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Note: Visit Tri-Valley graciously hosted me for a long weekend in exchange for blog coverage. As always, all opinions are my own, and it is my main priority to truthfully write about my experiences.
Like many others, my Bay Area travel experiences were once limited to San Francisco.
Now don’t get me wrong. I adore San Francisco for solo female travel and think that everyone should visit this city at least once. I mean, who doesn’t love the Golden Gate Bridge?
However, on my epic return trip to California, I had the pleasure of embracing new places that casual tourists miss, as they zip through the most popular destinations.
As most of you know, the majority of the time I travel alone. Solo travel is part of who I am.
And although the big cities offer a lot in terms of museums, food, and hotels, whenever I explore beyond the typical tourist trail, I’m always surprised and delightful by warm people and unique attractions.
Danville was warm. Actually, Danville is a perfect oasis for solo travelers looking to learn local history that isn’t splashed on the cover of every big travel publication.
So, in this travel guide, I am going to talk about all the amazing things to do in Danville CA, and I hope you will consider it as a stop for your next northern California getaway.
Why Danville? Mainly because (as a New Jersey gal), I had never heard of Danville prior to visiting the Tri-Valley and was impressed by each and every museum, meal, and shop.
Let’s get planning, shall we?
Danville CA Travel Tips
Now, before I discuss the best things to do in Danville CA, I wanted to cover some basic travel tips to ensure a wonderful and memorable vacation.
Danville (and Tri-Valley) is a relaxing place to visit for solo travelers, girlfriends, and families, but it still never hurts to prepare ahead of time and avoid any surprises!
How to Get to Danville
Are you flying into the Bay Area? No problem!
If you plan to visit Danville (and Tri-Valley in general), the nearest big airports are San Francisco, Oakland, and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airports.
I personally flew into SFO, which is a convenient stop on the BART rail system that takes you all the way to Dublin in Tri-Valley.
I will say, though, that reliable public transit end with the BART. Public buses do exist, but I didn’t use them and don’t know if they run on a regular basis.
In my opinion, rental car is the most flexible mode of transportation in Tri-Valley and Danville.
However, if you’re on a strict budget, double-check to see if ride share programs, such as Uber or Lyft, are a cheaper option for you. Especially in summer, car rental rates are jacked sky high to meet demand.
During my stay, I strictly took Uber around Tri-Valley, including Danville, and didn’t have any issues! I think the longest I waited for a car was roughly ten minutes.
Of course, you’re welcome to schedule your Ubers ahead of time if you want to ensure you have a ride close to your preferred departure time.
Danville Weather and What to Pack
The Bay Area has drastically different weather depending on your location. You seriously need to pack for all climates here.
For example, if you’re coming to Danville (or Tri-Valley) from San Francisco, you might experience a huge temperature drop. As for me, I visited the Bay Area in June. San Francisco was a cool 68 degrees in the afternoon. Danville, meanwhile, reached nearly 90 degrees!
In Danville, you absolutely need both sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s intense UV rays. I am not kidding. I applied SPF 50 lotion for my entire visit and still came home with an impressive tan. Take care of your eyes and skin.
However, the sun’s inviting rays make outdoor experiences incredibly memorable in Danville. Just be safe and pack for the weather.
11 Cool Things to Do in Danville CA Right Now
As a side note, keep in mind that I only had 24 hours to explore Danville. This historic town has a lot more than 11 things to offer tourists, so feel free to adjust attractions to suit your own itinerary to Tri-Valley.
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site
First of all, Danville was home for one of the most famous playwrights in American literature: Eugene O’Neill.
So, obviously, literary travelers (like me!) will want to take a tour of Tao House – a charming and lush home that was built by O’Neill and his wife using his Nobel Prize money.
Fun fact: O’Neill is the only playwright to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site consists of sweeping views of Mt. Diablo and a guided tour inside the idyllic Tao House. You’re welcome to take plenty of pictures.
Keep in mind that in order to visit Tao House and the grounds, you will need to take a tour with the National Park Service.
Tao House isn’t walkable from downtown Danville, but don’t let its location deter you. Tours are free and scheduled for set times.
To make your life even easier, the National Park Service runs a shuttle right outside the Museum of San Ramon Valley to go to Tao House.
Eugene O’Neill Commemorative Park
You can learn even more about this important playwright in downtown Danville in Eugene O’Neill Commemorative Park. What I liked most about this public park was that it functioned as a free open air museum.
As you stroll through the park, you will find unique open book plaques that discuss Eugene O’Neill’s plays and personal life.
This lovely park also provides plenty of splendid shade and offers a quiet place to unwind with an iced coffee after a hot afternoon of sightseeing.
You will find Eugene O’Neill Commemorative Park across the street from Danville Library (I mean, obviously).
Museum of the San Ramon Valley
I’m very fond of local museums. The guides are always passionate about their town, and I learn a lot of new information that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up in history books.
Museum of the San Ramon Valley is no different and another one of the best things to do in Danville CA. The museum’s exterior is striking due to the fact that it’s a restored 1891 railroad depot. The bathrooms are even located in one of the train cars!
The museum’s permanent exhibit goes into depth about the valley’s history, starting with the Native Americans all the way through the modernization of the suburbs. The exhibit is a great place to learn about the Gold Rush and Rancho periods.
In addition, the Museum of San Ramon Valley has a variety of special exhibits that rotate depending on the date.
