The Nut Tree Just Turned 100 Years Old
Legendary rest stop and gloriously tacky amusement park The Nut Tree is indeed still around in Vacaville, and now celebrating its 100th birthday. Generations of northern Californians have known the Nut Tree as their halfway stop on I-80 between the Bay Area and Sacramento, and we remember its glory days as a luxury (to us) road trip restaurant destination for Shrimp Louie and Fresh Fruit with Marshmallow Sauce.
Most of us know the Nut Tree as a familiar and reassuring sign on I-80, and whether or not we stop, it always makes us smile. The Nut Tree actually opened in July 1921, so its 100th birthday was last month, but the Nut Tree is celebrating their 100th all summer and autumn long with charmingly small town-style events.
The Nut Tree opened in July 1921 as a modest fruit stand and restaurant on what was then US Route 40. It is named after the actual Vacaville walnut tree seen out front of the premesis back then seen above, a tree that has its own interesting backstory.
The fruit stand and restaurant exploded in popularity when Interstate 80 opened to cross its path in 1964. It became the one of the inventors of “California Cuisine,” creating comfort food concoctions from a combination of organic and exotic foods.
They added a very popular amusement park, but over the years, the Nut Tree became seen as lame and outdated. People didn’t go there as much when other much cheaper gas and food stops popped up all over I-80. The Nut Tree closed in 1996, and its corresponding Coffee Tree restaurant closed and was demolished in 2005.
Above was the condition of the Nut Tree in 2005, and it looked like curtains for the iconic I-80 rest stop.
But the Nut Tree is being resurrected as a housing/strip mall/theme park/food court complex called Nut Tree Plaza. Yes, it will be more corporate than kitschy, but will still retain the Nut Tree rest stop history and road trip restaurant elements.
Because to let that history disappear would simply be nuts.