Being a New England girl, I missed out on all those riveting California history lessons in which "My Darlin' Clementine" was given context and children had the opportunity to pan for gold with varying degrees of success.
All is not lost, however! Far from it! The Mission San Juan Capistrano, located in - you guessed it - San Juan Capistrano, offers unfortunate souls like myself, as well as California natives wishing to relive their childhoods, the opportunity to journey back to a time when many men sought their fortune in the wicky-wild-wild west.
Until March 31st, visitors to the mission can experience the Gold Fever gold rush exhibit. The traveling exhibition gives history buffs the chance to read background, details, and first-hand accounts of this period in history, and gives kids (or kids-at-heart) the chance to dress up in authentic gold rush gear and see what it would have been like to camp out in relative squalor while awaiting a promised fortune. On Saturdays from noon-2pm, you can even pan for gold!
Aside from this eccentric exhibit, visitors can also embark on a sweet audio tour that details the mysterious return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano on the same day each year, and the earthquake that collapsed the mission on 40 unsuspecting worshipers and left some ruins that look like they should be in Rome, not Orange County.
It's fun, it's odd, and if you want to dress up like a 49er, you'd better get there by March 31st!