Grass Valley is the largest city in California’s Nevada County and is located at an elevation of about 2,500 feet. Grass Valley has a rich history as a norther Gold Country city, making it a great vacation destination for history as well as nature lovers. Accessible from the cities of Sacramento, Reno and San Francisco, Grass Valley is an ideal location for a quick weekend getaway or as a stop on your road trip through California.
1.Empire Mine State Historic Park
© Empire Mine State Historic Park
There’s a lot about the Empire Mine State Historic Park that makes it special. Not only is the site home to one of the oldest gold mines in California, the site is also known for being one of the largest, deepest, longest and most prolific mine in the entire state. The mine is over 100 years old and produced an incredible 5.8 million ounces of gold before it was finally shut down in 1956. Today, the park provides visitors with the interesting opportunity to visit many of the mine’s buildings, restored gardens, and even the preserved home of the mine owner. Easy hikes around the park are another enjoyable aspect of the Empire Mine State Historic Park with 8-miles of easy trails to venture off on.
10791 East Empire Street, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-273-8522
2.Grass Valley Museum
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Nestled in the heart of California’s Gold Country, the Gras Valley Museum boasts of a rich history kept and displayed behind unassuming doors within the second level of the St. Joseph’s Cultural Center. The museum is a hidden gem of the Golden State, and features memorabilia and artifacts that tell the history and story of Grass Valley – the small town that produced two of California’s richest gold mines. Free to the public, the Grass Valley Museum offers free tours that are led by knowledgeable and engaging docents who appear to have answers to every question guests could possibly have. Some of the must-see items include the bathtub of Lola Montez, medical paraphernalia from a former hospital, and a fully restored classroom from the 1890s.
410 South Church Street, Grass Valley, California 95945
3.North Star Powerhouse Mining Museum
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A hidden gem in Grass Valley, the North Star Powerhouse Mining Museum is run by the Nevada County Historical Society and is committed to the preservation and protection of the county’s rich mining heritage. Not only does the museum educate and inform visitors about the mining process, it also tells an important story about the impact that the entire industry had on the locals as a whole. Some of the interesting exhibits to view and spend time at in the North Start Powerhouse Mining Museum include the Dynamite Packer, the 30 Foot Pelton Wheel, the Cornish Water Pump and the Stamp Mill.
933 Allison Ranch Road, Gras Valley, California 95949, Phone: 530-273-4255
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Located in the Empire Mine State Historic Park, the Bourn Cottage was built in 1897 and served as the home for the mine’s owner, William Bourn Jr. The cottage features an elegant layout and was designed by Willis Polk, a popular architect from San Francisco. In addition to the cottage and estate’s formal gardens, a visit to the Bourn Cottage also allows you to explore all of the 4,600 square feet of grounds. Some notable features of the cottage include it’s 1,500 rose bushes as well as native and exotic greenery. One mustn’t miss out on exploring the interiors of the cottage too, as it houses artifacts from the Bourn family history.
10791 E. Empire Street, Grass Valley, California 95945-7432, Phone: 530-273-8522
5.The Center for the Arts
© The Center for the Arts
Dedicated to promoting the literary, visual and performing arts to the local community of Nevada County, the Center for the Arts is, without a doubt, a must-visit in Grass Valley. Housed in a multi-use 21,000 square foot facility, the Center for the Arts features a Main Theater with a 300-seat capacity, a 90-seater black box theater, 2 visual art galleries, and even classroom space. There’s never a dull moment at the Center for the Arts, which hosts over 150 performances yearly and serves patrons of all ages. Shows and performances isn’t all that the Center for the Arts has going on, though. Visitors can also participate in a series of community focused programs like the Youth Arts Education Program.
998 Plaza Drive, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-274-8384
6.Del Oro Theatre
© Del Oro Theatre
There’s no denying that the Del Oro Theatre, with its art deco neon spire, is an icon of Grass Valley, California. Built in 1941 by United Artists, the Del Oro Theater started operating in 1942 as a single-screen movie house that was designed in the classic Art Deco and Moderne style of architecture. Today, the Del Oro Theatre stands as a time capsule of the 40’s cinematic culture despite having undergone renovations. Popular activities to participate in at the Del Oro Theatre include several ghost tours, which include hair raising stories of people meeting traffic ends or visits to the underground passages of the theatre.
165 Mill Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-477-9000
© Holbrooke Hotel
Built in 1862, the Holbrooke Hotel isn’t just a lovely place to book a stay, it’s also a historic site to visit as it is the oldest hotel still currently in continuous operation within California’s Mother Lode. The hotel’s architectural style is that of mid-19th century Mother Lode, which makes it a stunning and eye catching sight to behold. There are a total of 27 rooms in the hotel’s 19,400 square foot space, many of which are furnished with fabulous globe chandeliers, claw foot bathtubs and classic green library lamps. Additionally, the Holbrooke Hotel is also home to a bar formerly known as the Golden Gate Saloon, which has been continuously operating since 1852.
