Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Walnut Creek, CA

  • Published 2022/07/28

Perched in San Francisco’s East Bay region in the golden state of California, Walnut Creek is one of the best small cities in the country.

It is located only 16 miles from Oakland and at an intersection of San Jose and Sacramento, accessible by the area’s rapid transport system, making it a perfect gateway to all the lovely neighboring cities.

This quaint city is a cultural and commercial hub with plenty of stunningly lush natural attractions, miles of spectacular nature hiking, and numerous stunning vantage points.

The vibrant downtown area, charming galleries, fantastic museums, terrific breweries, scrumptious Californian food, and lovely parks are just a few of the attractions in the city.

These are the best things to do in Walnut Creek, California:

Explore Walnut Creek on Foot and Discover Its Hidden Gems

Scenic view from Walnut Creek, California

Chris LaBasco /

Walnut Creek is a picturesque city with tons to see and explore.

It is filled with great cultural sites and beautiful green spaces.

The city’s small size makes it perfect for exploring on foot.

Walking is one of the best ways to explore a small city; you can see and experience its true essence in its hidden gems.

You can also discover the best places to eat, shop, and drink while strolling around the city.

You can truly appreciate its stunning architecture and lovely tree-lined boulevards while roaming around.

Long walks in this Californian city’s beautiful and sunny streets will refresh your mind and body.

Meet the Animals at Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Entrance to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Lynn Watson /

Founded in 1955, Lindsay Wildlife Experience is a wildlife rehabilitation center and a family museum located on 1st Avenue.

Formerly known as Lindsay Wildlife Museum, it was the first wildlife hospital in the United States of America and is one of the oldest wildlife rehabilitation centers in the country.

It is an independent non-profit organization that treats and rehabilitates over 6,000 orphaned and injured animals annually.

A small fox in Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Milonica, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The center also provides one of a kind experience to the visitors by offering unique events, exhibits, and programs such as a live bee center, children’s discovery room, behind-the-scenes wildlife hospital experience, underground habitat exploration area, and more.

There is a quaint gift shop on the premises where you can buy souvenirs for just a couple of bucks.

Go Shopping Downtown

Walnut Creek Downtown shopping

Todd A. Merport /

Walnut Creek is a great place to enjoy some retail therapy, and its downtown area has the most variety of stores and hidden gems.

The district is home to hundreds of stores, shops, and entertainment venues.

Downtown Walnut Creek has even been voted one of the best shopping destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay region.

Daytime view of Downtown Walnut Creek's broadway plaza

Brchen9405, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You will find all kinds of places to shop, from jewelry stores to boutiques.

After shopping at Downtown Walnut Creek, you can charge your batteries by savoring mouth-watering dishes from amazing restaurants just a stone’s throw away.

Enjoy a Relaxing Afternoon at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Located along Bancroft Road, the Ruth Bancroft Garden is an acclaimed botanical garden covering an area of 2.5 acres.

The dry garden was the first of its kind to be conserved by the Garden Conservancy of America.

The stunning flora of the garden consists of an extensive collection of over 2,000 shrubs, trees, cactus, and succulents native to South Africa, Chile, Australia, Mexico, and obviously, California.

The lovely drought-tolerant style of the garden is a unique feature that makes it eco-friendly.

Various workshops and programs are hosted here to educate the visitors and create awareness.

You can also buy your plants to start your own garden.

Enjoy a Show or Two at the Lesher Center for the Arts

The Lesher Center for the Arts, located on Civic Drive, is an arts venue with three separate intimate theaters for different events.

The center comprises four different venues, including George and Sonja Vukasin Theatre, which can accommodate about 133 visitors, the Del Valle Theatre with 384 seats, the Margaret Lesher Theatre with 300 seats, and the Hofmann Theatre with a whopping 785 seats.

The venue hosts more than 900 performances and productions and receives over 350,000 visitors annually.

You can enjoy various productions from local and traveling theater companies, concerts, film screenings, dance troupes, musicals, and much more.

So, make sure to catch a show or two at the Lesher Center for the Arts when you visit the lovely Walnut Creek.

Buy Rare and Collectible Books at Swan’s Fine Books

Swan’s Fine Books is a quaint bookstore on Ygnacio Valley Road.

The bookstore offers an excellent collection of rare, interesting, used, and collectible books.

You can even find first editions of California’s history books.

It is a haven for all bibliophiles.

The staff at Swan’s Fine Books is very knowledgeable and friendly; if you do not know what to choose, they will assist you in finding your perfect book.

Admire the Blooms at the Gardens at Heather Farm

A beautiful rose in The Gardens at Heather Farm


Overlooking the magnificent Mount Diablo, The Gardens at Heather Farm is a public garden and an educational center on Marchbanks Drive.

It was founded in 1968 to enhance the natural beauty of Ygnacio Valley and make the outdoors more welcoming.

Today, it comprises a meadow garden, butterfly garden, children’s garden, riparian garden, black pine garden, waterfall garden, stroll garden, and many others focusing on different plants and aesthetics.

