Walnut Creek is one of the East Bay's most populous regional hubs, located conveniently near Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, and accessible via the area's BART rapid transit system. The city is home to a number of the Bay Area's most prestigious arts organizations, including the California Symphony, the Diablo Ballet, and the Lesher Center for the Arts.
1.The Ruth Bancroft Garden
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The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a world-renowned botanical garden facility originally founded as a private garden collection by Ruth Bancroft at the Bancroft Farm, before being moved to its current location in 1972. In 1989, the 3.5-acre garden became America's first formal garden facility to be preserved by the Garden Conservancy. Since 1992, the gardens have been open to the public for free daily, showcasing an acclaimed collection of succulents and drought-tolerant plants grown throughout California and around the world. More than 2,000 cacti and succulents are showcased, along with varieties of trees and shrubs native to the American West Coast, Mexico, South America, Africa, and Australia.
1552 Bancroft Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 925-944-9352
2.The Lesher Center for the Arts
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The Lesher Center for the Arts is Walnut Creek's premiere arts venue, originally opened to the public in 1990 within the former Nuthouse gallery and performance complex, which was founded in 1967. Today, the center welcomes more than 350,000 attendees each year to over 900 productions and performances, which are overseen by the City of Walnut Creek. The center is home to four separate theatrical venues, including the impressive 785-seat Hofmann Theatre, the classic 297-seat Margaret Lesher Theatre, the intimate 133-seat George and Sonja Vukasin Theatre, and the 384-seat Del Valle Theatre, which can accommodate film screenings and corporate presentations. Theater, music, dance, comedy, and improv performances are showcased throughout the year, including regional touring presentations and performances by local stage companies. The center is also home to the Bedford Art Gallery and a number of dining and cocktail lounge options.
1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-295-1400
3.The Lindsay Wildlife Experience
The Lindsay Wildlife Experience is one of the United States' oldest wildlife rehabilitation centers, originally founded in 1955 as the Diablo Junior Museum by Alexander Lindsay and beginning wildlife rehabilitation operations in 1970. Since 1986, the museum and center has been operated as an independent nonprofit organization, treating more than 6,000 orphaned and injured wild animals each year. As one of the San Francisco East Bay Area's premiere family museums, the center offers a variety of unique exhibits and experiences, including a behind-the-scenes Wildlife Hospital experience that allows visitors to watch live veterinary procedures and care operations daily. Other exhibits include a live bee center, an underground habitat exploration area, and a children's discovery room.
1931 1st Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94597, Phone: 925-935-1978
4.The Gardens at Heather Farm
The Gardens at Heather Farm are a free-admission public garden, educational center, and special event facility, originally founded in 1968 to showcase the natural beauty and bounty of the Ygnacio Valley and make the outdoors accessible for all Walnut Creek residents. The center, which is open to the public daily during daylight hours with the exception of weddings and other private special events, offers free self-guided tours of more than two dozen cultivated garden areas, including a native plant garden, a rose garden showcasing more than 1,000 majestic blossoms, and an All-American Seed select demonstration garden. Other landscaped areas include a Mediterranean-climate tree grove, a greenhouse and nursery area, and a waterfall garden with 11 beautiful waterfalls showcased throughout.
1540 Marchbanks Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 925-947-1678
Civic Park is a charming 16.7-acre public park in Walnut Creek, open to the public daily between dawn and dusk. The park, which connects to the nearby Creek Walk and Iron Horse Trail, is home to beautiful habitat gardens originally designed in 1996 by John Northmore Roberts and LandArt, with a habitat for over 25 species of butterflies maintained in cooperation with the Lindsay Wildlife Experience. Interpretive signs within the gardens detail their creation and populations, which also include over 130 species of native California fauna. Other park features include a community center, arts studios, day-use picnic areas, and playground areas available for younger and older children. During the winter months, the park is home to a seasonal ice skating rink.