212 West Main Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-460-1945
8.North Star Historic Conservancy
© North Star Historic Conservancy
Considering the long and rich mining history of Grass Valley, it only makes sense that some of the top things to do would be to visit some of its old mines. This is exactly what visitors can look forward to at the North Star Historic Conservancy, which is nestled within 700 acres of land. The conservancy features two main mine shafts, stamp mills, and other operational buildings, all of which were active between 1851 and 1956. Apart from being a top historical attraction, the North Star Historic Conservancy is also home to a beautiful path of greenery called The Heritage Garden, which is a popular wedding venue for locals of Nevada County.
12075 Auburn Road, Grass Valley, California 95949, Phone: 530-477-7126
© The Louvre
Experts in custom framing and art restoration, the Louvre is owned and run by the husband and wife duo of Gordon and Kathy. The pair started the Louvre in 1980’s simply as an art gallery and framing shop, but later expanded to oil painting restoration, print restoration and photo restoration as their business grew. The Louvre has, since it began, built a painstakingly earned reputation for quality and fine craftsmanship. If you’re not there for the expert framing and restoration, then visit for its lovely gallery, which boasts a wide variety of artworks such as paintings, limited edition prints, posters, photos, collectibles, sculptures and more from both local and national artisans.
124 East Main Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-272-3733
10.Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce
© Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce
Situated in the heart of California’s historic Gold Country, the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce is the perfect place to visit if you want to get a taste of the gold rush days were like. The chamber of commerce remains beautifully preserved until this day. As a whole, the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce is a hub of information for visitors who don’t quite know what they want to see and do in Grass Valley. From the chamber of commerce, visitors can head to other mining museums, foundries, gold mines, and railroad museums. To enjoy the natural beauty of Grass Valley, visitors can also pick up pocket-sized visitor guides to explore the lovely Sierra Foothills, horseback riding, boating and more.
128 East Main Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-273-4667
11.Lucchesi Vineyards Tasting Room
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If you are passionate about wine, fine Italian wine in particular, then a visit to the Lucchesi Vineyards Tasting Room definitely deserves a spot on your itinerary. The Lucchesi Vinyards Tasting Room is run by the brother and sister duo of Mario and Linda Clough, whose family were descended from the Etruscans. Grapes in the Lucchesi Vineyards grow on 20 lovely acres of steeply terraced terrain. Taking great care in maintain their vines, the Lucchesi Vineyard produces wine of outstanding quality with several different varieties of grape. A visit to their tasting room offers guests samples of their red wines, white wines as well as some fabulous ports.
128 Mill Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-615-4222
12.Naggiar Vineyard and Winery
© Naggiar Vineyard and Winery
An unexpected treasure found on a road less travelled, the Naggiar Vineyard and Winery is a charming destination in nestled just off the beaten path at the Sierra Foothills. Despite being one of the lesser visited vineyards in the state, Naggiar is actually home to some of California’s most desirable grapes and supplies grapes to world-famous wineries all over the globe. Of course, their most prized fruits are reserved for the enjoyment of their guests and are transformed into amazing wines by their winemaker, Derek Irwin. All of Naggiar Vineyard’s wines are grown, produced and bottled at the vineyard and consistently exceed expectations.
18125 Rosemary Lane, Grass Valley, California 95949, Phone: 530-268-9059
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Welcoming visitors of all ages and interests to their doors, Animal Place is a safe haven for animals and animal lovers alike. Passionate about rescuing and saving the lives of animals in need, Animal Place offers self-guided tours, which includes the chance to see animals play, lounge, snooze and chat in their barns and enclosures. For those who want to be privy to insider information, Animal Place also offers guided tours where visitors can interact with the animals and hear powerful stories about some of the barn’s most famous tenants. Private tours and school tours are also available, while a guest house is open to visitors who want to stay within the grounds of the sanctuary.
17314 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, California 95949, Phone: 530-477-1757
© Smith Vineyard
There’s definitely no shortage of absolutely delicious wine in California, and when it comes to the Smith Vineyard, the wine is undeniably spectacular. All of the grapes at the Smith Vineyard and organically grown and each bottle of wine is bottled on the estate with four generations of experience, and know-how behind every single one. The tasting room of Smith Vineyard welcomes visitors from near and far to their location in the historic downtown of Grass Valley. In addition to being a cozy place to enjoy a glass or two of wine, the Smith Vineyard’s tasting room is also a great place for local artists to let their imagination run wild as the walls are plastered with the works artists in Nevada County.
