East Bay City Guide: A Day in Walnut Creek

East Bay City Guide: A Day in Walnut Creek

By Alejandra Saragoza
May 01, 2020

As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content focus and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Situated in the heart of Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek was once a sleepy suburban town known for its big-box shopping. But as more high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants started to open, Walnut Creek became increasingly cosmopolitan—and now it’s a place to see and be seen. Many techies, millennials, and empty nesters have flocked to the booming city in recent years, leading to an influx of posh housing and a buzzy social scene. 

Despite its growth, Walnut Creek has managed to maintain its charm and small-town feel while offering chic shops, farm-to-table-eateries, luxurious spas, lush parks, and cultural attractions for locals and visitors alike. While there are numerous things to do in Walnut Creek, here’s how to spend the perfect day in this trendy East Bay destination.

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Morning

Begin your day with a decadent Walnut Creek brunch at Main Street Kitchen. The family-owned restaurant specializes in farm-fresh fare, sourcing all ingredients from local purveyors and highlighting them in each impeccably prepared dish. It’s hard to go wrong here, but the old-fashioned potato hash is popular for a reason: sunny-side-up eggs are perched atop Acme toast and dotted with house-made fennel sausage and caramelized onions, culminating in a comforting, flavorful dish. Pair it with a lavender latte, and you’ll feel ready to take on the day. 

Savor avocado toast, potato hash, eggs Benedict, and other brunch delicacies at Main Street Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Main Street Kitchen.

Afterward, revel in the great outdoors at one of the many Walnut Creek parks. The Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery is merely a short drive from downtown, but once you step foot inside, you’ll feel worlds away from the suburbs. The sprawling, 2.5-acre dry garden is a local treasure that’s home to an extraordinary display of 2,000-plus succulents, cacti, trees, and shrubs from around the world. It’s considered to be among the finest dry gardens in the world, and you’ll likely leave feeling inspired to start your own drought-tolerant landscape

If you’re ready for more flora and fauna, drive a mile down the road to The Gardens at Heather Farm. This 6-acre plot of land boasts 3.5 acres of gorgeous, fragrant gardens complete with dozens of pathways, a rose-covered gazebo, a waterfall area, a conservation section, a children’s area, and a variety of seasonal displays. Self-guided tours are available, but for the best experience, book a docent-led tour. Next door at Heather Farm Park, you can also enjoy the fishing and nature ponds, skate park, playground, and grassy areas ideal for throwing a Frisbee.

Admire cacti, succulents, and shrubs from around the globe at the famed Ruth Bancroft Garden. Photo courtesy of The Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Closer to downtown Walnut Creek, you can walk along the popular Iron Horse Regional Trail to reach Civic Park. This 10-acre expanse features habitat gardens—which are home to 25 species of butterflies and 130 species of California native plants—a playground, and a short walking trail. (If you’re lucky, you might catch a live musical performance under the park’s gazebo, too.) The park is also next to the Walnut Creek Library, so you can grab a book by a California author, find a bench or grassy knoll, and while away the lingering morning hours.

Afternoon

Keep the laid-back vibes going by treating yourself to some pampering at The Woodhouse Day Spa. This sumptuous sanctuary offers an array of unique treatments—such as restorative facials, spiced mud wraps, seaweed-leaf pedicures, and therapeutic stone massages—that will leave you feeling rejuvenated in no time. 

The popular Broadway Plaza boasts more than 35 retailers, including Saje, Everything But Water, Peloton, Free People, and Lulu Lemon.

Continue your self-care by indulging in a bit of East Bay retail therapy. There’s no shortage of Walnut Creek stores for your needs, whether you’re seeking natural skincare products, holiday gifts, new home decor, clothing for your capsule wardrobe, or even an outfit for Fido. In bustling Broadway Plaza, an alfresco Walnut Creek shopping center, you can find numerous shops such as Lush, Neiman Marcus, Madewell, Sur La Table, and Ray-Ban. Stroll down Main Street for more Walnut Creek shopping at fashionable clothing boutiques, local bookstores, consignment shops, and more. 

If you find yourself craving an afternoon pick-me-up, grab a cup of artisanal Bay Area coffee at the award-winning Coffee Shop or a cone of handcrafted ice cream from Lottie’s Creamery

Evening

You’ve likely worked up an appetite by now, so it’s time to satiate your hunger at one of the many coveted Walnut Creek restaurants. Whether you desire tapas with a view, elegant oysters, down-home barbecue, juicy burgers, or comforting ethnic cuisine, you can find it in Walnut Creek.

Enjoy an elegant dinner at Prima, an award-winning restaurant that's been serving upscale Italian fare since 1977. Photo courtesy of Prima.

But for a classic or romantic Italian dinner, look no further than Prima—it has long been among the best restaurants in Walnut Creek. The venerable fine-dining restaurant has been serving refined Italian fare to East Bay diners since 1977, becoming a bonafide destination over the years. The menu changes with the seasons, but you’re bound to find something to love between the mouthwatering house-made pastas, California-fresh seafood, cheese and charcuterie boards, and extensive wine list. (Now that’s amore.) End the evening by catching a show at the Lesher Center for the Arts, enjoying a nightcap, or hearing live music at Retro Junkie

When it comes to Walnut Creek, a trip to the suburbs never looked so appealing. If you want to continue your East Bay adventures, check out the neighboring town of Lafayette, drive over to the waterfront city of Richmond, or explore the scenic trails of Mount Diablo State Park.


Alejandra Saragoza

Alejandra Saragoza

Alejandra is the managing editor of California.com. She's a California native based in the Bay Area and enjoys writing about all things food and travel related. Her work can also be seen in Diablo, T…

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