The environment here is very peaceful, with lovely flora and fantastic views of the rolling hills.

The Gardens at Heather Farm is a perfect spot to enjoy a lovely picnic in the delightful Californian weather.

Take a Guided Tour of The Shadelands Ranch Museum

Exterior of The Shadelands Ranch Museum

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Shadelands Ranch Museum on Ygnacio Valley Road honors and preserves the ranch home of Hiram Penniman, an early settler of Walnut Creek.

The ranch was built in the redwood-framed Colonial Revival architectural style in 1903.

The museum showcases the local history of the city and the Pennimans through artifacts, a library of archives, exhibits, and displays.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular tourist attraction.

Join a guided tour of The Shadelands Ranch Museum to learn more about the ranch and its history.

Go Back in Time at the Old Borges Ranch

A windmill at Old Borges Ranch

Ian Breen /

Perched in the beautiful foothills of the stunning Mount Diablo, Borges Ranch is a historic cattle ranch.

The Borges family built the ranch in 1899, located only a 15-minute drive from Alamo.

It covers an area of over 1,000 acres and consists of about seven restored and original buildings that provides a glimpse into the olden days of simpler times.

Daytime view of the Old Borges Ranch

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ranch gives a chance for visitors to see what life was like during early farming and settlement.

In addition to the ranch complex, there are several dog-friendly nature trails where you can enjoy hiking, biking, or even horseback riding with impressive views.

Borges Ranch is located on Castle Rock Road.

Equipment and hen house at the Old Borges Ranch

Trevorevansphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a Picnic at Civic Park

Welcome sign of Civic Park

Afia Naaz /

Situated along Civic Road, Civic Park is a charming 10-acre public park with incredible views and lovely gardens.

This beautifully landscaped park features art studios, a community center, playgrounds, and areas designated for picnics.

In winter, it offers a skating rink where visitors can enjoy ice skating.

The park is a green oasis in the middle of the city with a serene environment.

With its picturesque views, tranquil atmosphere, and beautiful greenery, Civic Park is perfect for enjoying a picnic on a sunny day.

Enjoy Stunning Panoramic Views from Diablo Hills Regional Park

Scenic view of Diablo Hills Regional Park

Chris LaBasco /

Located on the foothills of Mount Diablo, Diablo Hills Regional Park is a public park covering an area of about 1,060 acres.

It provides breathtakingly stunning views of the sweeping hills.

It is also a gateway to Mount Diablo State Park and Walnut Creek Open Space.

Diablo Hills Regional Park features hiking trails, picnic areas, sports fields, and more.

Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the extraordinary panoramic views of the mountain and its surroundings.

Check Out Impressive Artworks at Valley Art Gallery

Opened in 1949, Valley Art Gallery is one of the most reputable art galleries in the East Bay.

This non-profit organization’s philosophy is that art improves the quality of life of people.

The gallery along Botelho Drive hosts educational programs in local schools to educate people and encourage art education.

It is excellently curated and showcases the artworks by over 150 emerging and established local artists in an innovative and impressive way.

The paintings are available for purchase or rent.

Valley Art Gallery offers an inexpensive way to own and experience different art pieces by renting them.

Hike with your Pup at Shell Ridge

Wildflowers at Shell Ridge Open Space

LauraHillCA /

Shell Ridge stretches from the stunning foothills of Mount Diablo to Walnut Creek’s downtown district.

It is located along Castle Rock Road.

The open space covers an area of more than 1,400 acres and has nature trails for biking, hiking, or horseback riding.

Wooden bench along Shell Ridge trail

Chris LaBasco /

Old Borges Ranch is situated in Shell Ridge.

The trails are dog-friendly, too, so you and your pooch can hike while appreciating the impressive surroundings.

Spend an Afternoon at Boundary Oak Golf Course

Located on Valley Vista Road, Boundary Oak Golf Course is a public golf course with spectacular views of Mount Diablo.

This 18-hole course is one of Northern California’s top-rated public golf courses.

You can even take golf lessons from trained and professional instructors by booking lessons on-site.

The staff is excellent and accommodating and will assist you in every way possible.

The Clubhouse at Boundary Oak also serves delectable food.

Visit Boundary Oak Golf Course and enjoy golfing while relishing the terrific panoramic views of the surroundings.

Eat Freshly Baked Pastries at A Sweet Affair Bakery

A Sweet Affair Bakery, located on Ygnacio Valley Road, has served freshly-baked goods since 1984.

All the baked items, including the bread and the pastries, are made from scratch without any preservatives.

Their must-try offerings include their cakes, cookies, buns, and rolls.

You can see these items being freshly prepared right before your eyes.

Make sure to visit A Sweet Affair Bakery and try their delicious pastries.

Dine at Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar

Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar is a fantastic eatery that serves eclectic small plates paired and wine from an extensive list.

It is located along Mt. Diablo Boulevard.

