One of the most entertaining and educational attractions in the Gold Country, the Sutter Gold Mine tours lead visitors on an hour-long excursion into the bowels of a modern hard-rock gold mine. After a ride on a mining shuttle to the mine, visitors "tag in" and go through the safety training room, as the miners once did. Wearing your hard hat, you'll proceed deep into the mine, learning about geology and history while marveling at the gems and gold embedded in the quartz of the Comet Vein (you'll even learn to distinguish real gold from "fool's gold").

After the tour, be sure to buy a bag of mining ore -- about $5 per bag -- head over to the wood sluice, grab one of the gold pans or sluice boxes, and pan for real gold. Each bag is guaranteed to hold either gold or gemstones (emeralds, amethysts, topaz, and many other birthstones), and an assistant is on hand to show you how it's done. Other diversions include the Company Store gift shop filled with inexpensive semiprecious gems and minerals, and a 1-hour documentary about the Gold Rush and a half-hour movie about modern gold mining (a heavy-machinery flick that kids will love).