Nevada City: Gold Rush town offers nuggets of history, charm

Photo By: Eren Gknar/ Special to the Town Crier
Photo Eren Gknar/ Special To The Town Crier

Nevada City’s Mountain Pastimes offers holiday shoppers of all ages a wide selection of toys and games. The town, located in the Sierra foothills, decks the halls at Christmastime.

In keeping with its history as a premier Gold Rush mining town – at one point the most prosperous in the state – Nevada City attracts rugged individualists.

Located in the Sierra foothills on the way to Lake Tahoe, Nevada City’s shops range from jewelry stores selling rings with gold quartz pieces to emporiums displaying Buddhas and meditation pillows. Bucking the national trend, the area supports several small bookstores.

The town’s also a hotbed of crafts, so you can snag hand-woven silk scarves or beautiful pots at the artisans’ fairs.

Nevada City is modern enough to be a pioneer in the co-housing movement, yet enter the downtown and one can almost hear horses’ hooves clopping down Broad Street, marked by turreted houses, flower baskets and gaslight streetlamps.

With sweet Victorians lining the streets, reminders of the county seat in its heyday abound. The promise of gold caused it to develop on the banks of Deer Creek in 1849, and civic leaders deemed it “Nevada,” Spanish for “snow-covered,” soon after. They tacked on “City” after the neighboring state borrowed its name.

The entire main drag is on the National Register of Historic Places, with a reconstructed art deco city hall and the oldest theater in the state, opened in 1865.

Victorian Christmas

Nevada City is the perfect backdrop for the “Victorian Christmas 2012” celebrations, scheduled 5-9 p.m. today and Dec. 19, and 1:30-6 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 23. With a population of 3,068 residents, the town’s numbers swell to accommodate visitors during the holidays.

Carolers, wandering minstrels and actors in period clothing stroll the streets as the aromas of holiday foods like roasted chestnuts fill the air. Activities include pony and carriage rides and crafts sales.

The city sponsors a $5 shuttle service from the Nevada County Government Center, 950 Maidu Ave., with children under 15 riding free.

For more information, call (800) 655-NJOY.

Where to stay

There’s no shortage of B&Bs or hotels, but two accommodations stand out.

• Deer Creek Inn, 116 Nevada St., is a small bed and breakfast. The restored 1860 Queen Anne Victorian offers six rooms, including one suite, ranging in price from $165 to $199. The creekside setting is relaxing in the summer months. A home-cooked, substantial breakfast and a nightcap of brandy and chocolates are included.

There’s good hiking in the area in the local state parks, so bring your hiking shoes.

For more information, visit

• The Parsonage Bed & Breakfast, 427 Broad St., sits conveniently amid the action downtown. Each of the six rooms honors a different Dane family pioneer who settled in the Gold Country in the mid-1800s. The full breakfast includes homemade muffins and jams. The Parsonage ranges, depending on the season, from $130 to $195. The B&B requires a minimum two-night stay on weekends and holidays during peak periods.

For more information, visit

Wine tasting

• Indian Springs Vineyards and Tasting Room, 303 Broad St., features daily complimentary tastings. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

For more information, visit

• Nevada City Winery, 321 Spring St., next to Miners Foundry, sells wine and merchandise. Its tasting room is open noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and noon to 6 p.m. weekends.

For more information, visit

Holiday shopping

Nevada City shoppers hit the mother lode when it comes to unique gifts. While it’s true that all that glitters is not gold, you may find some pleasing necklaces, pins or rings at Utopian Stone, 301 Broad St. The shop does custom work, which means you’ll probably have to come back to do some more shopping or hiking. California Gold’s Terry Mohr, 300 Broad St., also makes custom jewelry.

Mountain Pastimes, 320 Spring St., across from the Nevada City Winery, is owned by Los Angeles native Kathy Hillis and her husband. The toy store offers a treasure trove of gifts for children of all ages. Billed as a “toy store for thinking grownups,” the two-story establishment features kites, a variety of games, magic tricks, specialty toys and puzzles.

The store even has an “orchestrion,” a custom-built player-piano/nickelodeon that, for a nickel, plays your song of choice – on accordion, piano or guitar, among other instruments. To draw people into her store, which is on a side street, Hillis sometimes stands outside passing out flyers and offering free use of their rest room.

“The pull is the bathroom,” she joked.

For more information, visit

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