The town of Loomis, established in 1850 and incorporated in 1984, sits about 25 miles east of Sacramento off Interstate 80 in Placer County and 10 minutes from the eastern reaches of Folsom Lake. Once one of the largest fruit-shipping stations in the region, Loomis today is home to approximately 6,200 residents and feels like the country—rural roads wind past horse properties, orchards and strawberry stands, and the one-street downtown includes an old-time drug store complete with soda fountain. You’ll find modern development just off the freeway, with a shopping center anchored by Raley’s and, yes, Starbucks, but turn onto Taylor Road—a portion of Historic Highway 40—and you’ll step back in time.
Blue Goose Fruit shed: This 26,000-square-foot former fruit-packing shed, undergoing continual renovation through the South Placer Heritage Foundation, operates a market selling Placer-grown produce, local organic meats and cheeses, and a variety of nuts and candies, among other snacks. Pop in and taste some salsa, admire works from local artists and head home with some otherwise-hard-to-find grass-fed beef or lamb. You’ll even find cheese and butter from grass-fed cows. Make sure to purchase a bag of local mandarins—the easy-to-peel, supersweet citrus overflows Blue Goose’s bins this time of year. Loaded with vitamin C, they’re the perfect antidote to cold-and-flu season. (3550 Taylor Road)
High Hand Nursery: Another historic fruit-packing shed, the High Hand Nursery today is a verdant retreat, inviting visitors to wander among its trees and shrubs—many of them unusual—to admire garden art, fountains and bedding plants. Explore the grounds to discover a warehouse full of ceramic pots, bronze sculptures, granite-top tables and Oriental rugs by Truckee Mountain Rug Co. The newly opened High Hand Cafe dishes up fresh California cuisine made from local, seasonal ingredients, cooked in outdoor wood-fire ovens and served in a lush conservatory setting. (3750 Taylor Road)
New Horseshoe Bar Grill: At the corner of Taylor and Horseshoe Bar roads, this upscale restaurant reopened in late June under the new ownership of renowned restaurateur Eppie Johnson and his nephew Richard Bruce. They’re friendly here—a server who sees you admiring the posted menu just may step outside to recite the night’s specials. With a menu primarily of dishes created from organic and sustainably produced ingredients, New Horseshoe Bar Grill takes a bite out of your wallet, but it’s definitely one of a kind in sleepy Loomis. If you’re adventurous, try chef Robert Facciani’s rabbit confit, or go more traditional with a Bistro Burger (topped with Point Reyes blue cheese and caramelized onions), one of the seafood specials, or a grilled Niman Ranch filet mignon or rib-eye. (3645 Taylor Road)
Christensen’s Saddlery: Whether you ride Western, English or not at all, this horse-focused business is a must-see when you’re in Loomis. It smells like a barn—in a good way. The rich scent of leather tack, soaps and all things equine bombards you the minute you step through the door. Ogle the luxurious saddles and check out the horse-related gift items—jewelry, toys, knickknacks. Don’t eat the cookies from the jar on the counter. They smell like the best bran muffin you’ve ever encountered but, hey, they’re for horses. (3690 Taylor Road)
Foothill Feed & Gift: What is it about these rural feed stores that is so welcoming? Here, perhaps it’s the horse statue out front or the dusty Sylvester cat inside (appropriately named Dusty) or the friendly guy behind the counter, who did not shoo us out even when we dropped in two minutes before closing. With wind chimes, weather vanes, hats and stacks of animal feed for creatures ranging from sheep and chickens to dogs and cats, this place beckons you to stay far longer than two minutes and practically dares you to try and leave without purchasing something interesting. (3293 Taylor Road)
The Flower Farm Nursery and Coffee House Cafe: If you take Horseshoe Bar Road east toward Folsom Lake, at the corner of Auburn-Folsom Road, you’ll discover a charming nursery and coffee house adjacent to The Flower Farm bed-and-breakfast inn. Curl up with a coffee and a curried-chicken sandwich on a couch in the cafe or sit outdoors on the patio beside the pond, which includes a diving mannequin, toes to the sky, beside the “duck dock.” Follow the nursery’s paths and enter the tiny gift shop, where you can purchase handmade soaps, lotions for garden-weary hands or a greenhouse kit. In the far corner of the property, a produce cart displays vegetables from the on-site garden. Winter squash, anyone? (9280 Horseshoe Bar Road)
Loomis Alpacas: Ever feed an alpaca? Call Beckie Perell at Loomis Alpacas (916-768-0735) to arrange a brief tour of her ranch, where she has seven alpacas. These domesticated South American llamas produce long silky wool, which can be spun into yarn for weaving and knitting. “Everyone should have an alpaca heirloom sweater,” says Perell, noting that alpaca wool comes in 22 natural colors. Visit the farm, feed apples and carrots by hand to the alpacas, watch them neck wrestle, and think about whether alpaca-raising could be in your future. (3600 Holly Hill Lane)
14th Annual Cowpoke Fall Gathering of Cowboy Poetry & Music—Western life comes alive Nov. 7 and 8 at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed, where nationally known performers spin stories, tell tall tales and share verse and song in the spirit of the Old West. All proceeds benefit the Blue Goose Fruit Shed Restoration Project. Call (916) 787-0878 or visit soplacerheritage.org for more information.
How to get there: Take Interstate 80 east past Roseville and Rocklin to exit at Loomis.