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Sutter Creek, Calif.: Foothills Fun

Historic buildings, antique stores, and fine vintages make this Sierra foothill town a gem to visit any time of year.

  • blown glass at Chaos Glassworks in Sutter Creek, image
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    Peruse colorful handblown ornaments at Chaos Glassworks.
  • dish of baby neck clams at Susan's Place in Sutter Creek, image
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    Try a savory dish of baby neck clams steamed in wine at Susan's Place.
  • drinks on the balcony at Hotel Sutter overlooking the street, image
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    Sip a cocktail on the balcony at Hotel Sutter, relax, and watch the world go by.
  • exterior of Helwig Winery in Sierra foothills, image
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    Helwig Winery's tasting room is open seven days a week.
  • interior of Water Street Antiques in Sutter Creek, Calif, image
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    Shop for European antiques, locally-crafted dining tables, and home accessories at Water Street Antiques & Interiors.
  • main street of Sutter Creek, Calif., lined with historic buildings, image
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    Covered sidewalks and balconies line old-fashioned Main Street.
  • mortar holes at Indian Grinding Rock State Park, image
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    Indian Grinding Rock State Park has about 1,185 mortar holes, the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America.
  • pastry and coffee at Andrae's Bakery, image
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    Sit down to coffee and your choice of breads, pastries, and desserts at Andrae's Bakery.

Gorgeous rolling hills and a thriving wine region surround this friendly Gold Rush town in the Sierra foothills. The downtown, its streets lined with historic buildings and covered sidewalks, looks straight out of the 1850s. Area code is 209.

Restored European furniture sits alongside originally designed (and artfully distressed) tables and shelves in an airy former car dealership that now houses Water Street Antiques & Interiors. Don’t miss the gorgeous textiles imported from India—you’d pay twice as much for these in San Francisco. 33-C Main St., Sutter Creek, 267-0585,

The courtyard patio of Susan’s Place, a Mediterranean restaurant down a side alley off the main drag, makes for romantic dining. The menu’s highlights include garlicky steamed baby neck clams and an ample lamb shank that’s fall-off-the-bone tender. 15 Eureka St., Sutter Creek, 267-0945,

Just 15 minutes into Amador County’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley wine country, Helwig Winery's modern new tasting room offers sweeping vistas and the hearty zinfandels for which the region is known, but give their elegant Rosé de Shenandoah a sip as well. 11555 Shenandoah Rd., Plymouth, 245-5200,

The easy one-mile North Trail at nearby Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park takes hikers past majestic valley oaks, manzanitas, and a replication Miwok Indian village before passing the bedrock mortar holes for which the park is named. 14881 Pine Grove Volcano Rd., Pine Grove, 296-7488,

Hidden treasures fill the town’s antique stores and trendy boutiques, including the jam-packed Chaos Glassworks, a workspace and retail shop selling a kaleidoscope of colorful works. On weekends, the owners give glass-blowing demos. 121 Hanford St., Sutter Creek, 267-9317.

The flaky mini-quiches spiked with savory cheese shouldn’t be missed at Andrae’s Bakery, which makes the best pastries in the area. 14141 Old Hwy. 49, Amador City, 267-1352,

The quaint, 214-seat Sutter Creek Theatre first opened in 1920 showing silent movies. Today it hosts an eclectic mix of theater, film, and music, including regular, entertaining performances by tribute bands honoring such acts as Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and Johnny Cash. 44 Main St., Sutter Creek, 425-0077,

Whiskey cocktail in hand, catch the sunset from the balcony on the second story of the renovated Hotel Sutter. As the light washes over Main Street’s Gold Rush–era facades, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in 1858, the year the hotel opened. 53 Main St., Sutter Creek, 267-0242,

Photography by Cindy Chew

This article was first published in February 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.