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Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

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With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just east of San Francisco Bay. Home to one of California’s oldest wine regions, this protected, sunny valley has a relaxed appeal that feels like an insider’s secret. Take a mellow drive along country roads to choose from more than 50 wineries, with settings ranging from the rustic barnlike building at Mitchell Katz Winery to the lavish gardens, celebrated restaurant, and art-filled tasting room at elegant Wente Vineyards. Or hop on a bike to see Livermore wine country on two wheels. This self-guided 27-mile bike tour stops at The Olive Oil Pantry & Tasting RoomNottingham CellarsConcannon Vineyard, and many more.

Aficionados of that other libation California is known for—beer—are in for a treat here as well. The Livermore Valley has an impressive lineup of breweries, including Altamont Beer WorksPennyweight Craft Brewing, and Shadow Puppet. Visitors can take a tour of these and many other of the best hops-spots the region has to offer on the Tri-Valley Beer Trail. Sign up for the free program and you’ll receive exclusive deals, sent to your phone, that can be used at more than 15 local brew locations in communities including Livermore, Danville, Pleasanton, and Dublin.

While the off-the-radar quality of Livermore Valley has unhurried appeal, it’s also got an intellectual side. The town of Livermore is home to the sprawling Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a renowned science and technology center, so there’s an undercurrent of sophisticated savvy too. For visitors, that means you can browse for Stetsons and cowboy boots inside Baughman’s Western Outfitters, then relax under twinkly lights on the patio of Blacksmith Square, home to several tasting rooms pouring local vintages.

Livermore, within commuting distance of San Francisco, is also very much a family town, with festivals, farmers markets, flag-waving parades and other fun events throughout the year. Take the Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail as an example—what family wouldn’t like a reason to visit five different ice creameries, submit photos of each treat enjoyed, and get rewarded for it? The second weekend in June brings the Livermore Rodeo, with plenty of ropin’, ridin’, plus barrel races, bull riding, and special kids’ events.

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