Just 36 miles from downtown San Francisco is the charming and historical waterfront town of Benicia. The combination of a vibrant art scene, historical landmarks, and excellent dining choices makes this a place that can be enjoyed by one and all.
As well as learning about the local history, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping, both in big shopping outlets as well as smaller specialty ones. As of 1987, Benicia has been part of the California Main Street program and is today a very popular day trip out of San Francisco.
Benicia has a long and interesting past and has over the years played an important role in California’s history. For a short period in the mid 19th century, the town became the states capitol. In 1853, the original capitol building was erected in what is now the historical landmark and tourist attraction of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park.
Many of California’s most important events affected or included Benicia including the original Mexican culture, the gold rush, the transcontinental Railroad and the Civil War.
One of the great things about Benicia is the fact that the majority of the town can be explored on foot. The only landmarks that are slightly too far out are the Arsenal building and the Camel Museum.
Benicia’s downtown area adjacent to the waterfront promenade is ideal for strolling and taking in the sights.
Weekend Activities Guide
A great first place to make a stop is the visitor Information office at Benicia Main Street, 90 First Street, Benicia. Here there are plenty of brochures and maps available to help all visitors to enjoy the town to the maximum.
Information regarding the Historic Downtown Benicia Walking Tour can also be found here.
The tour features 25 locations all with close proximity to one another such as The Union Hotel, the Pony Express Shop, and St Pauls Episcopal Church.
Benicia historical sites that are not to be missed:
1. Benicia Fire Museum is an interesting experience. It is home to one of the first fire engines seen in the state and a variety of equipment and artifacts from the 1800’s. The museum is located on 900 East Second Street Benicia.
2. Fischer-Hanlon House offers an extravagant Victorian garden and is a beautiful example of a middle-class home towards the end of the 19th century. It was home to the same family for 110 years before being donated to the state in 1968. It’s open on Sundays and guided tours are available on the first and third Sunday of each month. 115 West G Street Benicia.
3. Benicia Historical Museum is the ideal place to come to get a grip with Benicia’s history and that of the US Army Arsenal. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. 2060 Camel Road Benicia
4. Benicia waterfront is particularly beautiful and offers some incredible views over the bay. It is the former location of the ferry terminal and shipyards but is now the First Street Promenade.
5. Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. The main attraction is the old capitol building. It is a striking white columned construction that was crafted from materials of salvaged ships. It is open Thursdays from 12-4 and Friday to Sunday.and 5 pm.
The quiet atmosphere Benicia combined with the spectacular scenery meant that by the mid-1900’s, the town was somewhat of a hub for the San Francisco art scene.
It continues to this day to be a popular place for the arts and artists and there is now a charming mix of cultures. The bohemian vibes come through now only in the galleries but also in the dining and shopping opportunities.
There are plenty of boutique stores and excellent eateries. Many of the best shops in Benicia are found on First Street and the nearby area. For an excellent selection of art exhibitions head to the shared space at The Arsenal.
Benicia Events to look out for:
Farmers Market – For fresh produce, arts and crafts and pony rides. Held on Thursday evenings from April until October.
Torchlight Parade – Features music, dancing and live entertainment and is held on the July 3rd and 4th on First Street.
Benicia Artists Open Studios Weekends – Offers the chance for local artisans and galleries to display their work, on the first weekend in December and the one before Mothers Day.
Yacht Races and Opening Day on The Straits – Decorated float parades held on the third Saturday in April.
Benicia Peddlers Fair – Antique and collectible dealers come together to sell their goods every August.