When Time Magazine named Grass Valley one of California's "Hot Small
Towns" in 1998, the heat was on to live up to expectations. While
experiences warm weather that hovers around 100 degrees some summer
days, it's ever so cool in the shade at the Empire Mine, the
oldest, richest, hardrock gold mine in California.
This 1850's Gold Rush town has been
served well by the Empire Mine located in Empire Mine State Historic Park.
For over 100 years the gold mine was operated as a profit-making
venture. Expansive buildings and grounds, plus 367 miles of abandoned and flooded shafts and
tunnels in various states of disrepair are being restored by volunteers
who work diligently to clear tunnels, landscape the property's beautiful gardens
and share their love of history with tourists who travel thousands of
miles to see the fantastic place.
Modern-day businesses have sprung up
around gold's lure with gift shops and restaurants serving hungry and
thirsty travelers as well as the local community. As California's
population grows, Grass Valley is considered one of those desirable
places offering quality of life, numerous activities and a much slower
pace than nearby Sacramento and San Francisco. Retirees attracted to the
small town atmosphere have helped create an incredible
volunteer corps involved in programs such as the Living History
exhibitions where docents dress in costume and live the parts of their
Grass Valley, a city of 12,000 people
may seem like a one-horse town but that's simply not true. Each
September the Draft Horse Classic and Harvest Fair brings beautiful
Clydesdales and wagon teams to Grass Valley for entertainment. From a Celtic Festival,
Teddy Bear convention,
Fruit Jar Pickers Sing-Along,
Cornish Christmas Street Fair, Good
Old Days Car Show and much more, Grass Valley may be small but it
has a lot going on.
For those unfamiliar with the
California Gold Rush, news of gold strikes in this region of California
in the 1840's and 50's spread like wildfire around the world. Cities,
town and encampments popped up overnight and hot, little Grass Valley
grew rapidly thanks to a settler named George McKnight who discovered gold in the
quartz rock along Gold Hill in 1850. Empire Mine opened that year. From
1850 to its closing in 1956, Empire Mine produced 5.8 million ounces of
gold contributing to Grass Valley's fame as the richest of all gold
Empire Mine State Historic Park
contains many of the original mine buildings, the owners cottage and the
restored gardens and grounds. The park consists of 845 acres of forested
back country and 12 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and horseback
riders. Trails are enjoyed for hiking, mountain bikes, equestrians and
walking the dog. The trails are open year-round from sunrise to sunset.
10787 East Empire St, Grass Valley, Ca 95945. www.empiremine.org
Set in the Sierra foothills at
approximately 2,500 feet elevation in western Nevada County, the area
enjoys four seasons. The average rainfall is 55 inches per year. While
light snow may fall a few times a year, it rarely lasts very long. Grass
Valley is located off state routes 49 and 20, a one-hour drive northeast
of Sacramento. To get there you can take eastbound Interstate 80 to
Auburn and Highway 49 north. Served by several major airports, you can
fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO - 150 miles distance),
Sacramento International Airport (SMF - 62 miles) or Reno Tahoe
International Airport (RNO - 92 miles).
Star Power House and Pelton Wheel Mining Exhibit with displays of
mining equipment and artifacts from the 1880's such as a Pelton Wheel,
and operational Cornish pump. There's a secluded picnic area alongside
Mill Street & McCourtney Road, Grass Valley (530) 273-4255
Grass Valley Museum
Built in 1865, the memorabilia of early Grass Valley and Mount St.
Mary's Academy served as a convent, orphanage and school.
Corner of South Church and Chapel Streets
Imaginarium of Nevada County
Hands-on exhibits and activities in science, nature and technology
for kids. Imaginarium of Nevada County, 161 Nevada City Hwy, Nevada
City, CA Call: (478) 6415 or 478-6400, ext. 231
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum
A new museum with railroad and transportation exhibits, including
historic Engine No. 5.
5 Kidder Court at Bost Ave.
Firehouse No. 1 Museum
Relics of the Donner Party, Maidu Indian display, Chinese and
Pioneer exhibits, and items of the Gold Rush era.
214 Main Street
The Holbrooke Hotel - Located in downtown Grass Valley, this
historic hotel gives a sense of history. Antiques grace all twenty-eight
rooms, each with private bath. The Historical Landmark was built in 1851
in Victorian style and includes the Golden Gate Saloon, one of the
longest continually running bars "West of the Mississippi". The saloon
has copper clad walls, original mahogany wood and Italian alabaster and
marble. Holbrooke Hotel has hosted some of the most famous names in U.S.
and California history. Guest books, preserved and displayed in the
hotel lobby include the signatures of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant,
Benjamin Harrison, James A. Garfield and Grover Cleveland. Other famous
guests were writers Mark Twain and Bret Harte, heavyweight champion
boxers Jim Corbett and Bon Fitzsimmons, and the infamous Black Bart.