Sonora, Calif., the county seat of Tuolumne County, has a charming downtown full of antiques shops, clothing boutiques and restaurants. Start the weekend by heading to the Sonora Farmers Market on Saturday morning. The market, at Theall and Stewart streets, sells not only fresh fruits and veggies, but also pastries, crepes and locally roasted coffee.
Gunn House Hotel (286 S. Washington St.;  532-3421, rooms from $84 to $125 a night) is an easy walk to shopping and dining. It features a stone and river rock swimming pool and complimentary breakfast in the parlor. As a fun touch, each room has a teddy bear on the bed.
Stick to Sonora's main drag, Washington Street, for the best places to eat. You can't go wrong at Diamondback Grill (93 S. Washington St.;  532-6661), where there are at least nine half-pound burgers from which to choose (about $9.95). Make sure to try the garlic fries or sweet potato fries ($7.75) with buttermilk-parsley dressing. Also noteworthy is the upscale comfort food at Talulah's (13 S. Washington St.;  532-7278), where the $15 ravioli sampler is a must. It features spinach Gorgonzola, butternut squash, cheese, crab, wild mushroom and beef ravioli served with polenta and marinara and alfredo sauces. For drinks, check out the cocktail bar at Emberz (177 S. Washington St.;  532-2272), where concoctions such as birthday cake martinis and basil margaritas are served. Most specialty drinks are $7.
After checking out downtown Sonora, take the short drive west on Highway 108 to Jamestown, home of the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ( 984-3953; $13 for adults, $6 for children ages 6 to 17, 5 and younger are free). The highlight here is a ride on an authentic steam-powered train or a vintage diesel locomotive, on weekends through October. The 40-minute train rides take passengers into the surrounding scenic countryside. Two blocks away is Jamestown's Main Street, with an ice cream parlor and wine tasting rooms.
The lesson learned
Next time I'll take an extra day and stop in Yosemite for a visit.
Excluding gas for the roughly 660-mile round trip from Los Angeles, my wife, young daughter and I spent about $225 for two nights at the Gunn House, $100 for meals at the Diamond Back Grill and Talulah's; and $26 for admission to Railtown.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times