Visit Vacaville

Yesterday and Today: the Nut Tree in Vacaville, CA

Get nostalgic at California’s Legendary Road Stop, whether it's a ride on the train or a rock-a-thon on the classic hobbyhorses, Nut Tree is the perfect place to remember the past and create new memories!

Do you remember the original Nut Tree?  So many people have fond memories of this iconic Vacaville business. It was the place people stopped on their way to and from San Francisco and Tahoe. For many local families, it was a place to take people to when you had visitors from out of town or to celebrate a special holiday. It was the Easter Bunny, Santa, train rides, hobby horse rides, ornately decorated gingerbread cookies, fruit with marshmallow sauce, and colored sugar. The list of reasons why the Nut Tree was special and unique go on and on.

The End of an Era

Much to everyone’s dismay and sadness the Nut Tree closed its doors in 1996 but, fortunately, when it reopened in 2006 many pieces of memorabilia that still evoke that old Nut Tree feeling were preserved and put back into use when the shopping center that stands today was built. Here are 6 ways to remember the magic and make a whole new set of memories at the new Nut Tree:

1. Visit the Ticket Booth

Take a good look at the building in the plaza where you buy your train and carousel tickets and you’ll realize it’s the unique red and white building that housed ice cream and hot dogs in front of the outdoor patio of the old Nut Tree. This cheery, brightly painted booth brings back fond memories for many returning visitors.

2. Ride the Train

Ride the original, very lovingly restored, train for an affordable $2 per person. It doesn’t take its original tour through the tunnel and to the airport and back, but it does evoke memories of childhood and creates indelible memories for a new generation of riders.

3. Rock Out on the Hobbyhorses

You can rock on exact replicas of the wooden hobby horses. These brightly painted wooden horses, each carefully weighted to prevent their riders from being thrown off during rambunctious rocking, have been a fixture at the Nut Tree since the 1950’s. Climb atop a red, yellow, or blue painted steed and rock your way back in time.

4. Find the Photos

If you take the time to walk the extensive grounds of the shopping center you will notice large blown up pictures of famous people who visited Nut Tree in its heyday. You’ll even find familiar faces like Richard Nixon and Bozo the Clown among the photos!

5. Take a Peek at Harbison House

Although not currently open to the public, Harbison House, the home that belonged to the original owners of the Nut Tree, Helen and Ed Powers, still stands behind the shopping center. Catch a glimpse of it from the breezeway between China Stix Kitchen and Jelly Belly, and watch for special events like the Annual Wine and Food Jubilee that are held at the Harbison Event Center, offering an up close view of Harbison House from the grounds.

6. Stock Up On Souvenirs

Stop by the Visit Vacaville Visitors Center, across from the plaza and next to Premier Day Spa to stock up on Nut Tree and Vacaville souvenirs, grab a copy of the Inspiration Guide (complete with a visual timeline of Nut Tree history), and see some very special prints of the old Nut Tree on display in our offices.

A Blend of Old and New

There’s plenty that’s new and exciting to explore at the Nut Tree, too. With an extensive selection of retail stores and dining options, there are options for every age and interest. Channel that old-time Nut Tree feeling at Fenton’s Creamery, one of only two Fenton’s locations in the bay area.  Fenton’s is not to be missed.  All the ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce, etc.. is made on site, and it’s all divine and delicious.

The carousel is another modern addition that only adds to Nut Tree’s charm and family-friendly vibe. The whimsical creatures that adorn the ride make it worth going back over and over again just to see all the different animals. Visiting the Nut Tree is still a unique experience and a fun walk down memory lane when you are visiting Vacaville or just passing through.

How To Get There

If you’re coming from San Francisco on I-80, take the Orange Drive exit, make two rights, turn left at East Monte Vista, and you’re there. Coming from Sacramento on I-80 to Vacaville, take the East Monte Vista exit. Parking throughout the Nut Tree is free and plentiful so take a break from driving, or better yet, make it an overnight or weekend stay to really explore all the fun that Vacaville and the Nut Tree have to offer!


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