Discover the Best Things to do in Columbia CA: A Comprehensive Guide

Things to do in Columbia Ca

If you’re looking for a charming and historic destination in California, Columbia is a must-visit spot. This Gold Rush town is a living museum that offers a glimpse into the past with its preserved buildings, museums, and costumed characters.

There’s something for everyone in Columbia, whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Columbia. From exploring the town’s rich history to hiking in the nearby mountains, there’s plenty to keep you busy during your visit. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer stay, this list will help you make the most of your time in Columbia.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the top things to do in Columbia, California. From panning for gold to indulging in delicious food, we’ve got you covered with a variety of activities that will make your trip unforgettable.

Historic Sites

Columbia, California, is a treasure trove of historic sites that will transport you back in time to the Gold Rush era. As you wander through its streets, you’ll encounter an array of well-preserved buildings and landmarks, each with its own fascinating story to tell.

Columbia State Historic Park

This is the heart of Columbia’s historic charm, featuring over 30 buildings dating back to the Gold Rush era. Stroll down the wooden boardwalks and explore the shops, museums, and historic exhibits that bring the town’s history to life.

Fallon House

Step into the elegant Fallon House, a beautifully restored Victorian mansion that was once home to one of Columbia’s prominent families. Take a guided tour to admire the period furnishings, exquisite architecture, and learn about the lives of the Fallon family.

Columbia Schoolhouse

Visit the one-room schoolhouse that served as the center of education for Columbia’s children in the 19th century. Step inside and experience what it was like to attend school during the Gold Rush, with its original desks, textbooks, and artifacts.

St. Anne’s Catholic Church

This picturesque church is a true gem, featuring stunning stained glass windows, a hand-carved altar, and an inviting atmosphere. Attend a mass or simply take a moment to appreciate the beauty and serenity of this historic place of worship.

Columbia Cemetery

Pay your respects to the early settlers of Columbia at the historic cemetery. Take a peaceful walk among the tombstones and read the stories engraved upon them, offering a glimpse into the lives of the people who shaped the town’s history.

These historic sites offer a glimpse into Columbia’s rich history and are a must-visit for anyone interested in the past.

Outdoor Activities

Looking for some outdoor adventure? Columbia has plenty of options to choose from.

Here are some of the best outdoor activities to try:

  • Gold Panning: Experience the excitement of finding gold by panning in the same river where gold was first discovered in 1848. Several locations offer gold panning, including Columbia State Historic Park and Jamestown.
  • Hiking: Columbia is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, making it a perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts. The Columbia State Historic Park and the Stanislaus National Forest offer several hiking trails with varying difficulty levels.
  • Biking: Rent a bike and explore the historic town of Columbia on two wheels. The flat terrain and scenic views make it a great place for leisurely bike rides.
  • Fishing: The Stanislaus River is home to a variety of fish species, including rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. Bring your fishing gear and spend a relaxing day by the river.
  • Boating: Enjoy a day on the water by renting a boat or kayak. Lake Don Pedro and New Melones Lake are popular boating destinations near Columbia.

Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for an outdoor adventure, Columbia has something for everyone. Don’t miss out on these exciting activities during your visit.

Museums and Galleries

Columbia is home to several museums and galleries that are worth visiting. Here are some of the best:

Columbia Museum

Located within Columbia State Historic Park, the Columbia Museum is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Discover artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that showcase the town’s Gold Rush era, including mining tools, clothing, and personal belongings of the early settlers.

Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen

Step inside this charming candy shop and museum, where you can witness the traditional art of candy making. Watch as skilled confectioners create delicious treats using antique equipment and techniques, and learn about the history of candy making in Columbia.

Jacob’s Gift Shop and Antiques

Explore this unique shop that combines an antique store with a small museum. Browse through a diverse collection of vintage items, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, and more. Admire the historical artifacts on display and learn about their significance in Columbia’s history.

Manzanita Arts Emporium

Delve into the world of art and creativity at Manzanita Arts Emporium. This gallery features a rotating selection of works by local artists, showcasing various mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, and pottery. Take your time to appreciate the talent and craftsmanship on display.

