The Perfect Day in Nevada City, CA
Let’s see, California is known for….beaches, sunshine, surfing, and all-too often celebrity sightings, correct? Maybe you're picturing something like this...
Well sure, maybe for some people this is true. But, for the majority of us Californians, this preconception couldn't be further from the truth, and we’ll tell you why.
While our incredibly, almost impossibly long state is completely bordered by the ocean on one side, the landscapes and lifestyles are very diverse. And to give any non-Californians an idea of the scale of the state, we could hop in a car right now, point ourselves south, and not reach the end of California for about 11 hours. And that’s not including coffee stops, bathroom breaks and snack pit-stops, which brings us to about 13 hours of travel time.
So when we tell people we're from California and they ask us if we surf and which celebrities we’ve seen, we can almost tangibly taste their disappointment when we tell them of the very few times we tried to surf and nearly perished at the hand of the ocean, and that the most famous person we’ve seen in real life was Bania from Seinfeld. “That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!” Any Seinfeld fans? Ok... moving on.
This brings us to our little slice of California in Nevada City; where we have neither oceans, nor celebrities. Instead we have a little gold-mining town, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and surrounded by forests, lakes, and some pretty great outdoor activities.
In Nevada City, you’re approximately ten thousand times more likely to enjoy a farm to fork meal paired with a craft brewed beer, and have people making jewelry at the table next to you, than meet anyone who has been surfing in the past decade.
Without further ado, here is how to spend a pretty perfect day in Nevada City, California.
Walk the town
When we say “walk the town” this is a fairly loose interpretation of “town.” What we really mean is a main road (Broad Street) and the back road that runs parallel to it. If we were strictly walking from top to bottom of the town, we could make it there and back in about 9 minutes flat. Now there are plenty of little shops to pop into, but we’ll get into that later. Our favorite way to experience the town is early, before all the street parking fills up and the shops aren’t open yet.
It’s very quaint and you’ll be able to get some pictures without any humans in there. You can stroll past the Victorian houses and window shop.
There’s a few good breakfast spots in Nevada City. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor patio to hangout on, something quick to grab and go, or a fully fledged sit-down affair, there are options.
One of our favorites in The South Pine Cafe, you can check out their menu here: Breakfast Menu
A little (or medium) adventure
There are several walking trails just outside of Nevada City. So, if you’re looking to do a bit of exploring and walk off your breakfast, hop in the car and make your way to the Angkula Seo Suspension Bridge. The bridge is part of the Deer Creek Tribute Trail which straddles, you guessed it, Deer Creek. It’s a fairly short loop, or a longer 8.5 mile route.
Finding the trailhead here can be a little tricky, so be sure to check out these directions: Deer Creek Tribute Trail
To us, no trip is quite right without a visit to The Yuba River. Which really, is much better than whatever kind of river you’re picturing in your head right now. It’s full of massive boulders that are perfect for sunning yourself on, rich emerald colored water, swimming pools that are oh-so wonderful, annnnnd if you want to put in a real hike, you can find yourself a clothing-optional area to enjoy the day if you walk far enough. Walk too far and you may encounter a clothing-optional drumming circle on a private beach that you’ll probably get invited to join.
There are several access points to The Yuba River, as well as several forks of the river. Because there are so many ways to access the river and a lot of places that locals want to keep not completely overrun by tourists, we recommend the 49er crossing option -- the trailhead here is Hoyt Crossing. Even at the more popular sections of the river, you can park and walk along the trail and find a place all to yourself -- the longer you walk, the better the spot, we find.
Lunch at Three Forks Brewery
After you’ve worked up an appetite by either visiting the river, walking the loop of the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, or shopped, have a sit at Three Forks Brewery.
It’s all farm to fork, with craft beer, delicious lunches and of course, coffee! The interior is cozy, with long wooden tables perfect for sharing with strangers and making friends.
You can check out there Instagram below and preview some goodies.
If you’re looking for something unique for yourself, or searching for gifts for a friend, you won’t find any big-name stores here. Instead, you’ll find stores with trinkets and clothes from all over the world, and other stores with every instrument you can imagine from every corner of the world.
If you’re looking for clothes, you’ll find unique and fun clothes at Abstrakt, Grey Goose, Asylum Down, as well as some handpicked vintage wear and jewelry at The Parlour.