1375 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
6.All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting Day Trips
All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting Day Trips have been chosen as a Best of the West attraction by Sunset Magazine, giving participants a chance to explore 10 of California's best rivers as part of whitewater rafting experiences, including experiences on Cherry Creek, the most difficult river in the United States accessible as part of commercial tours. The company, which was originally founded in 1962 by George Armstrong, brings more than 50 years of experience to every excursion, serving as the state's most experienced and acclaimed rafting company today. Professional and enthusiastic tour guides lead groups on more than 25 types of excursions, including trips along the Middle and South Forks of the American River and down the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. Trips range in difficulty from easy beginner routes to difficult and exciting excursions meant to challenge advanced rafters.
1250 Pine Street, Suite 103, Walnut Creek CA 94596, Phone: 925-932-8993
Borges Ranch is a 15-acre public ranch and regional park that was originally established by early California settler Francisco Borges in 1899 as a cattle ranch facility. Since 1981, the ranch's remaining original buildings have been preserved on the National Register of Historic Places, including original barns, corrals, and a blacksmith shop. Farm animals are still housed within the ranch, overseen by the Pleasant Hill 4-H Club. Visitors can explore the ranch as part of self-guided tours daily during daylight hours or embark on free guided ranch tours held once a month as part of open house events. Day-use picnic tables are also offered at the Patrick Hanna Grove Picnic Area, which is home to an amphitheater and seasonal pond.
1035 Castle Rock Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
8.The Shadelands Ranch Museum
© The Shadelands Ranch Museum
The Shadelands Ranch Museum preserves the historic ranch home of early Walnut Creek settler Hiram Penniman, which was constructed in 1903 as a Colonial Revival-style mansion on Penniman's 1856 ranch, one of the earliest and largest ranches and farms within the Ygnacio Valley area. Following the death of Penniman's last ranch manager, the property was administered by the Gospel Foundation for several decades until its transfer to the City of Walnut Creek and the Walnut Creek Historical Society for preservation as an historic home museum. Today, the National Register of Historic Places-listed home showcases historic artifacts related to the Penniman family, along with a library of archives related to the civic history of Walnut Creek.
2660 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 925-935-7871
© Prima Restaurant
Prima Restaurant is a charming Northern Italian-style restaurant originally opened in 1977 by John Rittmaster and Janet Verlander. Today, the restaurant has grown from its humble deli counter roots to become one of the East Bay's premiere culinary destinations, helmed by manager Jordana Arey and executive chef Peter Chastain since 2005. More than 1,300 fine wine selections from around Italy and the world are available by the bottle or by the glass, complementing a full dinner menu of Northern Italian favorites such as porcini-stuffed agnolotti, capellini with prawns, pollo arrosto, and grilled Piemontese ribeye steak with cremini mushrooms. A chef's tasting menu is also available, with wine pairings carefully selected to complement all meal items.
1522 N Main St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-935-7780
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10.Diablo Hills Regional Park
Diablo Hills Regional Park is a 1,060-acre public park showcasing the striking Diablo Foothills, which serve as a gateway to the Walnut Creek Open Space and Mt. Diablo State Park. The park, which is accessible via Interstate 680, offers unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the greater San Francisco Bay Region and is home to Castle Rock Recreation Area, which offers a wide variety of day-use outdoor visitor recreation opportunities. Seasonal wildflowers are viewable throughout the park, making for prime photo opportunities during the spring and summer months. Though no developed visitor facilities are offered at the park, open space is available for cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching. Picnic facilities may also be prepared for large groups and special events looking to host events at the park.
1700 Castle Rock Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 510-544-3086
11.The California Symphony
The California Symphony is one of the San Francisco Bay Area's premiere symphony orchestras, originally founded in 1986 under the artistic vision of founding director Barry Jekowsky. Today, the orchestra is helmed by music director Donato Cabrera and strives to craft modern concert programs blending classic works with pieces by living composers for a uniquely 21st-century concert experience. A number of orchestra members also perform with other San Francisco-area arts organizations, including the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet, and the San Francisco Opera. Regular season performances are showcased at the Lesher Center the Arts, with additional season performances showcased at venues throughout the Bay Area and Napa Valley.
