Why go in summer: Coast-cooled weather and a drive-worthy farmers' market at its peak.
Some locals call it: The Pool
Dress code: So casual, even tie-dye's on view.
Ground zero: The Town Plaza is where the action is ― especially on a summer Sunday. Watch as the entire community comes out of the woodwork to play catch up at the farmers' market.
Best brunch on wheels: Yes, Mateo Granados's "mobile kitchen" (7–2 Sun; Sebastopol Town Plaza, Petaluma Ave./State 116 at Weeks Way), at the farmers' market, is a taco truck. But he draws on skills picked up at San Francisco's Masa's and Rubicon to create eye-openers like tamales with suckling pig, and huevos rancheros with black-bean purée, Bodega Bay goat cheese, and homemade salsa.
Cool off: Float and splash your way through the redwoods on the Russian River, about 14 more miles up State 116.
Next: What to do and where to eat in Sebastopol
1. Worth-a-drive produce
The Sebastopol Farm Market isn't huge, but it falls squarely in the "worth a drive" category. Some of Northern California's best growers show up with the goods you'll need to eat absurdly well all week. Woodleaf Farm has peaches like you remember them, and Middleton Farm's strawberries are so sweet, you'll swear every other you've had was a fake. 10–1:30 Sun through Nov 29; Sebastopol Town Plaza, Petaluma Ave./State 116 at Weeks Way; 707/522-9305.
2. A backroads drive
If you've only seen Sebastopol from State 116, a cruise up into the less-traveled hills gives you new reasons to love the place. Our favorite is a 14-mile route that starts at Florence Avenue, which acts as a neighborhood-wide outdoor gallery of the madcap sculptures fashioned by local artists Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent out of bits of junk. Outside town, you'll climb up, up, up, then plunge into a pastoral valley and pass over trickling Atascadero Creek.
3. The best ice cream around
Local institution Screamin' Mimi's serves seriously good, all-natural ice cream that's priced by weight ― 62 cents per ounce ― so mix and match as you like. 6902 Sebastopol Ave.; 707/823-5902.
4. The dinner rez to get
The buzz surrounding the year-old Restaurant Eloise has reached a fever pitch. Fans make the pilgrimage from the Bay Area and beyond for beauties like egg-yolk ravioli with peas, black truffle, and local butter. After peach ice cream with almond madeleines, step into the gardens, where produce for the kitchen is grown. $$$; 2295 Gravenstein Hwy. S./State 116; 707/823-6300.
Next: 3 more markets worth a stop
3 more markets worth a stop
In the Central Valley Farmland-ringed Winters, about 14 miles north of Vacaville on Interstate 505, has always been a refreshing road-trip break for galleries, cycling, and restaurants. The new farmers' market adds more reasons to stop: local melons, corn, tomatoes, olive oil, and wine. You can't miss the 20-plus stalls close to restaurants like the Buckhorn Steakhouse (which also cooks at the market under the name Putah Creek Cafe). 8–12 Sun through Oct 25; Rotary Park, Main St. at Railroad Ave.; wintersfarmersmarket.com
In the East Bay From knife sharpening and music to barbecue and snow cones, the Walnut Creek market ― Contra Costa's biggest, with close to 80 vendors ― supplements summer fruits and vegetables with plenty to do. Bought more than you can carry? Drop off your produce at the Veggie Valet table while you fetch your car. 8–1 Sun (9–1 Nov–Apr); N. Locust St. between Giamona St. and Lacassie Ave.; cccfm.org
On the Peninsula coast The Coastside Farmers' Market in Half Moon Bay is on State 1, making it a perfect stop on the way to the beach. Pick up picnic fixings, like goat cheese from Pescadero's Harley Farms and vegetables from "Farmer John" Muller of Daylight Farms (also Half Moon Bay's mayor). 9–1 Sat through Dec 19; Shoreline Station, Cabrillo Hwy. S./State 1 at Kelly Ave. –Kate Washington
More: 20 perfect summer trips