For anyone itching to get away from all the hustle and bustle of city life and wanting to spend a day in a quiet community filled with great food and family-friendly activities, Pleasanton is the place to go. Formerly a cowboy town, Pleasanton has one of the most picturesque little downtown areas in the Bay Area.
Start the day at Inklings Coffee & Tea, right in the middle of Main Street, a unique place with tons of character, a welcoming atmosphere, and plenty of cozy nooks to curl up in with a good book—or to sit in and chat. Modeled after the pub where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their buddies used to meet to critique each other’s writing, Inklings is a quirky, comfy space to sit in and sip awhile. For something more hearty than specialty coffee and a homemade pastry, people can walk a few blocks down to Cafe Main, a homey spot that serves gourmet comfort food, smoothies, and adult beverages all day long.
After breakfast, visitors are often in the mood to stretch their legs. For anyone who happens to be visiting on a Saturday morning, heading across the street to browse the charming Farmers’ Market held there year-round is an option. If a trade show or festival is being hosted at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, hopping on over there might be another great option. For families who have little ones with them, perhaps exploring one of the many parks sprinkled throughout the city is the way to go. Nearby Bernal Community Park has fun play structures, a zip line, several sports fields, picnic benches, and walking trails for folks of all ages to enjoy. For a more intense athletic endeavor, people can bring some hiking shoes or a trail bike along and hit the trails over at the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. With staging grounds just a 10-minute drive from downtown, the ridge has over 5,200 acres of pastoral, oak-covered hills waiting to be explored.
Whatever the activity, visitors will definitely need something cool and yummy afterwards. By just heading back toward downtown, people can grab a couple of soft-serve ice cream cones at the convenient drive-through Meadowlark Dairy. It’s a place with history—family-owned since the 1960s, and one of the few drive-throughs left of its kind.
After a tasty treat, visitors might be interested in checking out a couple of the shops on Main Street. Looking for shoes or clothing? Try Therapy for a fun selection. Prefer to browse fine art, handcrafted jewelry, or glass and sculpture? In that case, Studio Seven Arts is just the thing. Also along Main Street is a locally owned bookstore, a boutique pet store, a western apparel shop, and an eclectic toy store.
Anyone in the mood for some high-quality live entertainment, won’t need to look any further than Pleasanton’s Firehouse Arts Center, a gorgeously designed cultural arts center that features a 221-seat theater, fine arts in the Harrington Art Gallery, and a classroom space. Located just a block away from Main Street in what used to be the city’s original fire station, the arts center showcases performances of all sorts throughout the year.
With all that hiking and shopping, or forays into the arts, it’s undoubtedly time for a meal. One great option is to stroll down to Gay Nineties Pizza, a nostalgic pizza joint with red-leather-lined booths, antique lamps, and historical memorabilia lining the walls. They’ve also got great patio seating for eating their delicious sourdough specialty pizza al fresco.
Prefer some local craft beer? Head down to Handles Gastropub at the opposite end of Main Street. Located inside the historic Pleasanton Hotel, Handles has 30 beers and 16 wines rotating on tap and prides itself on serving high-quality, farm-fresh American cuisine. The “OMG Meatloaf” is one local favorite. The meal can be enjoyed on the delightful tree-covered patio, or diners can relax inside the classy, pub-like dining room. As an added bonus, Handles hosts live music regularly, all year long.
After a day spent exploring just a bit of what Pleasanton has to offer, it will be easy to see why so many young families choose to put down roots here. A restful, slow-paced town just a stone’s throw from the thrills that the rest of the Bay Area offers, Pleasanton is an absolute gem.
Just 25 miles north of San Jose, Pleasanton is a quiet little city nestled between some hike-friendly foothills to the west and winery-rich countryside to the east. Originally an outpost where desperados took refuge after plundering those heading home from gold rush hills, Pleasanton is now a lovely, affluent community where folks from all over come to settle down.
Pleasanton Population: 70,285
Places to Visit in Pleasanton
Written by Kristi Clubb
Photography by Daniel Garcia
This article originally appeared in Issue 9.4 “Perform”