Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Grass Valley, CA

  • Published 2021/11/24

When everyone talks about the places to visit in California, they usually point out south and Bay Area cities.

Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are the most common recommended cities to visit for people looking for a travel adventure in California.

Little do they know that California’s northern region also has a lot of beautiful places to visit.

Hidden gems that you won’t believe were there the whole time but didn’t get equal attention as much as California’s mainstream attractions.

Northern California is just as charming as its southern part, and the town of Grass Valley in Nevada County is a testament to it.

This former mining town with a population of 12,891 is an hour’s drive north of Sacramento.

It’s teeming with rich history, natural sceneries, and activities that are worthy of your exploration.

This community, descendants of the gold rush pioneers, offers visitors what rustic charm is all about.

Grass Valley is an ideal destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway through northern California.

So, let’s find out the 15 best things to do in Grass Valley in the list below.

Explore California’s Biggest Gold Mine in Empire Mine State Park

View of Empire Mine State Park

KRoark, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Empire Mine State Park is a special place that is very dear to the people of Grass Valley.

It’s not just one of the oldest gold mines in California but also the deepest, largest, and longest mine in the entire Golden State.

This century-old mine had already produced gold worth 5.8 million ounces until it was officially closed in 1956.

Today, the famous mine is now a park which offers you an exciting chance to visit its well-preserved mining structures.

View of Empire Mine State Park

KRoark, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park also has beautiful gardens and a house of the former owner of the mine.

Hiking and picture taking are the most popular activities to do in the park.

To visit the Empire Mine State Park, it is at 10791 E Empire St, Grass Valley, CA.

The Empire Mine State Park opens from 10 am to 5 am daily.

Learn About Mining Heritage at the North Star Mining Museum & Pelton Wheel Exhibit

The Nevada County Historical Society led an initiative to protect and preserve Nevada County’s hidden gem, the North Star Mining Museum and the Pelton Wheel Exhibit.

This attraction holds a lot of Nevada County’s rich mining heritage.

Preserving them is the best way to inform the people about how mining was being done back in the day.

The North Star Mining Museum houses a comprehensive collection of artifacts, photos, documents, and mining equipment used during the Gold Rush era.

There are guided and individual tours you can join there.

To learn more about the museum’s business hours, visit its website.

To visit the North Star Mining Museum, it is at 933 Allison Ranch Road.

Open a Bottle of Italian Wine at the Lucchesi Vineyards Tasting Room

Surprisingly, Grass Valley is home to numerous vineyards and wineries, making this town an ideal destination for wine tasting also.

One of the best places to taste exquisite Italian wines is the Lucchesi Vineyards Tasting Room.

It deserves a spot in your itinerary because of the place’s outstanding wines.

The place is owned by Mario and Linda Clough, who have descendants from the Etruscans in Italy.

They produce their wine from their 20-acre vineyard in Grass Valley, which grows different varieties of grapes.

Visiting their tasting room offers you samples of their top-notch red wine and white wines.

To visit their tasting room, it is at 128 Mill Street, Grass Valley.

They start receiving guests from 11 am to 5 pm.

Eat Delicious Food at South Pine Café

The South Pine Café is one of the most beloved restaurants in Grass Valley for its delicious comfort food served the entire day.

This family-owned business in Grass Valley is top-rated among locals because of the owners’ dedication to serving delicious meals from their farm to table ingredients.

Their best menu items are the Carne Asada Burrito, Spicy Jamaican Chicken Burrito, Garlic Onion Burger, Pine Burger, and their Southwestern Turkey Mel.

If you’re looking for a popular place in Grass Valley for food, head to 6271-102 Richardson Street, Grass Valley, to reach South Pine Café.

They start cooking their delicious meals from 8 am to 3 pm daily.

Stay at the Historic Holbrooke Hotel

Front View of Historic Holbrooke Hotel

EWY Media /

Over the years, Grass Valley’s old saloons and houses were converted into hotels, shops, and museums while preserving its old beauty.

One of them is the historic Holbrooke Hotel, the former Golden Gate Saloon that opened in 1852.

A year after it opened, a one-story hotel was then built behind the saloon.

A fire gutted the popular establishment in 1855 but was rebuilt quickly, and from then on, it welcomed countless guests in Grass Valley until today.

The Holbrooke Hotel is adorned with beautiful Victorian decorations and features, which holds true for many decades to home.

Staying in this hotel tells you an incredible story of Grass Valley’s past in its well-preserved charm.

To visit the hotel, it is at 212 W Main St, Grass Valley.

Celebrate Local Art at the Center for the Arts

As the name suggests, this place is dedicated entirely to promoting visual, literary, and performing arts to Nevada County’s local community.

The Center for the Arts Grass Valley houses a massive collection of modern and contemporary artworks from the best of Nevada County’s artists.

It sits on a spacious 21,000-square-foot facility with different sections of exhibits, theater, galleries, and a classroom.

It regularly hosts more than 150 performances annually, not to mention the exhibits and galleries they launch monthly.

To visit the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley at 998 Plaza Drive, Grass Valley, California.

Check their official website for their official business hours.

Uncover the Mining History of Grass Valley in the North Star Historic Conservancy

Grass Valley has a very long and prosperous mining history; thus, uncover more about its fascinating history through its old mines.

To do this, you need to visit the North Star Historical Conservancy, which tours you to a 700-acre land filled with historic mining landmarks, old mines, mills, structures, and equipment dating back to the Gold Rush era.

These artifacts were used between 1851 to 1956, making all of them significant to Grass Valley’s history and mining heritage.

The North Star Historic Conservancy is also where you’ll find the Heritage Garden, greenery popular to locals as a venue for special occasions.

