The grape-growing, hops-centric Golden State has an abundance of wine and beer trails to explore, but with creative chefs and a locavore mindset, more culinary tours are emerging for visitors to taste local foods.
One such irresistible tour is the Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail, which includes 14 stops throughout four East Bay communities, located about 35 minutes east of San Francisco.
"Ice cream is everywhere in the Tri-Valley and we could not think of a better or happier way to connect the four towns of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and Danville," says Robin Fahr of Visit Tri-Valley. "Summer [here] reminds a lot of people of their childhood, with kids playing outside, folks walking their dogs, and warm evenings spent dining al fresco in our charming downtowns. Strolling with a cone or cup after dinner is the epitome of the Tri-Valley."
You can download the Ice Cream Trail Passport for an added feel-good benefit through Labor Day: If you earn five tasting stamps, Visit Tri-Valley will donate $5 to the Valley Humane Society. (Alternatively, you can post five ice cream pics to Instagram and tag @visittrivalley and #trivalleyscoop for the same donation.)
If you’re worried about flavor fatigue—don’t be. The trail offers a surprising amount of variety.
Head to Danville to create your own masterpiece at BlooGrape Organic Sworls, where you can top locally-made scoops with rose petals, bee pollen, or fresh mint, and drizzle it with Meyer lemon or coconut nectar. In Dublin, don’t miss the ice-cream-filled donuts at The Mix Creamery, or venture out of your comfort zone and taste concoctions like Flamin’ Lime, made with lime ice cream and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
In Livermore, choose the cookie and your favorite ice cream flavor at CREAM, or try the almost-too-pretty-to-eat flower-shaped gelato at nearby Armorino Gelato Al Naturale. If you're in the mood for something light, sample the four-flavor Ice Flights at Rita’s Italian Ice in Pleasanton. Nearby, at Meadowlark Dairy, cruise through the drive-thru for a towering soft serve cone from the iconic 1900s dairy farm.
After a full day of ice cream tasting, you may be inclined to off-set those calories with some outdoor activities. Take a self-guided bike tour around the scenic Livermore Valley wine country, play a round of golf, kayak and swim around Lake Del Valle, or hike around Mt. Diablo State Park up to the Bay Area's highest mountain range.