Although the city of Grass Valley still offers plenty of interesting historic sites and homes to view, it now also offers visitors gourmet dining, cooking classes, brew pubs, and a vibrant art center. Grass Valley, with its 13,000 residents, is the largest city in Nevada County and it’s an attractive destination for Bay Area visitors wanting a quick getaway. If you pick your time carefully, you’ll find it’s only a two-and-a-half hour drive from the Bay Area to reach this quiet, pretty little town in the foothills of the Sierra.
Once you arrive in Grass Valley, there’s plenty to do. If you love to cook or eat great food, head downtown to Tess’ Kitchen Store. This store will amaze—three levels high and solidly stocked with the best and latest utensils, pots and pans, linens, and coffee makers. While you are there, pick up a jar of premium jam or mustard and taste test the olive oils and vinegars.
For a special treat: reserve a place well ahead of time for the Chef’s Table. In general use, the Chef’s Table is a table in a restaurant’s kitchen reserved for VIP guests. At Tess’ Kitchen Store, it’s a counter in the back of the store where you can watch the chef perform his alchemy. Currently the in-house chef is Alan Tangren of Chez Panisse. This is a monthly multi-course gourmet dinner—each course paired with wine. Tess’ also holds cooking classes, where you learn hands-on. Here you might learn some new secrets of baking, or prepare a Moroccan feast, or put together a brunch complete with mimosas. Once again, register well in advance.
Take a walking tour: Follow the map in “A Walking Tour of Historic Grass Valley,” online here to find 47 points of interest within the city. These centrally located sites include the old opera house, the Holbrooke Hotel (see if you can glimpse into the haunted rooms), and many fine, stately Victorian homes. You can do this tour on foot, car or bicycle. If you happen to go during the fall, obtain the leaflet called “The Fall Colors of Nevada City and Grass Valley” from the Grass Valley or Nevada City Chamber of Commerce to locate some of the cities’ best spots for finding colorful fall leaf displays.
Indulge your cultural appetite. Take in an art exhibit, a play, a poetry reading, or a musical performance at The Center for the Arts. The Center for the Arts works hard to showcase local talent as well as capture big name musicians such as Joan Baez, the Dark Star Orchestra (a tribute band to the Grateful Dead), and Windam Hill. The center’s innovative Executive Julie Baker, staff, and more than 800 volunteers bring more than 150 shows to the center annually.
Outside of town: While you are in the area, be sure to allow time to visit Bridgeport Historic State Park along Pleasant Valley Road at the South Yuba River in Penn Valley. The Bridgeport Cover Bridge is single span covered bridge that was built in 1862. It was then 251 feet then, and was reduced to 229 feet in 1971. The bridge is both a State and National Historic Landmark, but it has not had the funding needed to keep it in good condition. Thanks to the efforts of the South Yuba River Foundation, funding has been put into the 2014-2015 state budget and restoration can begin. http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org. Although the bridge is currently closed, views from the river are still outstanding. Various programs are offered seasonally including walks and tours and gold panning. Call for days and times.
Picnic supplies: Even though the commercial district of nearby Penn Valley (population 1,000) is tiny—little more than a crossroads at the junction of Highway 20 and Spenceville Rd.—you can find some convenient places there to get a tasty picnic lunch or ice cream. Check out the Blue Cow Deli, the China House, or Caleb’s Creamery & Coffee before heading out to the South Yuba River State Park.
More hiking: Hiking is popular within the South Yuba State Park and also in the t There are several trails in the places to hike nearby. Read about those in the Empire Mine State Historic Park, click here. And in the next in this Gold Country series, you’ll discover many of the trails near the Malakoff Diggins and Nevada City.
Tess’ Kitchen Store, 115 Mill St, Grass Valley, CA. (530) 273-6997
Grass Valley Courtyard Suites, 210 N Auburn St, Grass Valley, CA (530) 272-7696 http://www.gvcourtyardsuites.com/
(comment: boutique hotel with better-than-average breakfast, self-serve, with fresh fruit)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Gold Miners Inn-Grass Valley, 121 Bank Street. (1-888-465-4329) http://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/grass-valley/gsvca/hot… (comment: complementary drink during Happy Hour; typical self-serve breakfast.
Holbrooke Hotel, 212 W Main St, Grass Valley, CA (530) 273-1353. An historic hotel with period decor such as claw-foot tubs. Breakfast included in room rate.
Mills Street Clothing, 117 Mill St, Grass Valley, (530) 477-6404. Specializes in women’s clothing and accessories.
Blue Cow Deli 17500 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley, CA 95946. (530) 432-5500
China House, 17404 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley, CA 95946, (530) 432-0189
Caleb’s Creamery 17329 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley, CA 95946. (831) 432-3129
Bridgeport Historic State Park along Pleasant Valley Road at the South Yuba River in Penn Valley. 530-432-2546
Disclaimer: Susan Alcorn was the guest of Nevada County Tourism & Economic Resource Council and Mill Street Clothing, however, the opinions and comments in this article are her own.