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Arcata Plaza, Arcata

Arcata Plaza, Arcata
See the historic side of the North Coast’s Hippie Haven

The History: This college town of almost 18,000, on the state’s far north coast, may be nicknamed “Hippie Haven,” but its official name was a more somber “Union” when it was settled in 1850. Those pioneers built up this plaza, mostly using wood for construction; but August Jacoby thought to build his store out of brick and stone. As a result, in the wake of an 1875 fire that destroyed dozens of the town’s buildings and businesses, his is the only original building left today. More recent structures, though, are still about 100 years old. The Hotel Arcata dates to 1915; it was once called “Sportsman’s Headquarters” and played host to those to who traveled by rail or steamer. Just off the plaza is the Minor Theatre; opened in 1914, it’s one of the oldest structures in the U.S.  built for the sole purpose of showing movies. Don’t leave without debating the merits of slain U.S. President William McKinley—and be sure to do so in front of his eight-foot-tall bronze statue in the plaza, erected in 1906.

Where to Play: Check out August Jacoby’s legacy, the restored Jacoby’s Storehouse, with several restaurants and shops. Have dinner on the 3rd floor at Plaza Grill. You can stay at the Hotel Arcata, though prices have gone up since its 1915 rate of $1/night. Even if you don’t stay there, be sure to check out the lobby’s cool historic decor. Then mix past and present: Catch the latest Hollywood releases at the restored Minor Theatre.

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Tai Power Seeff

Northern California

Discover the North Coast

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10
April
Average (°C)
Mar - May
14°
High
6°
Low
June - Aug
16°
High
10°
Low
Sept - Nov
17°
High
7°
Low
Dec - Feb
12°
High
5°
Low

Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.

Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.

It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.

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Tour an inspiring compound dedicated to an almost-lost art

Eric Hollenbeck didn’t plan to be a time traveler, or a museum curator, or a model of how to take care of troubled youth or returning war vets....

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Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake within California, is the oldest lake in North America and possibly the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir
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Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Mendocino

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Discover a coastal paradise with ridiculously fresh seafood, amazing wine, and craft beer

With its dramatic ocean-bluff setting overlooking a steel-blue sea, this coastal hamlet is an obvious magnet for artists, romantics, and lovers of...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometers, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the  “City by the Bay” is the...

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Tucked into an ocean-facing fold of Mount Tamalpais, the signature peak just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Muir Woods National Monument protects the last stand of uncut old-growth coast redwoods in the Bay Area, where loggers had all but denuded the region by the late 1800s....

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

North Coast Wine Country

Slip away to some of the state’s most peaceful vineyards

From quiet vineyards bounded by lush redwood forests along the Mendocino Coast, to the sun-drenched rolling hills of rugged Lake County, the North...

Clear Lake, California
Courtesy of County of Lake

Clear Lake

Explore a burgeoning wine scene and cool off with a summery splash in the lake

Take a deep breath the next time you’re in Northern California’s Lake County. That’s some of...

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Tai Power Seeff

Wine & Dine in the North Coast

Sample hyper-local foods from land and sea, plus amazing beers and wines

The North Coast might just be the perfect place to eat. Few other places in the world can offer such a harmonious blend of chefs, farmers,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Follow celebrated routes to iconic vineyards and tucked-away surprises

With more than 4,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

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SPECIAL FEATURE
Celebrate the seasonal bounty and quirky art-fueled character of the North Coast

You can learn a lot about a place at its local festivals. Consider the Kinetic Grand Championship, a cosmically silly three-day battle between human-powered works of art (imagine a speeding dragon...

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The Humboldt County Fair began in 1896 and is the oldest running county fair in California.
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Courtesy of Humboldt County CVB

Ferndale

Visit a Victorian village where time stands still

A fairytale come to life, this remote village features carefully preserved Victorian-era century homes, a visual and architectural feast. On a...

The Skunk Train on California's North Coast
Courtesy of Skunk Train

Skunk Train

Ride a historic train through soaring coastal redwoods

Originally built in 1885 to transport redwood logs from the rugged countryside to the coast, the...

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Courtesy of Humboldt County CVB

Eureka

Nature and culture merge in an art-fueled Victorian seaport

This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in...

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Lucas Himovitz

Fort Bragg

Rough-and-tumble lumber town morphs into a top coastal find

With its original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most visitors. But now—perhaps...

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While now a beautiful coastal treasure, Glass Beach initially began in the late 1940s as a place where locals would toss their trash, including glass bottles.
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Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
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Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

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The last stop on this spectacular road trip ends at the very last city in California. Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbor, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-...