Looking for a Walkable Downtown? Check Out These Bay Area Suburbs.

Mar 25, 2022

Food, culture, arts, entertainment — these suburban downtowns have it all.

Not quite ready to give up the city? We hear you — and we’ve rounded up some amazing Bay Area suburbs that offer all the perks of suburban living plus amazing (and amazingly walkable) downtowns. It’s the perfect urban-meets-suburban vibe, and ideal for people who want it all.

#1. Mill Valley

If the arts are your thing, add Mill Valley to your list. This community is big on culture. The renowned Mill Valley Film Festival is held in a historic downtown theater each year. As you explore downtown, peek into a few of the local art galleries (Seager Gray or Kim Eagles-Smith are just two we could name).

Also, be sure and check out the Sweetwater Music Hall which hosts well-known folk and rock groups and plenty of family-friendly shows throughout the year. And before a show, you can enjoy a craft cocktail at one of Bungalow 44’s outdoor tables. Or if you’re more in the mood for hip Mexican dishes, book a table at Playa.

While you’re exploring, be sure and swing through some of the nearby neighborhoods, including Boyle Park and Sycamore Park.

#2. San Rafael

There’s always something going on in downtown San Rafael. There’s a Thursday night summer farmers market, art walks, classic car shows, holiday events, and the beloved Dining Under the Lights program.

Even when there isn’t a specific event going on, it’s nice to just take a stroll downtown. The tree-lined area along 4th Street is filled with Victorian buildings, local brewpubs (check out The State Room and The Mayflower Pub), and trendy coffee shops. Parents: Fox & Kit is about to be your new favorite downtown spot. This cafe-meets-playground is the perfect place to bring the kids and meet other local families in town.

And some nearby neighborhoods to check out while you’re here? Sun Valley and Gerstle Park, for starters.

#3. Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek’s vibrant downtown is packed with restaurants and shops. Whether you’re in the mood for Southern BBQ, Spanish tapas, or local farm-fresh Californian fare, you’ll never run out of exciting dining options downtown.

When you need some retail therapy, head to Broadway Plaza. This downtown shopping center features tons of name-brand stores including Bonobos, Lululemon, Madewell, and more (check out this rundown of amazing East Bay shopping). And if you decide to live downtown, there’s Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for your grocery runs.

Neighborhood-wise, take some time to walk or drive through Saranap or Buena Vista while you’re here.

#4. Danville

During the summer, Danville residents can bring a blanket and watch outdoor movies in the Town Green. But this is just the start of everything happening downtown. Local runners often compete in 5k races downtown and there’s a year-round Saturday farmers market in the Railroad Avenue Municipal Parking Lot. Active locals can take kid-friendly bike rides along the Iron Horse Regional Trail that travels through downtown Danville. When you need to refuel, there’s Medleno Coffee Shop & Roastery or Life is Sweet if you’re craving a gluten-free treat.Some other spots to check out? We’ve rounded up some East Bay shopping faves.

#5. Oakland

Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood is a hip, artsy district with a happening downtown at its core. New restaurants and boutiques have been popping up in this area which only helps make it more and more popular. Along College Ave you’ll find a gourmet food store called Market Hall (think of this as a local version of Whole Foods) plus a few independent booksellers. For nightlife, there’s The Graduate, a local spot with drinks and free popcorn, and Beer Baron, which hosts live music on occasion.

For foodies, be sure and check out the downtown Oakland restaurant scene. We’re loving La Farine Boulangerie Pâtisserie, known for their amazing pastries (be sure and grab a sweet or savory morning bun…) and Wood Tavern’s lunchtime-only burger on a La Farine baguette. Also popular: vegan and vegetarian eatery Millennium and Ramen Shop, with its rotating selection of dishes, made from California staples.

#6. Burlingame

Catch a train from downtown Burlingame’s Caltrain station to reach San Francisco in half an hour. This is great for commuters but, with all of the options in downtown Burlingame, you won’t need the train to reach some amazing restaurants. You can enjoy Peruvian cuisine at Limon right outside the station. There’s also SaltYard Restaurant and Bar for comfort classics and Mingalaba for Burmese dishes within walking distance, too.

Some neighborhoods to check out while you’re here? Oak Grove Manor and Lyon Hoag.

#7. Palo Alto

Downtown Palo Alto features wide tree-lined sidewalks that are ideal for a relaxed family stroll. Pick up a coffee for your walk from Blue Bottle or Verve. And for a sweet treat, there’s the ever-popular ice cream shop Salt & Straw.

If you’ll be working remotely, consider the co-working space HanaHaus when you need a break from your home office. And we can’t fail to mention the phenomenal restaurant scene in downtown Palo Alto. From ROOH to Zola to Tamarine, the chic dining options in town never disappoint.

Make it a point to swing through Community Center and Southgate — both popular Palo Alto neighborhoods near downtown — while you’re here.

#8. Los Gatos

There’s something for everyone in historic downtown Los Gatos. This downtown offers more of a small-town feel than others on this list but there are still plenty of global restaurants alongside name-brand shops. Town Plaza Park hosts tons of events, like the Christmas tree lighting, jazz concerts, and the local farmers market, plus kids love playing in the park’s fountains.

Near the park, you’ll find two local favorites, Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company and Willow Street Wood-Fired Pizza. Downtown’s open-air mall also features outposts of Pure Barre, Sur La Table, Anthropologie, and tons of other upscale retail options.

Want a walkable suburb? A+ schools? Places for pets to roam? We’ve got you covered. Schedule your FREE Suburbs Strategy Session today to get started.

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