Columbia Art Gallery

Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, the Columbia Art Gallery is a vibrant space that showcases the works of local artists. Admire a diverse range of artistic styles and mediums, from traditional to contemporary, and even find a unique piece to take home as a memento of your visit.


When it comes to shopping in Columbia, California, you’ll find a variety of unique stores offering one-of-a-kind items and souvenirs. Here are five shopping destinations that are worth exploring:

  1. Columbia Kate’s Teahouse: Step into this charming teahouse and gift shop, where you’ll find an extensive selection of loose-leaf teas from around the world. Browse through their tea collection, teaware, and a range of tea-related accessories. It’s the perfect place to find a delightful blend to enjoy at home or to pick up a thoughtful gift for tea enthusiasts.
  2. Columbia Mercantile: This nostalgic store will transport you back in time with its collection of vintage-inspired merchandise. From retro clothing and accessories to home decor and novelties, you’ll discover an array of treasures that capture the essence of Columbia’s rich history. Don’t miss the opportunity to browse through their selection of old-fashioned candies and treats.
  3. Old Corner Saloon: Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, the Old Corner Saloon is not only a historic watering hole but also a unique shop offering an eclectic mix of items. Explore their collection of antiques, collectibles, and curiosities. From vintage signs and memorabilia to quirky trinkets, you never know what hidden gem you might find.
  4. Columbia Booksellers & Stationers: Book lovers will appreciate this cozy bookstore that specializes in local and regional titles. Browse through their shelves filled with a wide range of books, including history, fiction, children’s literature, and more. Take your time to explore and find your next literary adventure.
  5. Ye Olde Photo Shoppe: Capture the spirit of the past at Ye Olde Photo Shoppe, where you can dress up in authentic period costumes and have your photo taken. This unique experience allows you to transform into a Gold Rush-era character and create lasting memories. Take home a memento of your time in Columbia with a professionally taken photograph.

Whether you’re searching for a special gift, a nostalgic item, or a memorable experience, shopping in Columbia offers a delightful mix of history, charm, and unique finds.

Immerse yourself in the town’s vibrant atmosphere and enjoy exploring these distinctive shops that capture the essence of Columbia’s past and present.

Food and Drink

Columbia CAColumbia is a small town in California, but it has a lot of options when it comes to food and drink. Here are some of the best places to eat and drink in Columbia:

  • The City Hotel Restaurant & Bar: This historic hotel has a restaurant and bar that serves up classic American fare with a modern twist. Try their signature dish, the City Hotel Burger, or enjoy a craft cocktail on their outdoor patio.
  • The Jack Douglass Saloon: This saloon has been around since the 1850s and is a must-visit for history buffs. They serve up classic pub fare like burgers and sandwiches, as well as a variety of beers and cocktails.
  • The Fallon Hotel: This hotel has a restaurant that serves up farm-to-table cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. They also have a bar that serves up craft cocktails and local wines.
  • The What Cheer Saloon: This saloon has been around since the 1850s and is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. They serve up classic pub fare and have a variety of beers and cocktails on tap.
  • The Columbia Kate’s Teahouse: This charming teahouse serves up a variety of teas, as well as sandwiches, salads, and pastries. They also have a gift shop where you can purchase loose-leaf teas and tea accessories.

Whether you’re looking for a casual pub experience or a fine dining experience, Columbia has something for everyone. Be sure to check out these top spots for food and drink during your visit.


When it comes to entertainment, Columbia has a lot to offer. From live music to outdoor movies, there’s always something fun to do in this charming town.

Here are a few entertainment options to consider:

Murphys Creek Theatre

This intimate theater hosts a variety of shows throughout the year, including plays, musicals, and improv comedy.

Ironstone Amphitheater

Located at the Ironstone Vineyards, this outdoor amphitheater hosts concerts and events during the summer months.

Outdoor Movies

During the summer, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosts free outdoor movies in the park. Bring a blanket and some popcorn and enjoy a family-friendly movie under the stars.

If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, consider visiting one of Columbia’s many wineries. Many offer tastings and tours, and some even have live music on the weekends.