142 Mill Street, Grass Valley, California, Phone 530-273-7032
15.Grass Valley Brewing Co.
© Grass Valley Brewing Co.
Travelers who are eager to sample some of Grass Valley’s most innovative craft beers ought to pay a visit to the Grass Valley Brewing Company. With a love for beer and an even greater love for community, Grass Valley Brewing uses their variety of classic and modern beers to engage travelers and locals alike with a common affinity for craft brews. Ingredients of Grass Valley Brews are more than just grain, hops and water; they include the magic of people who are very good at what they do and make sure that passion goes into every can, bottle and brew. Family and dog friendly, the Grass Valley Brewing Company also serves fantastic grub to go with their selection of beer.
141 E. Main Street, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-271-2739
16.Lola Montez House
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A California Historical Landmark, the Lola Montez House was once the home of an internationally acclaimed singer and dancer who moved to California in 1853. At this home, Lola Montez once entertained guests in elaborate parties in her salon, mentored Lotta Crabtree, and even kept a pet bear. When Lola Montez left Grass Valley later in 1855, her home was preserved and remodeled, but was still condemned. The house that now stands on 248 Mill Street is a replica of what once housed Lola Montez, and now serves as a small museum as well as the headquarters of the Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.
248 Mill Street, Grass Valley, California
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17.Sierra Starr Winery
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A one stop shop for all things that have to do with wine, the Sierra Starr Winery offers visitors a taste of award winning wines and access to unique wine related gifts and accessories. The winery is situated in the historic downtown area of Grass Valley and takes care in preparing rich and complex wines that are celebrated by the experts of California. Some of the red wines to look forward to include the 2013 Phils Zin, the 2014 Inertia, the 2014 Old Clone Zinfandel, and the 2014 Phils Selection Zinfandel. Meanwhile, their white wines to sample include the 2017 Cosmic Reserve Chardonnay, and the 2017 Sauv Blanc.
124 W. Main Street, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-477-8282
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Specializing in non-traditional blended wines, the Avenguardia Winery is a small, or ultra-boutique as others might say, establishment with its winery in Nevada City and a tasting room in Grass Valley. The winery emphases balance in its wine, ensuring that each bottle has just the perfect amount of alcohol, tannin or oak, and acidity. With wines that are more similar to European varieties than Californian, the Avenguardia Winery’s proprietary blends are largely crafted from 2 to 6 different grape varieties. While the winery does try to get as many varieties of grapes in their wine, most of which are out of mainstream popularity, a majority of their vines are Italian, which gives their blends a great finish.
163 Mill Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-274-9911
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Committed to building learning communities since 1971, Project Adventure takes active fun and pairs it with experiential education to creative positive and lasting growth in all those who participate in their programs. Project Adventure has over 45 years of experience in team building and education and serves a wide range of people from K-12 public and private schools to veterans and sports teams. Their social and emotional learning programs include comprehensive SEL programs for educators and students. They also offer mindfulness training and programs that center around self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills and social awareness. Some specialized learning activities to participate in include collaborative and goal setting adventure activities as well as something called “Challenge by Choice”, which creates a safe and supportive environment to teach responsible decision making.
1671 E Main Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-273-4477
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20.49er Fun Park
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Enjoy a family friendly day suitable for all ages at the 49er Fun Park. The park is the perfect place to spend a full day bonding with the family and friends through several attractions. Families can play a competitive game of mini-golf on the park’s lovely 18-hole mini golf course or satisfy their need for speed by taking one of the park’s go-carts around the track for a spin. Baseball lovers can get some practice in at the 49er Fun Park’s batting cages, which feature 6 tunnels. There’s also the arcade, which has over 40 exciting games, which reward gamers with tickets to collect and trade in for awesome prizes. Visitors who get hungry in between all the fun can also stop by the concession stand, which offers all the best amusement park treats like funnel cakes, corn dogs, and more.
314 Railroad Avenue, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-272-4949
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21.South Pine Cafe
© South Pine Café
There’s a great story behind every yummy meal at the South Pine Café. Family owned and operated, the South Pine Café serves breakfast, lunch and beer at their locations and goes the extra mile to ensure that their meals are always freshly prepared. This is to ensure that all of their visitors have healthy dining options at their fingertips for every meal. Tuck into specialty meals like their Carne Asada Burrito, their Southwester Turkey Mel and the Spicy Jamaican Chicken Burrito. Other best sellers come from the South Pine Café’s selection of all natural burgers like the Nutburger, the Garlic and Onion Cheeseburger and the Smoldering Pine Burger.