100 Pringle Ave, Suite 540, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone 925-280-2490
12.Valley Art Gallery
© Valley Art Gallery
Valley Art Gallery is one of the East Bay's most prestigious art galleries, originally opened in 1949 to host the Outdoor Art Shows in conjunction with Walnut Creek City's Park's Walnut Festival. Since then, the gallery has grown to showcase the works of more than 150 established and emerging artists from throughout the San Francisco Bay Region, including area luminaries such as Pam Glover, George Post, and Lundy Siegriest. The all-volunteer gallery is run as a nonprofit organization and is the only East Bay gallery to offer the option of renting artworks before purchase, allowing a unique way for customers to try out art pieces within homes or businesses in a no-risk manner.
1661 Botelho Drive, Suite 110, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-935-4311
13.Shell Ridge Open Space
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Shell Ridge Open Space is an expansive 1,420-acre open space spanning from Walnut Creek's downtown district to the foothills of Mount Diablo, named in honor of the large deposits of marine fossils found in the region following the receding of ocean waters in prehistoric times. The public open space offers more than 31 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, with multiple trailheads offering public parking lots for visitor use. The historic Borges Ranch cattle ranch is preserved within the open space, along with Howe Homestead Park, which preserves the former estate and orchard of Associated Press correspondent James P. Howe. Dogs are permitted within the open space on leashes or within voice command, though owners should be aware that coyotes, cattle, and other wildlife are prevalent within the region.
1035 Castle Rock Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
14.Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area
Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area is a day-use recreational area located within Diablo Foothills Regional Park, which provides access to Mt. Diablo State Park and the expansive Walnut Creek Open Space. The park, which is located within a canyon along the banks of Pine Creek, offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors, including a 30-by-70-foot swimming pool with ADA-accessible accommodations, including an accessibility lift. Other outdoor activities include horseshoe pits and basketball, softball, and volleyball courts for visitor use. Four picnic sites can accommodate up to 100 guests apiece, with three smaller sites also available for use on a first-come, first-served basis.
1700 Castle Rock Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 510-544-3086
15.Boundary Oak Golf Course
© Boundary Oak Golf Course
Boundary Oak Golf Course is an 18-hole championship golf course in Walnut Creek, offering spectacular panoramic views at the foothills of Mount Diablo. The course, which is one of Northern California's top-rated public golf courses, was originally designed in 1969 by Robert Muir Graves and hosts more than 65,000 rounds of golf each year today. 7,100 yards of championship tees are offered, along with five practice putting greens and a 60-stall driving range with grass tees and shaded stalls. A full pro shop is available, with golf lessons, camps, and clinics hosted by experienced professional instructors. The Clubhouse at Boundary Oak serves up renowned cuisine at its restaurant and is available for private special event rentals, including weddings, banquets, and corporate events.
3800 Valley Vista Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 925-934-4775
16.Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar
© Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar
Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar has been voted as one of the top 100 restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area each year since 2005 by SF Gate and SF Chronicle Magazine, serving up eclectic small plates paired with an extensive international wine list. The restaurant, which is helmed by executive chef Mike Fischetti, is named for a Catalan phrase translating roughly to "it's all about wine," recognizing the restaurant's commitment to bringing the best in bold, innovative, and refined international wines to Bay Area diners. Pre-arranged wine flights are available to pair with many dishes, including hearty burgers and sandwiches, rustic pasta and risotto dishes, and elegant land and sea entrees such as New York strip steak, curried chicken, and duck meatballs.
1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-979-0100
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17.Walnut Creek Yacht Club
© Walnut Creek Yacht Club
Walnut Creek Yacht Club is a unique restaurant, bar, and seafood market in Walnut Creek that has been voted as the best seafood restaurant in the East Bay by Diablo Magazine for more than 12 years running. The restaurant, which was originally opened by Kevin Weinberg and Ellen McCarty in 1997, is a Michelin-starred establishment that recreates the environment of traditional marina restaurants and yacht clubs in a landlocked atmosphere, with nautical decor touches throughout its casual dining room. Creative and delectable seafood dishes feature high-quality seafood supplied by the Osprey Seafood Company, the Bay Area's top seafood provider. Other ingredients are sourced from top area companies and providers such as Acme Bread Company, Golden Gate Meats, and Berkeley ice cream parlor The Latest Scoop. An extensive wine list has been recognized by Wine Spectator every year since 2005, and a full bar serves up single-malt scotches and local craft beers.
