Tri-Valley: A great place to play, dine relax

By David Armstrong

PHOTO: Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

Thirty-five miles east of San Francisco and 27 miles north of San Jose, the Tri-Valley region melds an agricultural past of ranching, farming, railroading and sleepy country towns into a bustling present of expansive parklands, 21st-century viniculture, revitalized historic downtowns and family-friendly outdoor fun.

East of San Francisco Bay and over the ridgelines of the East Bay Regional Parks—with their water- and valley vistas, networked hiking trails and shady clumps of dignified valley oaks—are three connected valleys: Amador, Livermore and San Ramon. Nestled in the valleys and linked by Interstate highways 680 and 580 are the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville. Mount Diablo, at 3,849 feet high, is the region’s most dramatic landmark; it is well-used by hikers, mountain bikers and motorists, who go to the twin summits for a workout or a look out at the Pacific.

The Livermore Valley became the first wine-making region in California, in the 1880s. Nearly 50 wineries continue the tradition. Five of them join forces to pour their wines, with meals and live music, at Livermore’s Underdog Wine Bar. Wente Vineyards’ annual summer music series features international headliners in open-air concerts; the winery also operates its own 18-hole golf course, and the Tri-Valley region has 10 other golf courses for eager players. Livermore is also home to the largest high-end outlet mall in California, Paragon Outlets, which opened in November 2012.

Pleasanton hosts the popular Alameda County Fair every summer, when contemporary music acts, prize-winning livestock, rodeo daredevils and traditional snacks and games open a window to America’s past. Buzzing restaurants and the boutique Rose Hotel brighten Main Street in downtown Pleasanton.

San Ramon’s spacious, multiuse Central Park is an attractive open space. The 12-mile Iron Horse Trail for walkers and bicyclists follows a now-vanished rail line through several Tri-Valley communities.

Danville expands outward from its manicured historic core, where locally owned restaurants, shops, a bookstore and a chocolatier gather on and near the main drag, Hartz Avenue. In the hills west of I-680, above downtown Danville, Tao House, the restored 1940s home of Eugene O’Neill, provides rewarding glimpses of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright’s life and work.

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