Having a child is the clichéd motivation to move to the suburbs, and so it was for me and my husband. Our quest to trade our San Francisco one-bedroom led us to Danville, Calif., part of what's known as the Tri-Valley area. I didn't know much about it, except that its main street is darling. Every day since, I've fallen more in love with my new town, its bucolic scenery (some of our neighbors are horses) and its all-American charm. The surrounding valleys (www.visittrivalley.com) won me over too, and I find myself wondering why we never ventured east when we lived in the city. It's gorgeous here, and friendly, and there's plenty to see and do. The tab: A two-night stay at the Hyatt House, dinner at Bridges and wine-tasting at Wente cost about $350, not including airfare or gas.
When guests visit, they stay at the Hyatt House (2323 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon;  743-1882, http://www.sanramon.house.hyatt.com; doubles from $113 per night, including breakfast and evening cocktails) and find it comfortable and satisfying. Moneyed friends sing the praises of the Rose Hotel in Pleasanton (807 Main St., Pleasanton;  846-8802, http://www.rosehotel.net; doubles from $260 per night, including breakfast), an adorable town packed with restaurants and shops. The boutique hotel, known for refined service, has plush European-style rooms. Owners are native sons Mike and Joe Madden, sons of NFL sportscaster John Madden.
Bridges Restaurant & Bar in Danville (44 Church St.;  820-7200, http://www.bridgesdanville.com. Entrees $23-$31) as Danvillians are eager to tell you, is where Robin Williams filmed the famous "Mrs. Doubtfire" scenes in which he kept fleeing to the restroom to do quick changes in and out of drag. Entrées are old-fashioned upscale (dinner options include a New York steak with cognac butter; dessert might be crème brûlée) and décor is refined, though servers and patrons are down to earth. For a casual meal, head down the street to Pete's Brass Rail & Car Wash (201 Hartz Ave., Danville;  820-8281, http://www.petesbrassrail.com), a lively local obsession where cold beer is king, fare is staunchly American and music and TVs blare.
Wente Vineyards in Livermore (5050 Arroyo Road;  456-2405, http://www.wentevineyards.com) is more enjoyable than most Napa wineries. And there's more to do too: Attend a rollicking outdoor concert (we saw Counting Crows last year, but performers have been as varied as Diana Ross and Brad Paisley), taste wine ($10 gets you five samples), play bocce ball, have dinner, tour the gardens or tee off on the 18-hole Greg Norman golf course.
The lesson learned
Head up Mt. Diablo sooner rather than later. The view from the top quickly gives you the lay of the land, and one of the widest panoramas in the West. It's a 45-minute drive from base to summit, or a daylong (13-mile) hike.
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