Walnut Creek -

Attractions
Lodging
Dining and Drink

Get in

Walnut Creek is well served by Interstate 680 and Highway 24, but the easiest way of getting to Walnut Creek for most who don't want to drive through a suburban wonderland is by BART . For those who figuratively speaking prefer to put the pedal to the metal the old fashioned way (on bicycle), the Iron Horse Trail runs North/South, neatly bisecting Walnut Creek into the west side where most of the stores lie and the east side where most of the suburban homes and strip malls are located.

For the nautically inclined, drop anchor at the nearest marina, either Oakland, Berkeley, or Martinez and arrange transportation accordingly. If flying's your thing, Buchanan Field in Concord serves as your gateway to Walnut Creek.

Get out

  Eugene O'Neil Tao House, by reservation only: (925) 838-0249. After you make the reservation a short bus will pick you up and shuttle you to the Tao House. Nestled in the hills of Danville and overlooking the vast expanse of 680 sits Eugene O'Neil's Tao House. If you never heard of Eugene O'Neil, don't fret. Only actors and drama geeks would have more than a mere familiarity with his works.

For the rest of us, O'Neil is the only American playwright ever to receive the Nobel Prize. Perhaps O'Neil does not deserve this distinction because all he did was chronicle his very sad life in the form of a play. His misery, however, became our modern classics of drama. In an attempt to escape from his miserable, depressing life, O'Neil embraced feng shui (decades before it was trendy) and built the Tao House to help shut out some of his inner demons.

Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for him) he was unsuccessful and wrote some of his greatest plays in this very house before sinking irretrievably into an abyss of self-loathing and darkness.

Walnut Creek is a typical, medium-sized suburban city located about 17 miles east of Oakland in Contra Costa County. Long, long ago, the first settlers in this area planted walnut trees. Some of these trees grew close to a small creek; thus, over time the locals came to call the creek "Walnut Creek," but the town was known as "The Corners." With development, the town realized that the name "The Corners" made them sound square and thus adopted the name of the creek as its own, marking the beginning of its mission to "pave over paradise with a parking lot," which resulted in the creek's current route through a subterranean viaduct deep beneath the concrete floors of the malls above.

Little known to most, the tunnels formed part of a secret highway formerly used by the U.S. Navy to transport highly dangerous nuclear weapons from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories to the Naval weapons depot in Concord. Today, Walnut Creek is mostly known for its retail and restaurant offerings. Walnut Creek is the business hub of Contra Costa County. Located on the western edge of Mount Diablo, from which one can view the smoldering plume of yellow smoke that emanates from the Central Valley and the smoldering plume of orange smoke that emanates from Oakland/SF. Walnut Creek is also the traffic hub of Contra Costa County, with the intersection of Highway 24 and I-680. Although many urban visitors to Walnut Creek may be surprised how few minorities appear on its streets, compared to other towns in the area (such as Danville or Alamo Walnut Creek is practically a bastion of multiculturalism and tolerance.

Get around

Once in downtown Walnut Creek, walking is basically your only choice. This shouldn't pose a problem because most of the downtown area is somewhat concentrated (10-15 minute walk at most). The biggest problem is parking.
  Driving. Most will use a car to get around Walnut Creek. Be careful of pedestrians; they tend to jump off corners when you least expect it.
  Parking. Hidden among the storefronts are countless garages. The garages run by the City charge actual money; whereas the garages of the many malls are free but claim to be valid for only three hours. The garages closest to Broadway Plaza are the most congested. You can usually find ample parking in the Plaza Escuela garage (on either side of Locust at Coelho), only one block from downtown and Broadway Plaza. If you decide to park in one of these garages, be prepared to drive all the way to the top only to find all the spots are taken, despite the counter signs outside the garage indicating many available spots.  

