Rolling along Highway 49 in Northern California, we passed a chain of quaint towns that all sprang up to accommodate the floods of prospectors looking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush.  (I like to think if we were around in the mid 40’s, we’d be right next to those adventurers digging around in the California dirt!)  One town that really sparked our interest and seemed to stand out along the way is Nevada City.

nevada city streets

Nevada City is a mining camp that survived, and prospered, because it was able to transition to modern times while maintaining its vintage architecture.  At one time Nevada City was California’s third-largest city; then all those worldly fortune seekers who managed to strike it rich likely discovered the coast and said ‘sayonara suckers, I just bought myself a beach house…or something similar.  I have nothing to back this up, just making assumptions and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong…but I digress, let’s get back to the city today.

nevada city mining equipment

nevada city saloon

I often avoid using the word unique as I feel it’s overused, but unique is a word that should be associated with Nevada City.  This tiny “mod-ish” town certainly moves to the beat of its own drum and has a rhythmic cadence.  It’s historic and yet doesn’t rely on the laurels of being historic to attract visitors.  It has fascinating shops, cafés and hip people tucked into each one of those little Victorian buildings.  Oh, and I almost forgot, there is a random sprinkle of art deco here and there!  Because that’s what every Victorian village needs, a little art deco to break it all up.

city hall

rock shop

We loved it, but I think you have gathered that by now.  What you really need to know is:

When to Go:  Spring and fall are usually the prettiest times to visit because the summers can get toasty (like when we were there), however, we hear the holidays are beautiful!  The merchants apparently go all out.  We saw several contemporary windows luring us to “come in and shop”…we couldn’t resist!

Where to nosh:  New Moon Café has an upscale but comfortable atmosphere.  The food was tasty, perfectly prepared and most importantly supported local farmers and used natural and organic ingredients!  It was REAL food…the kind we like to eat.

new moon cafe

What to see:  Take a short walking tour of the city (free self guided map at visitors center) to get a brief history of the buildings and stop in to take a gander at the old Nevada Theatre, County Courthouse and historic cemetery.

visitors center

Who to chat up:  Inside the original 1861 firehouse is the Nevada County Historical Society Museum.  It has an extensive collection of artifacts and trinkets with everything from the Chinese mining laborers to 18th century clothing.  The real draw is the older woman who greets you; she is a wealth of random information and an all around great story teller (when she gets excited her eyes light up and it made us want to learn more).

fire house

Where to park it:  While we stayed at Thousand Trails Lake of the Springs because we were filming the campground, it turned out to be a real gem.  Now, for those of you that refuse to park in the trees because your TV Satellites won’t work, you may not like it.  But we loved our campsite because it felt like boondocking, or staying at a state park with really great amenities.  We had a beautiful view, the cutest furry neighbors and it was sooo blissfully quiet…at least in the “I” section where we were parked (plus we got great cell phone reception up on the hill).

lake of the springs campground

lake of the springs

What to skip:  If you don’t have much time in the area spend it in Nevada City and skip nearby Grass Valley.  When we asked the locals at one of the shops in Grass Valley for a restaurant recommendation they quickly directed us back to Nevada City.  Kinda funny right?

Disclaimer: While we were compensated to film the campground (thanks Thousand Trails!)…all of our experiences and opinions are NOT purchased and are still our own.