Blake Walsh

30 Best Things to Do in Contra Costa County, CA

  • Published 2023/11/05

Contra Costa County, nestled in the heart of California, is a region often overlooked despite its wealth of beauty and activities.

The majestic Mount Diablo, with its rugged trails and awe-inspiring sunrises, stands as a testament to the county’s undiluted charm.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from the bustling cities of San Francisco and Oakland, Contra Costa County serves as a serene escape, rich in natural landscapes and cultural heritage.

This article aims to highlight the best things to do in Contra Costa County, uncovering its hidden gems for the readers.

So, get ready for an amazing journey through the unique offerings of this county.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Randall Kubiak, Riley Howard, Jacqueline Scheer, William Quinn, Nalani Justice, Tamiko Jackson and Desiree Frederick.

Uncover History at Martinez Museum

Entrance of the Martinez Museum

CrystalMage / Shutterstock.com

I often find myself strolling through the heart of downtown Martinez, and one of my favorite stops is none other than our cherished Martinez Museum.

This small yet captivating museum is a treasure trove of stories from our town’s past.

With exhibits that change periodically, no two visits are the same.

Each time, there’s something new and interesting to discover.

I remember one particular trip, the fond memories of which are still vivid in my mind.

I was captivated by the videos of Elementary John Swett, which took me back to my school days.

I couldn’t help but click a few snapshots as keepsaMartinez Museumkes.

I have always appreciated the cleanliness of the place – both inside and out.

It’s evident that the staff put a lot of effort into maintaining the museum.

They’re friendly and welcoming, always ready to guide visitors through a tour.

I remember how excited my kids were on their first visit.

The staff’s enthusiasm and willingness to answer all their questions made their experience all the more enjoyable.

One thing I particularly like is the free postcards available for visitors.

It’s a small token, but it holds so much significance.

My kids love collecting them and remembering the stories they learned during our visit.

The museum also accepts donations, and I make it a point to contribute whenever I can.

It’s a small way to support this wonderful institution that’s doing so much to preserve our town’s history.

I strongly encourage everyone, especially those who’ve lived here for a long time or plan to, to visit the Martinez Museum.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the history of our lovely town.

And trust me, you won’t regret it!

Check out the “The Eye of Diablo” at the Majestic Mount Diablo State Park

Peaceful meadows at Mount Diablo State Park

Chris LaBasco / Shutterstock.com

Honestly, I’m a bit spoilt living so close to the Mount Diablo State Park.

Something about the wide expanse of greenery, the diverse wildlife, and the panoramic views at the top of the summit makes every visit feel like a special occasion.

My most recent adventure was just last weekend.

I drove through the northgate entrance, a journey that is breathtaking in itself.

The winding road, cloaked with tall trees, is like a prelude to the majesty that the park holds.

I parked at the upper lot, eager for the day ahead.

As someone who loves hiking, the numerous trails in the park are a paradise for me.

But on this particular day, I decided to skip the hike and head straight to the Mount Diablo Summit.

Rock formations at Mount Diablo State Park

Kara Jade Quan-Montgomery / Shutterstock.com

The observation deck at the summit offers an unparalleled view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, a sight that never fails to leave me spellbound.

One of the unique features of the summit is the beacon, also known as “The Eye of Diablo”.

It’s a symbol commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor and lends an air of historical significance to the place.

But Mount Diablo State Park isn’t only about hiking or historical landmarks.

It also offers other outdoor activities like biking, camping, fossil hunting, horseback riding, and even hand gliding.

I’ve seen families and groups of friends enjoying picnics around here, the park’s tables offering the perfect spot for a meal with a view.

And the sunsets!

Oh, the sunsets at Mount Diablo are a sight to behold.

The sky explodes into hues of orange, pink, and purple as the day ends, painting a picture that no artist could ever replicate.

Tree at the Mount Diablo State Park

Mohammad-amin asareh / Shutterstock.com

Go Hiking at Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area

One might not think there’s much excitement in Walnut Creek, but let me tell you about the hidden gem nestled amongst our community — the Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area.

This place has it all, from scenic hiking trails to fun-filled recreational amenities.

There’s nothing quite like starting off a sunny Saturday with a leisurely hike.

Here at Castle Rock, there’s an array of trails to choose from, ranging from easy to difficult.

No matter your fitness level, you’re bound to discover a trail that suits your preference.

And if you’re really wanting to push the envelope, there are even routes stretching over 50 miles — a real challenge for the seasoned hikers or runners among us.

But don’t worry if you’re not much of a hiker.

The Recreation Area also boasts fantastic facilities for other outdoor activities.

Gather your family or friends for a lively game of volleyball, or perhaps a friendly softball match.

And if you’re simply in the mood for a relaxed day out, there’s a large picnic area complete with barbecue pits — perfect for a laid-back lunch under the sun.

