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.
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.
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...
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...