Loading...
   Lodging       Eat & Drink       Recreation       Shopping       Historic Sites       Gas & Grocery       Services       Wi-Fi       Directory       Getting Here   
Cartoon animation hiking bear Pinecrest Lake
Tuolumne the
Bear says:
Come hike
with me at
Pinecrest Lake!
Eat & Drink Informal Map
Eat & Drink Formal Map
Lodging Map
All Maps
Maps in PDF
Experience Sonora, California
Each step down Washington Street in Historic Sonora is a step rich in history. The street was an Indian trail until the Gold Rush transformed it into a mining camp, with canvas tents and colorful flags flying from the brush houses built by the Mexicans. Imagine it with throngs of miners walking down the street, gambling tables made of rough-hewn wooden planks set up in front of each establishment.

These temporary structures were eventually replaced by wooden buildings, most of which burned in the Great Sonora Fire of 1854. The town was then quickly rebuilt, largely with brick.

Many historic buildings from those times remain. The Gunn House, now a hotel, was once the office of the Sonora Herald newspaper, established in 1854. A few blocks west of Washington Street on Bradford sits what was once the county jail, now a museum, with a few jail cells still intact. A tiny park near the museum has early gold mining equipment—an arastra, a stamping machine, and a Pelton water wheel.


The City Hotel building, once an 1850s elegant hotel, remains, as does, across the street, the Sonora Inn, at the turn into the 20th century considered one of the most elegant hotels in the state.

A block west of Washington Street is the Tuolumne County Courthouse, built in 1898 of distinctive yellow pressed brick. It is still used today.

At the north end of the street is the well-known Red Church, built in 1860. Across the street is the Morgan Mansion. The Fire Museum includes a small park with a hand fire cart.

Sonora has many places to eat, from coffee houses to formal restaurants offering Mexican (of course), Chinese, Thai, pasta and Italian, and Barbecue and steak.

Informal places include sandwich shops, including bagel sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, and light fare at various coffee houses, and ice cream. One sandwich & ice cream store has a historic saloon bar and the downstairs bookstore has the look of an underground quartz mine.

There is also shopping, with gift shops and antique stores carrying many unusual items.

What's New: A sandwich and ice cream store, the Sonora Creamery, has moved from East Sonora to the south end of Washington Street in downtown Sonora.

Video of the 2012 Amgen Tour Bicycle Race (Sonora to
Clovis leg) includes shots from the Mother Lode Roundup.
Gold Rush History
In its Gold Rush heydey Sonora was the most ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan, and tolerant town in the Sierra. It was the only town with a significant number of women.

The town's existence resulted from conflicts that Mexican miners from the province of Sonora had with American miners when they tried to mine near Jamestown. The Mexican miners eventually moved a few miles up Woods Creek—where Americans thought there was no gold—and found a rich supply of the metal.

It was originally known as Sonorian Camp, and miners from Chile, Peru, Argentina, France, and other countries came as well as Mexicans. The Mexicans and South Americans, unlike the Americans, brought their women. Later women from France and elsewhere, hearing of the large population of women, came here too.

Weekends in Sonora were a wild scene, as miners from camps all around came to town for supplies and recreation. There was much gambling, drinking with the most expensive spirits, bull fights, even fights between bulls and Grizzly bears. Many costly items were on sale that miners could pay for with the gold they had recovered with only a few hours of work.

In late 1849 a town government was established with the name of Sonora, with a Town Council who were Americans but sympathetic to the foreigners. The town organization allowed the construction of a hospital, needed because large numbers of the Mexican miners were suffering from scurvy. The population was about 5,000.

In June 1850 the new California legislature's ill-conceived Foreign Miners Tax took effect, levying a $20 per month tax on all foreign miners, far beyond the ability of the average miner to pay. Overnight the population of the town decreased by four fifths. The town became dangerous, with many people attacked in their tents while sleeping or on the roads, by marauders who were thought to be Mexicans.

Sonora's town leaders hired a well-known attorney to challenge the law as unconstitutional, but this was unsuccessful. Eventually, however, the tax was repealed, then later followed by a tax at a much lower rate.

After the placer gold from the streams was mostly played out, Sonora continued as a gold-mining region because of its substantial underground "pocket" mines, in which highly concentrated gold could be found in the quartz. This was before the technology existed to extract gold from low-grade quartz and gold rock. Sonora's pocket mines and its status as the county seat and business center of the Southern Mines allowed it to survive while many other mining camps became ghost towns.