Oh, and did I mention horse riding?

It’s always a treat to saddle up and explore the park from a different perspective.

Riding along the tranquil trails, you’re certain to encounter an abundance of wildlife, making for a truly memorable experience.

The Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area is conveniently located, and there’s ample free parking available.

Moreover, there are restrooms and drinking water facilities at various points throughout the park, ensuring your comfort during your visit.

Unveiling the Scenic Splendors of Rock City Park

View of the caves at Rock City Park

salilbhatt / Shutterstock.com

There’s something magical about the Rock City Park.

You pay the fee, they accept cards too, and embark on this thrilling drive up a winding road.

It leads you atop a mountain, where a tower awaits offering panoramic views of the sprawling mountain range.

Countless spots along the road serve as perfect parking spaces and trail heads.

The summit is more than just a visual treat.

It’s also a treasure trove of knowledge, thanks to the articulate tour guide who knows the area like the back of his hand.

And just in case the thrill of this adventure makes you a bit uncomfortable, restrooms are available at the top.

Close up of the rock formations at Rock City Park

Alina Darkhovsky Magauova / Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie, Rock City Park offers a variety of trails with varying difficulty levels.

It’s a hidden gem that keeps calling me back, and I’m already planning my next trip.

Yet, it’s not just a haven for hikers. Families, too, will find it an ideal spot for a day out.

There’s ample parking, generous shade to escape the summer sun, and picnic tables for snack time or lunch.

The breeze during summer is refreshing.

My family and I often hike to Sentinel Rock, a short and comfortable hike especially for my little one who’s a climbing enthusiast.

Rock City Park is a pet-friendly park as well.

Though, it’s suggested to leash your dogs for their safety.

However, seeing the graffiti on the rocks is a bit disheartening.

It’s essential to respect nature and maintain the park’s pristine beauty.

Spot the Wildlife at Diablo Foothills Regional Park

Green meadows at the Diablo Foothills Regional Park

There’s no place quite like the Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

This expansive 1,060-acre refuge is my sanctuary, the place where I go to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

With its diverse terrain and rich wildlife, the park offers an enchanting journey into nature’s lap.

My passion for hiking has found its perfect match in this park’s scenic trails.

Diablo Foothills Regional Park on a sunny day

Each trail is a new adventure, offering breathtaking views that never cease to amaze.

But it’s not just about the vistas.

The park is teeming with wildlife, and if you’re as lucky as I am, you might just spot a bobcat on your journey.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the serenity of Diablo Foothills Regional Park.

It’s a place where you can sit down, take a deep breath, and just be.

Nature trail at the Diablo Foothills Regional Park

Step dack in Time at Shadelands Ranch Museum

I always enjoy taking my family to the Shadelands Ranch Museum.

It’s like stepping back in time to 1902, surrounded by period furniture, local artifacts and absorbing the charm of this historic house.

Wandering through the house on a tour led by a knowledgeable docent is quite a treat.

For just $3 a person, we get to spend around 45 minutes delving into the rich history of this property.

The house itself is a marvel to behold – both beautiful and well-maintained.

It’s a feast for the eyes with interesting old items everywhere you look.

It’s best to keep in mind though, that photos and videos aren’t allowed during the tour.

It’s a bit of a bummer, but honestly, it makes me more present in the moment, soaking up the history without any distractions.

This may not be a large-scale farm with all the Play amenities, but it does have its charm.

The small scale pumpkin patch activities like hayes maze, tiny farm animals, and a steam train, are a big hit with my kids.

And while there is an entry fee, it’s very affordable, and parking is free, although spots can be a bit limited.

I must say, Shadelands Ranch Museum is a lifesaver when we’re pressed for time but still want to get in some family fun.

It’s also the perfect spot for a family photo.

Hop on a Train Ride at Tilden Regional Park

Signage of the Tilden Regional Park

When Sunday rolls around, there’s nothing quite like packing up a picnic and heading out to Tilden Regional Park.

With over 2,000 acres of breathtaking landscapes to explore, it’s truly a local treasure.

I often find myself losing track of time, jumping between the numerous fun activities available.

I can say with confidence that boredom doesn’t stand a chance here.

One of my favorite pastimes is taking a ride on the park’s quaint little steam train.

The joy it brings to not just children but adults too is infectious.

My one-year-old niece recently had her first ride, and her wide-eyed excitement was a wonder to behold.

Creek flowing through the Tilden Regional Park

The train ride is a unique adventure and offers a delightful experience for all ages.

Tilden Park is renowned for its meticulously maintained picnic areas.

There’s a sweet spot for everyone, whether you prefer basking in the sunlight or sitting huddled in a cozy shady corner.

A picnic basket, some good company, and the gentle rustle of leaves overhead; it’s truly the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

For the more adventurous, there’s a trail that provides an astonishing view of San Francisco.

