What to do, see, eat, and drink in this historic area.

Two Boys Jump from Boulders at the Yuba River
Cavan Images/Getty Images

Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.

Meet the Insider: Anne L’Esperance, Designer and Owner of An Ellipsis Design

Anne L'Esperance Headshot
Photo by Ingrid Nelson

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Grass Valley and Nevada City have in been known for their Gold Rush history and proximity to epic outdoor adventure. Recently, two storied hotels—the Holbrooke and the National Exchange—have been revamped, drawing new attention to the area. Anne L’Esperance, the designer behind the projects, shares her favorite spots for travelers.


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Stop in at Heartwood, a “great, healthy lunch spot that serves bowls, salads, and soups.” Three Forks is a “local favorite with a great locally sourced menu that changes often. Baked goods, coffee, wood-fired pizza and beer. You can cover all three meals of the day here and find something new every time.” 


Iron Door Interior
Iron Door

Kat Alves

Pop into the Golden Era. “They often have live music and make beautiful cocktails. I am definitely a fan of their whiskey sour, don’t miss it.” Iron Door is “historic and moody, and  serves up great cocktails. The speakeasy vibes come equipped with ghost stories and tales of who and what used to run through the tunnels that are behind the back bar’s iron doors.”


National Exchange Hotel Grand Lounge
The National Exchange Hotel

Kat Alves

The National Exchange Hotel, which locals refer to as “The Nash,” is “the spot for cozy conversations and late nights.” Don’t miss out on dining at Lola, “where there is often a live pianist playing throughout the evening.” The sister property of the Nash, The Holbrooke Hotel, has “somewhat more of a masculine aesthetic with worn leather couches, warm wool blankets, rough-hewn wood, and original stone walls.”


Two Boys Jump from Boulders at the Yuba River
Yuba River

Cavan Images/Getty Images

Take a trek through town and down to the Tribute Trail, which “memorializes the early contributions of native Nisenan and  Chinese people to the history of the area.” A visit to the region “isn’t complete without a trip to the Yuba River. There are many places to find gorgeous blue swimming holes and trails that go along the water for miles. Do your research, park legally, be respectful to the land, and pack-in/ pack-out.”


Sunchild's Parlour Store Exterior
Sunchild’s Parlour

Courtesy of Sunchild’s Parlour

Kitkitdizzi is “always a must when strolling down Broad Street. The space is always changing and the ladies’ keen eye for design is always drawing in passersby.” You’ll also want to hit some of the vintage shops in Grass Valley, like Sunchild’s Parlour and Cosmic Shark. The latter “not only has a killer selection of vintage clothes and footwear, they are a screen-printing company that puts out creative prints that make great take-home souvenirs.”

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