Sometimes you miss a lot if you never get off the freeway. That's certainly the case with the town of Cloverdale, just off Highway 101.

Incorporated in 1872, and bypassed by the re-routed highway in the mid-1990s, the onetime lumber town has worked hard to reinvent itself in recent years.

The 99-seat Cloverdale Performing Arts Center downtown, which opened in December 2010, draws visitors downtown for plays, classes and parties.

The open-air Cloverdale Plaza nearby closes its free annual Friday Night Live concert series at 7 p.m. Friday with Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums.

Visitors to town can easily park downtown and walk to popular local eateries — for pasta and more at Piacere Ristorante or a nostalgic stop at the classic Pick's Drive-In.

Other local favorites include the Eagle's Nest Deli & Grill, 101 Thai Way, Yogurtdale Blvd., La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Railroad Station Bar & Grill and Zini's Diner. (And just north of town, the Hamburger Ranch & BBQ enjoys a loyal following.)

Coffee breaks are a social affair at Plank Coffee and Underground Coffee. You can spend a happy hour indeed at Ruth McGowan's Brewpub on First Street, or sip wine at the Vino di Amore Wine Tasting Lounge.

Downtown Cloverdale also has its own movie theater, Clover 4 Cinemas on First.

The town's active visual arts community is represented at the First Street Gallery, operated by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance, and by the Towers Gallery and the Local Folkal artists' collective.

For local history, visit the Cloverdale History Center and the Gould Shaw House Museum.

If you want to meet the local folks, Lucinda Wilson recommends the Cloverdale branch of the Sonoma County Library, where she has worked since 2004.

"I love the feeling of community at our library," she said. "Sometimes, we even have to use the dreaded librarian 'shush,'" as friends and neighbors get to happily talking and forget where they are."

— Dan Taylor