Loomis: A snowless escape

THOUGH MINUTES FROM THE RUSH OF I-80, historic Loomis is steeped in small-town charm. It has an old-fashioned downtown, renovated fruit-packing sheds and a rural feel.

Loomis (pop. 6,430) grew up along the first transcontinental railroad route and historic Hwy. 40. It is a hidden gem, filled with unique cafes and restaurants, microbrew and wine tasting venues and art galleries.

What’s more, Loomis is quietly experiencing a boomlet in food, wine and art—despite the sluggish economy.

This makes the charming town an ideal “pit stop” for skiers commuting to and from the Sierra on I-80—as well as others looking for a “snowless” day trip. (Take the Horseshoe Bar Rd. exit off I-80, and go north a few minutes to get to downtown).

There are new places to explore: Three wineries— Ciotti Wines, Cristaldi and Popie—just opened a tasting room at the High Hand Fruit Sheds; Casque Wines has opened its own tasting room in town; and the Loomis Basin Brewing Co. is churning out hand-crafted beer that is distributed throughout the foothills.

Cafe Zorro, a standout for fresh, local cuisine, is expanding into the catering business and opening a commercial kitchen dubbed “Gourmet Garage.” (See related stories.)

Want entertainment? The Blue Goose Event Center, a renovated fruit-packing shed, hosts the annual Food Extravaganza in May, the Cowpoke Fall Gathering and tribute bands, among other performances.

A Loomis stalwart, High Hand, continues to draw visitors to its nursery, conservatory and shops. It also has bought the popular Maple Rock Gardens in Penryn and plans to offer garden tours.

“Loomis was named in 1884 by the Southern Pacific for James Loomis, the local railroad agent, express agent, postmaster and saloonkeeper,” Erwin Gudde writes in California Place Names.

Fruit growing and shipping came next. In the 1920s, Loomis was the largest fruit-shipping station in Placer County. Peaches, plums and pears were brought in all summer from local farmers.

Loomis was incorporated in 1984. In danger of being annexed by Rocklin, residents voted to preserve local control, largely to reserve the small-town character. The town’s motto remains: “A small town is like a big family.”

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