This here is the spot that started it all. In 1848, James Marshall shouted Gold!, or possibly something a little more expletive, and in rode the masses. Quite possibly one of the most important historic sites in California (though folks in LA might stay the Hollywood sign is more important), today you can visit traces of the Sutter sawmill along the banks of the South Fork of the American River and tour the restored town of Coloma.
See a replica of the original sawmill and over 20 historic buildings including a working post office (where locals have to come to retrieve mail) and an ice cream shop. There are plenty of interpretive programs throughout the year; the most exciting are the Living History Days.
Also you’ll want to tour the Gold Discovery Museum, which tells the story of Sutter and Marshall’s discovery. Some visitors talk of being disappointed that this area isn’t as vibrant as other historic sites, but the draw here is not to be bombarded with hawkers and souvenir shops; come here to tour California history and go elsewhere to whoop it up.