Nevada City is a charmer-and-a-half. This small town with a chill vibe serves up chia smoothies and prayer flags, folk art and history. Walk down the line of restored false-front architecture in the town's center and you can feel the Old West heritage and love of a good story.
This NorCal village is a living postcard, with its theater companies, alternative film houses, bookstores and other venues that put on shows most nights. It also is the gateway to Tahoe National Forest, full of wild and wonder.
Nevada City is a relatively short run from the Bay. Interstate 80 is your ticket for this 2 hour, 20 minute jaunt. You'll ride it around and past Sacramento until you reach Auburn. That's your turn (Exit 119B) to point north on CA-49 for the final 30 minutes.
If you're up for a leg-stretcher along the way, pause in Auburn for a hike at Black Hole Calcutta Falls. The trailhead is only a couple winding miles south on CA-49. The trail runs along the North Fork American River. When you're done, grab a bite and libations at the Auburn Alehouse, a rustic pub on Washington St., before hitting the homestretch to Nevada City.
The Northern Queen Inn offers secluded rooms tucked among the trees. There outdoor pool is seasonal, but the Wi-Fi runs freely year-round. In Nevada City, everything is within reach, so the same goes for the Northern Queen. It's equally easy to hit up the downtown stroll or drive into the Tahoe National Forest for a day of getting lost.
The Two Room Inn is a unique private vacation home. You can enjoy using the kitchen, sun terrace and 1,300 square feet of as-good-as-home comfort. There is free Wi-Fi and free private parking. A flat-screen TV with cable channels and DVD player also are yours for the watching.
In a town loaded with quaint B&Bs, the Broad Street Inn maintains an astoundingly near-perfect rating from guests. This historic Victorian home is only a two-minute walk from the Nevada Theatre ... and pretty much everything else in town. Each room is equipped with free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen cable TV.
Three Forks Bakery & Brewing serves up fantastic in-house brews and super-tasty bakery treats. You also can grab breakfast or equally amazing lunch fare that ranges from sandwiches to salads to wood-fired pizzas. The staff is friendly and the cafe atmosphere is comfortable. Heads-up that weekends tend to be especially busy, but the wait is worth it.
Heartwood is all about good food and good community. It takes its mission to provide affordable, healthy food while supporting local farmers seriously. Grab a hearty soup and sandwich, and cap it with an espresso or tea. Rounding out the experience, Heartwood's atmosphere, location and friendly staff make this a must-stop spot in Nevada City.
The Crazy Horse Saloon serves up food that simply is unbelievamazing. Order the fried shrimp and blue cheese coleslaw appetizer, and follow it up with a burger dipper with au jus and super-crispy tots. Or maybe go for the perfectly buttery grilled caprese sandwich loaded with mozzarella. This spot has character and the location is in the heart of all the action in Nevada City.
The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad and Transportation Museum is dedicated to the preservation of local transportation history and artifacts from the narrow gauge railroad era. Visitors are offered a docent-led historical tour of the museum, rail yard, and restoration shop. There is no admission charge.
The Nevada Theater is the oldest existing theatre building on the West Coast that continues to operate as a theatre, dating back to the Civil War Era. If you're counting, that means this house has marked more than 150 years of history, live performances, music, movies and art in Nevada County.
The Firehouse Museum is a retired firehouse that serves as a quaint look at some of real history of Nevada City, starting with the Native Americans and the Chinese who came to mine gold. It also shows the pioneers and early residents of the city. You'll get an education from the volunteer docents. There's no admission fee, but donations are welcome.
The Tahoe National Forest Headquarters is well worth the stop to get great advice and load up on info before heading into the wilderness. The crew at the HQ can tell you everything you need to know about outdoor recreation in the area -- fishing, off-road fun, campgrounds, hiking -- everything and then some. They also have maps and sell firewood permits, if you feel like cooking up some s'mores while you're on a day hike.
The Independence Trail is a fantastic trail along the Yuba River and the historical gold area of Nevada County. The trail is flat and easily strollable, but you can take spurs off it if you're feeling the urge to ratchet up the intensity. Take a dip in the clear waters along the trail when the heat rises.