So right about now you’re probably wondering where in the world is Tri-Valley? Almost every time we mentioned to friends that we were traveling to Tri-Valley for a Northern California weekend getaway, we received blank stares and the questions of where is Tri-Valley, and what is there to do there. To be honest, other than knowing of the city of Livermore because my stepdad lived there for years, when I visited the Tri-Valley booth at the San Diego Travel & Adventure Show, I really knew very little about the region, but I was intrigued, especially when I learned it has one of California’s oldest wine regions.
Tri-Valley is a grouping of charming California towns in Northern California only 33 miles east of San Francisco and within easy traveling distance from the Oakland and San Jose airports. Tri-Valley is called the sunny side of the bay because even with its close proximity to San Francisco, the hills that separate the valley from the bay mean the Tri-Valley area is usually warmer and drier than its neighbor to the west. Tri-Valley is also near Silicon Valley, meaning it has large laboratories and company campuses, with business travelers traveling to the area during the week. But the Tri-Valley area offers a lot of things to do for the weekend traveler, including wine country, a beer trail, museums, shopping, and world-class dining, making it the perfect Northern California weekend getaway destination.
Livermore Wine Country
Livermore Valley is one of California’s oldest wine regions. There are currently over 40 wineries in the Tri-Valley area, most located in Livermore. Many of the wineries are small, some in the middle of grape vineyards and others located in industrial parks. Other wineries are large, like Wente and Concannon, which are also the oldest wineries in the region, being the only survivors of Prohibition. We visited Charles R Vineyards, Big White House and John Even Cellars and Tasting Room, and Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting Room in the middle of Livermore’s vineyards and Nottingham Cellars in a Livermore business park. A very unique experience is the winemakers blending experience at Wente’s Winemakers Studio. We took the two hour class where we learned the intricacies of tasting wine and then tasted seven different wines before coming up with our perfect blend specifically designed for our personal tastes.
Related: Uncork Your Inner Wine Geek at Wente’s Winemakers Studio
Tri-Valley Beer Trail
Tri-Valley doesn’t just have wine. It also has craft beer. Tri-Valley has joined the craft beer movement with a number of new craft microbreweries and brewpubs. Visitors can make a game of beer drinking by downloading the Tri-Valley Beer Trail Passport and visiting 10 of the 15 participants, getting stamped, and turning in the passport for a Tri-Valley Beer Trail t-shirt. Ten locations might be a bit hard to fit into just one weekend getaway, so save the passport for the next weekend vacation. We visited Working Man Brewing Company and Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar so we could experience one of Tri-Valley’s breweries and one of their beer pubs. The Tri-Valley breweries are crafting quite a diverse and exciting collection of craft beers.
Related: Craft Beer Tasting Along the Tri-Valley Beer Trail
Blackhawk Automotive Museum
There are a handful of museums throughout the Tri-Valley area, like the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville and the Museum on Main Street in Pleasanton, but the museum you must visit, whether or not cars are your thing, is the Blackhawk Automotive Museum. The Blackhawk Automotive Museum isn’t just a room filled with old cars. It has been likened to a display of sparkling jewels. When we walked through the entrance we were struck by the enormous room of shining black floors, black walls, and black ceiling, filled with jewel-toned automobiles shining under the spotlights. The car museum contains international automotive treasures described as rolling sculptures. I am not a car enthusiast, but I enjoyed walking through the aisles of cars, examining the glowing colors, and imagining riding around in these vehicles through the eras and countries from which they came. Romeo, on the other hand, is a car enthusiast, and could have stayed for hours, and would have returned the other days too.
Cars aren’t the only items on display at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum. A special exhibit on during our visit was the European Train Enthusiasts: Operating Model Train Display. This is an exhibit that has been returning to the Blackhawk Automotive Museum for 14 years during the holiday season. This year they started an interactive component. We answered ten multiple choice questions on a card plus a bonus question based on our observations of the various displays along the model train route. A drawing will be held and the winner will receive a year’s family membership to the museum. While this activity is geared for kids, it’s a whole lot of fun for visitors of all ages. We spent far longer in the exhibit than we would have otherwise, having fun counting farm tractors and looking for what musical instruments were being played near the hot air balloons, which had the added effect of making us notice intricacies of the display we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Other exhibits included a display of rolling machines of another kind, wheelchairs through the ages, an exhibit of the spirit of the old west, and an exhibit of juke boxes.
Danville’s Hartz Avenue
Pleasanton’s Main Street
Livermore Premium Outlets
Dining in Tri-Valley
So a foot massage obviously isn’t dining, but it can actually be part of the dining experience in a roundabout way. Foot Logic is also in the Ulferts Center and is the perfect ending to a good meal. After our dinner at Pamir Afghan Food we stopped in at Foot Logic and were treated to a 30-minute foot reflexology massage. Romeo has never had a professional massage in his life and has never had any desire to do so, but he decided to give a session of foot reflexology a whirl and not only enjoyed it, but is now open to trying it again!
Tri-Valley has more than enough activities to fill one weekend and a few more. We did a lot, but still weren’t able to experience all of what Northern California’s charming weekend getaway destination has to offer. There are also golf courses, hiking trails, and plenty more wineries, breweries, and restaurants to try. Tri-Valley is an easy and inexpensive weekend getaway for Californians, and travelers from farther out will want to include a few days in Tri-Valley’s quaint towns and wine country in their Northern California travel itinerary.