With its exquisite menu and lovely ambiance, it’s the perfect place for a romantic night out.

It has been voted one of the top 100 restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005.

Dine at Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar and have excellent food paired with wine from their fantastic selection.

Drink Delicious Beers at Calicraft Brewing Company

Calicraft Brewing Company is a brewery and taproom that makes and serves delicious beers.

The brewery also hosts events such as trivia nights and live music performances to entertain the customers.

They do not serve food, but there are food trucks parked outside the brewery from where you can buy food to pair with your beer.

Don’t forget to try The City IPA, Coast Kolsch, The Bay Double IPA, and Oaktown American Brown Ale.

Calicraft Brewing Company can be found along Mitchell Drive.

Eat and Drink at the Stadium Pub

Are you looking for a place to enjoy a beer over televised sports?

The Stadium Pub is Walnut Creek’s oldest sports bar and is the perfect place to enjoy drinks while watching a game.

It offers a generous food menu and a full bar serving Belgian and draft beers.

Make sure to try the BLT sandwich, garlic fries, and fish tacos with their extensive selection of beers.

Find the Stadium Pub along Lincoln Avenue.

Book a Stay at Diablo Mountain Inn

Diablo Mountain Inn, situated on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, is a delightful place to stay when you visit Walnut Creek.

The hotel provides several amenities to make your stay as worthwhile and comfortable as possible.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, Diablo Mountain Inn is an excellent place to stay.

Guests also love that it’s pet-friendly, so you can stay here and explore the city with your four-legged companions.

When you book a stay at this hotel, you’ll enjoy perks such as free parking and complimentary WiFi.

Attend a Concert by the California Symphony

One of the top symphony orchestras in the San Francisco Bay Area, the California Symphony was established in 1986 thanks to founding director Barry Jekowsky’s creative vision.

It is known for its dynamic performance lineups that blend American repertoire with classics and works by modern composers and for bringing music to audiences in novel and unique venues.

The orchestra, which has its home base in Walnut Creek at the Lesher Center for the Arts, consists of musicians who appear with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and San Francisco Symphony, among other organizations.

To create concert experiences that are distinctively 21st century, the orchestra attempts to create contemporary concert programs that combine classic compositions with works by live composers.

Have the time of your life and get in touch with music at The California Symphony!

Order a Glass of Wine at Walnut Creek Yacht Club

A distinctive restaurant, bar, and seafood market, Walnut Creek Yacht Club has been named the greatest seafood restaurant in the East Bay for 12 years straight.

The restaurant, first launched in 1997, features maritime motifs throughout its dining area to create the ambiance of classic waterfront eateries and yacht clubs in a landlocked setting.

The Osprey Seafood Company, the best fish supplier in the Bay Area, supplies fresh seafood for inventive and delicious seafood meals.

Walnut Creek Yacht Club also offers a wide wine selection, single-malt scotches, premium rums from all over the world, and regional specialty beers.

Find this excellent restaurant along Bonanza Street.

Shop with Friends at Broadway Plaza

People shopping at Broadway Plaza

FASTILY, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Broadway Plaza is the start of a fun-filled day that includes fantastic food and shopping.

With more than 80 specialized stores, services, and eateries, the outdoor shopping area is home to Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Macy’s as its main stores.

As a result of its stunning facade, which has top-notch landscaping and fountains in the European style, Broadway Plaza has been named Best Shopping Center.

Storefronts at Broadway Plaza

FASTILY, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, delicious restaurants, including Boudin, True Food Kitchen, and P.F. Chang’s, can be found at this mall.

Broadway Plaza is the perfect location if you want to save significantly on your preferred brands and the newest trends.

A pastry at Broadway Plaza

Mohammad-amin asareh /

Engage in Outdoor Fun at Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area

Locals and tourists alike enjoy visiting the 18,000-acre Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area.

It is situated in Contra Costa County, in the northern Californian East Bay area.

The vast Walnut Creek Open Space and Mount Diablo State Park are accessible from the day-use Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area.

Visitors may use a wide range of outdoor recreational possibilities, including a swimming pool, lodging, horseshoe pits, softball, basketball, and volleyball facilities.

Up to 100 people can fit into each of the four picnic areas, and three smaller sites are also accessible to be used on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dine at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Bill Allen and Paul Fleming established Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Newport Beach, California, in 1998.

It has more than 70 sites throughout the globe and the United States, including one on Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Walnut Creek.

Filet mignon, rib eye, and New York strip steak cuts are among the gourmet hallmark steaks.

They are served with the guests’ choice of smoky chile, béarnaise, or herbed horseradish butter.

Seafood meals and elegant small plates like charcuterie boards and chilled seafood towers are also offered at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the best things to do in Walnut Creek, California, you won’t second-guess your decision to visit.

Century-old structures can be found in the city’s bustling downtown district, along with sizable shopping malls, restaurants, and performance venues that draw tourists to the region’s well-known tourist attractions.

Craft an itinerary with all the enjoyable activities and interesting locations on this list!

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