From the Bay Area: Nevada City
Imagine if the Wild West collided with a European village. There might be winding, narrow streets in a walkable town, pine trees, Old West saloons, wooden sidewalks and historic homes. Not far from Lake Tahoe, in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, is Nevada City, a funky, artsy town that feels like Europe collided with California's Gold Country with a little bit of New Orleans party spirit under the surface. Visit the town during Day of the Dead or Halloween and you'll really see what we're talking about.
What to Eat & Drink: About two miles out of Downtown Nevada City, don't miss roadhouse extraordinaire The Willo. Equal parts festive, locals' bar and old-school steakhouse, the joint beckons with a neon sign glowing through the pines, a parking lot oft-lined with classic cars and waitresses that call you "hon'." Sitting under Elvis, John Wayne and scripture-verse clocks, enjoy thick cuts of NY steak that either you or their staff member cook on a giant grill. Back in town, the quirky dive bar of choice is Mine Shaft Saloon (since 1978). You can also savor gourmet ice cream at Treats or try third-wave coffee at elegant Victorian-Old West parlor The Curly Wolf.
While You're There: Akin to the great musical cities of the South, Nevada City has a vibrant music scene, despite its small size. There are a number of live-music options, but the coolest shows are at the historic Miner's Foundry. In the fall, the region is famed for its radiant fall colors and even offers walking maps through the town showing off maximum color. We know New Englanders who swear by the fall here.
Transportation Time: Roughly a two-and-a-half-hour (140-mile) drive from San Francisco.