Danville, California (Submitted by Danville Mike)

Nestled in a narrow section of the San Ramon Valley between the Las Trampas Ridge and the Diablo Range, Danville is a small, scenic, upscale town that provides visitors with a myriad of pleasant ways to fill a day or a weekend. Located in Contra Costa County a few miles south of Walnut Creek, Danville offers numerous parks, events, and activities, including plentiful dining and shopping opportunities. The slide show I’ve created begins with some views overlooking the town from the West Side hills. Next we head over to Hartz Ave. and Danville’s historic downtown. From there, it’s just a few blocks to the Livery, a collection of shops and restaurants with an old West feel. Next we head east and stop at Sycamore Park to enjoy the fountain before finishing up at Blackhawk Plaza, a high-end shopping center with marble floors, soaring ceilings, huge koi ponds, waterfalls, fountains, and of course unique shops and restaurants.

For you history buffs, Danville got its start when Daniel Inman purchased 400 acres with his gold rush earnings in 1854. The founding father turned down the name Inmanville, but agreed to Danville. The town got a big boost when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a spur line through it in 1891. Several historic early buildings still stand, including private homes, the Danville Hotel and the Grange Hall. Local history buffs can visit the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, and you can read more about the town’s history on Danville’s official web site , which provides a great deal of information about the town.

Fun facts: Danville’s notable residents today include Dilbert creator Scott Adams and football commentator John Madden. Super model Christy Turlington grew up in Danville. In March, 2008, Fortune Magazine named Danville one of the top 100 places to live and start a business in the United States.

Highway 680 bisects Danville into East and West sides, and both the Diablo Road and Sycamore Valley Road exits put you close to the heart of the town. Danville’s West side is the older, historic area, and this is where you’ll find downtown. Main Street in Danville is Hartz Avenue, and though it’s just a few blocks long, you’ll find many ways to enjoy your time here. Rent a bike and pedal around town, or stroll past unique local shops and art galleries. If you’re thirsty, there’s a popular pub, and Elliot’s Bar has been refreshing locals since 1907. There are many fine restaurants downtown, offering everything from burgers and sandwiches to Mexican, Japanese, Chinese and Italian, up to traditional and cutting-edge gourmet cuisine.

Downtown also hosts many of Danville’s community events. There’s a complete schedule on the town’s official web site . Look for show dates for the Village Theater. Like many towns, Danville has a Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings year round and Thursday evenings May – August. On Thursday nights during July and August you can see hundreds of custom and exotic cars and motorcycles at Hot Summer Nights. Danville also hosts a Fine Arts Fair in June, and you can see artists working in their studios when the Danville-Alamo Artists Society presents their open studio tours. Each October there’s a crafts fair, and Danville also hosts an international children’s film festival.

Just a few blocks from downtown you’ll find the Danville Livery. This collection of shops and restaurants captures the feeling of the old West with its rustic architecture, but the shops are thoroughly up to date and the restaurants are first rate. Set among Redwoods, Sycamores and Pines and sprinkled with colorful flowers, the Livery offers a wooded setting that beckons you to slow down, relax, and enjoy the afternoon.

Heading east along Sycamore Valley Road (which becomes Camino Tassajara), you’ll find Blackhawk Plaza, a modern, upscale shopping center with many fine shops and restaurants. Set among rolling hills, the Plaza’s most intriguing feature may be the huge ponds that meander through the outdoor areas. The waterfalls create a sense of natural serenity, and the koi, ducks and geese attract and amuse young and old alike. The Plaza is also home to the Blackhawk Auto Museum, which is considered among of the finest of its kind in the nation. More than 90 cars from all eras are displayed on 2 floors. The museum’s web site includes many photos, plus a list of upcoming special exhibits and much more.

Danville is also well known for Tao House, where Nobel Prize winning playwright Eugene O’Neill penned many of his most famous works, including The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey into Night. Today Tao House is a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. In addition to the home, the site also hosts the Playwrights’ Theater. Tours lasting 2 hours are available twice daily Wednesday - Sunday, at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tours are free, however a reservation is required. The Park Service recommends making reservations 1-2 weeks in advance. The house is located in a gated area, and access is provided via a shuttle bus.

If you enjoy walking, hiking, bicycling, or horseback riding, Danville offers 167 acres of parks. You can learn more on the official East Bay Regional Parks District web site. Passing through several East Bay communities including Danville, the Iron Horse Trail provides an opportunity to walk or bike through scenic areas on a well maintained and traveled path. Finally, if you visit Danville, you should set aside some time to visit
Mt. Diablo State Park
. Set atop 3849 foot Mt. Diablo, the park offers views from the Sierras to the Farallons and from Half Dome to Mt. Lassen, if the atmosphere cooperates! Miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails are available, and the sweeping views will take your breath away.

Whether you spend an afternoon, a day, or a weekend, Danville offers something for everyone.

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   posted by : Leon Whitney on 10/2/2008 at 12:53 PM
Danville Mike, Great article! A friend from Danville took me to the old stagecoach stop in the old town. Maybe you could mention it, if I didn't somehow miss it in your blog. I'm sure it pre-dated the railroad by a few years, and was on the way to Hayward, San Jose and San Francisco. Leon Whitney, Gaithersburg, MD

   posted by : yosemitejudy on 4/5/2008 at 12:54 PM
Great article Mike. Your pictures of Danville are lovely and a great portrait of this charming town. Back in 1979, I worked at Sunset Nursery which encompassed 8 acres on the Old Danville Highway. The nursery, as you know is long gone, making way for elegant homes in this beautiful bedroom community. Danville is a shining example of a great reason to visit the East Bay.--Judy

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East Bay Parks District
Official Danville Site
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