In California, halfway between the coast and the Sierras and across the Sacramento River from the state capital, is a bucolic place called Yolo County that has stretches of delta wetlands and is a hotbed of advanced agriculture and bicycles.
The county’s biggest town is Davis, home of the state university that is famous throughout the world for its agricultural school. Davis also may be the most bicycle friendly town in the country. It installed the nation’s first bike lanes more than 45 years ago and hosts the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.
There are others towns in Yolo County, including Winters, Woodland, and West Sacramento, but most of the land is farms, orchards and rolling hills. Yet, there are a surprising number of things to do in Yolo, and here is a list of just a dozen:
• Visit the Davis Farmers Market. Begun in 1976, it was one of the first four farmers markets in California and was voted among the top 10 in the country in a USA Today poll. More than 60 vendors show up at Central Park every Saturday morning year-round to serve thousands of hungry people in search of farm-fresh, healthy food. The market is also open nearly every Wednesday in the afternoon or evening.
• Visit the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which contains a museum that is a gem. It has bikes made from cartwheels, wooden bikes, a tandem built for a half-dozen, and even new bamboo bikes being constructed in Africa
• Rent a bike. You can rent a bike in Davis at B & L Bike Shop (blbikeshop.com) or Ken’s bike and ski store (kensbikeski.com). Hyatt Place and Hallmark Inn offer bikes to their hotel guests for free. There are regular bike routes as well as bike lanes everywhere. The Davis Bike Club holds rides you can join. If you are in town in May you can get tickets for the Tour de Cluck. It seems many Davis residents like to build mansions for their pet chickens. Once a year they open them to the public for the bike coop crawl. Refreshments and entertainment are part of the quirky ride.
• Enjoy hot summer nights in Winters. The small town of Winters is full of pocket parks, shaded streets, terrific wine-tasting places, cozy restaurants and the Winters Opera House, which is the home of the Palms Playhouse. The place rocks. Palms Playhouse used to make its home in a barn in Davis but now has moved to a more comfortable venue. The 30-year-old institution offers the hottest in folk, rock, alternative country, blues, Americana, jazz and whatever music captures the fancy of the owners. Every weekend the place is packed, so advance ticket purchase is recommended. A bar supplies wine, beer and refreshments, and a lot of dancing breaks out in the aisles.
• Visit the ultimate organic farm. Capay Organic and Farm Fresh to You are a remarkable enterprise run by three brothers. They farm 700 acres in Capay and the Imperial Valley, supplying farmers markets and thousands of households directly with food fresh from the farm. From March to October, the farm in Capay throws the gates open for farm tours the second Saturday of each month. People wander through the sweet-pea fields picking bouquets, and ride tractor-drawn trams through fields and orchards while children chase chickens under the shade trees. Some of the farm produce is offered up for snacking. Best of all you can meet the young farmers that make it all possible with the help of their 450 employees.
• Whack a golf ball. Thanks to the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribe, the Capay Valley now boasts a gorgeous 18-hole course—the Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek Casino Resort. Even if you don’t golf, the country club called Bahtenta is worth a visit. This spectacular clubhouse has panoramic views of the valley and hills, and is luxuriously appointed and decorated with stunning art with a Native American theme. It’s a great place for lunch. Even the locker rooms here are more like spas. The course is popular so secure tee times in advance by going to yocha-de-hegolfclub.com.
• Find amusement at Cache Creek Casino. Here you can gamble to your heart’s content. This is a large establishment with eight restaurants and a hotel. The casino brings in top-notch talent to perform and is the venue for some intense boxing matches.
• Catch a performance at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. The center brings Yolo County an array of world-class performers from Yo Yo Ma to Bonnie Raitt.
• Visit the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg. This huge old sugar refinery used to turn the county’s beets into sugar. Now it turns grapes into wine. So far eight wineries have moved operations into the beautiful 1937 building made of weathered brick.
• Drop by the Odd Fellows Lodge in Davis. This lively group holds a free concert the first Thursday of every month. They also regularly hold pancake breakfasts and poetry nights.
• Step back into history. The town of Woodland has a remarkable 400 Victorian homes. You can pick up a walking tour map that tells you the history of the homes. A number of them are open to the public for a tour in the fall and during the holidays. Woodland also is home to the Heidrick Ag History Center, which includes a tractor and truck museum. It houses the largest collection of antique farm equipment and vehicles in the country.
• Take the train. The Davis Train Depot was built in 1868 and was voted by USA Today readers to be one of top 10 depots to visit on National Train Day. Two major Amtrak train lines go through Davis—the east-west Zephyr, and the north–south Coast Starlight.
Andrea Granahan is a writer who lives in Bodega, California.
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