NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- No one likes to work on their vacation, but it’s different if you’re doing something fun while trying to scrape together some extra money, or strike it rich, as the mining parlance goes.
If you love getting out into the open and have a yearning to look for diamonds, gold or turquoise, then these five mining vacations just might be for you:
1. Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro, Ark.
Arkansas may have the moniker “The Natural State,” but for some it might as well be called “The Diamond Jackpot State.”
Arkansas is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, claiming to be the only place in the world where you can dig for diamonds for a small fee and keep what you find. The locals will tell you all kinds of stories about people finding quite a few little gems that made them a few extra bucks and they also boast tales of those extraordinary finds that have made people rich.
The largest diamond in the U.S. originated in this park. You can make a long weekend of it and enjoy some of Arkansas’ other outdoor adventures, including fly fishing and kayaking. This town is also home to Ka-Do-Ha, a 1,000 year old Indian Village, where you can also look for arrowheads. You might just leave this vacation with a diamond and an authentic arrowhead.
2. Calaveras County, Calif
Of course, we had to include a California location on our list of mining vacations. We like this destination because it not only affords weekend miners a wealth of places to explore, but at the Ironstone Vineyard, you can pan for gold in the morning and then taste some of California’s finest wines in the afternoon or evening. The largest crystalline golf leaf specimen that was found in the area in 1992 is also on display at the vineyard’s museum. There are plenty of mining adventures, including guided tours, history walks and other adventures in this area rich in the history of California’s Gold Rush. For people looking for an authentic mining experience, stay at the Murphy’s Historic Hotel, the
oldest continuously operating hotel in California. Rooms from $89.
3. Colors of Turquoise in Tonopah, Nev
If diamonds and gold don't set your heat to flutter, but the rich blue of turquois does, then this vacation in Nevada is the right one. Mine for turquoise at a location some claim is the best turquoise mining area in the world, at The Royston, just outside of Tonopah, where you can look for your own unique treasure. Admission is only $5 to The Tonopah Historic Mining Park. The park is 110-acres offering self-exploration, an ATV guided tour and an "Underground Adventure," with extensive exhibits and mining artifacts, three head frames and hoisting houses complete with original equipment and more. The recently reopened and historic Mizpah Hotel runs from $94 per night.
4. Bethel, Maine
If you’re into general rock hounding, Bethel, Maine offers adventurers an opportunity to find a variety of gemstones at a good selection of places. This region of Maine is well known for rock hounding and gem hunting for precious stones like garnet, aquamarine, beryl and
tourmaline. Most all of the tourmaline that is in the Smithsonian Museum came from this area. You are welcome to dig for gems in many of the abandoned open pit mines and take home your find. Even if you don't find a gem quality stone there is some beautiful rose quartz and plenty of mica. The Bethel Inn Resort is a classic New England inn located in the town’s historic district. Packages include a breakfast before you begin your mining adventures from $99 per night.
5. Dahlonega, Georgia
If you’re not looking for a gold mining vacation all the way out west, you can visit the home of America’s first gold rush just 70 miles outside of Atlanta. Visitors wanting to experience the rush of panning for gold can visit the Crisson Gold Mine, which dates back to 1847 and is open for tours and gold panning. The Crisson Gold Mine is the oldest gold mining establishment in North Georgia. A tour of the mine includes the outdoor museum of the mill, machinery, an old moonshine still display, and the opportunity to pan for gold and other gemstones. In addition, visitors can see the only working Stamp Mill in Georgia that is 130 years old. If you like exploring mining tunnels, what remains of The Consolidated Gold Mines should be on your list of things to see. The Smith House, a historic inn and restaurant, even boasts a recently discovered illegal gold mine shaft in its basement.