Walnut Creek is booming. Once a sleepy, suburban town known for its big-box shopping, the East Bay town is becoming a surprisingly chic destination for tourists and west-of-the-Caldecott dwellers alike thanks to trendy retailers (think Kit & Ace, Madewell and Les Lunes) and local restaurateurs making it big with upscale cuisine and rooftop bars.
Although locals might find the influx of out-of-towners unsavory, there’s no denying that Walnut Creek is a place to see and be seen. And with a new crop of citizens—from millennials to empty nesters—moving into the posh housing popping up all over the city, the social scene has never been better. Hot new rooftop restaurants show off views of Mt. Diablo and the valley below, and high-end shopping can be done in stores previously found only in San Francisco.
There’s something to do almost every night of the week, but the weekend is when Walnut Creek really comes alive. Catch a show at the Lesher Center for the Arts after sipping local and international wines at your choice of wine bars, or have a casual date night at the weekly Off The Grid. In Walnut Creek, a trip to the suburbs never looked so appealing.
Rooftop’s menu is made to be shared, so order everything that looks good.(Kristopher Shinn)
Rooftop Restaurant and Bar
Located in the middle of downtown, on the third floor of a gorgeous new brick-façade building, Rooftop is the hot new destination in Walnut Creek. Snag a seat at the bar to have cocktails inspired by the restaurant’s living wall crafted in front of you, or, for more intimate dining, ask to be seated al fresco with a view of Mount Diablo and the town below. With a fully retractable roof, you’ll feel like you’re above it all. Rooftop’s menu is meant to be shared so order everything that looks good—we recommend the oysters with a spicy Thai mignonette. You also can’t go wrong with the crispy chicken wings served with a pepper-lime dipping sauce, and the truly veracious eater should order the rib eye. Come here for the energy, stay for the top-notch dining and hand-crafted cocktails. // 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (Walnut Creek), rooftopwc.com
If you’re looking to escape the norm, head over to Telefèric for an authentic Spanish meal. Order a glass (or pitcher) of sangria, then grab a few tapas off the roving cart as you peruse the dinner menu. Don’t miss the pulpo trufado (grilled octopus) or ma premiere foie (carmelized foie gras). With so much going on (sometimes it feels more like a party than a restaurant), don’t forget to admire the decor including the authentic cable car traversing overhead (this is where the restaurant gets its name). When it’s time to order, don’t miss the authentic Spanish paella, made one pan at a time and served as soon as it hits perfection. This is the kind of restaurant where you’ll want to linger over tasty drinks, great food, and even better entertainment. // 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (Walnut Creek), telefericbarcelona.com
Parada is a new restaurant in the area that features Peruvian street food.(Courtesy of Parada)
Walk into Parada and you’ll be transported to a Peruvian street market where fresh fish cebiches are on the menu and crisp, cool Pisco sours await your taste buds. Although a bit outside of town, this new restaurant beckon with traditional Peruvian food unlike any found outside of Peru. Can’t choose what to try? Order a taste of each and share around the table. Start with a cebiche of your choice (or the cebiche tasting for a little bite of each), then move on to anticuchos, or authentic street vendor skewers (pork belly, anyone?). And you can’t go wrong with any of the large plates. The fish is fresh and the drinks are strong. // 7001 Sunne Lane. (Walnut Creek), paradakitchen.com
Sunol Ridge Restaurant and Bar
Take a seat by the fire pit out back, or in one of the lounges inside, and order off Sunol Ridge’s extensive beer and wine list (over 25 beers on tap!) before munching on fried green tomatoes, seared scallops, or the killer grilled pork rib eye (with Frog’s Hallow peaches). // 1388 Locust St. (Walnut Creek),sunolridgerestaurantandbar.com
Piping hot broth—simmered for 18 hours—fresh veggies, and tender pork belly make this cozy ramen house a must-go for those who can’t get enough noodles in their bellies. // 1633 Bonanza St. (Walnut Creek), ramenhiroshi.com
This Chorizo-Stuffed Calamari is a dish of roasted calamari with house-made chorizo, black bean purée, tomato coulis, served at Va de Vi.(Courtesy of Va de Vi)
Va de Vi
With flights of international wines and tapas ranging from tempura battered squash blossoms to chorizo-stuffed calamari, this wine bar is not one to skip. Grab a table by the ancient oak out back on a warm afternoon, or cozy up to the bar when the weather forces you inside. // 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (Walnut Creek), vadevi.com
It’s never wise to pass up an opportunity to indulge in ice cream made on site. Lottie’s makes everything from waffle cones and candies to the ice cream itself in house. This creamery will linger with you into your dreams. // 1414 North Main St. (Walnut Creek), lottiescreamery.com
Øl Beercafe and Bottle Shop
If beer is your thing, Øl Beercafe will have you trembling with excitement. Although they specialize in Belgian-style brews poured from 18 taps, the beercafe carries hundreds of bottles—Belgian and otherwise—for purchase and consumption on site. Grab a pizza from Skippolini’s next door and settle into one of the big oak tables for a night of true beer indulgence. // 1541 Giammona Drive (Walnut Creek), beershop.org
Coffee Shop welcomes everyone, hipster and business peeps alike.(Kristopher Shinn)
Local and artisan roasters, boozy coffee, and game nights? You can find all these and more at the aptly named Coffee Shop in the heart of downtown. A local hangout for hipsters and business peeps alike, Coffee Shop welcomes all who enter with a superbly brewed coffee, whether you take it black or with Bailey’s. Stop in on a Wednesday night to play some classic board games (Clue and coffee go hand in hand). This isn’t your typical coffee stop. // 1321 Locust St. (Walnut Creek), coffeeshop411.com
Calicraft Brewing Co. is a brand-new brewery that just opened in August.(Courtesy of calicraft.com)
Calicraft Brewing Co.
