Invention, creativity, and participation are on the menu!
Looking for a new, fun, and educational experience for the whole family? Benicia has a full menu of great ideas and activities to keep your kids engaged and smiling this spring.
Benicia Mini Maker Faire
In celebration of the maker movement, curious people from all over will gather to show off what they’ve discovered at the third annual Benicia Mini Maker Faire held Sunday, April 2 at Benicia Middle School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Set those creative minds loose in a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. There will be several hands-on activities in addition to some amazing exhibits with a must-touch policy.
For example, artist and educator Gregory Gavin cultivates a social and creative environment for all ages through the properties of moving water. Check out his sculpture featuring an elevated waterway designed for water play, as well as a method for teaching art, science, architecture, and even civics.
If your family is into crime shows, they’ll enjoy this one. Gene Cooper will be demonstrating how new forensics technology is changing the way crimes are solved. Learn how it works, compare results, and enter to win prizes.
Tickets are required, so be sure to get them in advance online and save 30%. At the door tickets are $15 for adults, $9 for kids ages 5-17, or $45 for the whole family. For more information on the Mini Maker Movement and the Mini Maker Faire, and early-bird tickets, visit benicia.makerfaire.com.
Art Classes for Kids
Kids love making things with their hands, and what better way to channel those creative ideas than with fun art classes after school or during break. Artcentric Pottery Painting offers great kids classes in pottery, painting, glass fusing, and mosaics. And they charge a flat studio fee per visit, so you can stay as long as you need to design the perfect craft. There are additional fees, so check out the website at artcentricbenicia.info for more information.
Creativity Unleashed Ceramics Pottery and Canvas Studio also has great all-inclusive classes starting at $11.95 per person. Get your hands dirty during creativity with ceramics, canvas, mosaics, glass fusing, clay working and more. Join a class, host a party, or sign up for one of their camp sessions. All the fees and dates are available online at creativityunleashedceramics.com.
Brickspace Lego Learning Center is the perfect place to encourage curious minds in a fun environment designed around playing with Legos. This magical space is a great spot for birthday parties, drop-in play, or more structured programs where kids learn engineering concepts using Lego sets as a tool. Parents will love the impact of tactile learning, while children get to see their plastic block creations come to life. Check out their website for more information at brickspacebenicia.net.
Another great place to take the kids for an art extravaganza is Once Upon A Canvas. Learn to paint as a group, work with clay, draw, or make a craft of your own design. Once Upon A Canvas offers instruction and parties for kids of all ages. The best part about this art adventure is that you don’t have to bring anything. All materials are provided and included in the price. Check out their schedule for more information at onceuponacanvasbenicia.com.
For the next generation of artists, Arts Benicia has an incredible after-school program to give students the chance to explore art and develop new interests in a fun and supportive environment. Taught by experienced teaching artists, the classes provide practice problem solving, encourage young artists to think creatively, and provide the structure and tools to develop artistic talent. There are several ways to get involved. For more information, visit artsbenicia.org.
Benicia is bursting with art and activities year-round. Follow us on Facebook to keep up on all the latest news about upcoming events and activities. For a complete list of art studios and classes, please go to visitbenicia.org.
Check out these fun things to do
Benicia may throw more events per capita than any other Bay Area town. Especially in the spring, Benicia is bursting with activity. Here’s a sampling of what’s coming up, including events that will entertain the whole family.
Benicia Mini Maker Fair
Discover an all-day show of invention and creativity while mingling with inspiring makers Sunday, April 2 during the Benicia Mini Maker Fair. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, people come from all over the Bay Area for this event.
It’s a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. Bring the whole family to explore new ideas, new technologies, and incredibly creative crafts. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $6-$15. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit benicia.makerfaire.com.
“Intimate Apparel” by Benicia Old Town Theatre Group
BOTTG’s spring production runs April 21-May 13 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. “Intimate Apparel” has been described as “a poignant commentary on an era when the cut and color one’s dress – and of course, skin – determined whom one could not marry…even talk to, in public.” Tickets are on sale now at beniciaoldtowntheatregroup.com.