Hint. Try parking on the street. The street meters cost the same as the garages and you will avoid the displeasure of queuing in the garage behind some jackass in the car in front of you, waiting for him to pull into some spot. If you do park on the street, make sure you put enough money in the meter because Walnut Creek meter maids continually circle the town looking to increase the city coffers at your expense.
  Public Transportation. If you're down on your luck and can't afford a car, the County Connection bus line is your ticket to reach Walnut Creek. If all you want to do is see downtown and shop, a free shuttle operates between the BART station and several downtown stops. If you're poor and/or a health nut, using a bicycle is a snap in this bike friendly town. If you're wealthy, recharge your Segway at the free electric recharging stalls at the BART station. For the rest, using your feet never hurt (other than your feet). Just watch out for Rossmorians, they have a tendency to press on the gas pedal rather than the brake when they see pedestrians.

Activities

  Mount Diablo State Park. This huge park dominates the landscape for most of central and eastern Contra Costa County. A small museum and observation post at the summit gives the visitor a background to the stunning views. Mt. Diablo is the geological anomaly of Northern California (the younger rocks are at the bottom and the older at the top). Enjoy the drive to the summit where, on a clear day, you can enjoy the world's supposed second-best panoramic view. In one quick turn you can see San Francisco, the Central Valley, and some claim the Sierra Nevada. Capped with snow in the winter and packed with countless small rivers and waterfalls in the spring, Mt. Diablo is a nature lover's paradise. Remember that Mt. Diablo is largely wild --- there are rattlesnakes, mountain lions, black widow spiders, and many other fauna.

Notwithstanding the dangers of the wild, many spots along the summit road offer scenic spots for a picnic. Be careful to avoid poison oak. A popular challenge for cyclists, the ride to the summit is about eight miles of twisty, narrow roads. There is a small fee for cars (cyclists riding on bikes are free). Rich girls from Danville and Blackhawk can often be seen riding their horses on the numerous fire trails. Hikers, watch your step! The park is closed during high-fire danger days in the late Summer.
  Iron Horse Trail Although this multi-use, whole-access trail runs between Concord and Dublin, the most interesting and scenic part of the trail is found in Walnut Creek (surprise!!!). The Walnut Creek part of the trail goes directly into the heart of downtown Walnut Creek. Also, the trail abuts what's left of Walnut Creek's creek known as "Walnut Creek," which is now mostly buried beneath Broadway Plaza. Widely used by dog owners and recreational buffs, the Iron Horse Trail follows the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way established in 1891 and abandoned in 1977. If you walk your dog on the Iron Horse, please use the complimentary pooperscooper bags provided for your convenience. If not, don't be surprised if you find your pet's fecal donation aflame on your doorstep or in your mailbox later that night.

Shopping

  Broadway Plaza. As one of the first post-WWII malls, Broadway plaza was designed on an open-air model. In subsequent years the trend in mall design gravitated toward the self-contained monstrosities that have become the signature of the suburban lifestyle. As an open-air mall, Broadway Plaza integrates well with the existing downtown. Parking is perhaps the only negative. Three large parking structures awkwardly provide parking and remind the visitor that after all this is still a mall.
  Downtown Walnut Creek. More interesting than Broadway Plaza are the many stores comprising downtown Walnut Creek. After your next shopping spree to Baby Gap or Pottery Barn for Kids, make a detour down Locust and Main Streets. Downtown Walnut Creek complements its mall counterpart and preserves Walnut Creek's small town feel. The downtown stores and restaurants offer a variety and unique quality that would be impossible to find in Broadway Plaza, and you may find that you like them more. Occasionally, Walnut Creek will close down one of the downtown streets for an "art festival."
  Diablo Oriental Foods, 2590 N. Main St. (925) 933-2590. This small market is more than it appears (i.e. dilapidated shack); and although its name contains "oriental," implying a pan-asian assortment of foodstuffs, in actuality, this is a specialty Japanese market that is jammed with Japanese foodstuffs that are nearly impossible to find this side of the Bay Bridge. From Natto and fresh tuna to sake and santoku knives, this market has more Japanese foodstuffs per square foot than any other place in the Bay Area. Whether you're a Japanese food fanatic or looking for a change from the usual, check it out and you might find something tasty.

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License


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