Tucked into the forested foothills of Gold Country, the small towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley are about 40 minutes from North Lake Tahoe down windy Highway 20. For a winter getaway these little towns do the holidays right: from Nevada City's charming Victorian Christmas to cozy winery tasting rooms you'll probably want to stay longer than a weekend.
Climb Your Hotel Walls
To properly experience Gold Country, stay at the Outside Inn in Nevada City, a cozy hotel with themed rooms and an optional outdoor shower with hot water (don't worry, there are showers inside, too). Just a quick walk from downtown, the Inn is situated by a seasonal creek and features rooms such as the Rock Climbing Suite, the Woodland Room, and the two-bedroom Cottage. Just down the street is the darling Two Room Inn. This Victorian charmer has, as the name suggests, only two rooms and a shared kitchen, dining room, and living room with a view of the inn's “Secret Garden."
A Victorian Christmas and Wild & Scenic Films
During the annual Victorian Christmas festival, Nevada City celebrates the land of Dickens with authentic gas lamps, roasting chestnut vendors, minstrels and carolers. The events are held on two Wednesday evenings and three Sunday afternoons in December. Meanwhile, Grass Valley's Cornish Christmas features handmade crafts on Friday nights. This winter also features the Holiday Pops! events at Music in the Mountains and acts by Pink Martini and the Cowboy Junkies at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. Home to the Yuba River, Grass Valley will also feature the innovative Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January.
Wood Fired Pizza and Artisan Ice Cream
Both Nevada City and Grass Valley have a wonderful selection of restaurants and cafés for holiday dining, or just Sunday brunch. The popular Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in Nevada City sources their ingredients from local farms and wineries and serves wood-fired pizza and local craft beers such as Emerald Pool IPA and Easy Ugly Stout. Plus, the chubby wood fired oven is sure to keep you warm on a cold day. If the sun it out, sit on the fountain deck and order the Wild burger and sweet potato fries at Tofanelli's in Grass Valley. Their award-winning seafood gazpacho with avocado and a little spice is a great appetizer. For dessert, head to Treats in Nevada City for their handmade mint chip ice cream (it tastes like sucking on a fresh spearmint leaf) or down to funky Cafe Mekka for the Cafe Borgia mocha with orange peels.
Gold Country Wineries and Tasting Rooms
The Gold Country foothills are ideal for wine making and the area has numerous wineries including Nevada City Winery, Naggiar Vineyard & Winery and Bent Metal Winery to taste from. The vineyards are close to town, but if you don't want to drive, tasting rooms are dotted throughout downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley. The Szabo Vineyards tasting room in Nevada City has a friendly staff and a tasty and affordable Primitivo. Take a seat by the fireplace or on their back deck and order the winery's peachy Viognier.
Booktown Books and KitKitDizzi
This area of Gold Country can also be a one-stop shop for holiday gifts. No trip to the area is complete without picking up a book about ghost towns or white trash cooking at Booktown Books in Grass Valley. Booktown sells both new and used books and they have special sections for San Francisco and California. For handmade local items, check out herbal teas and wind chimes at The West Wind in Grass Valley and non-toxic deodorants and creams by Fat and the Moon at KitKitDizzi (named after a creeping mountain plant) in Nevada City. Wheyward Girl Creamery next to Three Forks features regional and international cheeses including the cantaloupe colored Mimolette.
Plan for Spring and Summer...
After your winter weekend, you've probably fallen love with Nevada City and Grass Valley. Plan a trip for spring or summer to visit the Yuba River's emerald swimming holes and check out Outside Inn's new Inn Town Campground. Located within walking distance of town the region's first year-round campground will feature traditional tent sites, RV sites and rustic canvas tents that include plush amenities such as beds with luxury linens.