Opening Day on the Strait
Located on the Carquinez Strait, Benicia is home to an active sailing community and the perfect place to visit in the spring. The Benicia Yacht Club celebrates this official kick-off to boating season with a party and parade. Opening Day on the Strait starts around 11 a.m. Saturday, April 22. Visitors will get a rare chance to visit the club, witness a decorated boat parade (which starts around 3 p.m.) and the blessing of the fleet. Behind the Benicia Yacht Club there will be arts and crafts vendors, live music, delicious food, fun games for the kids, as well as dinner and dancing to carry the celebration into the evening. For more details, call the Benicia Yacht Club at (707)746-0739, or visit beniciayachtclub.com.
Benicia Classic Car Show
Is your dream car a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS or maybe a 1970 Dodge Challenger? Whether you are into classic muscle cars or vintage models from the golden age, Sunday, April 30 the Benicia Classic Car Show will showcase these shiny babies. Held on the First Street Green (located at the foot of First Street) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can peruse the cars, chat it up with the owners, and enjoy a full day of fun, food, and music, all for free. All proceeds will go directly to support the Benicia High School Panther Marching Band program. For more information please visit beniciaclassiccarshow.com.
More Fun Things To Do
Benicia’s popular Ghost Walk is held the first and third Friday each month through late October. This spooktacular walking tour is a fun and interactive way to get in touch with the paranormal, right here in the bay area. Tours last about two hours and you must be at least 12 years old to attend. For more information visit beniciamainstreet.org.
Beginning April 27 and running every Thursday through October 26, foodies from all over will gather for Benicia’s popular Certified Farmers Market. Enjoy fruits, vegetables, cheeses, olive oils, crafts, music and so much more at this hometown favorite. Bring the kids for an evening of great food and entertainment. Farmers Market hours are 4-8 p.m.
Beautify your mind, body and soul during Benicia’s Pamper Me Week – a spa, salon, and shopping event February 18-25Submitted by Christy on February 16, 2017 - 5:21pm
Looking for a new spot to schedule a little me time? Benicia is perfect for that, and likely has a few amazing treatments/experiences that you didn’t even realize you needed. Both centrally located and easy to access from the Bay Area, this fun loving little town is a great spot to spend time with your sweetie, the family, or your best girls. February 18-25 downtown Benicia will be your one-stop location for wellness, beauty, and retail therapy.
Where to begin
We all know that the first step in taking care of ourselves is to de-stress. Be sure to check out Wellness Wisdom, located at 827 First Street. They offer an expansive menu of holistic healing treatments in a simple, clean and welcoming space. Whether you are looking for a relaxing massage, age-defying facial, or needleless point acupuncture (Japanese style) this is the place to center your mind and body. Call (707) 746-6099 before this weekend to receive $10 off their Ionic Foot Detox and $20 off your initial acupuncture consultation.
Bring the family
When was the last time taking the kids to get haircuts felt relaxing? Often we find ourselves rushing through the motions without enjoying the process. At Time Out with Cheshi, you can schedule a “Family Chill Session” while taking care of the kiddo’s haircuts. The chill spa service includes an herbal foot soak and massage with a shampoo and blow dry. This kids’ haircut and chill spa is located at 841 First Street. Make advance reservations by calling (415) 305-9740.
Enjoy radiant skin
Don’t wait another minute to enjoy beautiful, glowing skin. At Barbara Patrick Skin you will receive a completely customized analysis of just what your skin needs to glow and shine. Defy your age with the Age Smart Treatment, preserve your youth with a Mico-Peel, or create balance with the Ultra Calming Treatment. Barbara shares, “Skin Therapy and permanent cosmetics are my passion. I find it so gratifying to make a difference in someone’s appearance, giving them a great facial, or fabulous brows!” Barbara Patrick Skin is located at 831 First Street. Call (707) 718-5062 to receive 20% off permanent brows when booked during Pamper Me Week.