For more on the history of the town see History of Sonora and Life at Sonora 1849-52





Events in Sonora
November 14, 2014–December 21, 2014
.
"Greetings". 
by Tom Dudzick! It's a normal family Christmas - until an atheist and an angel show up. A moving comedy about family,...
Details

December 24, 2014
.
Sonora Community Christmas Eve Dinner. 
Noon to 6 pm, free Christmas Eve Dinner!
Details

December 25, 2014
.
Christmas Dinner with Friends. 
1 to 4 pm, free dinner at the Sonora Opera Hall AND the Tuolumne Memorial Veterans Hall in Tuolumne City across from...
Details

January 10, 2015
.
2nd Saturday Art Night. 
Enjoy art, music and refreshments free from 5pm-9pm in historic downtown Sonora.
Details

January 17, 2015
.
41st Annual 4–H Community Dinner and Cake Auction. 
Event takes place at The Mother Lode Fair Grounds. Call 533-5686 for ticket prices and times.
Details

February 14, 2015
.
88 Days in the Motherlode, Mark Twain finds his voice. 
This is a documentary premiere of 88 Days In The Motherlode: Mark Twain finds his voice produced by This 'n That Films....
Details

February 14, 2015
.
2nd Saturday Art Night. 
5:00pm-9:00pm in historic downtown Sonora. Art, music, refreshments are featured along main street.
Details

February 22, 2015
.
Sonora Wedding Faire. 
This year's event is being held at Sonora Mother Lode Fairgrounds in the Main Building. Talk to over 40 vendors in and...
Details

March 1, 2015–May 3, 2015
.
Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "Mary Poppins". 
Mary Poppins follows the troubled Banks family after the delightful nanny arrives on their doorstep. Using a...
Details

March 6, 2015–March 8, 2015
.
Sonora Celtic Faire. 
Featuring Jousting by imperial knights, Medieval Martial Art Tournaments, Highland games, A Variety of Celtic Music, A...
Details

March 14, 2015
.
Trivia Bee. 
This is a annual fundraiser for the Tuolumne County Library's Literacy Services Programs.
Details

March 14, 2015
.
2nd Saturday Art Night. 
5:00p.m. - 9:00p.m in historic downtown Sonora. Enjoy art, music and refreshments along Washington Street.
Details

April 11, 2015–April 12, 2015
.
Home and Garden Show. 
At the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. Over 100 vendors to participate. Free Parking, Admission and Shuttle.
Details

April 11, 2015
.
2nd Saturday Art Night. 
5:00pm - 9:00pm in historic downtown Sonora. Enjoy art, music and refreshments along Washington Street.
Details

April 25, 2015
.
Sonora's Spring Festival. 
This event is FREE and includes art & crafters, live music, street entertainment, hair show & fashion show, bouncy...
Details

May 9, 2015
.
Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posee Presents: Mother Lode Round–Up Parade & Rodeo. 
Saturday will feature one of the longest parades in California in historic downtown Sonora on Washington Street....
Details

May 29, 2015–June 28, 2015
.
Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "Unnecessary Farce". 
With tow cops, three crooks, eight doors, a politician and a female accountant, this "smash hit" (ABC 53) promises to...
Details

August 21, 2015–September 13, 2015
.
Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "Macbeth". 
Macbeth is a nightmare journey through the souls of two extranordinary people to murder, madness and death....
Details

September 11, 2015–September 12, 2015
.
Fishing Tackle & Duck Decoy Show. 
Buy and Sell + Free Appraisals
Details

September 26, 2015
.
Exotic Bird and Animal Expo. 
9am-4pm in the John Muir Building at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds.
Details

October 16, 2015–November 29, 2015
.
Sierra Repertory Theatre Present "The Drowsy Chaperone". 
Immerse yourself in the glamorous, hilarious tale of a celebrity bride and her uproarious wedding day. Mix in a...
Details

November 27, 2015
.
32nd Annual Historic Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade. 
Starts at 5:30 promptly rain or shine! The spirit of Christmas will fill the streets as brightly lit floats, auto,...
Details

(Events are courtesy of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau)
Live Theatre
Live theatre has been a part of Sonora since its earliest days. Sonora today has two theatre companies—Sonora Repertory Theatre and Stage 3 Theatre.