6271-102 Richardson Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-274-0261
22.Pine Street Burgers
© Pine Street Burgers
There’s nothing better than chomping into an irresistibly juicy burger in the midst of a great day of exploration. This all natural burger joint uses Durham natural beef for their beef patties, and free range chicken for their chicken patties. Meanwhile, their burgers use Max’s artisan burger buns, while their deserts feature vanilla bean ice cream and coco-bliss dairy free ice cream. It goes without saying, however, that the best way to tell what makes Pine Street Burgers different from all the rest is to dig into one yourself. Some amazing varieties include the Heisenburger, which features bacon, American cheese and an egg, and the Habanero Burger, which is stacked with roasted habaneros, grilled onions, and habanero jack.
E Main Street corner Dorsey Drive, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-477-5054
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A piece of Grass Valley history, Tofanelli’s is a beloved dining establishment to locals and a fantastic spot to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner to visitors from out of town. Tofanelli’s extensive breakfast menu features best sellers like their Jose’s Special Scramble, the Huevos Ranchero, and their Blueberry, Pecan or Banana Pancakes. Don’t forget the Monterey Benedict and the Eggs Oscar if you want to have a hearty start to your day. Meanwhile, the lunch menu offers tasty offerings like the Bacon Cheddar Burger, the Roast Beef Sandwich, Tofanelli’s Sliders and the Crab Cakes. Additionally, Tofanelli’s offers a wide range of wine at their full bar and vegetarian options for veggie-loving patrons.
302 W Main Street, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-272-1468
24.Cirino’s at Main Street
© Cirino’s at Main Street
Owned by Jerry Cirino and opened in 1983, Cirino’s Bar and Grill at Main Street boasts of an amazing menu built upon time honored Italian recipes straight from the Cirino family kitchen. The restaurant continues to honor Italian old-world tradition by using only the freshest seasonal ingredients available to their chefs. Generation after generation have enjoyed fantastic meals at Cirino’s like their Shrimp Louie, the Tunisian Chicken Salad, Jerry’s Italian Style Puttanesca, and the Cirino’s Family Spaghetti. Dropping by for dinner? Make sure to sample Cirino’s signature Bloody Mary to cap off your meal. If you like it enough, you can even pick up some of their prepared mix to take home with you.
213 West Main Street, Grass Valley, California 95945, Phone: 530-477-6000
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© Diego’s Restaurant
Tuck into Chilean inspired South American fare at an eclectic and refreshing restaurant known simply but fondly as Diego’s. At Diego’s patrons can look forward to a relaxing atmosphere, perfect for an afternoon with family, friends or a date, in addition to top notch dishes of great quality, large portions and spectacular service. All of the dishes at Diego’s Restaurant are prepared in the traditional style of South American cooking, while complimentary house-made bread rolls serve as a fantastic starter for your meal. Take your pick from their well curated menu or tuck into a savory weekend special, whatever you choose, your meal is bound to be amazing.
217 Colfax Avenue, Grass Valley, California, Phone: 530-477-1460
25 Best Things to Do in Grass Valley, California
- Empire Mine State Historic Park, Photo: Empire Mine State Historic Park
- Grass Valley Museum, Photo: Courtesy of insatb2187 - Fotolia.com
- North Star Powerhouse Mining Museum, Photo: Courtesy of adam88xx - Fotolia.com
- Bourn Cottage, Photo: Courtesy of DyMax - Fotolia.com
- The Center for the Arts, Photo: The Center for the Arts
- Del Oro Theatre, Photo: Del Oro Theatre
- Holbrooke Hotel, Photo: Holbrooke Hotel
- North Star Historic Conservancy, Photo: North Star Historic Conservancy
- The Louvre, Photo: The Louvre
- Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, Photo: Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Lucchesi Vineyards Tasting Room, Photo: Courtesy of dmitrimaruta - Fotolia.com
- Naggiar Vineyard and Winery, Photo: Naggiar Vineyard and Winery
- Animal Place, Photo: Courtesy of markusha_g - Fotolia.com
- Smith Vineyard, Photo: Smith Vineyard
- Grass Valley Brewing Co., Photo: Grass Valley Brewing Co.
- Lola Montez House, Photo: Courtesy of krsmanovic - Fotolia.com
- Sierra Starr Winery, Photo: Courtesy of haveseen - Fotolia.com
- Avenguardia Winery, Photo: Courtesy of Rebekah - Fotolia.com
- Project Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of auremar - Fotolia.com
- 49er Fun Park, Photo: Courtesy of kurgu128 - Fotolia.com
- South Pine Cafe, Photo: South Pine Café
- Pine Street Burgers, Photo: Pine Street Burgers
- Tofanelli’s, Photo: Tofanelli’s
- Cirino’s at Main Street, Photo: Cirino’s at Main Street
- Diego’s Restaurant, Photo: Diego’s Restaurant
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jennifercoulter - Fotolia.com