truckee-1While Truckee, California, is well known for hosting below freezing, single digit temperatures in the winter and often remembered for the ill fated pioneers who lost their lives there, it may not be first remembered for outstanding eateries, boutiques, and excellent day excursions, yet it certainly should be.

Although we had stopped in Truckee on the way to skiing and en route to Lake Tahoe family vacations as a child, it wasn’t until I was a parent several decades later that I discovered the gem that Truckee is for so many reasons and what a great all season getaway it makes for a weekend, overnight or simply a day-cation as my daughter and I re-discovered recently.

Nearly 20 years ago I became so enamored with Truckee that I began leading day excursion tours there for a local community college. I found the history of the Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park more than intriguing. The museum was mesmerizing and the McGlashan Butterfly Collection spectacular. I enjoyed sharing these gems with anyone interested in learning about the gripping history that brought about these Sierra nuggets. But in recent years, Truckee holds even more.

On a recent day trip to Truckee my daughter and I stumbled on many more reasons to love Truckee, California.

truckee-4An absolutely fabulous and memorable breakfast started our day off right at Jax on the Tracks, a 1940s diner with delicious and gourmet style comfort food. Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, the amazing little eatery has fun ambiance, superb service and a homey, “local yocal” feeling. In fact, while there I met one gentleman, retired surfer Herbie Love, who is the perfect example of why Jax is loved by so many. Wintering over from Hawaii, Herbie stopped by Jax a few years ago during a white out blizzard and was so taken aback by the incredible hospitality and genuine warmth of the owner’s tight knit and beloved staff that Herbie has become a regular, like so many others, locals and tourists alike.

Herbie says, “You can rub elbows with fascinating folks from all over the world, here. “They accommodate tastes from all over the globe.” Herbie went on to tell me about instances where visitors from other countries had special tastes or requests and the owner went out of his way to cheerfully and creatively accommodate them. In fact, the day we were there, it was far too early for the lunch menu yet they offered to whip up anything on the lunch menu for me or my dining guest. This is typical from what Herbie told me.

I tried the famous “All Day Addiction,” which I am still raving about to my friends. This unique and filling meal was a melange of delightful flavors with hash browns, grilled vegetables, scrambled eggs, avocado, and greens, all delightfully stacked and adorned with a delicious pesto sauce. It, much like Truckee, was a remarkable and perfect surprise through and through.

No surprise, the folks at Jax use locally sourced products and vendors whenever possible. It’s a top notch dining experience in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

truckee-3Our daytrip to Truckee included a stop over at the Truckee Donner Railroad Museum. Society member and Secretary Don Davis gave us a great tour of this little museum housed in a caboose next to the historic train station downtown. Stories, recreations, artifacts, and pictures depict the history and impact of the railroad on Truckee and beyond.

A couple of hours are a must at the Emigrant Trail Museum in Donner Memorial State Park. An excellent but dated movie is a must see to learn the history and to get a feel for what these brave pioneers endured. Exhibits of artifacts from the Donner Party as well as Native Americans, builders of the First Transcontinental Railroad, a Pioneer Monument, Butterfly Collection and Donner Party cabin sites are just a few of the highlights.

A little browsing around town was mandatory as Truckee has some adorable little boutiques. The Mountain Home Center is one of my favorites with everything lodge-y and with gorgeous mountain home style décor.

After an hour or two of boutique-ing, it was time for some wine tasting at Uncorked. This great little wine bar offers countless options for sipping some wine with some friends and partaking in a small plate or two. They even offer some hand crafted beers as well.

And finally we wrapped up our wonderful visit to Truckee with a lovely dining experience at Dragonfly. Chef Billy McCullough has brought a delectable experience of fresh and healthy ingredients with Asian influences of Thailand, Japan, Malaysian, and India. Everything we ate was uniquely presented and delicious.

We started out with Sweet and Sour Eggplant dip with won tons and I was surprised how powerful and elegant the flavors were. Chef Billy told me the amusing story of how he stumbled on this masterpiece that is now expected by locals as a permanent staple. I had the Thai Noodle Bowl as a main course and it was lovely with grilled prawns, green curry, and Thai basil.

Numerous gluten free options are available which is refreshing. For dessert we tried the Banana Stuffed Won Tons with ice cream. Everything was lovely. The place was packed with locals and visitors alike and with good reason.

We were sad to leave Truckee but while so much hasn’t changed, Truckee has new treasures to discover. We’re sure there will be more and we will be back again, sooner than later.

Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of, an online travel magazine. Carmel’s been on local talk radio for 17 years and now co-hosts THE GOOD LIFE with Mike the Wine Guy on KMYC 1410AM. Her family travel column can be read in California Kids Magazine at: You can follow her on Twitter: @CarmelLeeMooney or Facebook. Carmel is also the Executive Director of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a non-profit that trains and places Autism Service Dogs.