Just 12 miles north of the Antioch Bridge lies the town of Rio Vista, a growing community boasting a long history. As the halfway point between Sacramento and San Francisco, Rio Vista was a popular stopover for steamboats. During the early 20th century, Hollywood filmmakers took advantage of Rio Vista’s location and steamboats used the town as a backdrop for silent films set on the Mississippi River.
Today’s Rio Vista still has its share of attractions. “Everyone has to visit Foster’s BigHorn,” said Chamber of Commerce President Phil Pezzaglia. Serving outstanding contemporary American cuisine, this unique restaurant was opened in 1953 by big-game hunter Bill Foster and is filled with rare hunting trophies, including the largest mounted African elephant head in the world. Another of Pezzaglia’s suggestions for day trippers is the Rio Vista Museum, where you can learn about the city’s fascinating history.
Rio Vista offers Delta visitors a variety of festivals and other events. Upcoming events include the Ag and Art Festival on May 28, featuring a soapbox derby, food and drink, and music by the riverfront. On June 2, the town hosts the Slow Food Rio Vista event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 45 Main St. Rio Vista’s biggest bash is the annual Bass Derby, which attracted more than 15,000 visitors in 2010. The 65th annual Bass Derby and Festival is held Oct. 12-14.
Another 15 miles up Highway 160 is the historic town of Walnut Grove, accessible by road and water via the Walnut Grove Marina. Once you get to Walnut Grove, “Get out and walk the streets,” urged Walnut Grove Homeowners and Merchants Association board member Joe Enos.
The former riverboat stop displays charming architecture, including distinctive Japanese-style buildings in the town’s former Japantown. Walnut Grove’s website provides a walking tour that tourists can follow. Enos suggest that visitors start at the Iron Works and work their way through the town, which is dotted with art galleries and curio shops. A large map detailing Walnut Grove’s historic districts and buildings is available at the Marina.
Just up River Road from Walnut Grove is Locke, established in 1915 after fire gutted Walnut Grove’s Chinatown in 1913. Locke is one of the few communities in America to be established by and for the Chinese. During its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, Locke was a locus of the Chinese-American community and provided services including a boarding house, the Jan Ying Benevolent Association and a Chinese language school.
Today, the entire Locke Historic District is a designated National Historic Landmark. The Locke Boarding House now houses the Visitor’s Center and the Jan Ying Benevolent Association museum. Dedicated in 2006, the Locke Memorial Park recognizes the Chinese immigrants who built the railroad and labored in the fields.
If you’re planning a large group, the Locke Foundation offers guided docent tours for groups of 10 or more, available by prior arrangement.
When you get hungry, be sure to stop by Al’s Place, better known by locals as Al the Wop’s. Besides superb steaks, Al’s is famous for its namesake owner, Al Adami, remembered for antics such as cutting off the neckties of patrons he considered too well-dressed for his establishment.
For more about Rio Vista’s upcoming events, call the Chamber of Commerce at 707-374-2700 or visit www.riovista.org. The California Delta Chambers & Visitors Bureau offers information on many Delta towns, including Walnut Grove. The bureau can be reached at 916-777-4041 or www.californiadelta.org. Walnut Grove’s website is www.walnutgrove.com For more information about Locke, including scheduling docent tours, visit www.lockeca.com or call 916-776-1828.