No matter what your idea of entertainment is, Columbia has something for everyone. So grab some friends and head out for a fun-filled day or evening in this charming town.

Festivals and Events

Columbia, CA is a city that is rich in culture and history. There are always exciting festivals and events happening throughout the year. Here are some of the top festivals and events that you don’t want to miss:

  • Columbia Fireman’s Muster: This event takes place every year in August and features firefighting competitions, live music, and delicious food.
  • Chocolate Festival: This festival takes place in February and features a variety of chocolate treats from local vendors.
  • Gold Rush Days: This event takes place every year in September and celebrates the history of the California Gold Rush. There are live demonstrations, gold panning competitions, and historical reenactments.
  • Harvest Fest: This festival takes place in October and celebrates the fall harvest. There are pumpkin patches, hayrides, and plenty of delicious fall treats.
  • Columbia Art Show: This event takes place every year in June and features the work of local artists. There are also live music performances and food vendors.

These are just a few of the many festivals and events that take place in Columbia, CA throughout the year. Be sure to check the local calendar for upcoming events and plan your trip accordingly!

Family-Friendly Activities

If you’re looking for family-friendly activities in Columbia, CA, you’re in luck. Here are some great options to keep the whole family entertained:

  • Visit Columbia State Historic Park: This living gold rush town is a great place to take the family. You can pan for gold, take a stagecoach ride, or explore the historic buildings.
  • Go hiking: Columbia offers plenty of hiking trails for all skill levels. Check out the trails at the Columbia State Historic Park or the nearby Stanislaus National Forest.
  • Explore Moaning Caverns: This natural wonder offers guided tours of the caves, as well as a zip line and climbing tower.
  • Visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park: Train enthusiasts will love this historic park, which features a working railroad and museum.
  • Take a horseback ride: Several local stables offer guided horseback rides through the beautiful Sierra foothills.
  • Go fishing: There are plenty of opportunities to fish in the area, whether you prefer lake, river, or stream fishing.
  • Visit Mercer Caverns: This limestone cave offers guided tours and a fun underground adventure for the whole family.
  • Go swimming: Beat the heat by taking a dip in one of the area’s many lakes or swimming holes.
  • Visit the Columbia Nursery: This family-owned nursery offers a wide variety of plants and garden supplies, as well as a petting zoo and play area for kids.
  • Go on a picnic: Pack a lunch and head to one of the area’s many parks or scenic spots for a relaxing family picnic.
  • Visit the Columbia Candy Kitchen: This historic candy shop offers handmade treats and old-fashioned charm.
  • Attend a local event: Check the local calendar for events like the Columbia Wine Tasting and Chili Cook-Off or the Columbia Fireworks Celebration.
  • Visit the Columbia Booksellers and Stationers: This charming bookstore offers a wide selection of books, as well as toys and gifts for kids.
  • Go on a gold rush history tour: Several local companies offer guided tours of the area’s historic gold rush sites.
  • Visit the Tuolumne County Museum and History Center: This museum offers exhibits on the area’s rich history, including the gold rush and Native American culture.

Hiking Trails

Columbia, CA is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse terrain, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore in and around Columbia. Here are some of the best hiking trails to add to your list:

  • Three Chimneys Trail: This 3.5-mile trail is a moderate hike that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail features a gradual climb up to Three Chimneys, a unique rock formation that is worth the trek.
  • Big Trees Trail: This easy 1.5-mile loop trail is perfect for families and nature lovers. The trail winds through a grove of giant sequoias, some of the largest trees in the world.
  • Panorama Trail: This 8.5-mile trail is a challenging hike that rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The trail features steep climbs and descents, so it’s recommended for experienced hikers.
  • Calaveras Big Trees State Park: This park offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes. The park’s most popular trail is the North Grove Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that takes hikers through a grove of giant sequoias.
  • Columbia State Historic Park: This park features several hiking trails that offer a glimpse into the area’s rich history. The park’s most popular trail is the Cemetery Trail, a 1-mile loop that takes hikers past historic gravesites and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