I’ve walked it countless times, and the sight never fails to take my breath away.

This, combined with a ride on the merry-go-round, is a perfect way to round out the day.

I take immense pride in contributing towards the East Bay Parks for their continuous efforts to increase accessibility and add more trails.

The park houses a botanical garden, a hidden gem that blooms with diversity.

As a plant enthusiast, I eagerly await their plant sale every year. Tilden Regional Park also offers a swimming lagoon, a golf course, horse rides, and a stunning redwood forest.

Greenery at the Tilden Regional Park

Have a Family Day at Alhambra Creek Staging Area

It’s a bright April morning, and I’m heading out to one of my favorite outdoor havens near home, the Alhambra Creek Staging Area.

Nestled within the Briones Regional Park, this slice of natural wonder becomes the perfect blend of tranquil and vibrant in the springtime.

The trails are no longer muddy from winter rains, and the green grass and wildflowers are thriving.

The landscape is a serene mix of rolling hills and oak woodlands or oak savanna, as nature lovers often call it.

Though not bustling with people, it’s common to spot fellow outdoor enthusiasts exercising with their dogs along the trails.

Some of my favorite moments are when I reach the points where I can get a clear view of the majestic Mount Diablo.

What’s more, accessibility isn’t an issue.

Alhambra Creek Staging Area is easily reachable by car and offers abundant parking, usually free.

On days when there’s a fee, it’s just $3.

It’s not just for solitary hikers or joggers; the park is a wonderful place for dogs, bikes, horse riders, and children.

What I find really thoughtful is their provision of free bells that you can attach to your dogs or bikes, signaling your presence to others.

The park is home to a diverse range of trails.

There are flat trails by the creek and under the shade of the trees that offer a respite from the sun on warm days.

If you’re up for a little adventure, look for the rock labyrinth – it’s a fun activity that kids and adults alike enjoy.

For the more experienced hikers, there are trails with steep inclines that offer days’ worth of exploration.

One quirky tip: bring a painted rock from home to add to the park’s rock collection.

Discover the Magic of Wildlife at Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Exterior view of the Lindsay Wildlife Experience

I still remember the first time I visited the Lindsay Wildlife Experience.

It was as if the pages of my favorite wildlife books had come to life.

Nestled right opposite the Friends Church on N Main St in Walnut Creek, this magical place has become my go-to spot for spending quality time with my kids.

As we step inside, the museum greets us with an array of live, nonreleasable Californian wildlife species.

Over 50 of them!

From birds to small furry mammals, it feels like stepping into a different world.

Watching those adorable bunnies, guinea pigs, and the majestic bald eagle, it’s hard not to be filled with a sense of awe and wonder.

But Lindsay Wildlife Experience isn’t just about fun and games.

Fox at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Milonica, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a learning journey that introduces us to the realities of wildlife.

Many of these creatures, due to various reasons, cannot survive in the wild on their own.

They need human help to survive.

And in return, they serve as ambassadors, teaching us about their species and the importance of environmental conservation.

One of our family’s favorite parts about visiting is the Behind the Scenes Exhibit Program.

The opportunity to watch a porcupine get fed or learn about the day-to-day care of these animals is an experience that never gets old.

My teen kids find it fascinating. But perhaps, the little ones enjoy it even more.

Go Birding at Waterbird Regional Preserve

The moment I swapped the bustling streets of Concord for the tranquility of Escobar Street in Martinez, I knew I was home.

And right at my doorstep was the greatest gift of all – the Waterbird Regional Preserve.

This slice of paradise, covering 198 acres of wetlands, quickly became my favorite retreat, a place where I could reconnect with nature without undertaking a strenuous hike.

Every time I visit, I’m in awe of everything this place offers.

From trails meandering through wildflowers to the diverse species of waterbirds, the Preserve is a cornucopia of natural wonders.

My real pleasure, though, lies in jogging along the spacious trail.

It might be a shock to some, but I find the Preserve unusually calm even during the pandemic.

Twice around the loop trail and I feel invigorated, ready to take on the world again.

While many come for the birds, I must confess, I am smitten by the cows that call Waterbird Regional Preserve home some of the year.

Their gentle, placid demeanor adds a unique charm to my visit. But the birds are not to be missed either.

The Preserve is truly a treasure trove of water bird species. The most memorable sight was spotting a stunning White Tailed Kite two days in a row.

Go Trekking at Briones Regional Park

Stunning view of the Briones Regional Park

Every now and then, I feel a calling from the wild, a gentle whisper in my ear, urging me to take a break from the bustling city life and surrender to the tranquil beauty of nature.

That’s when I head out to Briones Regional Park.

With 6,255 acres of rolling hills, this place is nothing less than a paradise nestled in the lap of nature.

Out here, I let the adventurer in me take charge.

The hiking trails are a bit on the steeper side, giving me the adrenaline rush I crave.

