Situated in the rolling hills just 20 miles east of San Francisco, downtown Lafayette
provides a peaceful alternative to hectic city life with immediate access to endless amenities. This town focuses on living well, with plentiful outdoor activities, high-ranking schools and restaurants that focus on food quality. Modern luxuries and a busy town center contrast with almost rural neighborhoods serviced by windy country roads. Residents of downtown Lafayette may work in San Francisco or other parts of the Bay Area, however, they live and play in the picture-perfect neighborhood they call home.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Hungry Lafayette dwellers make their way to Mount Diablo Boulevard, the city’s central hub for restaurants of all tastes and budgets.
Bring a date to Pizza Antica for dinner, and feast on braised short ribs with butternut squash risotto and the heirloom-potato pizza with white truffle oil. This upscale pizzeria strives to create the flavors of Italy while using fresh ingredients from local farms.
Head to Millie’s Kitchen for a hearty homestyle brunch, and order a giant omelette perfectly customized to your taste, savory yet sweet chicken apple sausage and freshly baked coffee cake. Located in a cozy cottage, this popular mom-and-pop eatery lends itself to large crowds any morning of the week, so be prepared for a wait.
Grab a quick lunch at Casa Gourmet Burrito, which serves up a unique variety of massive burritos in a casual, no-frills setting. At this unconventional, innovative Mexican spot, locals line up for the spicy Thai and Cajun chicken burritos, and the garlic lime steak with sweet-and-sour sauce.
Whether in the mood to party all night or sip on a cocktail in a relaxed setting, Lafayette’s nightlife scene has something for you. Unwind after a long day at The Park Bistro & Bar as you leisurely indulge in a glass of Northern Californian wine around a fire pit on the outdoor patio. Catch up with a friend over cocktails shaken to perfection in the warm, comfortable ambiance of the bar, located in the elegant Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa.
Grab some buddies and play a rousing game of shuffleboard at the Roundup Saloon, the local watering hole for crowds of all ages. The historical building's appearance conjures images of old Western films with its worn wooden facade, and you can enjoy this cash-only dive bar for its drink specials, karaoke on the weekends, live music, pool tables and interaction with eclectic regulars.
History & Culture
Originally an agricultural village, Lafayette’s proximity to San Francisco caused many people to flock to the area during the 1960s to settle down. The construction of east-west Highway 24 and the Caldecott Tunnel through the Berkeley Hills created quick access from the urban, western parts of the Bay Area to this developing commuter town.
Located in the nearby hills, the Chabot Space & Science Center lets people peek into the vast universe through its large observatory telescopes. After an evening of stargazing, catch a planetarium show that explores cosmic wonders.
While Lafayette houses
two small art galleries, visit the world-renowned art museums in San Francisco, such as the Asian Art Museum and the de Young Fine Arts museum. The annual Lafayette Art & Wine Festival showcases local artists, gourmet food vendors and wine tastings. Entrance remains free, but purchasing food and wine can add up quickly.
Residents of Lafayette mainly rely on cars to get around town, with free parking in commercial centers and metered street parking. Purchase a residential parking pass for $15 per year.
Most people call ahead for taxis, and Uber serves as a more personal option for a ride. If you work in San Francisco or Oakland, locals recommend taking BART, the efficient metro system, directly from the downtown Lafayette
station to avoid highway traffic and parking difficulties. The County Connection bus system services the main roads through town as well.
Highway 24 runs right through Lafayette, taking commuters from the East Bay to the bigger cities to the west. The nearby north-south Interstate 680 connects the East Bay to other areas of California bypassing the western cities. As opposed to less central neighborhoods in Lafayette, biking and walking downtown proves a viable option, with many bike lanes and paths available.
The cost of living in Lafayette hovers at 32 percent above San Francisco’s average. Take the BART directly from the Lafayette station to San Francisco for $4.75, and a one-ride bus ticket costs $2. Be prepared for sky-high rental rates, which on average rest at $2,296 for a one-bedroom
apartment. A beer costs you over $6 at a local bar. Gas prices cost about 23 percent greater than the national average.
The endless shopping options in downtown Lafayette can be found along Mount Diablo Boulevard, where high-end boutiques, chain retailers and eclectic thrift stores abound.
For local brands on the higher-end, head to the men and women’s clothing shop Venture Quality Goods, featuring stylish, well-made items either designed or made in California.
Unearth objects from different time periods at Nifty Thrift, held in a house in the center of downtown. All proceeds benefit the local non-profit Futures Explored, and one of the programs provides disabled adults with work-related skills by employing them at this thrift shop.
You can check items off of your grocery list at several chains on Mount Diablo Boulevard, such as Safeway, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market. Head to Diablo Foods for specialty groceries and artisan deli items at a family-owned moderately sized store. Find rare health foods and vitamins at locally-owned Open Sesame.
For locally grown fruits and veggies, venture to nearby towns for the Diablo Valley Farmer’s Market in Walnut Creek on Saturdays and the Moraga Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Lafayette’s pride and joy when it comes to outdoor recreation lies in the Lafayette Reservoir, where locals jog, hike and walk their dogs on trails through the trees surrounding a large, picturesque reservoir. Open for day-use only, take a picnic for the family, and find a spot on the trail around the perimeter of the reservoir, or gather a group and barbecue at one of the designated picnic areas. Watch people fish and boat as you take in views of the mound-like hills and general natural beauty of Lafayette’s landscape. With no scheduled events, this recreation area remains open to the public year-round, and parking costs $7 per day.