Escapes: Grass Valley
Grass Valley, a fascinating gold rush era town, is a delightful daytrip or mini-vacation escape. During one period of time during the wild and woolly gold mining epoch, it was recognized as the largest and most prosperous of all the mining areas. It remains a thriving, friendly community today.
What to see and do
Anyone interested in this fascinating period of California history will be enthralled with tours of Empire Mine, the oldest and richest gold producer in California. Separate fact-filled mine and grounds tours including the intriguing upscale "Bourn Cottage" should be on your must-list. Now an 845-acre state park, it's one of that era's most popular attractions with 12 miles of hiking/biking/equestrian trails as additional lures. (empiremine.org)
Having visited the town many times, we know how popular their prominent holiday festival, Cornish Christmas, has become. This family-friendly event is a fun-loving homage to the thousands of miners who came from Cornwall, England, and is worth the trek during the holidays or planning ahead for next year's merriment.(downtowngrassvalley.com) Three other enticing events to consider attending are the Nevada County Fair (August), Draft Horse Classic/Harvest Fair (September), and Celtic Fair (September or October). Be sure to make hotel reservations well in advance of any event. A short drive to South Yuba River State Park is a cool outing for swimming, fishing, hiking (Independence Trail was the first wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country), picnicking, or viewing the beguiling Bridgeport Covered Bridge, thought to be the longest single span roofed bridge in existence. Free gold panning is also offered every weekend in the summer and the troughs are salted with small amounts of gold nuggets to ensure children will enjoy the experience. (southyubariverstatepark.org)
Where to stay and dine
If you'd like a full-service, newer hotel, The Gold Miner's Inn is a first-rate choice on the edge of downtown. Accommodations and public areas are tastefully furnished, the staff is exceptionally friendly, and a special breakfast buffet is offered to guests. (thegoldminersinn.com) If you'd like a smaller property just outside downtown but still within walking distance, our pick is the charming,12- room Sierra Mountain Inn, a beautifully remodeled, yesteryear home away from home. (sierramountaininn.com) Into historic lodging? The classic Holbrooke Hotel, one of the state's oldest lodging properties, is on the upswing and under new ownership. (holbrooke.com)
Hungry, and looking for something tasty and local? Cirino's At Main Street offers Mediterranean cuisine and has been in the area since 1983. It's well-known for family-recipe Italian dishes. Kane's, serving a wide variety of entrees, offers al fresco dining, evening entertainment, and owner John Kane is a former Pacific Coast Chef of the Year. (kanesrestaurant.net) Tofanelli's Bistro is a popular place to drop in for an enjoyable breakfast, lunch, or dinner (tofanellis.com), while Maria's is perfect for those of us craving authentic south-of- the-border offerings. (www.mariasgrassvalley.com) Before you leave town, be sure to try a famous Gold Rush culinary staple, the meat/potato/onion filled, turnover-style Cornish pasty. Try the ones at Best- in-County specialty shop Marshall's Pasties.
For all things Grass Valley: gograssvalley.com and downtowngrassvalley.com