Everywhere you look are unique shops like Kit Kit Dizzi which sells all kinds of nic-nacs, handmade & local wears.
And there’s a chocolate shop, an apothecary, a rug shop, a tea house, a tiny little winery, a hat store, a place to get fur coats and fur hats and fur everything!
There’s even a rock shop called Crystal Rainbow, that can hold maybe 5 people at once, with the floor covered in rocks, selling every kind of rock imaginable!
We're certain you can spend hours roaming around, making your way from each unique shop to the next and find all kinds of things you had no idea you needed.
Catch a show at The Nevada Theatre
This brick-covered theatre has been in the exact same location for the past 150 years. Think about that...America was founded (We know, we know, America was America wayyyy before we knew it was America) less than 250 years ago, so it’s been in operation for quite some time! In fact, straight from their website, “ The Nevada Theatre is the oldest existing theatre building on the west coast that continues to operate as a theatre."
The Nevada Theatre puts on shows regularly, Thursday through Sunday. If you’re in town during one of these days, we highly recommend you pop in for some live theatre! For example, during Christmas time, you can see plays like Scrooge and really get into the holiday spirit.
And, if you’re not into live theatre, there are also film screenings there.
For more info, read about their events here: Nevada Theatre Events
To be quite honest with y’all, we have not found a place for dinner that really lights our fire. There are plenty of restaurants here, but we have yet to find something that leaves us thinking about it long after we’ve left, you know what we mean?
If you’re into sushi, check out Sushi at Nourish or Sushi N the Raw.
If you want to hangout on a nice patio and have some American food, go to New Moon Cafe.
Like Thai food? Sopa Thai is on the backside of the main street and has a lovely patio.
Lefty’s Grill has outdoor seating along the creek, which is perfect when the weather is nice!
If you want to venture away from where you had dinner and take dessert elsewhere, check out Treats. Here, you’ll find homemade gelato, ice cream and well...treats!
If you’re not already tuckered out from this day and you have some steam left, there are several good music venues to listen to live music and grab a cocktail.
Located right on the main road in town, Golden Era Lounge is a relatively new place (new in the sense of the business, not the actual building). They frequently host events and have a wonderful, warm and old-timey interior. They have made it a point of pride to bring back vintage cocktails and even make their own syrups and bitters for use in the cocktails -- it’s just a great place to hangout and really immerse yourself in the history and culture of Nevada City.
Golden Era has live music several times a week, definitely stop in and have a seat at the bar for some foot-tapping music and a cocktail.
You have to see this photo of the bar in 1910 from their Instagram:
Whew, we know that's a lot of things to do, right? Honestly, you could spend a whole weekend up here and take your time making your way around. And we know, many of these things included shopping, and dining, and live music and things that require spending money. But, for everything listed here, there are 5 outdoor, nature-related, free things to do, too.
Don’t rush yourself, make a weekend out of it and get away from your regular schedule.
Pack a lunch and spend an entire day at the river -- you won’t want to leave once you get there, anyway.
Pick a day to go wine-tasting at some of the local wineries.
Spend a day walking the wonderfully shaded trails around town.
Find a mountain and hike up it.
Go to the Farmer’s Market and get some goodies.
Okay, we think our made my point, yes?
And, once you’ve arrived and smelled the fresh air, met the people and want to spend more time there, there are some really incredible places to stay overnight here.
In fact, our friend Erin has spent the last few years making a perfectly wonderful glamping and camping paradise at the Inn Town Campground, right outside of Nevada City. Yes, you read that correctly, glamping.
Which means you can have a heated mattress on a real bed, and wake up in the gosh darn forest with pine trees all around you.
Or, if you’re into regular camping with a tent or trailer, the spots are large and have full hookups. There’s also a lovely common area with barbecues and an amphitheater-type area with plenty of chairs and tables to hangout!
You can day dream about it here: Inn Town Campground
And make a reservation here: Reservations
We know how hard it is to get everything organized in life. Between working full-time, running errands, spending time with family + friends, and having a little bit of time for yourself -- the thought of alllllll the things that go into going on a trip can be majorly overwhelming.
That's why we put together and 11 page travel planning timeline to help you stay on track. Everything from when you should start saving for your trip, to when to purchase your international flights and get your home and bills taken care of while you're gone exploring the world! We don't mess around, because we know organization is life.