Although there’s not much tree cover in many places, every step unveils a panoramic view that’s just breathtaking.

Cattles at the Briones Regional Park

With a gravelly terrain and occasional muddy patches, a pair of good hiking shoes is my go-to gear.

Not to mention plenty of drinking water, as you won’t find any water faucets or fountains here.

I always make sure to keep my loyal four-legged companion leashed as we explore the trails together.

Sometimes, the trails take me to places where civilization seems like a distant concept.

Like that one time when I couldn’t find the restroom that was marked on the trail.

What I love the most about Briones is that it’s not just a hiking enthusiast’s haven, but a horse rider’s delight too.

While I’ve seen mountain bikers trying their luck with the steep uphills and gravel roads, I personally find horse riding far more enjoyable and easier to handle.

Every visit to Briones Regional Park feels like I’m discovering a new treasure.

Exploring the many trails, I’ve come across wildlife in their natural habitat, campgrounds that offer an authentic outdoor experience, and so much more.

And when I return home, I feel as if I’ve brought back a piece of that tranquility with me, a piece of my spirit that the park has awakened.

Hiking trail at the Briones Regional Park

No machine-readable author provided. Mrbilal1987~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catch a Breath at Acalanes Ridge

Every weekend, as the first rays of sunlight peek over the horizon, I lace up my hiking boots, leash up my dogs, and head out to my sanctuary: Acalanes Ridge.

Spanning 202 acres, this open space is my personal haven where I get to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse myself in nature.

The Ridge offers an impressive 4 miles of dog-friendly trails that my furry friends absolutely adore.

Off-leash freedom lets them enjoy the great outdoors at their own pace, and there’s always a new squirrel or bird to chase.

As an enthusiastic hiker, I find the trails to be just the right blend of challenge and pleasure.

Depending on my mood and energy level, I could opt for a tough hike or a relaxed stroll, and the Ridge caters to both.

The panoramic views at Acalanes Ridge are truly a sight to behold.

As I ascend the rolling hills, the breathtaking vistas that greet me make every step worth it.

The diverse terrain and multiple entrances keep every visit fresh and exciting.

I’ve spent several weekends mapping out the trails, and each time, I discover a new favorite spot.

Step back in Time at John Muir National Historic Site

View of the John Muir National Historic Site

MARELBU, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Believe me when I say that there’s no better way to kick off a family weekend morning than a visit to the John Muir National Historic Site.

The sprawling grounds and the historic buildings take you back in time, while the fresh air rejuvenates you.

The best part? Admission is absolutely free, and your furry friends are welcome too!

Right from the get-go, the sight of the scenic mountains visible from the 2.4-mile hiking trail loop is enough to captivate your senses.

But that’s not all. If you’re with kids, the junior ranger quest will surely keep them engaged and excited.

Entrance to the John Muir National Historic Site

MARELBU, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s not just a fun-filled activity but also a great way to learn about the remarkable legacy of John Muir and the origins of the National Park Service.

You might even find yourself turning into a naturalist in the process!

Navigating through the site is a breeze, thanks to the wide paved paths, although it’s a bit hilly.

The Muir house, adorned with Victorian furnishings and original art, is a sight to behold.

The house is full of steep stairs, leading up to the front door, and has multiple floors including the attic and bell tower.

A self-guided tour of the John Muir National Historic Site is available which you can download by scanning a QR code at the visitor’s center.

It’s loaded with intriguing information about John Muir and his family.

The picnic tables around the orchards create a perfect setting for a family picnic.

You can dial in numbers given at notable sites to get more information.

Information plank at the John Muir National Historic Site

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Rich History at the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

Before you plan your trip to the heart of the San Ramon Valley, one place you must put on your bucket list is the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site.

It’s not just a house, but it’s a journey through the life of one of America’s greatest playwrights, Eugene O’Neill.

As soon as you drive up to the gates, you can feel the rich history and significance of this place.

You need to call ahead to reserve your tour, which might seem a bit inconvenient at first, but it’s totally worth the extra effort.

You’ll be thankful for the private tour, as it gives you a more intimate understanding of O’Neill’s life and work.

The tour is guided by National Park Service rangers who are incredibly knowledgeable about O’Neill’s upbringing, family history, and his literary achievements.

Our ranger, Nico, was excellent – he brought the house to life with his anecdotes and insights.

You’ll get to see where O’Neill wrote his last plays and learn about the philosophies that influenced his work.

What makes Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site even more special is its location.

On the border of the Las Trampas reserve, it offers an extraordinary view of Mt. Diablo and the beautiful San Ramon Valley.

The scenic drive up there is an experience in itself.

For those without a ride, there’s no need to worry.

The NPS bus picks you up in downtown Danville and takes you to the site.

This comfortable small shuttle adds to the overall experience, and they even throw in some interesting facts about Danville along the way.

