Vacaville is a great town with plenty of entertainment to offer. But if you’ve lived here long enough, you’re sure to remember some of what used to be. Here’s a list of seven cool things that used to be in Vacaville, but sadly are no longer.
The Nut Tree
Yes, the Nut Tree Plaza and shopping center are still here. But the original nut tree grounds were iconic. The world-renowned restaurant included gift shops, a toy store, ice cream parlor and train rides. As a kid, I remember the fun I had there and as an adult I have a lot of respect for how unique the place was.
The Nut Tree began as a road-side fruit stand in 1921 and evolved to the iconic destination which drew visitors from around the world. It sadly closed in 1996 and in its place today is the shopping centers and restaurants that make up the Nut Tree Plaza.
If you visit the plaza, there are plenty of photos of famous visitors and the original Nut Tree. The plaza was built to maintain some nostalgia for those of us who were around when it was open.
Solano Steelheads / Thunderbirds and TCU Park
Originally the Sacramento Steelheads, an independent minor league baseball team, moved to Vacaville as the “Solano Steelheads” in 2000. The Travis Credit Union Park was constructed on the old Nut Tree property and seated 2,800 fans.
A few years later, the Steelheads shut down and were replaced with the collegiate wooden-bat Solano Thunderbirds.
The venue also hosted concerts and family-friendly events. Their 4th of July fireworks show at the time rivaled the City’s own fireworks display. In 2007, the Thunderbirds could no longer financially survive in Vacaville. The final inning of baseball was played in Vacaville. Most of the stadium was dismantled with large sections of it being moved to Redding.
The Vaca Valley Raceway
The Vaca Valley Raceway opened in 1958 and by 1965 it was known around the world with racers coming from overseas to race cars in Vacaville. It closed in 1972. The remnants of the dirt track can still be seen off Lewis Road near I-80. The Daily Republic has an article outlining its history and below is an image of a race program from 1964, courtesy of the Vacaville Heritage Council.
Are you old enough to remember the Wooz? It was a super-fun recreation spot on Orange Drive in Vacaville. Its claim to fame was one of the largest human mazes in the United States. The idea of a human maze came from Japan, where similar mazes had gained popularity. So the Wooz premiered in the United States at its Vacaville location in 1988.
Watch this retro 80’s video about the Wooz…
As a kid, I remember trying this with some friends and you could get lost for hours! Apparently this was interesting the first time, but repeat business was practically zero and the place went out of business soon after opening.
Of course they had arcade games and other things to do, but the maze was what it was known for. I miss the Wooz. Sad face.
Texas Jack’s in Vacaville was a fairly well-renowned country night club on Orange Drive from 1995 until 1997. People came from all around for dancing and live performances by some pretty big country names. It’s fate was determined when the senior housing was approved right next door (not a great combination). Texas Jack’s briefly changed ownership to Big John’s and then as the SplitFire Bar and Grill, continued hosting some fairly large names (I saw Keith Urban play there).
Operations eventually ceased and the neighboring senior community has opposed any further use of the facility as a night club or restaurant. Today the building stands vacant and overgrown.
As a boy in the 1990s, Q-Zar in Vacaville was THE PLACE to have a birthday party. It was a laser tag arena located in the shopping center that today houses the DMV. This place was super fun. There was a full arcade and I remember just how great the pizza was. The best player of every game was awarded the “Top Gun” honor (I’m proud to say I received it on occassion).
I know there are still laser tag places around today, but in the 90s, these were a hot commodity. I have friends that lived around the bay area and Sacramento but would come to Vacaville for a Q-Zar laser tag party.
It appears there is still a Q-Zar location in operation in Concord.
Blue Lagoon Water Slide Park
The Blue Lagoon Water Slide Park opened in 1981 and closed in the early 1990s. The abandoned water park remained visible along I-80 until the property was sold in 2013. While I never went there personally, I remember seeing the towering water slides and yearning to visit on hot summer days.
The Blue Lagoon was apparently a big deal back in the day. Vacaville’s water park attracted visitors from all around, but the property was likely too valuable to support such a business. It’s now the site of New Life Church, a popular worship center in Vacaville.
The Coffee Tree
Sure, everyone knows about the Nut Tree. But does anyone remember the Coffee Tree restaurant? It sat on the other side of Interstate 80 and had a similar iconic vibe. The Coffee Tree was also opened by the Power Family in 1965. It served breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course….coffee.
The Coffee Tree’s towering structure was a Vacaville landmark for many years after the Nut Tree shut its doors. In 2003, the restaurant found itself in need of major structural repairs and was sold. It was sadly demolished in 2005 and today is the site of the Olive Garden.
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