It isn’t often you find a killer brewery in the suburbs, but local favorite Calicraft is right here in Walnut Creek. The brand new taproom, which opened this past August, features a ceiling high mural by a local artist, an outdoor patio perfect for cornhole and hanging out, and Calicraft’s finest beers on tap. Visit on the weekend and you’ll be able to nosh on tasty food from rotating food trucks while you enjoy brews on the deck. // 2700 Mitchell Dr. (Walnut Creek), calicraft.com
Modeled after bottle shops in Italy, Buon Vino allows you to taste different wines to find your favorite, then sends you home with a bottle of your choice. Belly up to the bar for (very affordable) tastes of California wines, or arrange for a two-hour private tasting experience great for large parties. There’s no need to head up to Wine Country to taste wines—Walnut Creek has you covered. // 1545 Locust St. (Walnut Creek), buonvinoinc.com
Lesher Center for the Arts
Walnut Creek may not be known for its performing arts scene, but it’s time to shed some light on the stage at the Lesher Center for the Arts. From political satire to Tony-winning musicals, ballet to children’s theater, the Lesher Center has something for everyone on almost every night of the week. This fall, catch 1776, a musical based on the birth of our nation performed by the Contra Costa Musical Theatre (runs October 7–November 5), or get in the Halloween mood with Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery performed by Center REPertory Company (runs October 21–November 19). // 1601 Civic Dr. (Walnut Creek), lesherartscenter.org
Walnut Creek on Ice is the only outdoor ice rink in the East Bay.(Courtesy of walnutcreekonice.com)
Walnut Creek on Ice
Skip the crowds in San Francisco and skate over to Civic Park’s Walnut Creek on Ice, where you can enjoy an evening under the stars without bundling up for the elements. Arriving November 11, the only East Bay outdoor ice rink beckons adults wanting to feel like a kid again. // 1365 Civic Dr. (Walnut Creek), walnutcreekonice.com
Anthropologie & Co.
Take a class at the brand new—and one-of-a-kind—Anthropologie & Co. From calligraphy and flower crowns to terrarium building, a class here is sure to up your craft game. These classes are offered for free and you take home whatever you make. Post-class, check out the levels of bedroom inspiration, enviable shoe collections, and clothes that will have you in your best style. // 1149 S. Main St. (Walnut Creek), anthropologie.com
Off The Grid is hosted every Tuesday in downtown Walnut Creek, where foodies and food trucks come together.(Courtesy of Off the Grid)
Off The Grid
Every Tuesday until October 25 (when the food truck season comes to a close), downtown Walnut Creek hosts Off The Grid food trucks. From po’ boys to kabobs, ceviche to poutine, these weekly foodie gatherings are packed with tasty bites, music and entertainment, and a seasonal beer garden. // 1380 North California Blvd. (Walnut Creek), offthegrid.com
Art and Wine Festival
Hosted for over 35 years, the Art and Wine Festival takes over Heather Farms Park with arts and crafts booths and premium wine and beer vendors, including a beer garden featuring local brewers, every June. Make sure to mark it on your calendar. // 301 N. San Carlos Dr. (Walnut Creek), artwinefestivalwc.com.
Walnut Creek is quickly becoming a shopaholic’s dream, and the newly remodeled Broadway Plaza shopping center is not to be missed. Spend an entire day popping in and out of shops like Madewell, Kit and Ace, and the new Anthropologie & Co. (let’s be honest, you can spend all day in that one spot). Drop the guys off at Art of Shaving before taking a mid-shop workout break at Soul Cycle – don’t worry, they have a full shower facility. And pamper yourself at Aveda, Soma Intimates, and Sephora. // 1275 Broadway Plaza (Walnut Creek), broadwayplaza.com
Vici is a chic clothing store that just opened in Walnut Creek—and has thousands of followers on Instagram.(Meg Russell Photography)
After getting a start on social media, Vici—a chic clothing store—has a brand new shop in Walnut Creek. Their 57,000 followers on Instagram never doubt the fashion advice these ladies deal out, and now you can peruse the clothing racks that made them so popular. Shopping at Vici is like shopping with your best friend – only the team here will tell you just how good that peasant top looks on you. Find everything from jumpsuits and dresses to jackets and the latest fall boot collection all in one place. // 1683 North California Blvd. (Walnut Creek), vicicollection.com
Wish is a small family-owned shop in Walnut Creek that features a collection of jewelry, gifts, and other items from local crafters.(Courtesy of Wish via Facebook)
Tucked back from downtown, this shop has a surprisingly awesome collection of jewelry, candles, and gifts for both you and your best friends. Check out their ever rotating collection of Waffles and Honey jewelry to pick up something sparkly and new, or peruse unique items from local crafters. // 2333 Boulevard Way (Walnut Creek), wishwalnutcreek.com
Shabby Creek on Main
Looking for ways to update your pad? Vintage furniture and collectables dealer Shabby Creek on Main has those one-of-a-kind statement pieces that you usually have to scrounge around garage sales for—and they’re all in one place. Refurbished dressers and dining room tables, Depression-era glass and milk cans can all be found without having to wander the endless aisles of the flea market. Plus, you can snack on popcorn fresh from the classic movie house popcorn machine as you shop. // 2670 North Main St. (Walnut Creek), shabbycreekonmain.com