By Ron Stern | Global Gumshoe
Nestled between Napa and Sonoma on the north and San Francisco on the south is a little pocket of bliss known as Diablo Valley. Compared to its higher-priced neighbors, this relatively unknown travel venue is affordable without sacrificing the niceties that make for an elegant getaway.
Located about an hour’s drive northeast of San Francisco International Airport, Diablo Valley encompasses the city of Concord as well as surrounding areas of Contra Costa County. Unlike many high-priced Bay Area travel destinations, Diablo Valley is surprisingly reasonable. Whereas a typical two-night stay with parking in San Francisco might cost upwards of $648, comparable lodging in one of nine hotels in the area will only set you back about $358.
Known as the sunnier and warmer part of the Bay, Diablo Valley’s great weather is one of the reasons people are discovering this vacation alternative. With easily accessible public transportation via the BART system, local tours and shuttles, it’s possible to park your car at your departure point and go carless during your entire visit.
You also won’t have to compromise touches of luxury for frugality. Diablo Valley has ample opportunities for both. According to Mayor Tim Grayson, “The city of Concord is the largest city in the fourth wealthiest county in the world’s eighth largest economy.”
Todos Santos Plaza is the centrally located heart of town and stretches across an entire city block. With a variety of restaurants, free summer concerts and the local farmers market, this is a good place to begin your exploration of the area.
Looming 3,849 feet above the valley below, Mt. Diablo State Park is one of the area’s premier highlights. A scenic road winds its way across ribbons of green-laden hills and countryside with opportunities for hiking, biking, cycling, horseback riding, a visit to Rock City, and general sightseeing.
The summit of Mt. Diablo is a breathtaking experience with views rivaling those of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. On a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz Island. Lingering at the end of the day affords sunset photo opportunities and then stargazing.
No trip to Diablo Valley would be complete without indulging in a luxurious excursion aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Featuring restored Pullman railcars with plush furniture, Honduran mahogany panels and brass accents, this historic train is a way to experience the glory days of travel by rail.
The three-hour journey features excellent cuisine and wines as you glide past gorgeous scenery and grape-laden vineyards. Lunch menus include starters like red and green apple endive salad and entrees such as mustard rubbed pork tenderloin, almond encrusted salmon piccata and a mouth-watering dessert. There are several packages, including winery tours with prices starting as low as $179 per person.
Arriving early in advance of your train ride will give you time to walk to the nearby Oxbow Public Market for some specialty food and wine shopping. Fine chocolates, organic Italian pastries, cheeses and spirits are offered by local merchants in this 40,000-square-foot venue in a beautiful setting along the Napa River.
Music lovers can enjoy an outdoor concert and open-air seating at the Concord Pavilion. Surrounded by lush green hills and open spaces, this entertainment venue, one of California’s finest, has hosted some of the biggest names in music.
There are nine hotels in the Diablo Valley region that will satisfy any price-conscious budget. Some, like the Hilton, also have amenities that rival many high-end properties in the Bay Area. This includes an award-winning restaurant and wine bar, an executive lounge with snacks and drinks and PURE hypo-allergenic rooms.
One of the most unique things about this Hilton is their commitment to sustainability. This extends to their use of the Pillow Vac Renewal System. Rather than disposing of pillows at the landfill, they make their own goose down pillows on site and will even create a custom pillow for you to take home or have shipped at the end of your visit.
With an abundance of sunshine, affordable accommodations and natural beauty, Diablo Valley is earning its newfound slogan: Defying Expectations!
To encourage tourists to visit the area, guests who book a two-night stay at participating Diablo Valley Hotels through Dec. 30 will receive a $50 Sunvalley American Express gift card. This can be used wherever American Express is accepted. See deal section of their website above.
—Contact Ron Stern at email@example.com.