I love college towns. With the exception of my high school years (which were spent in Marin), I have always lived within miles of a University campus. The energy that students and faculty bring to the community is so refreshing and there always seems to be something happening when the school year is in session. One college town that is near and dear to my heart is Davis, CA. My husband and I are both graduates of UC Davis and it is one of our favorite places to escape to with the kids for the day.
Our first stop is always the Davis Farmers Market, which was voted "America's Favorite Farmer's Market" in 2009 and is located in the downtown's Central Park. The market offers a wide selection of farm-fresh produce, local artisan goods and prepared food from a handful of Davis eateries. The real highlight of the market to me, however, is the huge open lawn that is always dotted with picnic blankets and market-goers relaxing in the sun. This is one of my happy places - that place we all have bookmarked in our heads where we can feel perfectly at ease and things just seem to slow down. I think it must be a happy place for my children as well, because it's one of the rare times that they seem content sitting on a blanket and taking in their surroundings.
|We happened to be at the market on Pig Day, which is annual event that includes a petting zoo and fun pig-themed craft tables for the kids.|
|The craft tables were so much fun for our 3.5 year old.|
|If you are looking to fuel up, try Pachamama Coffee, which is a coffee cooperative that represents small-scale coffee farmers from around the world and offers small batch organic coffee by the cup as well as beans by the pound. They had some great promotions when we were there, one of which included a free cup of iced coffee with any purchase over $12 - so we got a delicious iced coffee and a pound of beans for $14 (not bad!).|
After having lunch at the market, we hopped in the car and took the very short drive to the UC Davis Arboretum. The gardens cover over 100 acres and include a 3.5 mile pathway that loops around the Arboretum Waterway, which used to be part of the Putah Creek before it was diverted south of Davis. This is a really beautiful way to spend the afternoon. We walked along the paths, admiring the plants and spotting dozens of turtles as well as lizards, squirrels and hummingbirds. The paths are safe for walking, running and bike riding and there are plenty of opportunities to rest along the way.
|Check out some of the turtles!!|
After exploring the Arboretum for a couple of hours, we set out for our next destination, the Berryessa Brewing Company, located in the nearby town of Winters, CA. The drive from Davis to Winters is about 20 minutes along a country road that links the two towns (and a perfect opportunity for the kids to take a nap!).
|Berryessa Brewing is a few miles from Main street in Winters, and has a picturesque country setting.|
|The Brewery has lots of outdoor seating and is very family friendly with a bocce ball court, Jenga, bags (a popular lawn game) and live music on the weekends.|
|The kids were a little foggy after waking up from their naps, but quickly settled in and enjoyed the live music!|
|The Buckhorn Steakhouse is housed in the ground floor of this historical building built in 1889.|
Adjacent to the downtown shops is the Putah Creek Nature trail, where we spent some time skipping rocks in the creek. The trails and paths along the creek were so peaceful, with additional bike paths currently being built.
|This old railway bridge was in disrepair before the city restored it into a walking path.|
After hearing about this "amazing tapas restaurant" from several people, both here in the Bay Area and in Davis, we decided to eat dinner at Ficelle's. We arrived minutes before they opened and despite the 20 or so people already waiting in line, we were able to grab a table outside and order soon after they opened their doors. The food and ambiance were great and we really enjoyed sitting outdoors, enjoying the warm evening that we don't often get in Berkeley. (Sorry I don't have any pictures of the food, the battery on my camera died!) We will look forward to returning to Winters in the future!
Interested in exploring UC Davis? Check out their annual open house, otherwise known as Picnic Day...it's tons of fun for the whole family.
What are some of your favorite small towns in California?
The details: Davis and Winters are both about an hours drive from Berkeley. There is plenty of free parking near the Farmer's Market in Davis, and parking is free in most UC Davis lots on the weekends. The Farmers Market is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. If you miss it, the downtown shops are another great spot to visit, as well as the UC Davis campus (that will be another post someday!). I suggest parking near the Putah Creek Lodge if you visit the Arboretum. It is a nice mid-way point to explore the entire Arboretum and there is parking right near the bridge that crosses over the Arboretum Waterway. Want more tips on your trip to Davis? Leave a comment and I am happy to help!
The facts: Gas/Toll: $15, Farmer's Market purchases: Quart of fresh apple juice ($3), Breakfast Sandwich from Fat Face stand and Indian Curry dish from Kathmandu Kitchen stand ($14 total), Iced Coffee and 1lb. Coffee Beans at Pachamama ($14), 2 Pints at Berryessa Brewing ($12 after tip), Dinner at Ficelle ($32).