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Pleasant Hill

This East Bay town offers easy access to family fun and wine country—and a passion for one certain sport

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With its solid array of mainstream hotels, Pleasant Hill makes a perfect launching pad for adventures in any direction. San Francisco is just 20 miles away—an easy trip on BART. Oakland and Berkeley are even closer, as are family crowd-pleasers Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, and historic spots such as the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site and The Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. And then there’s the Livermore Valley wine region, in the neighboring Tri-Valley region. Its wine-making tradition goes back to the 1840s, and it’s now home to more than 50 wineries, including famous labels such as Wente Vineyards and Concannon Vineyard.

To explore Pleasant Hill itself, start by walking around City Hall Lawn: The downtown headquarters were designed by famed postmodern architect Charles Moore, and its adjacent lake is occupied by about 40 turtles. On many Wednesday evenings, food trucks park by the lake, while summer typically brings a concert series.

For more dining options, head to the Poet’s Corner neighborhood, where many streets are named for bards (Shelley, Byron, etc.). Get breakfast goodies at Latte Da, California cuisine and paired wines at Wence’s, or Italian cuisine, cocktails, and live music at speakeasy-style WiseGirl.

Pleasant Hill dubs itself as “the Bay Area’s backyard,” and it has several parks to prove it. Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center, for instance, is home to an 1867 farmhouse and hosts demos on sustainable gardening, while Dinosaur Hill Park has views of Mount Diablo, 17 miles away. Rodgers-Smith Park has a lighted bocce court—a reminder that this area has the largest bocce ball league in the U.S., so you can play or boost your game just by observing locals.