You can find this museum at 205 Railroad Avenue.
Mt. Diablo State Park
You can’t visit Danville and not ogle over Mt. Diablo.
Even though I saw pictures online, there’s nothing quite like seeing this wild and beautiful landscape in person.
Mt. Diablo’s majesty will transfix any visitor coming to Danville in Tri-Valley. For the best views, I recommend going to Tao House and wandering the grounds. Eugene O’Neill certainly did a great job purchasing land that looked out over the mountainous scenery.
If you’re a hiker, however, and want to hit the trails, then the closest entrance is the South Entrance located at 2675 Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard.
Please keep in mind that this state park’s entrance is not walkable from downtown. You will either need to hop in your rental car or take an Uber.
Safety note: Make sure to adequately prepare for a hike.
Like I said earlier, the sun here is no joke and dehydration is a real possibility. Bring plenty of water, let someone know your itinerary ahead of time, and stick to designated trails.
Self-Guided Historic Walking Tour
Old Town Danville has a very rich history that isn’t limited to museums. Take a self-guided historic walking tour on your stay in Danville and you will discover a lot of cool surprises!
See as many or as few historical building as you wish. The town has a total of 28 places marked as historical gems, so you could easily spend an hour learning all about Danville’s history.
And you don’t have to do it on an empty stomach either!
Which leads me to one of the most delicious and amazing things to do in Danville CA.
Do you have an insatiable sweet tooth like I do? Then you absolutely need to go to Danville Chocolates.
You guys, this hometown chocolate shop is a dream come true for those of you who cannot go without chocolate. And it’s open seven days a week, too!
Go inside Danville Chocolates and feel your stomach growl at the sights and smells of pretzels, Oreos, apples, and more goodies all dipped in premium white, milk, or dark chocolate. Yummy!
Honestly, I don’t blame you if you want to order a ton of treats just for yourself. I mean, I did!
You can also sit outside to immediately eat your peanut cups or chocolate-dipped apples if you don’t want to wait (I don’t blame you)!
You will find Danville Chocolates on 175 East Prospect Avenue.
Danville Oak Tree
Historic trees always impress me. Not only are their wide trunks and heavy branches majestic to behold, but my mind is blown thinking about how long a particular tree has stood in the face of historical events.
Danville Oak Tree is one of the coolest stops on a self-guided historical walking tour.
This 350 year-old tree is a symbol of Danville and the community cherishes it. For example, when it was discovered the tree was weakening, the community came together to install a metal support structure to protect it.
See Danville Oak Tree, take pictures, and reflect on what events took place throughout the tree’s 350 year life. Amazing.
Local Craft Beer at Danville Brewing Company
In addition to the region’s many wineries, Tri-Valley is also very well known for its diverse and delicious beer trail. And you can discover high-quality craft beer right here in Danville.
Danville Brewing Company is located right downtown and a popular place to grab a craft beer and meal. I especially liked the crispy Brussels sprouts!
And obviously, you don’t want to miss the beers. A Danville IPA is the perfect choice for washing down your lunch. Unlike some IPAs, the flavor is smooth and easy on your stomach. The bartenders are incredibly friendly too and happy to offer suggestions!
You can find Danville Brewing Company on 200 Railroad Avenue.
Quaint Shopping in Downtown Danville
Don’t come to Danville expecting your credit card to stay firmly hidden inside your wallet. The historic downtown has a lot of wonderful shops for you to check out.
In particular, you will discover many independent boutiques and antique shops to find a special souvenir for someone you love (or for yourself).
Gift shops, such as Lemon on 178 E. Prospect Avenue, or jewelry and home goods shops, like Cottage Jewel on 391 Hartz Avenue, offer vintage and trendy trinkets alike to shoppers.
As for clothing boutiques, Bliss Danville, Moda Mi, and Beyond Active all have high quality women’s clothing and accessories available at your fingertips.
And, of course, you’re always welcome to window shop too. Danville has some beautiful displays peaking out at pedestrians from classic historical buildings.
Italian Dinners at Incontro Ristorante
As you’ve guessed, enjoying an exquisite meal is one of the greatest things to do in Danville CA. I recommend going to Incontro Ristorante on 455 Hartz Avenue.
Indoor and outdoor dining is available, but I personally loved Incontro’s lovely and tranquil outdoor space with fountains, string lights, and bar. I highly recommend it for warmer evenings. You can even enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights!
At Incontro, you simply need to try their beet salad. I’m not lying when I tell you that it is one of the best beet salads that I have ever had in my entire life. The beets were so savory, flavorful, and colorful. Delicious.
Don’t skip the pasta dishes either (of course)! Your stomach will love you for it.
Danville’s Unique Public Art
Last but not least, don’t miss out on Danville’s thriving art scene.
Why? Well the town of Danville hosts public art displays throughout the year, which makes Danville a great destination for artists seeking inspiration.
I had the pleasure of checking Danville’s latest outdoor art exhibit – Shrumen Lumen. These two unique and kinetic mushroom sculptures were first created for the famous Burning Man Festival and have traveled around the world! And now they are in Danville!
Stay at night to see the mushrooms light up!
No matter when you come to Danville, however, public art will be available for you to see and admire.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these 11 wonderful things to do in Danville CA. Have you ever been to Danville? How about Tri-Valley? Would you plan a visit here as part of your Bay Area Itinerary?