No matter what your skill level or hiking preferences, Columbia has a trail for you. Be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen, and always practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Water Activities

Columbia is surrounded by beautiful lakes and rivers, making it a perfect destination for water activities. Here are some of the best water activities to do in Columbia:

  • Kayaking and Canoeing: Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the serene lakes and rivers in Columbia. Lake Tulloch and New Melones Lake are two popular spots for kayaking and canoeing.
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding: Try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Don Pedro or Lake Tulloch. It’s a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the water.
  • Jet Skiing: Rent a jet ski and hit the waves at Lake Tulloch. It’s an exciting way to experience the water and get your adrenaline pumping.
  • Fishing: Columbia is home to some of the best fishing spots in California. Head to Lake Tulloch or New Melones Lake for a chance to catch a variety of fish, including bass, trout, and catfish.
  • Swimming: Take a dip in the refreshing waters of Lake Tulloch or New Melones Lake. Both lakes have designated swimming areas and are perfect for cooling off on a hot day.
  • Water Skiing: Lake Tulloch is a popular spot for water skiing. Rent a boat and hit the water for a thrilling ride.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day on the water or an exciting adventure, Columbia has something for everyone. Be sure to check out these water activities during your visit.

Parks and Recreation

Columbia, CA is home to several beautiful parks and recreation centers that offer a variety of outdoor activities for visitors and residents to enjoy. Here are some of the top parks and recreation areas to visit:

  • Columbia State Historic Park – Step back in time and experience life in a California Gold Rush town.
  • Moaning Caverns Adventure Park – Descend into the depths of a massive cave and explore the underground world.
  • New Melones Lake – Enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, and other water activities on this beautiful lake.
  • Calaveras Big Trees State Park – Hike through a forest of giant sequoias and enjoy breathtaking views.

No matter what your interests are, there is something for everyone in Columbia’s parks and recreation areas. Be sure to add these destinations to your list when planning your trip to this beautiful town.


When the sun sets in Columbia, California, the town takes on a different ambiance, offering a charming and relaxed nightlife scene.

While Columbia is known for its rich history and historic attractions, there are a few places where you can unwind and enjoy the evening.

Here are a couple of options for nighttime entertainment in Columbia:

Fallon House Theatre

Located within the Columbia State Historic Park, the Fallon House Theatre hosts live performances and shows throughout the year. From musicals and plays to comedy acts and concerts, you can catch a variety of entertaining performances in this intimate venue. Check their schedule to see what shows are playing during your visit and enjoy an evening of live entertainment.

Columbia City Hotel

Step into the historic Columbia City Hotel, which dates back to the Gold Rush era, and head to their saloon for a laid-back evening. Enjoy a drink at the bar and mingle with locals and visitors alike. The hotel’s rustic charm and friendly atmosphere make it a great place to relax and unwind after a day of exploring Columbia.

It’s important to note that Columbia is a small town with a focus on preserving its historical heritage, so the nightlife options may be more limited compared to larger cities. However, the town’s quaint and authentic character creates a unique and enjoyable atmosphere for an evening stroll or a cozy gathering with friends or family.

Additionally, keep in mind that Columbia is nestled within the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, providing ample opportunities for stargazing and appreciating the natural beauty of the area. Take a nighttime walk along the historic streets, under the glow of street lamps, and soak up the peaceful ambiance that Columbia offers after dark.

While the nightlife in Columbia may not be bustling with clubs and late-night venues, it provides a perfect setting to unwind, enjoy the town’s historic charm, and create lasting memories of your visit.

Final Thoughts

As you bid adieu to the captivating streets of Columbia CA filled with laughter and bursting with history around every corner; feelings of joy mixed with nostalgia wash over you like waves crashing against shorelines.

This little town has stolen our hearts and painted it with a streak of vibrant colors – from the gold rush era buildings to discovering treasures while panning for gold it is an unforgettable experience.

As you leave with an everlasting smile, Columbia CA finds a place in your heart that will remain forever special.

Just remember – never lose the spirit of adventure and keep exploring this beautiful world. Until we meet again happy travels!