Why Families Should Love the Tri-VAlley


It’s marketed as the Tri-Valley as a way to draw attention to San Ramon Valley, Livermore Valley, and Amador Valley, once and still a dominant agricultural region in the East Bay. While you can easily zip past this area on Highway 680 to head north to Sacramento or Napa, do pause and stay. As you see the beauty of this Darcie Kent painting of the Tri-valley above, you’ll be surprised at what you have been missing all these years.

A mini-vacation to the Tri-Valley towns such as Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and Danville yields plenty of outdoor activity, gourmet eats, boutique shopping, and both historic and no-so-historic wineries. Consider a two or three-night stay to explore gems that the locals have raved about for decades.

For starters, anchor yourself at the AC Hotel in Livermore.  Modern lodging with a swimming pool and fire pits is close to every place you will visit during your stay.  Free parking, plus a breakfast buffet, a gym, and 24-hour desk staff bring conveniences to put you at ease.  It is also steps from the Stoneridge Shopping Center in case you forgot something at home and need to pick up a replacement in a jiffy.


Nature lovers ( and who does not love nature?) can head to Livermore’s Del Valle Regional Park where more than 4,000 acres and a vast lake offer horseback riding, fishing, hiking, boating, and even camping. Hike steep hills if you want to break a sweat or go on the lowlands for leisurely walks. Not far is Sycamore Grove Park, 847 acres, lauded by fans as one of the best parks in the area. Full of lush foliage, it is a bucolic treasure ideal for bicycling, hiking, and picnics.  Do bring your bicycles to spin wheels on multi-use trails separated from busy byways.

press outside

Serious eats from various price points are plentiful. For breakfast, the mid-century modern, black-and-white coffee house dubbed The Press Café in downtown Livermore curates an impressive menu of open faced breakfast sandwiches. It sells the classic avocado toast, but goes beyond that. It’s so popular that a second location is found in Pleasanton.  

Cashier Wrap

In the just-too-cute category is Sideboard in downtown Danville featuring comfort foods with a capital C. A restored Victorian features wooden tables and mismatched chairs, and a large sideboard with open drawers storing silverware from which you grab for your meal.  Homemade everything includes wrapped biscotti, granola, and mixes to go and a simple two-page menu detailing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Order at the counter underneath the large retro PLEASE PAY HERE sign, pay, and grab your number. When food is up, the servers deliver to your table. At breakfast you can select the breakfast mac and cheese with eggs on the side. At dinner you can opt for a bucket of fried chicken.

Take the kids to nab a soft swirl cone at the Meadowlark Dairy, one of the oldest dairies in the state, founded in 1919. It is the only place I know with an ice cream drive-thru and voted by Yelpers in 2023 as one of the top ten ice cream vendors in the U.S. What to order? The orange and vanilla twist will keep you coming back for more. For a gift, buy one or more of the Meadowlark Dairy wooden tokens, $3.50, which is good for any cone. The place is iconic with a giant retro MILK sign hovering above.  The upside down colorful umbrellas in its patio add to their irresistible cuteness.

A later pick-me-up can be had with afternoon English tea at RoyalTea Garden in downtown Pleasanton. This tearoom full of flourish and silk flowers and vines is where you can bring devoted afternoon tea lovers for a cup or a pot. Scones, tea sandwiches, dainty fixings will brighten up those winter blues.


Dinner wise, take the crew to spacious Amakara for Japanese fare in Dublin where a vast menu offers everything from ramen noodles to sushi rolls to grilled fish collar. The humorous mural of a cartoon sumo wrestler spreads across the back wall. there are so many images of tiny people crawling atop the wrestler you’ll be reminded of the story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians.


Comfort Italian dinner eats at Baci Bistro and Bar in Pleasanton means another multi page menu where a thick juicy ribeye grabbed my eye right away. This Italian bistro has perfected the art of the cocktail and is a great place to enjoy a grilled branzino fish.

Mexican food gets its day in the sun at Cocina Hermanas, Danville. Super fresh guacamole, innovative cocktails and a Cal/Mex fare brings you satisfying tacos and burritos using local ingredients.  Ambience is bright and cheerful and trendy.  Design mavens will take note of the brick walls, suspended wood ceiling beams, Mexican painting and artwork, and sleek plank floors.


Quaint downtowns of Danville, Livermore, and Pleasanton are worth the trek, for you get a sense of community spirit and pride.  Go for a walk in Livermore with your camera to discover the 15 murals depicting its history as well as ones such as the large rose that are simply beautiful. Gift shops and gourmet food boutiques and restaurants will fill your morning.  Not far, also in Livermore is the San Francisco Premium Outlets, strangely named yes, but great for finding outdoor apparel from vendors including Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Colombia, and more.  Its claim to fame is being the largest outlet mall in the Bay Area. Note to parents:  a small playground lets kids can wiggle and wriggle as moms and dads take turns shopping.

In Pleasanton you will feel as though time stopped in the early 1900s. Its old fashioned charm includes the Saturday morning farmer’s market, the Five Little Monkeys toy shop, and Towne Center Books with tomes for all ages. To add to the retro vibe, note that the Alameda County Fair is held here every summer since 1912.  Strawberry funnel cake, anyone?

Good Common Sense Naturals
sweet street

Danville is for lingering and window drooling over the myriad of home decor, gourmet food and giftware haunts, and clothing boutiques. Kids will be drawn to the Sweet Street candy store with beloved Swedish Fish as well challenging insect-filled lollipops.  Also fun is the new soap and bath shop, Good Common Sense Naturals, where you can create your own bubble bath mixture. Pose in front of selfie spots with neon signs and greenery. Meanwhile, nearby Amphora sells olive oils and vinegars at reasonable prices. You can refill your original olive oil bottles and get a discount at the same time.

darcy 1

If you are on a parents’ getaway weekend, book a visit to Livermore Valley wineries popular for cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. At last count, 55 tasting rooms graced the fertile region.  Well known Wente Vineyards winery, since 1883, is run by its fourth and fifth generation of Wentes.  The garden site provides outdoor and indoor seating in a pavilion and restaurant. In the summertime, crowds gather for its live music.  Sip on red, whites, and sparkling titles. Our server on the upper left served us well with the charcuterie board at Wente.

The vivid purple winery is belongs to and is named after Darcie Kent. The estate winery owned by an artist whose oils of the valley coat the walls and wine labels. Kent’s great grandfather came from Europe with grapevines in his luggage and launched the winery business. Cool story: her chardonnay was served at a state dinner hosted by Michelle Obama.

Parents will enjoy the premises of Garre Vineyard and Winery which features a fine dining restaurant, Garre Café, so consider having lunch with a visit to its tasting room afterwards for an indoor or outdoor experience. 

Two days. Fab eats. Fresh air. Fascinating shopping. Outdoor adventures. A weekend in the Tri-Valley will fill your vacation glass until it overflows.