To visit this place, it is at 12075 Auburn Road, Grass Valley.

Step Back in Time at the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce

This place is where you’ll experience firsthand what it was living back during the Gold Rush days.

The place that serves as the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce office is a must-visit place because of its well-preserved rustic building.

Its design has never changed since the Gold Rush days, which virtually takes you back in time.

Also, it is the perfect place for visitors to get their ideal itinerary around Grass Valley.

Their friendly staff provides you with an itinerary of places and things to do around Grass Valley.

To visit this place, it is at 128 East Main Street, Grass Valley, CA.

The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce accommodates visitors from 11 am to 4 pm, but they close every weekend.

Appreciate Art Restoration at The Louvre

The Louvre in Grass Valley has been an expert in art restoration and customization since the 1980s.

This must-visit place in Grass Valley started as a simple framing shop and art gallery but eventually grew to art restoration.

Today, the Louvre has already restored countless artworks in Nevada County.

Visiting there also gives you a chance to buy wonderful art pieces from their gallery that boasts a vast collection of paintings, photos, and memorabilia from the past.

To visit the Louvre, it is at 124 East Main Street, Grass Valley.

They open their gallery from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, except on Sundays and Monday.

Watch a Movie at the Del Oro Theatre

The Del Oro Theatre preserved its vintage art deco neon spire design until today, making it an icon in the town.

After it was completed in 1941 by the United Artists, it started operating on its single-screen theater until today.

Visiting this place takes you to a time capsule of the vintage cinematic culture back in the days amidst the numerous renovations the theater has undergone.

View of Del Oro Theatre

EWY Media /

The most popular things to do at the Del Oro Theater are watching the latest flicks and ghost hunting.

There were rumors and stories that the old theater was haunted.

So, if you want to add some excitement and spook to your Grass Valley adventure, you should visit this place.

To visit the theater, it is at 165 Mill Street, Grass Valley.

Bring Your Kids to the 49er Fun Park

Locals in Grass Valley usually spend their weekend afternoons with their kids at the 49er Fun Park.

This mini-family amusement park has fun-filled activities, such as arcades, go-karts, batting cages, and an 18-hole mini-golf course.

If you’re bringing kids with you in Grass Valley, they will certainly find museums and old mines a bit boring, so the 49er Fun Park is the best place to let them have fun.

Its arcade and redemption area is filled with entertainment where kids can win tickets from their arcade games while their outdoor attractions span over four acres of land.

Their main attraction, their 18-hole mini-golf course, is the perfect family activity that you shouldn’t miss.

If you want more action, they have a go-kart racecourse and batting cages.

To visit this family amusement park, it is at 314 Railroad Ave, Grass Valley, CA.

They open from Friday to Sunday from 1 pm to 9 pm.

Munch on Mouthwatering Burgers at the Pine Street Burgers

Indulging in a mouthwatering burger is simply irresistible, especially after an entire day of exploring Grass Valley.

Thus, head to Pine Street Burgers at E Main Street corner Dorsey Drive in Grass Valley to taste their all-natural Durham beef burgers.

They use beef patty and ingredients from their free-range cows and chickens.

To make their burger a lot flavorful, they use artisan burger buns while serving delicious homemade ice creams with different and delectable flavors to choose from.

For a different burger experience, head to Pine Street to discover why locals keep coming back there.

They start serving their burgers from 11 am to 4 pm daily.

Take a Sip of Award-Winning Wines at Sierra Starr Vineyard & Winery

For a one-stop-shop for wine, then head to the Sierra Starr Winery that offers you their award-winning wines and their unique gift shop.

The winery itself is seated at Grass Valley’s historic downtown area, where you’ll discover numerous landmarks and historical attractions.

The winery boasts a collection of celebrated wines from California wine experts, including the 2013 Phils Zin, the 2014 Phils Selection Zinfandel, and many more award-winning varieties.

Plus, they also have several varieties of award-winning white wines that you must try.

To visit the winery, they are at 124 W. Main Street, Grass Valley.

The Sierra Starr Winery is open from Friday to Sunday from 12 noon to 5 pm.

Enjoy a Hearty Breakfast at Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro

Tofanelli is Grass Valley’s beloved restaurant, well-known for its hearty breakfast and cozy spot.

Tofanelli’s extensive menu goes way beyond their favorite breakfast items, but they earned their popularity with the latter.

Many of the locals in Grass Valley love to visit this restaurant regularly for their Eggs Oscar, Monterey Benedict, Jose’s Special Scramble, Banana Pancakes, Pecan Pancakes, Huevos Ranchero, and a lot more.

Meanwhile, their lunch menu offers you burgers, sandwiches, and vegetarian dishes cooked and prepared with fresh ingredients.

If you’re planning to have your breakfast at Tofanelli’s, they open up at 8 am until 3 pm daily.

They are at 302 W Main Street, Grass Valley.

Hike Around Condon Park

The Condon Park on the southwestern portion of Grass Valley is an urban park facility that locals love to visit every weekend or holiday.

It is a go-to place for relaxation and outdoor activities.

Its facilities include a picnic area, baseball diamonds, a skate park, a barbeque area, a community building, a children’s playground, a basketball court, a huge pond, and a viewing platform.

Before you drive back home, be sure to stop over at Condon Park for a short hike.

Condon Park is at 544 Butler St, Grass Valley, CA.

The park opens up from 7 am until 8 pm.

Final Thoughts

Grass Valley is one of the main reasons why northern California is worth your trip and exploration.

Its historic mines, museums, and well-preserved old structures maintained its old rustic beauty.

Plus, its wineries and delicious food add more memories to your trip there.

If you’re planning to tour around northern California, make sure to include Grass Valley and make this list your official itinerary.

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