If you’re craving a mountain escape but Tahoe feels too far away, consider historic and artsy Nevada City. A short (two-and-a-half hour) trip from the Bay Area, Nevada City has all of the beauty of pine forests and fresh air without having to spend the entire weekend in the car. Small town charm and friendly locals make this destination ideal. You’ll have tons of choices for great food, lots of interesting art galleries to walk through, and plenty of photo opportunities on the historic streets. Here are ten things to do when you visit Nevada City for the weekend.
1. WALK DOWN BROAD STREET
Bring your camera down Broad Street, Nevada City’s main street through town. You’ll find lots of unique clothing stores (with a heavy emphasis on eco-friendly and sustainable goods) as well as cute restaurants, bars, and art galleries. Grab a drink at Mine Shaft, an awesome, divey bar, and check out the lobby in the historic National Hotel. A lot of artists live here so it’s possible that you’ll catch people painting on the sidewalk.
2. HIKE THE CASCADE CANAL TRAIL
Start your morning with a breath of fresh mountain air on the Cascade Canal Trail. This trail is slightly out of town and is perched on the side of a hill, offering a stunning view of Nevada City. You’ll love the feeling of walking alongside a canal with the soothing sound of running water. The trail passes many beautiful, rustic houses, but you’ll feel secluded in there forest. You’ll have a view of the rolling hills and beautiful green pine forests the entire time.
3. EAT ALMOND CROISSANTS AT THREE FORKS BAKERY & BREWING COMPANY
Three Forks has a great atmosphere, and it’s definitely worth coming here for a beer and a meal. On the weekends, they make incredible almond croissants and serve delicious tea and coffee. It’s lovely to sit outside and enjoy the morning here. Come as early as you can — the brewery opens at 8 a.m. and the almond croissants tend to sell out early.
4. SWIM IN THE SOUTH YUBA RIVER
You can find lots of gorgeous places to swim in the South Yuba River, just a short distance away from Nevada City. The water is clear and pure … and cold! Picnic by the side of the river or be brave and take a dip. Nothing feels better in the hot summer months. South Yuba River State Park is about 25 minutes from Nevada City. Check out these other places to go swimming in the area. Since 2016-17 was a heavy year for snowfall, the water will be cold and the current will be stronger (keep that in mind if you plan to go for a swim!).
5. SIP A LAVENDER LATTE AT THE CURLY WOLF
How many places can you find a lavender latte? Even if it doesn’t sound appetizing to you, give it a try for the experience. The lavender syrup is made from organic local lavender, and it doesn’t overpower the latte. You’ll immediately notice that The Curly Wolf is a destination for hipsters and locals to settle in.
6. FIND YOUR SPIRIT STONE AT CRYSTAL RAINBOW ROCK SHOP
Commercial Street parallels Broad Street and has a lot of great restaurants, shops, and yoga studios. By far the most interesting destination on this street is Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop, which packs an astounding amount of crystals and stones into a tiny little house. Feel free to browse and pick out something that speaks to you, or ask Mimi, the shop owner, about the meanings and healing properties of the different stones. Try to go early — it gets crowded inside on the weekends.
7. WALK THROUGH DOWNTOWN GRASS VALLEY
Grass Valley is just ten minutes away by car, and has a different vibe from Nevada City but is equally artistic and historic. There are tons of small wineries near Grass Valley, so this is a good jumping-off point to visit them. Walk down Main Street and Mill Street, and take some time to visit the art galleries, cafes, and boutiques. Head into The Bamboo Home Store to feel soft bamboo fabric, get ice cream at Lazy Dog Chocolateria, and stop at Art Works Gallery and The Louvre to see gorgeous paintings and sculptures made by local artists.
8. DO YOGA
Nevada City and Grass Valley have more yoga studios to visit than you possibly could in one weekend. This area has become a destination for healers, and you’ll feel very grounded when you practice yoga in this beautiful environment. Check out Inner Path and The Yoga Dive in Nevada City, Wild Mountain Yoga Center (which has locations in Grass Valley and Nevada City), and Yoga Utopia in Grass Valley.
9. VISIT EMPIRE MINE STATE HISTORIC PARK
Learn about the history of gold mining in the Nevada City and Grass Valley area, or just relax in an environment that’s steeped in history. Empire Mine State Historic Park was an active gold mine in the early 1900s, and was open for about 100 years. Take a tour of Empire Cottage and the beautiful grounds, watch a movie in the visitor’s center, or attend one of the fun events. There are 850-acres of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, and the park is pet-friendly. Take a look at this trail map to decide where you want to explore.
10. CHECK OUT SOME FILMS
Held in September, the Nevada City Film Festival brings filmmakers from all over the world to show their masterpieces in an intimate setting. You’ll see thought-provoking, beautiful films and might even have a chance to talk to the filmmakers. If you can’t make it to the festival, check out Movies Under The Pines, an outdoor film series that goes all summer long, and is held either in Pioneer Park or the Nevada City Fairgrounds. There’s no better way to enjoy the warm summer evenings!
- Mine Shaft Saloon
- National Hotel
- Cascade Canal Trail
- Three Forks Bakery and Brewery
- South Yuba River State Park
- The Curly Wolf
- Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop
- Bamboo Home Store
- Lazy Dog Chocolateria
- The Louvre
- Inner Path
- Yoga Dive
- Wild Mountain Yoga
- Yoga Utopia
- Empire Mine State Park
- Pioneer Park
- Nevada County Fairgrounds