I-80’s Nut Tree

Near Vacaville, Calif., a former way station for travelers has redefined itself with an open-air market, bocce courts, four acres of shops, and the Nut Tree Family Park.

Nut Tree, Calif. playground

A postcard from the 1960s: the Nut Tree’s “playwall.”

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Pineapple pieces in marshmallow sauce. Tiny loaves of hot bread on miniature cutting boards. A toy shop bursting with stuffed animals, the clack and whistle of a little train—these are the indelible memories of millions of travelers who stopped at the Nut Tree in Vacaville, Calif., during its heyday.

Set alongside Interstate 80, the Nut Tree started as a humble fruit stand opened in 1921 by Helen and Bunny Power and grew into a sprawling, whimsical playland, emporium, and restaurant. When it folded a decade ago, generations mourned.

Now the Nut Tree is putting out new leaves. Rising on the old site is an 80–acre collection of shops, restaurants, town houses, and hotels embellished with a vineyard, an open–air market, bocce courts, and the lavishly landscaped Nut Tree Family Park.

The four–acre park, scheduled to open in late summer (call or check the Web site for the date), features a mini–sailboat pond, bumper cars, and a carousel. The train is restored and will run on new track; old–fashioned sweet treats are in the works. The rocking horses will be back, too.

"We hope people see their own kids and grandkids enjoying it all," says General Manager Kirk Smith, "and feel the excitement they felt when they came as kids." (707) 448-6411, www.nuttreeusa.com.

Photography courtesy of Vacaville Museum

This article was first published in July 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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