Word on the street is that the key to healthy skin stems from proper exfoliation. Bella Donna Skin Spa offers a variety of treatments that will cleanse, energize, and hydrate resulting in younger, healthier looking skin. Interested in removing unwanted body hair? Check out Bella Donna’s Sugaring method. Used by the ancient Egyptians, this timeless treatment removes hair in a natural and safe manner. Sugaring is a great technique for skin of all ages and sensitivity. They are located at 849 First Street. Reserve in advance at (707) 718-5062 to receive 15% off Skin Treatments and Henna Services.
Cut, Color and Style
Finding the perfect hairdresser can be quite the task, especially if it’s for a special occasion. So here are a few of the best of the best in downtown Benicia.
The Courtyard Salon, specializing in weddings and important events, offers everything from hairdressing to waxing and lashes to facials. Whether you are looking for elegant tresses, ombré and balayage, or a full color make-over they have the talent on hand to make it happen. First-time clients will receive 50% when you book with Samantha. They are located at 114 West D Street. Reserve in advance by calling (707) 398-5667.
At First Impressions you can count on their experienced team to execute the perfect hairstyle, massage, facial, manicure, or wax. This full-service salon offers a complete menu of beautifying treatments. First-time clients will receive 10% off many of the services booked during Pamper Me Week. Contact each stylist individually to book your appointment. For a complete list of stylists and services visit firstimpressionsbenicia.com.
And at PS Studios, located at 638½ First Street, it’s all about hair. Paula Schwartz, master stylist and owner, is well known for doing hair, make-up, and styling for photo shoots for musical artists, authors, and celebrities. PS Studios specializes in creating shape and balance that will reflect your individual style and preferences. New clients will receive 20% of Liqwd products, a Breakthrough ColorLife Technology® that has UV filters. Appointments can be booked by calling (707) 483-5212.
Shopping, shopping, and more shopping!
And to round out a perfect spa day, Benicia offers some of the best boutique shopping in the Bay Area. Check out all of the latest trends at Christina S Fashion Destination, located at 370 First Street, where guests will receive 10% off the De la Terre Skincare line. Elisa’s Closet, located at 623 First Street, offers unique clothing and accessories both vintage and new. Save 20% during Pamper Me Week. Women of all styles will find something at Tina Marie’s, located at 131-C First Street, which is in the Tannery Building. Enjoy 20% off your purchase when you shop during Pamper Me Week. Check out local glass blowing art at Lindsay Art Glass, located at 109 East F Street. Peruse hand-blown vases, ornaments, and much more. Save 15% when you mention Lindsay’s newsletter. And if you are looking for something to brighten your home or enhance a room, Romancing the Home, located at 617 First Street, has everything from handbags to home furnishings. Enter to win the “Pamper Me Gift Basket” when you spend $25 or more.
What makes Benicia such a special place for art? Here’s a hint: It celebrates its 30th anniversary this yearSubmitted by Christy on February 7, 2017 - 5:35pm
There’s a reason Benicia has one of the richest, most diverse concentrations of talented artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. It started 30 years ago when a handful of visionary artists sought to bring a collective voice and focus to Benicia’s already growing arts community. In May of 1987 these visionaries could not have known that their alliance, appropriately named Arts Benicia, would forever change the creative landscape of their small town.
Much like a family, the legacy of Arts Benicia carries on through each generation of artists. Collaboration and education, often the catalyst of creativity, have paved the way for new artists looking to further the artistic boundaries of their contemporaries.
This is true for Benicia native, Derek Weisberg, who is now a successful figurative ceramic artist living and working in New York City. When Weisberg was a teenager, he was a frequent volunteer at Arts Benicia, showed his first works in the Next Generation exhibition (a widely attended youth exhibit that continues today), and studied under Arthur Gonzalez who in turn studied under one of California's most renowned clay artists, Robert Arneson. Robert, a highly respected and beloved Benicia artist, was considered the father of the ceramic Funk Art movement, and was also a ceramic sculptor.
