By CAMERON SULLIVAN | The Mercury News —

Roads beyond the Bay Area lead to new definitions of home.

The routes to several cities to the north and east of the Bay Area hold not only storied pasts but promises of a thriving future.

Among them, routes through Sacramento lead toward rivers, lakes and mountains while others to the east and south go through the Central Valley. In these places, families of all ages and stages, whether longtime Californians or West Coast transplants from around the world, are discovering a new sense of what it means to come home.

They’re finding that home means comfort, space, community, opportunity and a distinct sense of forever — all with high-tech, energy-efficient features in beautiful neighborhoods at pleasing price points.

Take a daytrip to greater Sacramento

Ready for a simple daytrip that will take you to another place and time but still within reasonable distance?

Start by visiting the greater Sacramento area for a taste of some new neighborhoods and lifestyles. East Sacramento, or East Sac, for instance, is “close enough to the heart of downtown but with a smaller town vibe,” according to Tim Lewis Communities, which opens its three Sutter Park neighborhoods in East Sac this summer.

East Sac is a thriving hub for people at all stages of life, given the investments of developers and preservationists alike. Here, high-tech and architecturally desirable homes complement their historic surroundings, creating an idyllic spot for young families, first-time homebuyers, empty nesters and people who are considering retirement.

Newcomers to Sutter Park will enjoy the walking distance to dining, schools, parks and historic nooks of Sacramento such as the Fabulous Forties neighborhood, or Fab 40s, which is named for the numbered streets lined with historic homes in Tudor, Colonial, Arts and Crafts and California bungalow styles. The adjacent community of Sutter Park features three new-home neighborhoods that open this summer and are designed to both accent and blend with existing architecture.

Venturing east another 10 to 12 miles on Interstate 50, let your daytrip guide you to the city of Rancho Cordova. Though only incorporated in 2003, Rancho Cordova and its people have come together to form a thriving community that actively supports arts, education and business development. Each of the programs in this renewed area follow Rancho Cordova’s values of innovation, respect, integrity, alignment, innovation and the promise that, “No matter where you’re from, you will always be welcome.”

That welcoming spirit ushered zoning and commercial property improvements and, within the past decade, the addition of new-home communities.

New-home purchase opportunities include upscale, master-planned communities with parks and family-size backyards and luxury single-family home neighborhoods.

“Our communities in Rancho Cordova are located in desirable areas of the city close to brand-new retail centers adjacent to Folsom,” notes Michelle Velky, vice president of sales and marketing for Lennar Sacramento.

Additionally, several floor plans in Rancho Cordova are built for multigenerational living. In those homes, dual master suites may come standard or as an option. With floor plans between approximately 1,500 square feet in size to more than 3,000 square feet, new homes in Rancho Cordova are priced from the high $300,000 range to the high $500,000 range. Builders there include Lennar, Watt Communities and Woodside Homes.

“We offer a variety of home designs for homebuyers at every stage of life, including Next Gen floor plans designed for multigenerational households and dual living situations,” says Velky. “Plus, with new homes priced starting in the low $400,000 (range), it’s a great opportunity for first-time homebuyers to enter the market.”

One of the biggest draws to Rancho Cordova, adds Velky, is the affordability of new homes.

“Many of our homebuyers are either first-time homebuyers or families moving up into a brand-new home where they can also take advantage of being in the Elk Grove School District,” she says.

Location is everything. Positioned close to Sacramento and as a gateway to the magnificent Folsom Lake area, Rancho Cordova also features a quaint downtown. Local roads and the Sacramento Regional Transit District’s light rail system link Rancho Cordova to Sacramento and to nearby Historic Folsom without the need for a freeway trip.

Speaking of Folsom, no trip through Sacramento’s east valleys to the Folsom Lake Recreation Area would be complete without a stop in Folsom Ranch. There, near the foothills of both the Tahoe National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest, the new meaning of home includes rich and simple access to water recreation; employment hubs such as Roseville and Rocklin; and highly ranked school districts.

“Folsom Ranch provides luxury home designs with new floor plans in a very up-and-coming area,” explains Velky. “It is located with easy access from the freeway and it’s adjacent to the new Palladio Shopping Center and desirable local schools.”

Delta tranquility in Oakley and Tracy

The next daytrip to help you find your new home can begin either after an overnight stay at Folsom Lake or from points within the Bay Area.

Anyone who has spent a spring, summer or fall in and around the Bay Area has heard of the California Delta waterways, where anglers, water-sports enthusiasts and water-loving families keep boats, rent water crafts or simply stroll and relax near the water.

Those who aren’t native to the area might not know or appreciate just how expansive the Delta is. Earning its name from its shape, the Delta forms a triangle of waterways from Sacramento on the north side, west to Benicia and east and south through Stockton and Tracy. The Delta encompasses approximately 1,000 miles of navigable waterways including the Sacramento River, the Suisun Bay and the San Joaquin River. And while its history runs two centuries deep, Delta life is also home to several new-home communities that take advantage of the topography.

The city of Oakley, for instance, sits on land just south of where the Sacramento River meets the San Joaquin River.

Groundbreaking took place there this year at Delaney Park, a master-planned community of 581 homes filled with parks, lakes and easy access to the Delta waterways.

“Delaney Park is ideal for the increasing number of homebuyers who are searching for more affordable options with plenty of space, an abundance of lifestyle amenities and access to great public schools,” says Ann Marie Olson, vice president of sales and marketing for DeNova Homes. The natural environment of Delaney Park and its dozens of home styles and elevations create a great place to live and play near several bays of all sizes.

Meanwhile on the southernmost end of the Delta, life on natural and man-made waterways enriches life for new-home buyers in Tracy. In the Ellis master-planned community, for example, Woodside Homes is offering a mixture of large single- and two-story homes, many of which include multigenerational options. The community is located close to public transportation and even includes plans for a village center and an aquatic park.

Isn’t it time for a daytrip to these and other communities to create your new definition of home?