Historical Tours of Downtown Walnut Creek
Where was the first bank in Walnut Creek?
What was Walnut Creek’s original name?
You can learn the answers to these and other intriguing questions about Walnut Creek by taking a free Downtown History Tour — either a Guided Downtown History Tour or, if you prefer, you can explore Walnut Creek’s heritage at your own pace through the self-guided, cellphone based Downtown Heritage Walk.
The Historical Society also offers tours of the Shadelands Ranch house and museum and special educational information at the library. The public also is welcome to visit Borges Ranch, a cattle ranch from the early 1900s that is a site on the National Register of Historic Places. Borges Ranch is located in Shell Ridge, part of the preserved open space areas of the City of Walnut Creek.
Guided Downtown History Tours
Downtown History Tours are a popular and easy way to learn about Walnut Creek history.
The Walnut Creek Historical Society offers free docent-led downtown history tours on the second Saturday of each month, March through October.
This easy, 60-90 minute guided walking tour on city sidewalks brings to life the early times and development of what has become a Bay Area destination city. It’s a new way to experience our city — and a perfect chance to spend a morning and then stay to enjoy all that downtown Walnut Creek has to offer.
- Start time: 9:30 am
- Check in begins at: 9:00 am
- Schedule and location: The tours are held each month, rain or shine. Check-in begins at 9 a.m. at the fountain at Liberty Bell Plaza on the corner of Broadway and Mt. Diablo Blvd. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m.
- Charge: The tour is free. A booklet with historic photos of the sites visited may be purchased during the tour for $5.
- Physical requirements: The tour route involves about 6 city blocks with sidewalks. All ages and abilities are welcome.
- Tours for students: For third grade students, the Historical Society offers a series of educational programs and walking tours that support the school curriculum.
Self-Guided Downtown Heritage Walk
Walnut Creek residents and visitors also can explore Walnut Creek’s fascinating heritage through a free self-guided cellphone walking tour that allows you to visit downtown heritage sites on your own schedule and at your own pace.
The Heritage Walk is part of “Walk Walnut Creek: Art and History Live Here,” an immersive self-guided tour that tells the stories that shaped Walnut Creek’s history and describes the public art that graces the current city landscape. Check out Walk Walnut Creek.
The Heritage Walk features some 60 sites — from Botelho’s Island (now Broadway Plaza) to the Nuthouse (now the Lesher Center for the Arts). Each site is marked with prominent, colorful signage on downtown street lamp posts. The signs include pertinent information about the site and details on how to listen to the audio and, for those with smartphones, how to access a mobile app.
The Heritage Walk was funded through a special grant from the City of Walnut Creek and with contributions from more than 50 supporters (see the list).
Downtown History Tour FAQ
What time does the tour start? 9:30 am.
Where do the tours begin and end? The tours begin at Liberty Bell Plaza on the corner of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and Broadway. They end at the east-side entrance to City Hall on the corner of Broadway and Civic.
Where do the tours go? After leaving Liberty Bell Plaza, we walk to Main St. and continue on Main St. to City Hall. Occasionally we cross the street to get a better view of a historic building. All the historic sites presented on the tours are on Main St., with a few exceptions.
How long are the tours? The tours last 90 minutes. They involve walking approximately 5 city blocks.
Is registration required? No.
Are there any fees for the tours? The tours are provided free of charge by volunteer docents from the Walnut Creek Historical Society.
Where should I park? The garages closest to the start point of the tours at Liberty Bell Plaza are the City garage on the east side of Broadway north of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and the Broadway Point garage (entrance on Duncan between Main St. and Broadway).
Are there any places to rest along the way? There are a number of sidewalk benches at stops on the tour.
Are the tours handicapped accessible? Yes, the tours take place on city sidewalks.
Is it hard to hear the docents on city streets? Although there is noise from the streets, the docents are equipped with portable microphones that are very effective.
Is there any age limit for the tours? People of all ages are welcome on the tours.
Can I bring my pet on a tour? It is necessary to limit the tours to service animals only.
Is it necessary to purchase a booklet for the tour? It is not required to purchase a booklet. However, the booklets are designed specifically for the tours with historic photos of the sites visited and greatly enhance the experience.
Can I purchase a booklet without going on a tour? Currently, the booklets are being sold only in conjunction with the tours.
Should I plan to go on more than one tour? You are welcome to come on as many tours as you like. However, at this time, there is only one itinerary.
What if I have a group of 10 or more people who want to go on a tour together? It is best to arrange for a separate tour for a group of 10 or more people. These can be scheduled at any time that is mutually convenient for the tour group and the docents. Call the Shadelands Ranch Museum at 925-935-7871 to arrange for a special tour.