But this is just one of many amazing stories originating from the galleries and halls of Arts Benicia. In 1993 Mike Kendall (pictured here on the left), a highly sought after Benicia sculptor, was one of the very first to exhibit his work in the 2,400 square-foot space in the historic Arsenal where Arts Benicia now calls home.
In celebration of their anniversary, Kendall’s retrospective will take up the entire Arts Benicia gallery from the first weekend in April through Open Studios, which is held the first weekend in May (May 6-7). If you haven’t already visited during Open Studios weekend, this is a unique opportunity to meet the artists in their working studios and to see a full range of art in progress.
Popular annual events
And since this is a very special year for Arts Benicia, they will be hosting four major art events. Beginning in the spring, women will share their voice and vision during the 8th annual Creative Women Symposium Panel. Held on March 11, this event is co-hosted by Arts Benicia and the Benicia-Vallejo American Association of University Women.
Following the symposium is “Benicia Artists Open Studios” weekend (May 6-7), when local artists will open their studios to the public both in the Arsenal and throughout town. A SolTrans shuttle will be available to transport art enthusiasts from the Arsenal to downtown and back all weekend.
Then in the fall, visitors will have the opportunity to raise money for Arts Benicia during their annual Art Auction in their gallery on September 23 (auctioned art will be available for a two-week preview September 9-23). For additional information on Arts Benicia events please visit artsbenicia.org.
Other upcoming exhibits
In addition to this year’s exciting events, Arts Benicia has an incredible lineup of exhibits by active and influential artists from all over. Currently on display is ‘The Art of a Community’, a collection of art showcasing the multifaceted talents of Arts Benicia members. ‘The Art of a Community’ will be on exhibit through February 19.
From June 10 - July 9 artists from Solano and Sacramento will exchange places during the ‘Human Voices Cross Currents Exchange: Solano + Sacramento artists' with Sacramento curators Robert-Jean Ray and Nisa Hayden from Beatnik Gallery, and Arts Benicia’s Celeste Smeland, and Mary Shaw. Later in the month, July 29 - August 27, Juror Kathryn Harmon from Tributary Books in Seattle, WA will be adjudicating artists’ work for ‘Mapping Your Terrain’, an exhibition of the map as art.
From October 14 - November 19 don’t miss ‘Clay - A Legacy of Social Consciousness’ with Curator Lisa Reinertson, (who also studied with Robert Arneson.) And then Gems IV (small works) with Juror Donna Seager from the Seager-Gray Gallery in Mill Valley from December 2-25.
Dig in Bay Area! Downtown Benicia Restaurant Week is here January 21-28, and it’s a little different!Submitted by Christy on January 20, 2017 - 3:58pm
More than a dozen restaurants are participating in this year’s Downtown Benicia Restaurant Week January 21-28. Foodies from all over the Bay Area can enjoy menu discounts ranging from 15-20% when they present the Dining Passport (which is free to download). Unlike neighboring restaurant weeks, Benicia eateries prefer their patrons to choose from the full menu instead of limiting you to a prix fixe selection. What’s the point? To dig in and see how many restaurants you can hit in one week.
Here’s the list of participating restaurants:
Aroma Indian Cuisine – Order it how you like it! There is something for everyone at this delicious Indian restaurant. They even offer a buffet lunch and great to-go options. Be sure to try one of the Biryanis. Passport Offer: 15% off second entrée.
Dianna’s Bakery & Café – Grab a cup of joe or stay for lunch. This bakery/café has everything from croissants to salads to sandwiches. The BLTs is a local favorite. Remember to order at the counter before you grab a table. Passport Offer: 15% off entire order ($10 min.)
Double Rainbow Café – Who doesn’t love ice cream! This small down sweets shop includes a great selection of frozen and baked goods. Try the brownie ice cream or one of their cookies. If you can’t decide ask one of the staff, they know all of the best flavors. Passport Offer: 15% off entire order ($10 min.)
