"Where Have the Walnuts Gone?" Top 5 Page for this destination Walnut Creek by SteveOSF

Walnut Creek Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 87 photos

A Hot Little Town in the Summer

I could not imagine a distant traveler examining a globe to find where the next adventure will be and deducing that it must be Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek is a suburban city in the San Francisco Bay Area. It lies about 30 miles east of San Francisco. Although it is unlikely to be your primary vacation destination, if you find yourself in Walnut Creek, you will be able to enjoy some fine dining, access to local trails for hiking, and close proximity to major Bay Area cities.

By car from San Francisco you have to go over a bridge and through a tunnel to get there. Using BART, the regional mass transit system, you have to go under a bay and through several tunnels to get there. The time to or from the San Francisco will be determined by the traffic gods, who usually sentence you to an hour of one-way travel, give or take 30 minutes.

Walnut Creek does offer a wide selection of dining for any budget from fine Italian dining at Prima to simple fast food. Abundant choices for quality dining are present. Many are within a short distance of each other downtown.

Hiking trails surround Walnut Creek and extend for miles into open space. Various critters roam the surrounding hills. Deer are abundant and occasionally roam the city streets at night. Even coyotes can be seen in the hills. However, anyone venturing into the surrounding hills in the summer should beware of the scorching heat that is often present mid-day at that time of year.

Although mostly a bedroom community, Walnut Creek does have a decent downtown.
The downtown is split into two regions, the commercial and the retail areas. In the retail portion, many shops and some excellent restaurants can be found. This small city has much more to offer than a typical suburb.

Walnut Creek History

The Bolbones Indians formerly inhabited the lands that were to become Walnut Creek. Captain Pedro Fages led the first Spanish exploration party into Contra Costa County in 1772. In 1821 Spain lost its claim to California and Mexico gained title. Eventually the location was divided into four Mexican land grants. One of those grants containing 18,000 acres went to Dona Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, who later deeded it to her two grandsons. One of those grandsons, Ygnacio Sibrian, built the first roofed home in the valley.

The site of Walnut Creek was originally called "The Corners" in reference to the convergence of two dirt roads, one leading from Pacheco to the north and the other from Lafayette to the west. It also was the spot where the four Mexican land grants met. This corner is at the current intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street.

The first American settler (that was not Native American) was a squatter named William Slusher, who built a dwelling on the bank of the creek in 1849 (near present day downtown). Walnut Creek was then known as “Nuts Creek”. It was so named because of the walnuts that early settlers had planted near the creek. In the 1855, Milo Hough of Lafayette built a hotel named “Walnut Creek House” in the corners. A blacksmith shop and a store soon joined the hotel.

In 1860 Hiram Penniman laid out the first town site and realigned Main Street to its current configuration. In December 1862 a United States Post Office was established, and the community was renamed “Walnut Creek.” The first subdivision was filed by Homer Shuey in about 1866. This established the modern day street pattern of Walnut Creek.

The arrival of Southern Pacific Railroad service in 1891 caused the town to grow. In 1914 Walnut Creek was incorporated as the eighth city in Contra Costa County. The rail service was terminated in the early 1960s. The old railroad alignment was eventually converted to the popular Iron Horse Trail. Today Walnut Creek is connected to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The Walnut Creek BART station was opened in 1973.

By the 1890s, with the introduction of irrigation, farmers planted fruit and nut orchards, which replaced wheat as the major crop in the area. In the 1930s pears and walnuts were the only significant crops. But by 1950, agriculture ceased to be an important economic factor in Walnut Creek.

In 1910, the Great Western Power Company first brought electricity to Walnut Creek. The Ramona Theatre, Walnut Creek's first movie house, opened on March 6, 1920. In 1921, the paving of Main Street was completed.

Walnut Creek's Broadway Shopping Center, Contra Costa County's first major retail center, opened in 1951. The downtown has grown into a significant regional retail center. Unfortunately, many of the town's early commercial buildings have been removed to make way for new large retail stores that were designed to have a somewhat older appearance.

Today, the actual Walnut Creek has been routed underneath downtown through a series of tunnels starting at the southwest end of Macy’s and ending just southwest of Maria Maria (formerly the Cantina) Restaurant. It is a bit ironic that in its quest for "progress", Walnut Creek placed its original namesake literally underneath its retail outlets.

Population Explosion

The population of Walnut Creek experienced slow growth throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Post World War II, the growth rate exploded. The growth rate did not even start to slow down until about 1990. The community feels the effects of this expansion in housing costs, traffic jams, and downtown congestion.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Some great restaurants.
  • Cons:Scorching summer heat.
  • In a nutshell:East Bay city with a downtown.
  • Intro Updated Dec 15, 2010
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Reviews (16)

Comments (15)

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Mar 5, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    Simply love your historical look at your hometown. Would love to have seen it as "Nut's Creek." Think I'd fit in! Birthday wishes from a Jersey Girl.

  • WulfstanTraveller's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2009 at 11:23 AM

    Thanks for commenting on my Auburn page. Your Walnut Creek page is great. I have gone through the town many times but never when I had time to really look around, although I sure mean to. Your info will help.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jun 29, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    Howdy Steve, you have a very lovely home town. I enjoyed your tour! Have a great week!

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2009 at 4:15 AM

    Steve - Thanks for your recent visits to my Alexandria (VA) and Johnstown (PA) pages. It sure is a change being back here on the east coast... today the temp when I got up was 12 degrees F.

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Oct 11, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    I must have driven across Walnut Creek (and the name sounds familiar) but did not visit! Thanks for sharing !

  • GenuinelyCurious's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2008 at 7:36 PM

    There's a decent Vietnamese restaurant (Da Lat?) on Locust. Great reminder about keeping dogs under control. I've seen cows, deer, rabbits and coyotes in Shell Ridge

  • trvlrtom's Profile Photo
    Aug 10, 2008 at 8:18 PM

    Yes, Genova is the place. I hope it is still making good sandwiches.

  • rexvaughan's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2008 at 6:55 PM

    Sounds like one could eat very well in Walnut Creek, Steve. Nice page and pics. I have a cousin in Walnut Creek. Do you know any Currys there?

  • risse73's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2008 at 2:07 PM

    Comprehensive WC guide. I'd like to drop by next time I'm in the area. Cheers!

  • kooka3's Profile Photo
    Jun 1, 2008 at 4:17 PM

    Thanks for stopping by my Saratoga page! WC sounds great. I might have to swing through it on my trip through CA this summer. Anything good playing at the theater in late July? (Cute dog, btw!)

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