And the best part? Entrance to this historic site is free of charge.

The tour lasts about two hours, but the memories you make will last a lifetime.

It’s not just an exploration of Eugene O’Neill’s life, but it’s also a chance to appreciate the incredible beauty of the San Ramon Valley.

An hour spent here is an hour well spent.

Cool Down at Heather Farm Park

Kids enjoying their day at the Heather Farm Park

Utilizer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Strolling down the street from my front door, I find myself lost in the breathtaking beauty that is Heather Farm Park.

This 102-acre haven of recreation and tranquility has become my go-to spot for leisure, exercise and fun.

Wandering through the park, I’m greeted by the lush green of well-manicured sports fields, perfect for an impromptu game of baseball or a competitive match of basketball.

The tennis courts are always buzzing with activity, and the skate park is a hit among the local kids.

But what I love most are the hiking trails, where I get to lose myself in nature and forget the world.

The park’s swimming complex is a refreshing delight on those warm summer days.

Not to mention the dog park where my furry friend loves to make new acquaintances and roll around with glee.

Heather Farm Park is indeed a melting pot of activities, catering to every whim and fancy.

One of the highlights has to be the immense play area for kids, gated off for safety and filled with laughter and joy.

The park is dotted with beautiful shade trees, perfect for a quiet afternoon of reading by the water.

Should you decide to have a picnic, the park has well-kept picnic areas and clean public restrooms.

Every time I visit, I find myself marvelling at the variety of plants and flowers in the gardens, especially the rose garden which feels like a colourful feast for the senses.

Peaceful, serene, and always inviting, Heather Farm Park has become an integral part of my life.

This park is more than just a recreational space, it’s a community hub, a place to connect with friends and family, and a sanctuary where I can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a nature lover or just in need of some quality family time, Heather Farm Park has something for everyone.

So, what are you waiting for? Discover the wonders of Heather Farm Park today!

Practice Nature Photography at Shell Ridge Open Space

Have you ever felt the urge to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature?

If so, let me take you on a virtual tour of a place that’s right here in our neighborhood, the Shell Ridge Open Space.

This is where the beauty of nature unfolds before my eyes every time I visit.

A sprawling grassland and forest area that stretches out to 31 miles of trails, Shell Ridge Open Space is my go-to spot for a quick retreat.

What I love the most about this place is its diverse landscape.

From fishing ponds to a playground, and let’s not forget the resident cattle, there’s something for everyone here.

One of my favorite activities is biking, and the trails here are perfect for a rejuvenating ride.

Hiking through the forest area is another experience that never gets old, especially when those trails lead to breath-taking scenic views.

The sights of the North West foothills of Mt Diablo are an artist’s dream and a photographer’s delight.

The place becomes exceptionally charming during the hot seasons, even though it can be a bit brutal.

But trust me, the beauty of the sun-drenched landscapes makes up for it.

Just remember to bring plenty of water and dress accordingly as shade can be sparse.

Weekends at Shell Ridge Open Space have become a family tradition for us.

It’s the perfect spot to instill a love for our natural wonders in the kids.

And let me tell you, the joy on their faces while playing in the playground is worth more than any toy in the world.

And for those who have pets, fret not!

Your furry friends are welcome too.

There’s enough space for them to run around and plenty of new smells to explore.

Discovering the Past at Old Borges Ranch

Landscape of the Old Borges Ranch

Noah Pollaczek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just yesterday, I decided to spend some time at the Old Borges Ranch.

It’s one of those historic landmarks right in the heart of Walnut Creek, California.

This place is like a window into the past.

Now, I must say, it’s an interesting experience to be dropped in the middle of the day at the ranch.

Old Borges Ranch is primarily an educational park, with several structures dotting the landscape, most of which, unfortunately, are inaccessible to visitors.

I noticed that the site is a popular spot for photo shoots, perhaps owing to its rustic charm.

Plaque at the Old Borges Ranch

Trevorevansphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ranch, I learned, was an old one that has been beautifully converted into a park.

The road leading up to it is rather narrow, but with good visibility, making the drive quite scenic. The park doesn’t charge an entry fee and there is ample parking space; a rare find these days!

One of the highlights for many, especially the little ones, is the small farm. My kids were thrilled to see a variety of small animals, including bunnies, goats, and quails.

It’s one of those little joys that the city rarely offers.

Wooden houses at the Old Borges Ranch

Utilizer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Immerse in Area’s Beauty and History in Mount Diablo Summit and Museum

I often find myself escaping to Mount Diablo State Park, my own backyard retreat. I’ve visited countless times, but the awe-inspiring beauty never ceases to amaze me.

Whether it’s the middle of summer or the cusp of winter, it’s always the perfect place for an adventure.

I always start my day using the North Gate entrance and parking at the upper lot.

