Get a jump on seasonal shopping in the chic North Main boutique district
The oh-so-appropriate strains of Madonna's "Material Girl" float out of a shop. While you wait for a cappuccino, a pretty fashionista asks who designed your handbag.
That's downtown Walnut Creek, where North Main Street overflows with designer threads, deluxe consignment shops, and diverse eats.
Go to score gifts for friends or the perfect party frock for you, and enjoy a stroll and a glass of wine amid the preholiday bustle.
Walnut Creek is at the junction of I-680 and State 24. From I-680, exit N. Main St. and follow signs to downtown. Or take BART; a handy free shuttle runs from the station to the shopping district.
Breads of India & Gourmet Curries A menu of regional Indian dishes that changes daily makes this an ideal lunch stop. Don't miss the fresh tandoor-puffed breads. INFO: $; closed Mon; 1358 N. Main St.; 925/256-7684.
Havana Cuban Cuisine Invoke the tropics with mojitos, California-Caribbean plates - from halibut ceviche to a Cuban sandwich - and a beach-shack-gone-smartly-upscale dining room. INFO: $$; 1516 Bonanza St.; 925/939-4555.
Deliciouz You'll be drawn in by the shop's bright colors and seduced by hard-to-find shoes, including Italian and Spanish lines that owner Tamara Vladic describes as "funky, but comfortable and functional." INFO: 1506 N. Main St.; 925/933-7489.
Jeu.de.jupe This intimate atelier offers an all-European selection of sophisticated, edgy clothes from such lines as MC Planet, Save the Queen, and One Step. INFO: 1519 N. Main St.; 925/932-8122.
Samantha Lee The girly decor - crystal sconces, silver-metallic flooring, and robin's-egg-blue tables with marble tops - is as glamorous as the denim and cashmere at this local fave, recently relocated and expanded to include mod party dresses and housewares. INFO: 1388 N. Main St.; 925/935-5502.
Va de Vi Guess the mystery flight, or taste from the iconoclastic lineup at this wine bar, which also offers small plates, perfect for dinner or as a reviving mid-shopping snack. INFO: $$; 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd.; 925/979-0100.
Just blocks from the browsing, downtown's Civic Park, at the corner of Civic Dr. and Broadway, mutates into a twinkly ice-skating rink each November. To get into the spirit of winter, lace up your skates and show off your best moves. Even if your double axel is rusty, it's still fun to watch the skaters twirl. INFO: Opens Nov 8; from $10; 1375 Civic Dr.; iceskatewalnutcreek.com or 925/935-7669.