First Street Café – A pet friendly patio, music upstairs (on weekends), and known locally for their breakfast, this little café delivers big time. Check out the corn beef hash or crab sandwich. Passport Offer: 15% off entire order.
Forever Sala Thai – If you are seeking authentic Thai food, this is the place. Be prepared to get a visit from Kay, the chef. She is always popping out of the kitchen to make sure her guests are happy. Enjoy the Pad See Ew or Mango Sticky Rice. Passport Offer: 15% off (excluding beverages).
Got Plate Lunch – Hawaiian food that never disappoints and is all over Instagram. Follow them to see what the latest specials are. Favorites include the Kalua Pork and Garlic Shrimp. Passport Offer: 15% when you purchase 2 plate lunches.
Kinder’s – A great spot when you are in the mood for some good barbeque or a sandwich. Try the rib eye, filet mignon, or mac salad. Here it’s all about the sauce. Passport Offer: 15% off of 2 entrées.
Lucca Bar & Grill – Lucca’s has a quaint restaurant, casual bar, and incredible food. Top picks include the burger, Brussels sprouts, and homemade chips. This is another great place with a pup friendly patio. Passport Offer: 15% off (excluding alcohol).
Pacifica Pizza – Pizza is usually rated by the sauce and crust, but at Pacifica Pizza we have got to include the toppings. Here you can count on hot, cheesy slices of deliciousness. Try it plain or loaded with every meat you can think of. Pizza lovers of every age won’t be disappointed. Try their delicious pasta menu, too. Passport Offer: 20% off entire order.
Rookies Bar & Grill – If big screen TV’s, a full bar, and fried food is what you are looking for, Rookies is your spot. Look forward to friendly servers, attentive bartenders, and a lively atmosphere. Passport Offer: 15% off lunch only.
Rosanna’s Bakery – This is a must-do for sweets in Benicia. The cakes and pastries are out of this world and will remind you of mom’s. Top picks include the princess cake, carrot cake. and chocolate custard éclair just to name a few. Passport Offer: 20% off entire order.
The Rellik Tavern – This place has edgy chic perfected with a sexy lounge and fun bar scene. But don’t let the bar sway you from ordering food. Their dining options will pleasantly surprise you. Enjoy some sriracha slaw, fried pickles, and fried chicken. Passport Offer: 15% off (excluding Happy Hour and beverages).
Union Hotel Restaurant – Known for its historical heritage, seafood, steak, and pasta, the Union Hotel has been serving happy customers for decades. Guests can enjoy live jazz music on the patio during Sunday brunch or reserve a quiet table inside for a more romantic setting. Passport Offer: 15% off (excluding alcohol).
Venticellos – Your one stop shop for authentic Italian food, even if you are gluten-free. Try a homemade pasta, the chicken parmesan, or one of their specialty desserts. Passport Offer: 20% off entire order.
For a complete list of restaurant locations, hours, and contact information please go to visitbenicia.org. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Bon appetit!
Get ready to step into 2017 by keeping this year’s resolution to spend more time with the ones you love. And what better place to get together than beautiful Benicia. This charming, waterfront town offers rich art and history, delectable eateries, chic and edgy bars, vintage antiques, a large variety of shopping, spas, and an array of activities to ensure visitors of all ages have a great day by the bay.
We’ve put together a calendar of ideas to help you keep that resolution year-round and to ensure your friends and family are entertained during each and every visit.
After the holidays, we could all use a little break from our own kitchens. January is a great time to plan an evening out. Benicia has tons of amazing restaurants that serve delicious selections ranging from breakfast to late-night snacks and everything between. Here are a few excellent options. If breakfast or brunch is your thing, we recommend Java Point Café, First Street Café, and Huckleberry’s (in the Southhampon Center, and by the way, great for kids). For those who prefer a mid-day meal and are looking to enjoy lunch with friends and family, be sure to visit Got Plate Lunch, Lucca Bar & Grill, Camellia Tea Room or Venticellos Ristorante Italiano. And if wrapping up your day over a nice dinner is your version of heaven, then try Sailor Jack’s Waterfront Dining, Matsuri Japanese Restaurant, and the Union Hotel Restaurant and Bar. There are many other great options, which you can check out here. If you find it difficult to choose, just visit during Benicia’s Restaurant Week January 21-28. It’s a great way to taste the variety of cuisine in downtown Benicia.
