Auburn worth visiting?
Auburn, California, is a great west coast mountain town getaway and is worth visiting any time of the year. It packs tons of charm and history, but this small town also delivers on modern upgrades like trendy cafes, craft beer, wine trails, and stunning outdoor gems.
Some of the top attractions are Gold Rush-related, such as the Gold Rush Museum. But there are also plenty of outdoor activities to get into at the Regional Park Auburn, Overlook Park’s Skate Park, or Lake Clementine.
What are some things to do in Auburn when it’s raining?
Auburn Axe Throwing has to be one of the most fun things to do in Auburn when it’s raining. This unique game combines skill, luck, and a bit of coordination for an all-around good time. In addition, visiting any of the brewing companies, such as Knee Deep Brewing Company, the Joss House Museum, or the Auburn Old Town Gallery provides some entertainment during those unfortunate rainy days.
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