Walnut Creek is a small city of about 70,000 people situated in the San Francisco Bay area of Contra Costa County. The city is actually a suburb of Oakland, which is only 17 miles away.
Walnut Creek is mostly known for its pleasant weather throughout the year and wide open green spaces suitable for outdoor activities such as hiking.
There are many cultural attractions, restaurants, galleries, museums, breweries, and shopping areas, including Broadway Plaza, The Orchards at Walnut Creek, and Palos Verdes Mall. The vibrant downtown district is home to many historical buildings.
Walnut Creek is also known for being in a very central location with easy access to bigger centres such as Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco.
Many festivals and events take place in Walnut Creek throughout the year, including the Walnut Creek Street Fest and the Walnut Creek Walnut Festival.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Walnut Creek, California.
1. Get a Lesson in History at the Shadelands Ranch Museum
At the Shadelands Ranch Museum in Walnut Creek, you’ll be able to visit the well-preserved former home of Hiram Penniman. This historic mansion was built in 1903 and is one of the oldest ranches in the area.
Currently, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During a visit, you’ll see many artefacts connected to the family and the history of Walnut Creek.
2. Get Outdoors at Castle Rock Regional Recreational Area
Castle Rock Regional Recreational Area is a day-use park situated within the bigger Diablo Foothills Regional Park area. Located in a canyon on the banks of Pine Creek, it’s home to a range of facilities and offers plenty of space to participate in a variety of activities.
Some of the on-site facilities include a large swimming pool, horseshoe pits, picnic areas, a softball field, and basketball and volleyball courts.
3. Attend a Show at The Lesher Centre for the Arts
Since 1990, The Lesher Centre for the Arts has served as Walnut Creek’s top venue for the arts. On-site, there are four different theatres, including the large Hofmann Theatre, Margaret Lesher Theatre, Del Valle Theatre and the smaller and more intimate George and Sonja Vukasin Theatre.
Whether you enjoy theatre, dance, comedy, musical performances or improv, a wide variety of shows take place throughout the year, so you’re bound to find something of interest in their schedule. The theatre also hosts regular season performances by The California Symphony.
The centre is also home to the Bedford Art Gallery and several dining establishments.
4. Enjoy a Unique Dining Experience at Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar
It’s all about the food and wine at Va de Vi. This unique restaurant uses the fairly new concept of Small Plates to encourage guests to sample and share an assortment of dishes.
On the menu, you’ll find a variety of appetizers, artisanal cheese, salads, soups, seafood dishes, pasta dishes, and desserts.
The ambience is elegant but casual and always inviting – the perfect environment in which to kick back for a while after your meal and sample the wide variety of international wines that are available. Gluten-free and vegan dishes are also served.
5. Take a Stroll Through the Ruth Bancroft Garden
The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a celebrated botanical garden spanning 3.5 acres. It started as the private garden of Ruth Bancroft, and today, it’s open to the public.
As you make your way through the garden, you’ll see a wide variety of plants from all over the world, including cacti, succulents, trees, and shrubs.
6. Spend a Day on the Greens at Boundary Oak Golf Course
Boundary Oak Golf Course is situated in a scenic area of Walnut Creek with sweeping views of the Mount Diablo foothills. It is considered to be one of the best public courses in the region. This 18-hole championship course is beautiful, challenging, and relaxing.
Also on-site is a pro shop, driving range, and putting greens. Lessons are available, and Boundary Oak Restaurant serves a variety of delicious dishes.
7. Explore the Beautiful Civic Park
Civic Park is 16.7 acres of beautiful green space in Walnut Creek. The main attraction in the park is the habitat gardens, home to more than 25 species of butterflies and more than 130 species of native plants.
Also in the park is a community centre, several art studios, some picnic areas, and a playground. If you happen to be in the area during the winter months, you can go skating on the outdoor ice skating rink.
8. Sample Local Craft Beer at the Calicraft Brewing Company
Calicraft Brewing Company is a lively brewery in Walnut Creek that manufactures a variety of unique beer-wine hybrids called sparkling ales.
Some of the ales available to sample include Guava Trees Sparkling Ale, Coast Kolsch, Oaktown American Brown Ale, and The Bay Double IPA.
These options can be sampled in the on-site taproom, where live music performances and other fun events take place on selected evenings. Food trucks are also parked outside the venue on most days.
9. Learn About Local Wildlife at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience
Since 1955, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience has been rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals. As one of the oldest centres of this type in the country, it has grown substantially to care for more than 6,000 wild animals every year.
This top attraction in the region offers many educational experiences to visitors, including a variety of exhibits about the animals they treat and the history of the centre. You’ll have the chance to get behind the scenes at the on-site Wildlife Hospital and see live care operations unfold.
You’ll also see a live bee centre and explore an underground habitat. A children’s discovery room is on-site.
10. Roam Around the Historic Borges Ranch
In the late 1890s, pioneer Francisco Borges constructed Borges Ranch. Today, this 15-acre historic cattle ranch is a regional park and living museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The remaining buildings have been restored and preserved, including original barns, corrals, and the blacksmith shop.
You have the option to explore the ranch on your own or take one of the guided tours offered on select days throughout the month. As you make your way through the property, you’ll also meet the farm animals that live there.
Patrick Hanna Grove Picnic Area, which is next to the ranch, has picnic tables and a lovely pond.
11. Go on an Adventure with All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone who has always wanted to try whitewater rafting, All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting will get you on the water and into the rapids for an adventure you won’t soon forget.
The company offers over 25 different types of excursions on 10 of the state’s best rivers. The American River and the Tuolumne River are among the waterways you can explore.
If you are a more seasoned whitewater rafter, a trip down Cherry Creek, the most difficult river in the country, will test your limits.
No matter what trip you choose, you’ll learn new skills, be challenged in ways you never imagined, and see spectacular natural scenery.
12. Dine on Peruvian Cuisine at Limon Rotisserie Walnut Creek
Limon Rotisserie is a family-run restaurant specializing in traditional Peruvian cuisine with a modern twist. The hearty meals are served in a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
Rotisserie chicken is the most popular item, but the extensive menu features a wide variety of options, including salads, ceviches, empanadas and main courses like lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, and saltado mar y tierra.
A wide selection of wines, beers, and handcrafted cocktails are also served, and outdoor dining is available.
13. Get Outdoors at Shell Ridge Open Space
Shell Ridge Open Space is a public park and nature area with 1,420 acres of open space. The park spans a large area between Walnut Creek and the Mount Diablo Foothills.
Within this park area are more than 31 miles of nature trails suitable for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. As you make your way along these trails, you have a good chance of spotting some wildlife.
14. Admire Local Art at the Valley Art Gallery
As one of the region’s premier art galleries, the Valley Art Gallery has been showcasing artworks from over 150 well-known and up-and-coming artists from around the region since 1949. Some of the artists featured include Pam Glover and Lundy Siegriest.
15. Visit the Gardens at Heather Farm
The Gardens at Heather Farm is a beautiful public garden area and educational facility. On-site, there are a variety of gardens highlighting the natural surroundings of the area. A native plant garden and a rose garden are among the dozen gardens on-site.
Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour. As you make your way along, you’ll also see a nursery and a waterfall garden.