This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles north-east of Sacramento is one of Gold Country’s prettiest towns. Originally settled in 1849 as a mining camp, Nevada City features a well-preserved core of historic buildings, including California’s oldest operating structure originally built for performances, the 1865 Nevada Theatre, with past performers ranging from Mark Twain to Mötley Crüe. Just around the corner, on Main Street, a bell-towered fire station with a Victorian gingerbread front is the site of a compact history museum where the intricate cooking baskets made by native Nisenan Indians are exhibited alongside the artefacts of early residents and Chinese pioneers.
Strolling through the town’s historic district, you’ll see impeccable 19th-century buildings with wooden balconies that are now often the homes of restaurants, gift shops (look for nature-lover treasures at The Earth Store), wine-tasting rooms and antiques shops. Download a self-guided walking tour from the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. There’s also a thriving seasonal farmers' market with dozens of vendors selling produce as well as fresh fish and crafty items including soap and handmade bags.
Another way to step back into Nevada City’s past is to visit the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, where you can enjoy a guided tour of the museum and rail yard and visit the restoration shop. Admission is free.
Just four miles down the road from Nevada City is the town of Grass Valley, which is drawing more and more visitors every year to their wine tasting rooms that represent eight Sierra Foothills and Gold Country wineries. Call into Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery and Lucchesi Vineyards and Winery to start. Also worth visiting is the Empire Mine Historic State Park, where volunteers give tours of the mine yard and park as well as Empire Cottage, the country estate home of the mine’s former owner, William Bourn, Jr.
Bumping up against the west side of the Sierra Nevada Range, on California’s eastern side, the Sierra foothills that make up the Gold Country are California Classics.
Discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history, with more than 300,000 pioneers heading west.
Here, the state’s past, present, and future merge into one unforgettable destination. Pan for gold like a 49er, bike through meadow-and-oak countryside, and raft a rapid-filled river, then explore historic towns with Old West architecture and a new generation of pioneers, opening up outstanding wineries, farm-to-table restaurants, inviting shops, and charming B&Bs.
Pluck a bit of gold from a riverbed scoured by the original ’49ers. Descend deep into the earth to check out unusual rock formations. Get your heart racing with a ride down whitewater rapids. For...
Elegant estates at the end of country roads lined with vineyards? Check. Low-key wineries housed in converted barns? Check again. Urban wine trails with hip in-town tasting rooms? Yup,...