In the East Bay town of Lafayette, it's a straight shot down Mt. Diablo Boulevard from the "Res" to Margaret and Elam Brown Plaza, but savvy travelers can devote the day to getting there.
Start at the boulevard's west end. The "Res," as the Lafayette Reservoir is affectionately known, is one of the East Bay's best multiuse recreational sites. There you're bound to find locals strolling around a duck-filled lake along the paved 2.7-mile Lakeside Trail. If you're feeling ambitious, tackle the 4.7-mile Rim Trail; your reward will be stunning views of Mt. Diablo and the surrounding foothills.
Next, head east for a walking tour of downtown. Indulge in a piece of warm coffee cake from Millie's Kitchen (1018 Oak Hill Rd.; 925/283-2397). For a good cup of coffee, those in the know head to Papillon Quality Gourmet Coffees (67 Lafayette Circle; 925/283-0466). Once you're wired, catch a flick at the vintage-1941 Park Theater (3519 Golden Gate Way; 925/283-7997).
Time your visit for the weekend of September 14-15, during the 7th annual Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, featuring 200-plus stalls offering arts and crafts, food, wines, and microbrews.
Or just visit on a weekday, when the town feels more like the humble hamlet it's always been. Fifty-year resident Mary McCosker, co-author of A Town Called Lafayette, recommends heading farther west to the plaza dedicated to town founders Margaret and Elam Brown (at Moraga Rd. and Mount Diablo Blvd.). Look for the grist stone from Brown's mill, Lafayette's first business. "Before the mill was built, local farmers had to travel to San Jose―a journey of several days―to grind their grain to flour," McCosker says.
Across Moraga Road, a plaque commemorates Pony Express riders who stopped en route from San Francisco to Missouri to pick up fresh horses. They had good reason to stop in Lafayette. These days, so do you.
Paddle around the "Res" and feel worlds away from the hubbub of the East Bay.
WHERE: From State 24, take the Oak Hill Rd. exit from the west or the Central Lafayette/Moraga exit from the east and follow festival signs; or take BART to Lafayette station. To reach the reservoir from downtown Lafayette, head west on Mount Diablo Blvd. and look for an entrance on your left.
COST: Reservoir: $5. Festival: free.
FYI: A free round-trip shuttle runs from the Lafayette BART station on festival days.
CONTACT: Reservoir: (925) 284-9669. Lafayette Chamber of Commerce: (925) 284-7404 or www.lafayettechamber.org.