The real thing: Danville has great shopping, dining, and a sense of the past.
"They wanted to do the whole town in this fashion," says Greta Kemp, a Museum of the San Ramon Valley docent. "The plan was rejected."
Kemp is standing in front of the faux-historic jail, which is still in the courtyard of the genuinely historic Danville Hotel business complex. The meeting of the true past with theatrical imitation makes a nice metaphor for all of Danville, which prizes its heritage but doesn't mind having fun with it.
Touring the town
Start your Danville day at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, which occupies an 1891 Southern Pacific Railroad depot. Several museum docents come from pioneer families and will happily share gossip about Danville's past. The museum also sponsors walking tours highlighting the fine architecture found here--notably, Victorian and Craftsman homes.
Downtown shopping is upscale yet diverse. One character-filled stop is Father Nature's Shed, a garden/gift shop with an adjoining restaurant, Father Nature's. Another good shop is Outside Interests, which sells outdoor gear and organizes regular outings on local and far-flung trails.
As for dining, Danville has gone far beyond Wild West grub. Both 301 Bistro and Bridges Restaurant & Bar are popular for fusion cuisine, and Rising Loafer Cafe & Bakery is a favorite for coffee and baked goods.
One of Danville's most famous residents was a man who rarely came into town: Eugene O'Neill, who lived with his wife, Carlotta, in his hillside Tao House from 1937 to 1944. It was here that O'Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night. Reopened in May after seismic retrofitting, the rambling home, now part of the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, is viewable on guided tours.
This month (September 25-28), the National Park Service and the Eugene O'Neill Foundation will put on the fourth annual Eugene O'Neill Festival, which features O'Neill, the Rhythms of His Soul, a revue of the songs from O'Neill's plays. The festival's a fine event for a town that knows that both real and theatrical have merit.
Danville is 40 miles east of San Francisco, in the San Ramon Valley. From 1-680, take the Diablo Rd. exit and head west to Hartz Ave.
Eugene O'Neill Festival 2003. Musical revue at the Village Theatre, Sop 25-28; (925) 820-1818.
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. 2 1/2-hour tours 10-12:30, 12:30-3 Wed-Sun; free, reservations required. (925) 838-0249.
Museum of the San Ramon Valley. 1-4 Tue-Fri, 10-1 Sat, downtown tours given as schedule permits; admission by donation. 205 Railroad Ave. at Prospect Ave.; (925) 837-3750.
Bridges Restaurant & Bar. Dinner Tue-Sat. 44 Church St.; (925) 820-7200.
Father Nature's. Closed Sun. 178 E. Prospect St.; (925) 820-3160.
Rising Loafer Cafe & Bakery. 340 Hartz; (925) 838-8800.
301 Bistro, Dinner daily, lunch Mon-Fri. 301 Hartz, Ste. 103; (925) 820-6996.
Father Nature's Shed. Closed Sun. 172 E. Prospect; (925) 820-44 71.
Outside Interests, 422 Hartz; www.outsideinterests. com or (925) 837-1230.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2003|
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