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25 reasons NOT to go to San Francisco

Get your city friends to head this way

You know this place is great. That's why you moved here. So the next time your snooty friend in San Francisco calls and wants you to come up to the city for the day, tell him (or her) to come here instead.

Here's a list of reasons you can use:

1. Free parking -- and lots of it. Who wants to drive around looking for a spot and feed a meter, or worse yet, drop $25 to park for a day? Tell your friend to meet you at The Shops at Bishop Ranch, right off Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon, or park along Hartz Avenue in Danville. Parking is free, and there are plenty of restaurants and cool shops nearby.

2. Less traffic. Seriously, who wants to spend the weekend waiting on a freeway or maybe worse, listening to the "Are we there yet?" question from the back seat.

3. Great weather. Mark Twain didn't have one bad word to say about the weather in the San Ramon Valley. Invite your friend down this spring to dry out.

4. People are actually nice. That one comes from San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, who lived in San Francisco before moving here. Not that San Franciscans are mean, but we could name some names...

5. San Ramon Performing Arts Center. The center has a great lineup this year, including jazz great (and seven-time Grammy winner) Al Jarreau.

6. Village Theater in Danville. Local talent at its best, and lots of family-oriented entertainment.

7. The 65-member San Ramon Symphonic band and the Danville Community band. Have you heard these folks?

8. Summer concerts in the park. Danville, San Ramon and Alamo all have them, and if you've been, you know they're great, laid-back events -- and free.

9. Forest Home Farms and the David Glass house. Forest Home Farms has tours, antique tractors and sheep, plus activities on summer weekends. Show the kids how much work the old folks used to do.

10. Golf. We've got The Bridges, Canyon Lakes and the San Ramon Golf Club -- all great courses that are open to the public.

11. Mt. Diablo State Park. Hike its trails to the top and on a clear day, you can see all the way past the Golden Gate Bridge or start at the top with the newly renovated Summit Visitor Center.

12. Iron Horse Trail. Bring a bike or some roller blades and check it out from one end of the San Ramon Valley to the other and beyond. This may be the only trail with wireless hotspots, just in case you suffer from laptop withdrawal.

13. Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. On the way there on Bollinger Canyon Road you pass an ostrich farm and even a zebra. And you can see all the way to SF from the peak.

14. Free tennis. Gotta love the beautiful courts at the high schools, at Athan Downs and Central Park in San Ramon and Osage Station Park in Danville. There is also a drop-in tennis group that begins play around 8 a.m. each weekend morning, if you're 3.0 or better.

15. Swimming: If the oceans too cold for you there are aquatic centers at San Ramon Valley high schools. The ones at San Ramon and Dougherty Valley high schools even heated and open to the public year round, so you and your friend can do laps any time of year.

16. Spas. We've got tons of them. Just because they're less expensive than San Francisco's doesn't mean they have less quality.

17. Blackhawk Museum. If you don't think cars qualify as art, think again. These are some beautiful machines with amazing designs. The space is incredible, too.

18. Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, Tao House. O'Neill wrote some of his most important works here, like "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night." It's easy to see why this home, with its distinctive architecture, which was miles from anywhere at the time, could provide such inspiration.

19. Art galleries. San Ramon Community Center has its Lindsay Dirkx Brown Art Gallery, and Danville has the Village Theater Art Gallery with unique shows and sometimes children's programs. Private art galleries are also welcoming in downtown Danville, the Rose Garden and Blackhawk Plaza.

20. Museum of the San Ramon Valley. Attractive exhibits that rotate often, and explore the region's history.

21. Dining. We have great restaurants here, for everything from old-fashioned breakfasts to midday repasts to fine dining that rival anything in more urban areas. Walk around, read reviews and enjoy.

22. San Ramon's Art and Wind Festival. Kite flying, hot air balloons and three stages of live entertainment. Not to mention all the food booths that donate their proceeds to charities.

23. Independence day: Danville for the parade, San Ramon for the picnic afterward -- and stay for the fireworks. The parade draws 40,000 people and that many people can't be wrong, right? By midday, there are already hundreds of blankets spread out in San Ramon's Central Park for the red, white and blue festivities.

24. Hot Summer Nights Hot Rod and Classic Car Show. Three guys drinking at Elliott's dreamed this up in 1993, and these parties in July and August have grown to draw as many as 40,000 people to cruise, party and literally dance in the streets on Hartz Avenue. See the car you always wanted when you were a kid.

25. Playgrounds. Our suburban playgrounds are state-of-the-art, and some parks have ponds -- check out the cities' websites to learn more. There is also Blackhawk Plaza, which has a small playground, a full schedule of events for adults and children and, of course, ducks and swans.

Sure, San Francisco is a world-class city and it's a great place to visit. But with all these attractions in our own back yard, save yourselves the drive or BART ride and let your city friends come to you.

See this story in Views, available for free on Dec. 27.


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