By Carol Dabrowiak and Cindy Gibbs, Sacramento's Hometown Tourists

Just a short drive from Downtown Sacramento, Folsom is a quick, easy and fun day trip.  When planning a trip to Old Folsom, don’t forget the Folsom History Museum.  So many people come to Folsom for the food, the stores, the farmers market, craft fair and so many other events along Sutter Street.  But there in the midst is the museum, worth an hour of your time to step back and learn about the vibrant history of this town. 

If you decide to visit the Folsom History Museum, you get a "three-fer." Your ticket gets you into three museums for the price of one: Pioneer Village, Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park and the Folsom History Museum. Since an adult ticket only costs $4, you get a lot of value for your money.

Pioneer Village

Our day began here observing what life was like at the height of the 1849 Gold Rush. Pioneer Village is dependent upon volunteers, and the hours vary.

Smithy:  We visited the old-time blacksmith shop where a "smith" works on decorative iron pieces that include filigree and ornamentation. We guess there isn't a lot of need for horseshoes anymore. 

Pioneer house:  This one-room abode is furnished with vintage pieces to show how a prairie family lived.  It contains sleeping quarters, a kitchen area and a living room in a compact (claustrophobic!) home. However, those with small apartments in San Francisco or New York may find it roomy.  It reminded Cindy of her first apartment with her husband, but this pioneer home had more space. 

Equipment and outhouse:  We walked among various examples of farming equipment and gold mining equipment on display in adjacent sheds and grounds. Within Pioneer Park is a leaning outhouse whose interior is actually modern with running water.

Folsom History Museum, located across the street from Pioneer Village. 

Quilts:  When we walked in, we were really pleased to see that there was a quilt show on display. Quilts are a perfect example of pioneer artistry, skill and patience. Just look at the thousands of uniform hand stitches that go into making every quilt. It must be a labor of love and pride.  I realized what our ancestors accomplished without electricity or limited electricity.  Rather than spending hours watching TV or surfing the Internet, they made things.  These quilts are just one example.

Artifacts:  The History Museum has a lot of artifacts and information regarding Folsom history.  It is a compact and concise museum that pulls together a vast amount of information from the Maidu Indians that lived in the area, the founding of Folsom by Capt. Joseph Libby Folsom, Gold Rush era, Chinese railroad workers and their community, the Folsom Prison, impacts of World War I, brothels, bars, and how the city survived and thrived over time.  We also learned about gold mining and the building of the railroad, the Chinese population in the area and the influence women brought to the community of church and schools.

Did You Know?

  • The Pony Express had a station in Folsom where the horses were boarded.
  • There was a small garment industry in Folsom similar to the one in New York City. Ladies’ dresses were constructed in factories using assembly line techniques for “ready-to-wear” clothing.
  • There was also a famous prison (hint: Folsom Prison) that opened at this time. There is a mock jail cell in the corner of the museum and you can don a striped prison uniform for a photo opportunity. Cindy dressed up as a convict and let me take her picture.

Folsom Powerhouse (Next time)

For those like us who did not allow enough time to visit the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park, exhibits in the Folsom History Museum give a good overview and make us want to come back to see the powerhouse itself.  We learned that the first long-distance electrical transmission was between Folsom and Sacramento, a whopping 22 miles away!  At that time, this was a great distance. 

After the “two-fer”:

We strolled along Sutter Street and visited the myriad antique shops, jewelry, arts and crafts and clothing stores instead. Just off Sutter Street was the Pacific Western Trading store, recommended to us by the staff at the Maidu Museum in Roseville, with museum-quality Indian artwork for sale.   We had lunch at one of the many restaurants in Old Folsom.

Getting There from Sacramento Is Easy

It is easy to get to Old Folsom from Sacramento.  The Light Rail Gold line comes direct from the Amtrak station in Downtown Sacramento all the way to one end of Sutter Street in Old Folsom. There is plenty of parking available most days and nights.  Another word of advice, most stores don’t open unto 11 a.m. We plan to return another day for the Folsom Powerhouse and more browsing at the interesting shops - perhaps even a return visit to Pioneer Village or the museum.