Neighborhoods of restored Victorians, pocket parks, a thriving downtown bursting with local art and independent restaurants ― this hardly sounds like your average exit off the interstate. That's why the small town of Winters is a refreshing mini detour just off I-505. Walk the downtown's five blocks and discover a friendly community boasting good eats, art galleries, quirky shops, and live music. A busy Art Walk is held on the first Saturday of each month (noon-6 on April 7, 2007), but you'll find a proud local spirit anytime.
Winters is about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco and 30 miles west of Sacramento. From I-80, take I-505 north for 10 miles and exit on State 128; go west about a mile to downtown. Visit www.wintersca.net for general information.
The Palms Playhouse A live-music venue (in the former opera house) featuring eclectic, nationally known acts. INFO: Tickets from $15; 13 Main St.; www.palmsplayhouse.com; 530/795-1825.
Putah Creek Nature Park Head to the century-old trestle bridge to find a wilder walk on the trails along Putah Creek. INFO: Off Railroad Ave., just south of the Winters Community Center.
Velo City Bicycle Center Spring is the perfect time for cycling (or a country drive) on the bucolic, rolling backroads around Winters, especially in the hills to the west. If you're looking for a good route, stop in at Velo City Bicycle Center; the friendly folks there will be happy to advise you. INFO: 41 Main St.; www.velocitybicycles.com; 530/795-3454.
Briggs & Co. A funky art gallery and garden shop north of downtown, with a cool old bus in the courtyard. INFO: Closed Sun-Tue; 820 Railroad Ave.; 530/795-9505.
Ficelle Sisters Marianne Washabaugh and Joanne Knudson serve homey weekday lunches; on Friday evenings, crowds line up for tapas and sangria. INFO: $; 11-2:30 Tue-Fri, tapas 6:30-10 Fri (call for additional hours); 5C E. Main St.; 530/795-9593.
Putah Creek Café & Bakery With bright oilcloth tablecloths and hearty from-scratch country breakfasts, this busy spot is a great place to start your day. INFO: $; 1 Main St.; 530/795-2682.
Buckhorn Steak & Roadhouse Meaty classics like steak, prime rib, and lamb. INFO: $$$; 210 Railroad Ave.; 530/795-4503.
Berryessa Gap Vineyards In the tasting room, owner Dan Martinez chats about pours of estate-grown local wines. INFO: 4-8 Fri-Sat and by appointment; 15 Main St.; www.berryessagap.com; 530/795-3201. Second location at 27260 State 128.