Cities Journal

Top 21 Small Cities In California

9. Nevada City
Photo credit: James Gaither / Flickr

7. Nevada City

There are not that many towns that a historical landmark in their entirety. Nevada City is one such town. Today, it is a relatively small town, but in 1856, however, it was actually the third largest city in the state of California.

While the name “Nevada City” rings with echoes of Las Vegas glitz and glamour, the town’s foundation was a much more dangerous and high-stakes sort of gambling. If you’re a fan of the 49ers, this is where they get their name: Nevada City was established in 1849, when settlers moved to the Old West in search of gold and took their Victorian architecture and design aesthetics along for the ride.

Forests and rivers surround Nevada City’s historic downtown streets.  Classic saloons, welcoming and romantic bed-and-breakfasts, and old-school movie theaters share space with specialty antique shops that display artifacts from the town’s glory days as a gold hub. You can even spend the night in the record-setting National Hotel, which the Chamber of Commerce says has been in operation since the 1850s, longer than any hotel west of the Rocky Mountains.

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