It’s a bit of a journey, with about half-hour-long winding roads that lead you up to the top.

But trust me, it’s worth every second. The drive itself is a spectacle, surrounding you with incredible vistas and a breathtaking view of the Bay.

At a towering 3,849 ft elevation, the Mount Diablo Summit is the crown jewel of the park.

The Summit Observation deck is an absolute must-visit, offering stunning panoramic views that will leave you breathless.

Even as a seasoned visitor, the sight of the vast expanse still brings a lump to my throat every time.

Don’t miss out on the “Eye of Diablo” beacon at the summit, a poignant tribute to Pearl Harbor.

It’s housed in the Mount Diablo Summit and Museum, along with a visitor center and restrooms.

And while you’re there, take some time to explore Mount Diablo Summit and Museum, it’s an enlightening experience.

Now, here’s a little insider tip for you – make sure to stay till sunset.

Trust me, the breathtaking beauty of the horizon is a spectacle you won’t want to miss.

And if you’re up for it, bring along a picnic.

There are plenty of tables scattered around, just waiting for you to sit and soak in the stunning surroundings.

Walk Your Fur Buddy at Cesar Chavez Park

Beautiful view of the Cesar Chavez Park

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spent my afternoons at Cesar Chavez Park, a 90-acre spread of green overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

It’s one of those places in Berkeley that never seems to lose its charm, no matter how many times you visit.

Cesar Chavez Park is a paradise for kite enthusiasts. I swear there’s something magical about the wind there that makes the kites soar higher and longer.

I don’t own a dog, but I’ve often seen pet owners letting their furry friends run free in the immense grassy space.

I’m an avid cyclist and the park’s trails are my usual haunt.

Fountain at the Cesar Chavez Park

Whether I am practicing uphill or downhill gear shifts, these trails offer diverse terrains for all levels of biking skills.

A leisurely walk around the park is also highly recommended, especially along the perimeter where you can drink in the breathtaking bay vistas.

If you’re into picnics like I am, then grab a blanket, pack a basket, and head to this lush oasis.

The open space and calming views make it an idyllic picnic spot.

The park is a serene place to watch the sunset.

Trust me, the kaleidoscope of colors reflecting off the bay water is a sight to behold.

Paved pathway at the Cesar Chavez Park

Climb the Infamous Rock at Contra Costa Rock Park

There’s nothing like stumbling upon a hidden gem right in your own neighborhood, and for me, that was the Contra Costa Rock Park.

Tucked away like a secret sanctuary, this small park has become my go-to spot for quick outings.

It covers about the same expanse as a single house lot, but the park’s main attraction is a towering bedrock outcrop that’s just perfect for casual climbing.

It’s akin to the larger Indian Rock, just a few blocks down.

While the top of the rock offers a pleasant view over our peaceful suburban neighborhood, the park also features a small lawn and an oak tree.

It’s an idyllic corner that needs a bit more attention. How about a bench or a picnic table to make it more inviting?

That’s something I’ve often thought about during my multiple visits since I first discovered it.

And for those with a keen eye for neighborhood treasures, there’s a poetry wall somewhere nearby. Can you find it?

That’s a challenge I often pose to visiting friends.

There’s also a walking tour that takes you through all the parks in this area, which is quite a wonderful experience; just be prepared for a lot of stair climbing!

If you’re intrigued by geological wonders, you’ll be fascinated to learn about the volcanic rocks that somehow ended up here at Contra Costa Rock Park.

Play Tennis at Contra Loma Regional Park

Pelican at the Contra Loma Regional Park

Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I often find myself lost in the serenity of the Contra Loma Regional Park, a gem nestled right here in our city.

It is my go-to place, whether I crave a bit of adventure or pine for a quiet afternoon amid nature.

I’ve explored every nook of this park, and let me assure you, there’s something for everyone here.

From its community lawn, sprawling over two blocks and enveloped by trees, to the playground buzzing with energy, the park is a canvas of vibrant colors and infectious cheerfulness.

The two tennis courts are my favorite spot – nothing beats an invigorating match under a clear sky, with the rustling trees as your audience.

The park also offers an array of leisure activities.

I remember one weekend when my friends and I decided to try our hand at boating and fishing.

It was an exciting day filled with laughter, unexpected catches, and a newfound appreciation for the tranquil lake.

The walking trails are equally enchanting, leading you through open spaces and picnic grounds, each turn unveiling a new facet of the park’s beauty.

I’ve heard there’s horseback riding too – that’s next on my to-explore list!

The park’s maintenance deserves special mention, with every corner impeccably kept.

I recall how once, during a family picnic, we found numerous empty tables to choose from, despite the park’s popularity.

Don’t even get me started on the parking – never have I had a problem finding a spot!

While I miss the swimming pool and beach access, which are currently under construction, I eagerly look forward to their reopening.