1555 Bonanza St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-944-3474
18.Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
© Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is a popular chain of American-style steakhouses originally founded in Newport Beach, California in 1998 by Bill Allen and Paul Fleming. Today, the company operates more than 70 locations throughout the United States and the world, including a location along Walnut Creek's Mt. Diablo Boulevard shopping district. Gourmet signature steaks include ribeye, filet mignon, and New York strip steak cuts, served with diners' choice of béarnaise, smoked chile, and herbed horseradish butters. Other land and sea entrees include diablo shrimp, truffle-poached lobster, barbecue Scottish salmon filets, and double breasts of chicken, with elegant appetizers and small plates such as charcuterie plates and chilled seafood towers also available. 100 fine wines are available by the bottle as part of the company's signature Fleming's 100 wine list, with handcrafted cocktails and national favorite craft beers also served.
1685 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-287-0297
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19.Scott's Restaurant of Walnut Creek
© Scott's Restaurant of Walnut Creek
Scott's Restaurant of Walnut Creek is a regional favorite in the Bay Area, originally opened as a seafood diner house within San Francisco's Marina District in 1976. Today, the local restaurant chain also operates two additional establishments, including a location at the Jack London Waterfront of Oakland Harbor and a location in downtown Walnut Creek. Under the direction of executive chef Alfredo Reyes, the restaurant serves up classically-prepared seafood entrees using the finest ingredients available, with full lunch and dinner service available throughout the week. A unique Seafood Extravaganza menu is available between June and November, with themed dishes showcasing the best seafood of the Pacific Rim, the Deep South, and the American East Coast. Jazz brunches are also held on Sunday mornings, pairing seafood-focused brunch favorites with performances by local jazz musicians.
1333 N California Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Phone: 925-934-1300
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20.Calicraft Brewing Company
© Calicraft Brewing Company
Calicraft Brewing Company is a hip craft brewery in Walnut Creek that was originally founded by young beer enthusiast Blaine Landberg in 2012. Landberg, a former employee of national beverage retail chain Honest Tea, has been crafting unique beer-wine hybrid "sparkling ales" since his time as a college student at UC Berkeley. Today, the brewery serves up a variety of sparkling ales under its Trees line, including its year-round Guava Trees Sparkling Ale and Rosé Sparkling Ale. Other flagship brews include the company's Coast Kolsch, Oaktown American Brown Ale, The City IPA, and The Bay Double IPA. The company's tap room is open to the public seven days a week, with food trucks parked on site most days. Live music performances are offered each Friday evening, with trivia nights and other public special events offered periodically.
2700 Mitchell Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, Phone: 925-478-8103
20 Best Things to Do in Walnut Creek, California
- The Ruth Bancroft Garden, Photo: Susan Vineyard/stock.adobe.com
- The Lesher Center for the Arts, Photo: Media Whale/stock.adobe.com
- The Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Photo: asfloro/stock.adobe.com
- The Gardens at Heather Farm, Photo: Joel/stock.adobe.com
- Civic Park, Photo: justin/stock.adobe.com
- All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting Day Trips, Photo: smcn/stock.adobe.com
- Borges Ranch, Photo: littleny/stock.adobe.com
- The Shadelands Ranch Museum, Photo: The Shadelands Ranch Museum
- Prima Restaurant, Photo: Prima Restaurant
- Diablo Hills Regional Park, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
- The California Symphony, Photo: stokkete/stock.adobe.com
- Valley Art Gallery, Photo: Valley Art Gallery
- Shell Ridge Open Space, Photo: Carlos Caetano/stock.adobe.com
- Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area, Photo: savelov/stock.adobe.com
- Boundary Oak Golf Course, Photo: Boundary Oak Golf Course
- Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar, Photo: Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar
- Walnut Creek Yacht Club, Photo: Walnut Creek Yacht Club
- Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Photo: Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
- Scott's Restaurant of Walnut Creek, Photo: Scott's Restaurant of Walnut Creek
- Calicraft Brewing Company, Photo: Calicraft Brewing Company
- Cover Photo: Seth Tipton/stock.adobe.com