To those who have called Paradise home for any period of time, its name implies a feeling: of closeness, of quaintness, of tranquility. The Ridge community embraces the foothill mountain life, from local mom-and-pop shops to outdoor recreation, all with an intertwined nod to its long-standing Gold Rush historical roots.
In the wake of the 2018 Camp Fire, the temptation can be for outsiders to rewrite Paradise’s persona—and that would be a mistake. Ever-resilient and still every bit the fiercely tight-knit community it ever was, Paradise is a wonderful place for visitors and locals alike as it rebuilds. To hear about its progress is one thing; to visit and see it for yourself is not only inspiring, but also a chance to see firsthand what Paradise has always had to offer.
As the Ridge community rises, consider building an itinerary of sights, tastes, and experiences for a memorable trip on the Ridge.
Paradise Strong Coffee
In a small stand in the parking lot of Holiday Market on the Skyway, the former Java Express is reborn. Under new ownership, Paradise Strong Coffee Hut is the new pursuit of one of the thousands of families who lost everything in the Camp Fire. Strictly a drive-through stand, Paradise Strong offers a wide selection of coffee drinks and snacks in a convenient location. One of the remaining local coffee stops in town, this is a quick and convenient stop to get your morning buzz.
“The Ridge” is more than Paradise proper, and any visitor would be remiss to not explore the beauty of the surrounding areas as well. Taking in the scenery means taking the scenic route, and it’s well worth your while.
Magalia, Inskip, and Stirling City all stretch higher into the hills above Paradise, and each offers its own unique flavor. As you head east on the Skyway, you’ll reach Magalia first, and that’s where you should stop for breakfast at Lovelock Restaurant. All the classic options are available, from pancakes to biscuits and gravy to breakfast burritos. A day of exploring requires hearty fuel.
Bobbi’s Boutique is a small-town boutique offering stylish alternatives to big-box shopping. It’s a great stop for brand-name women’s fashion, from clothing and jewelry to handbags and shoes. Starting your day with retail therapy, whether it’s shopping for gifts or picking up an indulgence for yourself, is never a bad idea.
Treasures from Paradise and Attic Treasures
Antiques and knickknacks are part of the quaint, small-town shopping scene on the Ridge. Chotchkies, dolls, ceramic figurines, collectibles, and the like abound in Treasures from Paradise and Attic Treasures, but it’s certainly not limited to the whimsical. Ornate glass and ceramic-ware, carvings, crystal, and other sculptures are all on offer and make great gifts.
Formerly a staple of the lunch scene in pre-fire Paradise, Meehos—delicious Mexican fare including traditional tacos, burritos, and more—had expanded its small hut into a large dining patio before the Camp Fire claimed it. But as Paradise rebuilds, the community has been clear about supporting its old favorites, and Meehos is certainly among them. Now serving Paradise a limited menu from a food truck while it recovers, Meehos is still open for business: “We wanted to put a little bit of Paradise back in each of your lives and provide a place for friends and family to gather,” they explain in a statement on their site. You should take them up on that.
Magalia Americana is on the menu at the Hilltop, with a focus on homestyle dining. As a pillar of the Magalia community, Hilltop Cafe is a go-to for locals. Honest and familiar fare is on offer here, like generously loaded burgers, crinkle-cut fries, hot sandwiches, and more. Under new ownership and rebuilt after sustaining Camp Fire damage, the Hilltop has made it a point to not miss a beat as it serves the Ridge.
Nic’s Food, Beer & Wine
This new eatery is a new venture by Nicki Jones, owner of Bobbi’s Boutique, that doubles down on her passion for Paradise and serving the Ridge community. With a wine bar and selection of food including sandwiches and other prepared lunches—primarily for workers who are doing much of Paradise’s rebuilding, right now—Nic’s is establishing itself as an easy stop for an afternoon drink or quick bite. If you’ve built up an appetite at this point during your visit, here’s an opportunity to refuel before some entertainment to cap off the day.
Once you have satisfied your hunger, it’s only a short drive to Bille Park, which is a lovely setting to rest, relax, or recreate after lunch. The park is serene, with both natural and manmade features all around. An idling creek, a charming gazebo, a scenic walking path, and a large grass lawn are all part of the park’s appeal. It’s a great place for kids to play, or to bring your camera for some ready-to-order natural beauty.
The reservoir here is a major drinking water supply, but Paradise Lake's recreational value can’t be overlooked. A moderately paced hiker could meander around the lake in an hour or less, but there’s no need to rush here. Several picnic benches are scattered around the trail, making an ideal opportunity to bring a Thermos of coffee or a picnic, and there are two launch ramps for kayakers and anglers alike to embark. Clean, clear and crisp, the lake offers opportunities for wildlife spotting, too. Birders will be at home here, but it’s not uncommon to spot deer and a family of otters has been seen frequently around the area, too.
Gold Nugget Museum
With its roots as a mining outpost, the area’s Gold Rush ties are impossible to ignore and are in fact quite celebrated in Paradise, which holds an annual parade and pageant honoring the mining days; a visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Gold Nugget Museum. Currently being rebuilt in its former location, the museum now offers its services at the Depot Museum. Its aim is to provide hands-on learning and understanding of life in the late 1800s, and it does this with a robust collection of local artifacts and community education programs. It’s run by volunteers, so consider picking up something from the gift shop if you like what you see!
U-Pick at Noble Orchards
Paradise has an apple-friendly history, even famously celebrating Johnny Appleseed with a festival each fall. You’ll see it firsthand at Noble Orchards, a 35-acre property that saw its first apple orchard established nearly a century ago. The Camp Fire ravaged the Nobles’ facilities and equipment, but the orchards remain intact—in fact, the trees continue to burgeon with so much fruit that they’re at risk of damage from the weight. Three mornings a week, Gala apples are available for free picking, though donations are encouraged. It’s a great time to think about making a pie and some cider.
Theatre on the Ridge
“TOTR” has been a Paradise institution since 1975, evolving from a children’s recreation program into the main source of thespian activity it is today. Host to both plays and musicals, the theatre is the oldest California non-profit in the North State. November’s show is “High Noon on Wall Street,” and tickets are available by calling 530-877-5760.
Paradise Performing Arts Center
Close out your visit to the Ridge with another night of entertainment at the PPAC, which hosts concerts, ballet, theater, presentations, symphony performances, art shows and more. November is packed with events, including a Nov. 3 symphonic concert, “Our New World,” a comedy show on Nov. 15, and an R&B concert on the 16th. Call 530-872-8454 or visit paradiseperformingarts.com for tickets.
Please come hungry, because everything is worth trying. Sophia’s Thai is delicious, authentic Thai food on the Ridge, serving up all the traditional noodle, curry, and rice dishes you’d hope to see. As it is everywhere, the Pad Thai is their most popular dish, and more finicky eaters (ie, kids) will be happy with more familiar items from the appetizer menu, like satay (chicken or beef skewers), egg rolls or spring rolls.
Butte Creek Watershed Lookout
On the way out of the pines, it’s tough to miss this verdant vista, and you definitely should take a few moments to take it all in. On the westward way out of town, you have easy access to Lookout Point, which features a fence adorned with hundreds of hanging key and combination “locks of love,” once reserved for lovebirds spending a starry night overlooking the canyon but since having taken on a different meaning. The watershed itself is an ecological sight to behold, no matter the season, but in the fall, ripples of orange, red and yellow foliage paint the canyon in autumn colors.
Paradise is a historic place, but it’s not history—it is still home to a living community and well worth a visit. Its residents continue to work to make it all its name implies.