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Weekender: Arcata Is a Not-So-Sleepy Hideaway Between the Woods and the Beach

 Sample Pacific Northwest brews, get lost in redwood groves, and kayak on the bay.

 Mad River Beach.


Head north from San Francisco for about five hours and you’ll find yourself in Arcata, a small coastal town nestled between redwood forests and the Pacific Ocean, two hours shy of the Oregon border, near Eureka. It’s small enough to offer escape from the August crowds (see ya, Yosemite) but just lively enough to fill up a weekend, with regular Saturday farmers’ markets in the plaza and monthly art attractions put on by Arts! Arcata. And now, with a new bakery on the way and the county fair rolling into town on August 20, there’s no better time for a road trip up Highway 101.

Eat and Drink

Local favorite Humboldt Brews, better known as Humbrews, stocks beers from all six Humboldt Country breweries, and plenty of others from the Pacific Northwest, for a grand total of 25 rotating taps to choose from. Needless to say, you’ll never go thirsty—that is, unless you’ve had a few too many cream cheese jalapeño poppers. If you’re there on a Friday, you might be in for the semiregular dance party Soul Night. The Humbrews stage also hosts concerts—folk act Elephant Revival and Shakey Graves have put in appearances—and come September, Old 97s and Nick Waterhouse will be stopping by.

The owners of the Local Beer Bar and Slice of Humboldt Pie are teaming up to open BitterSweet, a cider bar and pie shop set to debut behind the Arcata Co-Op in mid-September. Sticking to the Local’s tavern roots, the restaurant will serve up about 20 rotating craft ciders beginning at noon, but you can come in for coffee and tea (and breakfast pie!) as early as 6:30 a.m. Slice of Humboldt Pie will be stocking their coveted seasonal pies, with returning signatures such as barbecue chicken, Chilean potato, classic cherry (à la mode if you prefer), and breakfast quiche. 

If you’re looking for fancier eats, try Folie Douce. With offerings such as Japanese-style grilled oysters and duck confit salad-style pizza with roasted corn and chevre, you may think you’re already back in SoMa. Folie Douce keeps things down to earth, though, with monthly $50 prix-fixe dinners that benefit local charities.


If you want to live like the locals, you’ve got to live with the locals. Just a short walk or drive (about half a mile) from the downtown plaza, Rose Court Cottage is a quintessential bed-and-breakfast run out of owner Christy Laird’s Tudor Revival home. There you'll find blooming gardens, a cozy fireplace, and a small communal kitchen stocked with necessities like dishware and locally roasted coffee. It's also only a mile and a half from the Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary and its walking and biking trails. The sanctuary is situated along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory bird route.

If the Rose is booked, there are plenty other B&B options to choose from, such as Forest View, near the Humboldt State University campus.


Take the Nature Trail Loop (just over half a mile) through the Arcata Community Forest, a seemingly endless grove of redwood trees. The trail begins at Redwood Park, on the east corner of 11th and 14th streets.

Beach people will want to make the 15-minute drive to Mad River Beach County Park, just south of where the Mad River meets the Pacific Ocean, for a swim or boating session. If you don’t have your own gear, head about 15 minutes south of Arcata to Humboats Kayak Adventures, where kayaks and paddleboard rentals are available for between $30 and $110. If you want to turn around and drive back to Mad River Beach (about half an hour), the best deal is to go for an all-day rental. For a cheaper option, choose a two- or four-hour rental and take a cruise along Humboldt Bay instead.

From August 20 to 30, the Humboldt County Fair will celebrate summer’s last hurrah with classic rides, games, and farmers' markets. One-man carnival Guy Fieri will also put in an appearance as host of a battle of the bands on August 26. Rounding out the proceedings will be a livestock auction, lucha libre wrestling, camel rides, and, of course, barbecue.

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