I’ve heard from the caretaker how these spots were hubs of summertime fun, and I can’t wait to see them in their full glory.

Make a Splash at Glen Cove Waterfront Park

Ah, the sweet, sweet serenity of Glen Cove Waterfront Park!

It has become my favorite spot to unwind after a long week.

The park has grown into my little haven, a place where I can return to nature and soak in the simple pleasures life has to offer.

This is a place where you can really immerse yourself in various outdoor activities.

I personally love to hike along the trails, winding through the greenery and breathing in the crisp air.

And the view… oh, the views! Overlooking the Carquinez Strait, it’s a sight that never ceases to take my breath away.

I often find myself sitting on one of the several picnic benches scattered across the park, simply drinking in the beauty of nature.

One thing I really appreciate about Glen Cove Waterfront Park is that it’s not overly crowded.

This may be due in part to the small parking lot near the entrance, but there’s usually plenty of street parking available.

And you won’t be alone if you decide to bring your furry friend along – many visitors do!

Just remember to clean up after them to keep the park beautiful for everyone.

The park is not without its quirks though.

While it is a waterfront park, the water isn’t exactly at your doorstep.

There’s a bit of distance between the trails and the water, and the area closest to the water is more marshland than beach.

Not exactly ideal for sunbathing, but still a great spot to admire the water from a safe distance.

Encounter Animals at Oakland Zoo

A pair of lions at the Oakland Zoo

There’s a little slice of wild eden in Oakland. I’ve spent countless afternoons exploring the Oakland Zoo, and each visit feels like the first time.

The zoo is home to a diverse range of animals, over 850 to be precise, both native and exotic.

It’s much more than a zoo, with a wildlife theater and educational programs that bring us closer to understanding these magnificent creatures.

Picture this – a cool, cloudy Friday afternoon with the zoo almost to myself.

The animals were active, probably enjoying the mild weather just as much as I was.

Giraffes at the Oakland Zoo

The train ride, an extra $5 per person, took me to the Australian section, a thrilling journey.

But the real highlight was the gondola ride, included in the ticket price, offering a bird’s-eye view of the zoo and the surrounding landscape.

The zoo also has a nice playground, perfect for those with little ones.

What sets Oakland Zoo apart from others I’ve visited, like Sacramento and San Francisco Zoos, is its unique features.

The Sky Ride, albeit an additional cost, and the aerial tram ride are an experience in themselves.

If time allows, I definitely recommend visiting the top first.

An elephant quenching its thirst at the Oakland Zoo

Roll in the Grass at Rankin Park

Ah, Rankin Park, my favorite local spot to unwind and enjoy some outdoor fun. The park is a gem in Martinez.

It’s become my go-to place for weekend picnics with my family. The park is spacious with plenty of grassy areas where my kids love to run around and play catch.

Plus, it’s dog-friendly, so our four-legged family member is always welcome too – as long as she’s on a leash.

The playgrounds are nothing short of fantastic!

The larger playground is designed with a unique concept.

It sits on a hill, featuring a massive slide and faux rock formations that even I couldn’t resist climbing.

Aside from that, there’s a smaller playground that’s perfect for toddlers.

My little one adores it, even though I wish it wasn’t right next to the parking lot without a gate.

One of the highlights of Rankin Park is the gigantic rope climbing pyramid.

It’s both challenging and entertaining for the kids, and even for some adults.

There are also different types of swings – bucket swings for the smaller kids and regular ones for the older crowd.

Escape to the Coast at Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline

View of the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline

Federico Pizano, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From the moment I first set foot in Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, it’s been my favorite escape from the world.

Its sprawling space is a sanctuary where nature meets the water, where birdlife is aplenty, and wild animals roam free.

I fondly remember when I first discovered this gem as a child, and the breathtaking views have never grown old on me.

One of the best things about the park is the absolute freedom it offers.

It’s a wonderful place for dogs to run around and explore without restrictions.

It’s not just my two-legged friends who find joy here, my furry companion loves the park as much as I do.

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline is also a place for adventure seekers. There’s a hidden rope swing not many know of.

Past the trail that leads down to Rankin Park, an old windmill stands, marking the way to two trails.

One leads up and the other down. I’d recommend taking the lower trail.

About 100 yards east of the windmill, next to the left of the trail, is a tree line that opens up to the rope swing.

It’s a little secret I’m happy to share.

Also, if you follow the trail north, you’ll come across another that passes right next to the rope swing.

It’s a bit of a workout and will definitely set your calves on fire. But the dizzying natural beauty around you makes it worth every step.

The park is dry and golden, its hills soft and undulating, all seemingly begging for rain. Looking down at the Carquinez Strait from atop the hills is a sight to behold.

The distant Suisun Bay is a silver blue hue that contrasts with the deep-rooted oak woodland and laurel canyons.

The shade they provide is a welcome respite from the otherwise hot and steep trails.

