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About Hercules, California
Known as the "Dynamic City on the Bay," Hercules sits along San Pablo Bay about 22 miles northeast of San Francisco. The railroad came through the area in the late 1870s, bringing business and residents to the area. The city takes its name from the early industry of dynamite and explosives manufacturing, started by the Hercules Powder Company. There's no longer much manufacturing within Hercules, but the town has grown from a few hundred residents in 1970 to more than 25,000 today as a bedroom community for the Bay Area's larger cities.
The Community of Hercules
Hercules isn't a huge or assuming town; its suburban feel is evident from the many two-story homes and smaller commercial buildings that line its pleasantly landscaped roads. Older neighborhoods sit mostly inland while newer development hugs the bay. The historic Old Town section of Hercules runs along the waterfront as well. The nearby Olympian Hills neighborhood uses mythological names for streets in keeping with the name of the city.
What to Do in Hercules
Hike or bike along the San Pablo Bay Trail that will eventually connect Hercules with other communities along the bay. Currently, you can park in the Victoria by the Bay housing development and pick up the trail off Sycamore Avenue. Explore and enjoy the beautiful views.
As a one-time company town, many of the buildings dating back to the 1890s were from the original plant village. The worker's homes were torn down long ago, but 35 buildings (one was lost to fire) were preserved in what's called Hercules Village, on Kings, Railroad, Santa Fe and Hercules Avenues as well as Talley Way, Bay and Pinole Streets. These structures are on the National Register of Historic Places and are still being restored, but you can admire the architecture and history of these turn-of-the-century buildings.
Refugio Valley Park is the central green space in Hercules, and boasts multi-use fields, picnic areas and playgrounds. Get your racket out and play some tennis on the well-maintained courts. The large pond is home to several ducks and the occasional turtle for observing or feeding. The park also hosts events like the summer Hercules Cultural Festival.
One Place You Shouldn't Miss in Hercules
Take a look at the Hercules Bayfront, which is still a work in progress but is shaping up nicely with mixed-use residential and retail space and public plazas for walking and enjoying the beautiful bay. Part of the plan includes an amphitheater, 11-acre park and connections to local transportation; it will interesting to watch progress as the city moves forward on its long-term plan.
Dining in Hercules
For lovely bay views and a romantic atmosphere, try Leila By the Bay with California-style cuisine and service for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as brunch on weekends. Chicken Marsala and Braised Lamb are two highlights on the menu, or try a traditional pasta dish with fresh seafood.
The Powder Keg Pub pays tribute with its name to Hercules' past. Choose from a traditional menu of salads, sandwiches and other pub foods or sample the oyster shooters and calamari along with one of their delicious on-tap brews. Outdoor seating on the patio is pleasant if the weather cooperates. Ever had a Jalapeño Margarita? You can try one here -- if you can handle the spiciness.