Picnic in Lafayette

Spend a day by the reservoir in Northern California's East Bay
Kendra Smith

With a scarcity of sidewalks and a welcoming spirit, Lafayette is a little bit country. Walk around the quiet reservoir for a calming retreat, or bring the kids, the bikes, and the dog, and have a picnic. But Lafayette isn't all rustic charm: Downtown has some city-style shopping and dining. Plus, during summer's dog days, Lafayette Circle and La Fiesta Square are shielded from the rays by ancient, arching oaks.

On a sultry evening, a restaurant table outdoors is just the spot to cap the day.

GETTING THERE

From eastbound State 24, exit Oak Hill Rd. and turn right to get to Mount Diablo Blvd.

GO

Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area A 2.7-mile paved trail dips and crests around this reservoir; the large lawn and playground east of the main parking lot offer pretty lake views. Bikes and skates are welcome Sundays before 11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays after noon. INFO: $6 per vehicle; 925/284-9669.

   
 
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SHOP

Keenan Heinz Company The store slogan, "Really cool stuff for home and garden," says it true. You'll find garden pots, Craftsman-look rockers made in a Peruvian monastery, and more. INFO: 3454 Mount Diablo Blvd.; 925/284-0159.

Hen House This tiny antiques enclave keeps intermittent hours, but if you find the cottage's door open, walk inside for glittery, romantic wares. INFO: Closed Fri and Sun; 20 Lafayette Circle; 925/962-1776.

Nitro Dog A town that loves its pups wouldn't be complete without a chic pet boutique. INFO: 61 Lafayette Circle; 925/962-2275.

EAT

Chow Residents count on this cafe for great classics with a twist — like burgers on baguettes. Pick up salads, cheese, and bread at the market for a picnic. INFO: $$; 53 Lafayette Circle; 925/962-2469.

Bo's Barbecue With ribs, potato salad, and corn on the cob, enjoy Acme sourdough, an organic salad, and a Lodi Zin. Listen to live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings on the rebuilt deck outside. INFO: $$; closed Sun; 3422 Mount Diablo Blvd.; 925/283-7133.

STAY OVERNIGHT

Styled like a French château and enhanced by the owner's love of 'round-the-world collecting, the Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa (from $199; 866/925-0222) features Sunday brunch, an intimate day spa, and a pool area with summer table service.