Although most East County residents are pinching pennies and doing whatever they can to save money, you needn’t sacrifice fun this summer. The area offers an abundance of activities to enjoy while avoiding the expense of travel and hotel accommodations. From live theater to outdoor adventures, there are plenty of things to do right here at home. You just need to know where to look.
Nothing says summer like a gigantic celebration in honor of East County heritage. Local festivals blast off this year with the 2009 Contra Costa County Fair at the Antioch Fairgrounds, which takes place this weekend. This year’s fair includes a shark encounter, science show, animal races and live music from tribute bands to No Doubt, Aerosmith and KISS. The fair’s hundreds of exhibits include the handiwork of your friends and neighbors, such as the 4H critter expo and cooking showcases. For more information, visit www.contracostafair.com.
If it’s too late to schedule the fair into your weekend plans, don’t worry. Festivals will be all the rage in July, beginning with Oakley’s Cityhood Celebration on July 4, followed by the Brentwood CornFest on July 10 through July 12 and the Bethel Island Car Bash on July 19.
When the temperatures rise, a dip in the local pool will help you chill out. Brentwood Family Aquatic Complex is open again for recreational swimming, and the park will host Friday Family Fun Nights beginning in June so that the whole clan can get together and enjoy a refreshing dip while participating in contests and games based on themes such as Surfin’ USA.
The Antioch WaterPark also offers loads of family fun, and there are plenty of activities planned for this summer, such as a Hawaiian Luau, Pirate Day, Country Western Day and Princess Day. There will be a DJ at the pool every Friday night to spin tunes while you enjoy the water and waves. For a calendar of activities, visit www.ci.antioch.ca.us/citysvcs/prewett.
Why watch reruns at home when you can get out and enjoy a live show? Brentwood Starry Nights Concert Series is back this year with six shows, beginning with Bay Area band Open Road, which will wow the crowd with Motown and classic rock hits on June 12 in City Park. Call the Brentwood Park and Recreation Department at 925-516-5444 for more details.
For more live music, take a trip to the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch, where jammin’ summer shows include Replica – ’80s Rock Revisited on June 5 and Beethoven’s dramatic Fifth Symphony, performed by The Pacific Chamber Symphony, on June 6. For information about upcoming shows, visit www.elcampaniltheatre.com.
Those looking for a quiet afternoon at the theater should reserve tickets now for the Hapgood Theatre presentation of “On Golden Pond.” The curtain goes up at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center now through June 7. To order tickets, visit www.hapgoodtheatre.org.
One way to have a good time without spending big bucks is to check out one of the local farmers’ markets. Not only do you get to experience the farming culture of our area; you support local business. The Brentwood Farmers’ Market takes place on First Street every Saturday in downtown Brentwood now through October. The Antioch Farmers’ Market is held every Thursday at Kaiser Permanente, 4501 Sand Creek Road. Sample fruits and vegetables from local vendors and learn about the bountiful produce East County offers. For more information, visit www.pcfma.com.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on some fresh produce, go straight to the source and visit local produce stands. At some locations, you can even pick the fruit right off the tree and participate in U-Pick, a beloved East Country tradition. For a map of local produce stands in the area, visit www.harvest4you.com.
One way to have fun and get some exercise is to take to one of the local trails and go for a hike. There are miles of trails all through the county for hikers of all experience levels.
Los Vaqueros Reservoir and Watershed has 55 miles of trails to be explored. There are trails for nature walks, hikes, cycling and horseback riding. Located at south end of Walnut Boulevard, Los Vaqueros is also home to the Interpretive Center, which hosts regular educational programs that teach visitors about local wildlife and habitat. For information about upcoming programs, call 925-240-2440 or visit www.ccwater.com/losvaqueros.
The southern sector of Los Vaqueros boasts a marina with electric boats for rent for those who’d like to spend a lazy afternoon fishing for one of 12 species that inhabit the lake. For more information, call the marina at 925-371-2628.
If intense outdoor activity isn’t your speed but you’d still like to enjoy the natural beauty offered in East County, take a stroll along Marsh Creek Trail, which snakes around Brentwood and Oakley. The 6.5 miles of paved trail is ideal for an afternoon stroll. For a map of the trail, visit www.ebparks.org/parks/trails/marsh_creek.
Another way to enjoy a summer afternoon without spending a lot of money is taking a tour of one of the local museums. The Antioch Historical Society Museum, located at 1500 W. Fourth St., is home to historical display rooms as well as a sports legends hall. The venue is also home to summer concerts and special events such as the Celebration of Art show, which opens June 20. Visit www.art4antioch.org/ahs.asp for more details.
For a wider range of local history, a visit to the East Contra Costa Historical Museum will shed light on what life was like in the early days of Brentwood, Knightsen, Byron and Oakley. The museum features antique farm equipment plus vintage kitchen, bedroom and office furniture and accessories. For more information and hours of operation, visit www.theschoolbell.com/history/information.
Antioch is home to the Lynn House Art Gallery, which exhibits the work of local artists. A sculpture show featuring the work of artists Samuel Gill and David Mudgett runs through June 6. The gallery is located at 809 W. First St. For more information, call 925-779-7018.
For more local art, enjoy admission-free Brentwood galleries such as the Weber Art Gallery, 700 Harvest Park Road, and the Fridley Gallery, 613 First St.
When it’s time to bond with nature and sleep under the stars, East County offers several regional parks with camping grounds ideal for an adventure. Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch has a camping area set up with picnic tables, and provides 42 miles of trails along which you can discover a variety of mammal and plant wildlife.
Round Valley Regional Preserve in Brentwood offers flattened tent spaces so that campers can easily set up and go on to enjoy a variety of activities such as hiking, horseback riding and bicycling. For more information, visit www.ebparks.org/parks.
When the weather isn’t too hot, spend a relaxing day outdoors at one of the local parks. Pack a picnic lunch and head out to Antioch’s Chaparral Park on Prewett Ranch Road, where you can play basketball or horseshoes. The park also provides a baseball field and volleyball court as well as a playground for the little ones.
When it’s time to cool down, check out the water feature at Blue Goose Park in Brentwood at the corner of O’Hara Avenue and Adams Lane. The park’s farm feature, a throwback to the heyday of the local agriculture boom, is sure to delight the kiddies.
If you’re looking for something more extreme, visit Creekside Park in Oakley and check out the BMX skate park. After you’re done rolling and riding, take a break and enjoy a barbecue and relax in the lush grass area.
Discovery Bay also is home to some nice parks, such as Cornell Park on Discovery Bay Boulevard, which sports a baseball field, soccer field, bocce ball area, picnic tables, shade structures and benches.
There are nearly 1,000 miles of waterways to be explored in the California Delta, and the quick and easy way to get out there and discover their beauties is to travel around by boat or personal watercraft such as jet ski. There’s no need to buy your own vessel when you can rent one to enjoy for a weekend. Several locations along the Delta offer rental services, such as Delta Watercraft in Bethel Island, located at 3025 Gateway Road. For more details about renting, call 925-684-2620 or visit www.deltawatercraft.com.
While there are dozens of blockbusters rolling at the local cineplexes, you can enjoy a free family film under the night sky in at Civic Center Park in Oakley. The Movies in the Park series kicks off with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” on June 13 and will continue throughout the summer. For more information, call 925-625-7041.
For more ideas about how to have fun this summer, click here to visit the community calendar.