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Nevada City

Great food, wine, and shows find a home in the Mother Lode

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This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles northeast of Sacramento is one of Gold Country’s prettiest towns. Originally settled in 1849 as a mining camp, Nevada City features a well-preserved Downtown Historic District, 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 firehouse 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 artifacts 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. Hotels in the district include the National Exchange Hotel, one of the oldest continuously operated hotels west of the Rockies, with balconies that offer great views of the town’s bustle, and the Broad Street Inn, which has an inviting backyard garden. Download a self-guided walking tour from the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. There’s a thriving seasonal farmers market with dozens of vendors selling produce as well as fresh fish and crafty items like 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 take a docent-led tour of the museum, railyard, and restoration shop. Admission is free.

If you’re looking for family-friendly outdoor activities, for starters, book a luxury tent at Inn Town Campground. It’s the perfect home base for hiking excursions on the Buttermilk Bend Trail along the South Yuba River and Deer Creek Tribute Trail (which will take you over the highly Instagrammable Deer Creek suspension bridge). Also not to be missed: the Crystal Hermitage Gardens, where springtime visitors can gaze across 17,000 tulips, and summertime offers countless roses, begonias, petunias, zinnia, and more. Take a break to treat the kids to ollalieberry French toast at South Pine Café or woodfired pizza at Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co.

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. Drop by Sierra Starr Vinyards and Winery and Lucchesi Vinyards and Winery to start. Also worth visiting is the Empire Mine Historic State Park, where volunteers give tours of the mineyard and park as well as Empire Cottage, the country estate home of the mine’s former owner, William Bourn, Jr.

 

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