In the eastern corner of the Sacramento Valley, just past the city of Folsom, El Dorado Hills sits at the base of the Sierra, flanked by rolling grassy hills to the south and Folsom Lake to the north. Highway 50 begins to climb as it bisects this upscale community, known for its private golf club, and its parks, shops and recreational options. Take the morning and afternoon to explore the shops in Town Center or hike the area’s trails, then grab a meal and catch an award-winning theater production put on by local youths.
El Dorado Hills Town Center (just off Highway 50/Latrobe Road)
Don’t be put off by the gas station and McDonald’s on the corner—once you pull into the Town Center, it becomes obvious that this retail mecca is not your typical nondescript collection of franchised concrete. Cruise down the hill to the shopping area’s heart—a Mediterranean-style, Main Street-inspired village of shops and restaurants.
Pop into A Maad Tea Party in the morning, when the fruit scones are fresh from the oven and still warm. A couple of those and a pot of tea kick off a day of shopping.
Browse Posh Punkins, an upscale children’s clothing boutique packed to the walls with cute stuff for kids sizes infant to 8. Bring your wallet—this place is not cheap—but expect to discover first-quality items that you can’t find anywhere else in the region. At Mia Sorella, pump your own bottleful of extra virgin olive oil or aged balsamic vinegar—the tasting room/shop sells more than 20 oils, including ones in-fused with chipotle, Meyer lemon, garlic and Tuscan herb. Drop in to Veda Home and let whimsical clocks and other artwork grab your attention while you wander among the organic linens and eclectic furnishings.
Be sure to visit the Nugget Market. It may look like a simple grocery store from the outside, but inside, you may question whether you’re in a restaurant or a supermarket. In the deli, huge cases contain prepared foods such as grilled meats and seafood (char-rare tuna, anyone?), salads, pizza, sushi and soups. Whether you pop in for a quart of milk or dinner for eight, you’ll be hard-pressed to leave the Nugget without at least one impulse buy.
Restaurants in Town Center include Bistro 33—no sign of a recession here; the place is hopping with lively customers every time we visit. Go for a Pike’s Market panino (artichokes, red pepper, eggplant, cambozola cheese and pesto on focaccia), smoked chicken and wild-mushroom ravioli or bistro meatloaf. Across the street, take a table by the water at Cafe Campanile, where the filet mignon, tender as butter, can be paired with any number of reds off the exten-sive wine list. Grab an Italian sandwich at Mama Ann’s Deli & Bakery—the list of panini runs 28 long and includes such delights as eggplant parmigiana (with mozzarella, provolone and vegetable marinara), Venetian (salami, ham, roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella), KooKoo’s Own (salami, sweet capicolla, roasted red peppers and provolone) and, on Friday and Saturday only, sausage and peppers.
insider tip—El Dorado Hills is home to the only IMAX theater in the region outside of Sacramento. Catch an IMAX film at Regal Cinemas in the Town Center. Showing this month: Watchmen, starting March 6, and Monsters vs. Aliens (3–D), starting March 27.
Serrano (off El Dorado Hills Boulevard at Serrano Parkway)
In this 3,500-acre golf community, with its upscale gated neighborhoods, you can’t step foot on the green without a membership, but any member of the public is welcome to use Serrano hill for a workout. Start at the bottom near El Dorado Hills Boulevard and climb, either on foot or bike, until your heart’s pumping and you can turn around and enjoy expansive views of the Sacramento Valley below. Take a break at the Serrano Visitors Center, wandering around the lake and admiring the many geese that flock to the grass every morning.
Bella Bru Cafe (Raley’s Shopping Center, off El Dorado Hills Boulevard at Park Drive)
A neighborhood gathering spot, Bella Bru packs ’em in on weekends, especially for breakfast. At lunchtime, bask in the sun by the fountain, sipping a latte and devouring a chicken Wal-dorf salad.
Kalithea Park (off El Dorado Hills Boulevard, up Olson Lane to Gillette Drive)
Surrounded by gorgeous (and giant) houses, this hilltop park backs up to a gated community and spills down a ridge that overlooks the Sacramento Valley and Folsom Lake. Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket and lounge on the round ball field, where the grass is soft, the sun bright. The kids can frolic on the climbing structure or scramble up the huge boulders that flank the play area.
New York Creek Nature Area Trail (starts at Community Park at El Dorado Hills Boulevard and Harvard Way)
This easily walkable 2.5-mile trail winds between housing developments through grassy meadows, past oaks and over streams. It’s easy to forget you’re in the suburbs out here. Cross the bridge
at Brackenwood Road to admire the Indian grinding rocks at Fairchild Park.
Folsom Lake—Brown’s Ravine Access (off Green Valley Road)
Even though the lake is down to pond level and the marina is closed, Brown’s Ravine still is worth a visit. Stroll along the shore and admire the surrounding green hills and blooming wildflowers. Just be ready to hike a ways from your car to get down to the lake.
Salmon Falls Trail (Salmon Falls Road, approximately four miles north of El Dorado Hills Boulevard)
On land that since 1956 has almost constantly been under the waters of Folsom Lake, current drought conditions have uncovered the remnants of Salmon Falls township, a Gold Rush-era community that was a major stopping point between the American River and Georgetown. Walk, bike or horseback ride from Salmon Falls Road about two miles along a trail to view foundations and the concrete bridge over still-fast-flowing Sweetwater Creek. Now is the time to go, before temperatures rise, Sierra snow melts and the lake (we hope) fills up. Wear sturdy shoes—the trail is a bit steep and rocky before it flattens out across sandy flats—and feel free to bring your dog.
Colina de Oro Mexican Restaurant (Green Valley Road at Francisco Drive)
After spending the day hiking the Salmon Falls Trail, drop into Colina de Oro for hearty Mexican fare and margaritas. The chips are greasy, the salsa hot, and plates deep and loaded with cheese. What’s not to like?
The Purple Place (Green Valley Road between Sophia Parkway and Francisco Drive)
Long known as a frequent stop for hog riders (as in Harleys), The Purple Place has renovated its sports bar and cafe. Go for breakfast—the menu is laden with omelets and Benedicts—or later in the day for a burger. Skip the fries this time, though, and order the onion rings. Light and tangy, a pile of these disappears too fast.
El Dorado Musical Theatre
Catch a production of High School Musical 2 April 17–26 by this award-winning youth theater company. Since 2001, El Dorado Musical Theatre has wowed audiences in Folsom and El
Dorado Hills with its large casts of drama-loving children and teens whose performances light up the stage at Oak Ridge and Folsom high schools. Don’t mistake this for po-dunk kiddie theater—these shows, with sharp choreography and high-level special effects, will not disappoint.
From Sacramento, take Highway 50 east to El Dorado Hills Boulevard/Latrobe Road.