Vacaville, California serves as a bridge between Northern California's coastal and inland realms, between the brimming-with-tech Bay Area and the scenic Sacramento Valley, tucked against the southern foot of the English Hills and along the eastern base of the taller Vaca Mountains. Sacramento and San Francisco are both within an hour's drive, closer yet the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma as well as the Suisan Valley on the other side of the Vacas. Such proximity reveals Vacaville to be still very much an important crossroads of Northern California, as it was as a Pony Express stop back in the day. Set right along I-80, it's both jumping-off point and immensely rewarding destination in and of itself.
Ranching and farming were, and still are, foundations of Vacaville's early economy—just head to any farm stand to see what we’re talking about. It became a township in 1851 and a city in 1892, though its oldest standing building, the Peña Adobe, predates its earliest official establishment. You can visit that 1842-vintage building of redwood and mud-brick construction in Lagoon Valley Park. Other historic touchstones include Vacaville's town hall and the site of the Nut Tree, a popular fruit stand and roadside tourist attraction opened in the 1920s and now reborn as a retail and entertainment village. The Nut Tree Airport has history on display at the Center for Freedom & Flight, home to some fetching old-school aircraft. And for more on the area's heritage, be sure to check out the lovely Vacaville Museum, focused not just on the city itself but all of Solano County.
The aforementioned Lagoon Valley Park provides one of the standout recreational destinations in Vacaville, offering extensive hiking, biking, and non-motorized boating on its shallow lake. The foothill views here are soul-stirring. Given its farm- and vineyard-rich foodshed (and reputation as formative ground for modern California cuisine), it's no surprise you've got some fine dining options at your disposal in Vacaville. And the homegrown arts-and-culture scene is plenty vibrant, what with wonderful local outfits such as the Vacaville Ballet Company and Solano Community Symphony, venues such as the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre and Starbound Theatre, and numerous art studios and galleries.
And then there are the annual events, such as Fiesta Days—a food- and tunes-rich celebration of the city's Hispanic heritage over Memorial Day weekend—and the holidaytime Festival of Trees. Vacaville has history to share, some beautiful landscapes of the Inner Coast Range and Central Valley as its neck of the woods, and a vibrant banquet of arts, culture, and epicurean delights. Enjoy it as a springboard to Bay Area cities and wine country, by all means—but also as its very own, unique kind of Northern California destination!
Nut Tree Plaza
New Incarnation of Longtime Pitstop