Nothing says, “I love you” like a romantic getaway. On February 4, Benicia Main Street will host its annual Wine & Chocolate Walk. Friends and couples alike are invited to peruse the many incredible shops downtown that will be serving wine and chocolate pairings. Tickets are $25 each or $45 for two, and can be purchased online here. This is also a great time to extend your stay by reserving a room with a view at the Shorelight Inn or a cozy suite at The Inn at Benicia Bay. And for spa lovers, you may want to book a return visit at one of the many incredible spa and wellness centers during Pamper Me Week, February 18-25. Indulge your senses, rejuvenate your body, and relax your mind.
Celebrate the luck of the Irish during Benicia’s St. Patrick’s Day Beer Crawl. The Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, March 11, craft beers will be poured by participating downtown businesses from 1-5 p.m. Guests are encouraged to show some Irish spirit by sporting their best green garb. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the even.
Spring into the new season by adding a few new items to your wardrobe or sprucing up yourhome décor. Benicia boasts a plethora of shops and stores with unique and fashionable items sure to please even the most ardent trendsetters. Enjoy the ease of shopping First Street where you will find everything from apparel and accessories to vintage collectibles and antiques, and plenty of free parking. For a complete list of stores check out visitbenicia.org’s shopping directory.
Known for its vibrant arts community, May is a wonderful time to dive into the world of art in Benicia. There are more art galleries and studios than you can visit in one day, but luckily there are several events to help you see it all. The Benicia Arsenal is a treasure of history and home to Artists Open Studios May 6 and 7, an event where connoisseurs are given an entire weekend to chat with individual artists, and see where the art is made. And for those who enjoy the live arts, through May 13, the Benicia Old Town Theatre Group (BOTTG) will be presenting ‘Intimate Apparel’ by Lynn Nottage, a play offering poignant commentary on an era when the cut and color of one's dress – and skin color – determined whom one could marry, socialize with, and even talk to in public. General Admission is $22, students and seniors save $2 with a valid ID.
Continuing the arts theme, indulge in an afternoon of discovery as you stroll First Street along Benicia’s downtown waterfront during Benicia’s Art Walk. It’s tentatively set for June through October (excluding August) on the second Saturday of each month. And since the summer months bring even warmer weather, June is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the gentle breezes off the water. There are a ton of places to walk, hike, or jog along the water and nearby trails. Benicia’s waterfront trail spans 10 miles of scenic trekking, and Benicia’s State Recreation Area has 2 ½ miles of trails for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy both paved and unpaved adventures.
The Fourth of July is the ultimate summertime celebration, and Benicia provides all the small town charm to make this particular time of year memorable. Visitors won’t want to miss the Torchlight Parade, Picnic in the Park, and fireworks at dark.
July is also a great time to explore Benicia’s fascinating history. As a former state capitol, Benicia was a busy seaport. It also had the first Army ordnance supply depot on the Pacific Coast, and was an inspiration for some of Jack London's literary works. There are four carefully curated museums where you can discover artifacts of days gone by. This includes the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, Fischer-Hanlon House, Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, and the Benicia Fire Museum. History explorers can learn first-hand about all of the interesting points of interest during the Historic Downtown Benicia Walking Tour (maps available at Benicia Main Street, 90 First Street). For more information go to visitbenicia.org/history.
August is a great month to bring your bike to Benicia. Families with children can bike the local trails near the waterfront and state park. For the serious cyclist there are more than 500 miles of trails that snake through Benicia and the surrounding 46 cities. The San Francisco Bay Trail and the Bay Area Ridge Trail also run through Benicia, making it a great place to start or end your day outdoors. Cyclists looking for a local route can cross the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to the east, then wind your way back along the Carquinez Strait.
