california gold country empire mine
Grass Valley
Empire Mine State Historic Park - The Empire Mine was the most productive hard rock gold mine in the U.S. Today you can wander around the old mine buildings, blacksmith and machine shops, and peer down the long dark entrance to the mine. Throughout the year on "Living History Days" volunteers dress in the period clothes of miners, engineers, tradesmen, etc. and you can watch period demos such as a blacksmith working his forge.
Take a tour of Empire Cottage, a lovely English style "manor" house, built in 1897 or just stroll around the gorgeous rose gardens, past reflecting pools and beautifully landscaped grounds.
Want to stretch your legs? Hike the Hardrock Trail (starts near the Visitor Center) through the oak and pine trees, past the crumbled foundations of the Orleans Mine and the mounds of rock waste from the W.Y.O.D. Mine to Little Wolf Creek. 2.5 miles round trip. For a shorter stroll, take the Union Hill Trail through the shady pines and ponderosas (half mile loop).
The Visitor Center has mining exhibits and a complex 3-D model of the Empire Mine, showing hundreds of miles of tunnels. Get hiking maps at the Visitor Center. Picnic tables under the trees.
North Star Mining Museum (Mill St.) has gobs more mining equipment, including a huge Pelton wheel that generated electricity for the mine. There's a beautiful picnic area where you can enjoy your lunch alongside Wolf Creek. It's really quite wonderful by the creek and the perfect place on a hot day.

49er Fun Park (Railroad Ave.) - Kids want to get back into the 21st century? Jump into a single or double go kart, take a swing in the batting cages, or play a few rounds of miniature golf (the course has a Gold Rush theme).
Parks - Cool off and relax in several Grass Valley parks.
Memorial Park has a public swimming pool, picnic area and playground (play structures). At the Grass Valley Video History Museum, see historical film footage and documentaries of the area (open May to Oct., Thursday - Sunday afternoons).
Condon Park - Minnie Park, at the entrance to Condon Park, is great for little kids, with a playground and picnic tables. Throughout Condon Park there are picnic areas, trails and a fishing pond.
Fun food
Friday Market - In July and August, every Friday evening at the Farmers Market there are fresh foods from farms in the Sierra foothills, arts and crafts and music too.
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