On Sundays, I usually start my day with a visit to the Martinez farmers’ market before heading to the park.

The market is a great spot to stock up on fresh fruit and coffee for a picnic at the park.

Just remember to bring water – you’ll need it!

Cycle through Lime Ridge Open Space

I live just around the corner from what I consider one of the best-kept secrets in Walnut Creek: Lime Ridge Open Space.

This untouched ridgeline is a sanctuary right in our backyard, a place where I can escape the hustle and bustle of city life with a quick hike or bike ride.

The trails in Lime Ridge Open Space are an adventure, each one offering a unique experience.

There’s always a new route to discover, making every hike different from the last.

Each one is a joy to walk along, whether you’re looking for a short stroll or an extensive trek.

One thing that strikes me every time I visit is the respect shown by everyone.

People are mindful of their dogs and courteous when passing each other on the trails.

It’s a small aspect, but it truly contributes to the peaceful atmosphere of the open space.

Just off the parking lot, up the hill, is a quaint house.

It’s here that you’ll find bathrooms and a water fountain – a thoughtful touch that adds to the overall convenience of the area.

Plus, they’ve even included a water fountain for dogs. It’s these little details that make this open space so special.

The first time I reached the top of the mountain, I was left in awe.

It’s hard to put into words the stunning beauty that unfolds before your eyes.

The city stretches out below you, but you feel as if you’re in a world of your own.

And the sunsets? Simply breathtaking.

It’s a sight that never gets old, especially when you have it all to yourself.

Catch a Concert at Todos Santos Plaza

View of the Todos Santos Plaza

InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My Thursdays are always reserved for the Concerts in the Park at Todos Santos Plaza.

Come rain or shine, you’ll find me there, enjoying the music and the lively atmosphere.

Located in the heart of Concord, the plaza is a community green space with a playground nestled between a variety of shops and restaurants.

The sound of laughter fills the air as children climb on the playground equipment, their faces painted with sheer joy.

The plaza is often busy, especially during summer months when they host Farmer Markets.

Todos Santos Plazalit up at night

Geraoma, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arrive early if you want a good parking spot in the nearby garage; it’s a small price to pay for an evening of entertainment.

Todos Santos Plaza remains a vibrant community space.

I always look forward to the Makers Boulevard event where I set up a stall to sell my homemade wares.

The event is well organized with free parking and easily accessible facilities, including porta potties.

Kids play area at the Todos Santos Plaza

InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Blast at Pixieland Amusement Park

Oh, the joy of living next to a kid’s paradise!

Every weekend becomes a magical escapade with Pixieland Amusement Park just around the corner.

Kids under 12 absolutely love it here – it’s like their very own carnival, complete with rides that are just the right size for them.

The birthday parties here are legendary; picture a swarm of laughing children, delighting in the rides, devouring delicious casual fare, and enjoying their special day in the park’s dedicated party space.

The park may be small but boy, does it pack a punch!

With around 8 rides, it is perfect for the little ones.

I usually spend around $30 for 10 tickets, enough to get my kiddo on every ride and leave some for the oh-so-popular train ride.

And let’s not forget the carousel – it’s a kid magnet and a photogenic one at that! Perfect for those Instagram moments.

The best part? Tickets never expire, and the park offers discounts on larger purchases.

A visit to Pixieland Amusement Park has become somewhat of a tradition in our family.

The grandparents always tag along, and it’s heartwarming to see them enjoy the park as much as the children do.

The park is open only on weekends, and with a big parking lot, it’s best to arrive early and make the most of the day.

While entrance is free, ride tickets are a bit pricey, but hey, the look on the kids’ faces makes every penny worth it!

Embark into the Jurassic Period to Dinosaur Hill Park

Every time I step foot in Dinosaur Hill Park, it’s like a trip down memory lane.

This 13-acre of hilly expanse has been a staple in my life since my early years.

The view of Mount Diablo from the top of the hill is something that never fails to take my breath away, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before.

One of the best things about Pixieland Amusement Park is its vast hiking trails.

Every trek is like sinking your teeth into a new adventure, with panoramic views of the valley waiting to greet you at the finish line.

On one memorable day in December 2018, the sky was so clear that the view seemed to stretch out forever.

I still have the pictures I took that day, a stunning testament to the beauty of this place.

The dinosaur-like shaped rocks, the park’s namesake, are another intriguing feature.

They stand tall and proud, a symbol of the park’s unique charm.

Final Thoughts

My heart truly belongs to Contra Costa County, California.

From the majestic Mount Diablo State Park, with its captivating views and exhilarating hikes, to the charming Martinez Museum, rich with local history, there’s always something to see or do.

It’s these moments and places that make living here a daily adventure.

Here’s to more discovery in the vast, beautiful expanse that is Contra Costa County.

© All rights reserved.