Small Towns: Nevada City

Here’s one from our series on small towns in the foothills, with some highlights from our visits.
nevada city national exchange hotel
National Exchange Hotel

This picturesque foothill town has preserved its historic downtown to such charming proportions that it’s impossible not to walk a little slower as you wander along the wooden sidewalks. It’s busy with visitors and residents, with most of the activity on Broad Street and its side streets, and packed with history, arts and culture, and shopping and dining opportunities. It’s got all the small-town staples: inns in old mansions, at least one bookstore, third-wave coffee, galleries that show local artists’ works, and someplace to get a fancy piece of chocolate to perk up a mid-afternoon slump.

Broad Street Nevada City
Broad Street

Fun to Say and See—Kitkitdizzi is a native plant—also known as Mountain Misery—that carpets the forest floor here in the West. It’s also the name of a retail outlet in Nevada City with art and other goods for a carefully curated home: textiles, ceramics, wall art, lighting, candles, nectars, plus jewelry and clothing aplenty.

Watch For It—The National Exchange Hotel is undergoing renovations and expects to open with new grandeur later this year.

Put It in Your Hat—The Hat Store has an incredible selection of headwear: fedoras, top hats, straw sun protectors, ball caps, cowboy hats.

hats in nevada city

Chocolate Fix—Cacao Cafe by Choquiero is what dreams are made of: all chocolate. It’s got more than 300 chocolate varieties from throughout the world, all stuff you can feel good about: fair trade, free of emulsifiers and junk. Plus the shop is gorgeous, with deep, rich woods and bright colors, and the drinks list includes “cacaoccinos,” cacao espresso and cacao elixir shots.

Cacao Cafe by Choquiero
Cacao Cafe by Choquiero

coffee in nevada city

Peaceful Reading—Harmony Books is a favorite because of its location in the assay office, with its hardwood floors, exposed brick and a fireplace, and because you can browse without feeling hovered over. The collection, which includes literature, nonfiction, gardening, sustainability, art and lots more (yes, children’s, too), is made up of new releases as well as old ones.

Harmony Books in nevada city

Fire Up the Pizza—At Three Forks Bakery & Brewing, the pizza—with dough made from organic wild yeast and topped with meats, cheeses and veggies sourced locally if possible—is wood-fired to crispy, chewy goodness. It’s not just the pizza that makes Three Forks special, but the muffins, scones and daily breads. (The Sunday loaf: olive, walnut, lemon zest and herbes de Provence.)

Eat Your Vegetables—Although it’s not vegan or vegetarian, Ike’s Quarter Cafe serves some of the best plant-based dishes around. The plant-centered burger selection, for example, includes ones made from beets, mushrooms and tempeh. Ike’s strawberry spinach salad, by the way, is legendary.

Ike's strawberry spinach salad
Ike’s strawberry spinach salad