When I was a teenager living in California, Vacaville was most memorable for the pungent aroma of onions. Local farmers harvested them by the ton and sent them to a nearby processing plant. The factory, working day and night, could be smelled for miles around but especially on the nearby highway, Interstate 80. People making the drive from San Francisco to Sacramento couldn’t help but notice where Vacaville was.
Today, many of those onion farms are no longer. Bedroom communities that support nearby Sacramento and San Francisco have replaced them. As you drive by on the Interstate, you no longer cover your nose or wipe your eyes; instead, you might stop at the Factory Outlet Malls for a shopping fix or pull over for an ice cream cone and ride on the Merry-Go-Round at a modernized Nut Tree shopping center. Most people just drive on by. They shouldn’t! Many of them don’t even realize what a great place awaits them just a short drive off that highway in downtown Vacaville.
My favorite day to venture downtown is Saturday and always in the morning. That’s when, from May until October, the Vacaville farmer’s market can be found. My mom and I head down early and have a cup of coffee in one of the local cafes… there are several to chose from. You can have a sweet roll or the most delectable raisin toast at Pure Grains Cafe or a full breakfast at a couple of other restaurants in the area. A booth in the market offers Breakfast Burritos if that’s more your style. The market has an early start so that you can beat the heat of the day, 8 am, but it lasts until noon just in case you’re a late riser… then you can stay for lunch or brunch with both Indian and Mexican offerings at the market and even more choices if you include the nearby restaurants, all within easy walking distance.
After I’ve had my caffeine fix, I like to walk around and check out all the stands before I make any choices. I also like to look at the older buildings, the unique blend of stores, and, if I’m lucky, a vintage Cadillac or two might be parked on the street. Downtown Vacaville is a nice place to walk because it’s beautifully landscaped. Hints of fresh rosemary permeate the square and hot pink bougainvillea decorates many a trellis. It’s easy to find a place to sit in the shade and just people watch if that’s more your style.
If you’re coming to visit for 2 hours or less, there is plenty of street parking. If you want to stay a little longer, try the parking lot by the local library – you can park there for much longer and not worry about returning to move your car. Remember to bring your own bags. I highly recommend the heirloom tomatoes and the local eggs that come in the bright pink cartons (if you like the blue tinted ones, just ask!).