One of the amazing things about Grass Valley and Nevada City is that it’s still a small town, where you see friends at the grocery store or walking around town. I grew up here and it’s pretty near impossible for me to go out and not see someone I know almost everywhere. One of the drawbacks can be the lack of big city conveniences. I hear people say all the time they don’t know what to do with kids here. Growing up here I would disagree!! I can tell you that going for a hike and collecting bugs or rocks is much more fun than Skyzone or mini golf. At least in my opinion! I am going to go over 6 things to do with kids in Grass Valley here in this post.
Western Gateway Park – OK technically this park is in Penn Valley, CA but I went there all the time as a little girl and even more when I had little kids of my own. In the summer you can swim in the creek or play on one of the many playgrounds. They have Bocci ball and pickleball courts, and an outdoor amphitheater where summer concerts are common. You will also find a Farmer’s Market here on Thursdays. This large park is also home to a huge disc golf course a pump park and a dog park, not to mention the lovely groomed walking trail. You really can’t miss when you make a trip to this park there is something for everyone
Bridgeport Covered Bridge, also located in Penn Valley, is a really pretty historical site and fun to visit even if it’s too cold to swim. Constructed in 1862 by the Virginia Turnpike Company, the Bridgeport covered bridge located at the South Yuba River State Park in western Nevada County is the only remaining single-span covered wooden bridge of this size in the nation. There are two parking lots, the first one on your left will take you to a family beach with shallow slow-moving water and is frequented by lots of families with little kids. This side is also where you will find the museum an old shell gas station and the big red barn! This is one of my favorite locations for photo shoots. There are just sooo many wonderful photo ops! The parking lot on the far side of the bridge is the access point to the Buttermilk Trail. This is one of the most gorgeous trails that goes upriver and gives you incredible views. In the spring you won’t find a better location for wildflowers! The hike is about 2 miles round trip and very flat and extremely well maintained. Very easy for kids and an educational experience to learn about all the different flowers.
Pioneer Park – In Nevada City, In the summer this is where the Children’s Festival is held. A fun renaissance and craft fair focused on fun for kids, but is also entertaining for adults. The pool is home to swim lessons and lots of fun inexpensive water play in the summer. There is a wonderful playground (incredible fall colors here!!) and below you will find tennis courts and a baseball field. The upper ball field is home to many Little League ball games. There is a portion of Deer Creek that runs around the park and is fun for the kids to play in.
Downtown Grass Valley – This has always been one of my favorite things to do, even as a kid. Now it’s even better since they upgraded downtown Mill Street to a family-friendly promanade-style walkway. No need to worry about cars anymore! On weekends you will see musicians and artists, and people having lunch at the outdoor seating. Stop by Lazy Dog for some candy or ice cream. Don’t forget to visit Foothill Mercantile which has an entire upstairs as a toy shop! My mom used to bring me here when I was a little girl just to play on the amazing train table they had set up while she browsed the goods downstairs. When I asked my daughter (now 16) what her favorite childhood places to visit were this was her first choice! Make sure you don’t miss Cornish Christmas here in the winter when the town puts on a magical German-style winter festival with mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, lots of vendors, and carolers in period clothing.
Libraries- Nevada City and Grass Valley have incredible libraries. I love to read and always have. When I was closer to being a teenager my Mom would drop me off and let me read for a few hours while she ran errands. I took my children to the story hours there too. I think one time they brought in rescue animals for us to pet and learn about. They are ALWAYS doing something fun for kids and it’s usually educational to boot. I highly recommend checking out their events calendar!
Deer Creek Tribute Trail- Suspension Bridge! This is number 2 on my daughter’s favorite memories as a kid. It’s a super short walk from the road to this bridge. It SWAYS … yep. If you are afraid of heights It might not be for you, but it’s pretty darn cool if you ask me! When my kids were little they would build little fairy villages on the side of the zig-zag forest trail to the bridge. The colors in the fall are amazing here too! The trail comes out behind 7 Hills Middle School. You can access it from Spring Street in downtown Nevada City.
Hiking with kids
The good thing about our climate is that even though we get snow and it gets cold, we have lots of sunny days even in the winter. I suggest bundling up and going outside to collect Fall leaves or fun rocks. Both my kids still have their rock collections! Or bring an iPhone with a plant-identifying app on it and see how many new types of plants you can find.
Most of all I encourage you to get out and enjoy the lakes, rivers, and hiking trails we have here. If you like to ride bikes there are several super fun trails that are easy enough for kids to go on too. That’s probably another blog all in itself!
I hope you enjoyed my post about 6 things to do with kids in Grass Valley I loved as a kid and places my own kids loved. I would love to hear about places you love to take your kids to!!
I am a full-time photographer born and raised in Nevada City. I am super passionate about taking photos (I especially love to photograph kids and their pets!) If you are interested in booking a session with me please take a moment to fill out a contact form on my website Kendra Evans Photography