Congrats Nevada City!

According to, Nevada City, California is one of 2017’s “Coolest Small Towns in America”!

The site used a number of criteria, including a user survey and data like lodging affordability, recreational opportunities, arts and “creative energy”. Nevada City came in third behind Bisbee, Arizona (#2) and Bruce Springsteen’s hometown, Asbury Park, New Jersey.

For my wife and me, Nevada City (and sister town Grass Valley) has been our go-to weekend getaway for years. We love the beauty of the surrounding pine-covered hillsides, the varied and eclectic shops, the walkable downtown and the history. If you haven’t been in awhile, here are six ideas if you’re thinking of heading up that way to see what all the fuss is about.

6) Mine! Mine! Mine! While Empire Mine State Park is actually closer to Grass Valley, it’s close enough to include on this list. It’s a fascinating, wonderful place to visit to not only learn the history of gold mining in Nevada County (and the Cornish miners who made it happen) but there are also miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and the stately Empire “cottage”, a stone-built estate that was the home of mine owner William Bourne, Jr. and his family.

5) Wine a little. Or toss back some craft brews. Nevada county has several great wineries but they’re so far-flung it’s easier to hit some of the several downtown tasting rooms (Grass Valley also has a few). Also, there are a couple really good craft breweries. Three Forks not only brews up some several varieties of beer, it’s a full service restaurant and bakery, too. Order a flight with one of their wood-fired pizzas. And while Ol’ Republic has some tasty stouts and IPAs, they also feature lagers, which is a little unusual for a craft brewery because they take more time to make. But they do it well: their Dead Canary Lager recently beat out over 1200 other beers to win Best of Show at last year’s California State Fair. And while I confess I have not tried that one specifically yet, I resolve now to rectify that as soon as possible.

4) South Pine café. Get their early on weekends; there is usually a wait because the food is great and the portions are incredible.

3) Nevada City chocolate shop. Fudge! Chocolate. Candy! Or, if you insist on eating healthy, caramel apples.

2) The National Hotel. Over 155 years old (!), stepping into this beautifully maintained, nationally-recognized historical landmark is as about as close as you can get to stepping back into the 19th century without a time machine.

1) Walk the neighborhoods. Money from the nearby gold mines built the beautiful Victorians that still stand shoulder-to-shoulder on Nevada City’s residential streets. Best time for a stroll? Fall, when the colors are changing; without much imagination you can picture yourself strolling the sidewalks of an old New England village.

Well done, Nevada City! Well done.

More from Tom Mailey

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