This eclectic town, with humble beginnings rooted in the gold rush, is now a bustling community with quaint wineries, impressive performing arts, unique cuisine, extensive recreation options, and leading special events. Today, Grass Valley is a self-sustaining hub of tourism and business enterprises, with a diverse economic foundation. Anchored by the Nevada County Fairgrounds and Historic Downtown, its historic charm is well preserved, yet very much alive!
Prospectors from throughout the nation converged on the area now known as Grass Valley during the gold rush era and created a population explosion. By 1855, the quaint community was prospering when a fire swept through and destroyed 300 buildings. The town rebuilt and continued to thrive, attracting Cornish miners who were adept at extracting gold quartz veined deep into the mountain.
By the 1890s, more than 60% of Grass Valley’s population consisted of Cornish immigrants. Mining and logging were the historical mainstays of the area economy. Grass Valley was literally circled by mines with stamp mills crushing ore to extract gold twenty-four hours per day, 364 days per year. The single day off was for the miner’s annual picnic.
Grass Valley boasts a modest community population of nearly 13,000. The city has preserved and proudly displays its early architecture and history as a living museum that coexists with a thriving, modern business center. It maintains a highly unique and diverse cultural identity through its historic downtown, arts community, wineries, special events, and growing business economy. It claims Cornwall, England as its Sister City, based on its historic past with Cornish miners.
Grass Valley is the hub for many of the Sierra’s finest special events. Home to the Nevada County Fairgrounds, the community hosts the county fair of the same name each August, which draws nearly 100,000 visitors and is ranked as one of top 10 rural county fairs in America. Other events range from the World Music Festival to the Draft Horse Classic.
Grass Valley’s museums and cultural centers are much than collections of static displays. In Grass Valley, even the old mines are considered museums, and give visitors impressive tours of mine tunnels. Examine displays of mining equipment and artifacts from the 1800s.
The largest Pelton Wheel ever constructed was used to generate power for North Star mining operations. The Empire Mine Park contains many of the original buildings, the restored gardens, in addition to the entrance of 367 miles of abandoned and flooded shafts and tunnels and mine buildings. The grounds also include biking and hiking trails that wind about its 784 acres.