Davis Farmers Market
Even in a state that's known for its farm bounty (and boasts more than 700 farmers markets), this year-round market 80 mile east of San Francisco stands out. The pitched-roofed, open-air market pavilion, alongside the city's Central Park, lets visitors shop outdoors but under cover in all weather.
Ask longtime market manager Randii MacNear just how fresh and local the agricultural products are, and she'll explain that more than two-thirds of the 90 producers selling here live within an hour's drive. On Wednesdays in the summer, the market is open from late afternoon through mid-evening for Picnic in the Park, featuring concerts by local musicians and a global array of meals from surrounding restaurants.
Regulars at the Davis market go for the produce-laden popsicles — sweet potato, avocado, boysenberry — sold under the whimsical name Fat Face (logo: a pig slurping a Popsicle). On Saturdays, Fat Face founder Jaymes Luu also sells gourmet breakfast sandwiches made from fresh market goods.
Annual special events at the market include a Fall Festival showcasing seasonal specialties (try the pumpkin ice cream), and Pig Day, a celebration of all things porcine. Pig Day market-goers sample pork products, make pig-themed crafts and wear pig costumes (MacNear traditionally dresses as "Ms. Piggy"). There's also a piglet petting zoo, and a dance performance and flash-mob known as the Big Pig Jig.
Davis Farmers Market Pavilion in Central Park, 3rd & C Streets, Davis, CA 95616.
Saturdays: 8 a.m.-1 p.m., year-round, rain or shine
Wednesdays: April through October, 4:30-8:30 p.m.; November through March, 2-6 p.m.
A smaller, satellite market operates at the main entrance of Sutter Davis Hospital (2000 Sutter Pl.) on Thursdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. from June 2 through September 29.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco
This farmers market's location on Embarcadero Way is a feast for the senses, with the historic Ferry Building and glittering San Francisco Bay as backdrops (and access by mass transit including ferry and cable car). The nonprofit that runs the market — CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture — encourages visitors to learn about "green" growing practices while they shop and graze. One fact that CUESA is particularly proud to share: "Food eaten in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate, while food traveling to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market travels an average of just 100 miles" — arriving at peak taste and nutritional value, and spending less fossil fuel along the way.
The day-long Saturday markets draw more than 120 vendors in the course of a year, with stalls lining the sidewalk in front of the Ferry Building and spilling into the plaza behind it. Saturdays feature popular Market to Table events where shoppers meet farmers and vendors, and learn about cooking in time with the seasons. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, four-hour-long midday markets (featuring about 30 vendors in sidewalk stalls) are a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike to grab lunch while shopping for dinner ingredients.
Located at the Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street on the bayside street called the Embarcadero.
Saturdays: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. year-round
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. year-round.