Fall in Benicia is breathtaking. The warmth of an Indian summer and breezes off the bay make this a perfect time of year for water sports. Benicia’s marina has a boat launch for fishing, sailing, boating and more, as well as the public launch at West Ninth Street. Visitors looking for a little water recreation can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and more at kiteskatepaddle.com. They also offer lessons for stand up paddleboarding and kitesurfing. For water explorers there is the Water Trail, an ongoing effort to link nine Bay Area counties with a network of launch and landing sites. It’s designed for human-powered boats and beach-able sail craft, which dovetails nicely with Benicia’s network of trails. Check out more information at the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail.
Join us in Benicia on the first Saturday of October for Bay Day, a day the entire Bay Area will celebrate the San Francisco Bay. Also in October is non-stop ghoulish fun for all ages. Benicia, once a busy stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad, is said to have a high amount of paranormal activity. Drop by the Haunted Depot, take part in a Ghost Walk, carve a pumpkin, dress up for the parade, don your best zombie outfit for the beer crawl, and vote on your favorite town scarecrow. Day or night, Benicia is a “dead on” choice for a spooky good time.
As you embark on another holiday season, remember that shopping in Benicia is a great place to make the holiday season bright. Plan a day of boutique shopping, lunch and/or dinner, and enjoy time with the ones you love. Spending time together during the holiday season is just as valuable as the treasures we give. Benicia offers incredible diversity in shops, bars, and restaurants. Make your next holiday season memorable and warm by bringing your friends and family for a great day.
Christmas lights on First Street, a giant Christmas tree, hometown parade, marching band, holiday market, boat parade, and holiday cheer to last the whole year makes Benicia the perfect place to get into the spirit. Bring family and friends for a magical celebration of events throughout the month.
Nothing feels more like the holidays than a small town Christmas parade with a marching band, dancers, and a visit from Santa himself. Get into the spirit this weekend during Benicia’s holiday festivities that include its annual Christmas Parade, Holiday Market, Lighted Boat Parade, and a Family Art Day – fun for the whole family, including your four-legged friends.
Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 10 at the corner of First and D streets, Benicia’s annual Christmas Parade will make its way through downtown and will end on H Street. With bells a-ringing and dancers a-jigging, this hometown tradition will be sure to start your day off merry and bright. There’s lots for kids to do, and dog-friendly Benicia invites all your furry friends to join the fun, too. Most of the shops along First Street welcome pups and keep fresh water on the sidewalk for thirsty passersby. And some restaurants have sidewalk dining where dogs are welcome.
Just after the parade, pop over to the Holiday Market, set up at First and D streets, where you’ll feel like you have entered Santa’s own workshop. There will be handmade gifts, gourmet food, art, and artisan crafts that will please even the hard to shop for loved ones on your list. Enjoy hot cocoa and a tasty bite at the market while you shop for unique stocking stuffers and gifts. And many shops will wrap your gift for free!
In addition to the parade and market, many of the restaurants and shops downtown are packed with Christmas cheer. Decked out in boughs of holly, shoppers can enjoy all the service of small town charm with many of the options found in a big city.
Kids can have their picture taken with Santa from 4-7 p.m. at Benicia Fire Station #11, located at 150 Military West. There will be a session for children with special needs to take pictures with Santa from 2-3 p.m. This session will be geared for kids who are sensitive to excessive noise. Sponsored by Benicia Fire Department and Benicia Parks & Community Services, they are accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots Drive.
Also Saturday, December 10, you can learn how to make Victorian ornaments at the historic Fischer Hanlon House (for a nominal fee). Docents in period attire will serve cookies and cider from the wood-burning stove. The event takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fischer Hanlon House at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park (First & West G streets).
Lighted Boat Parade
As the sun sets, Benicia’s Yacht Club will commence its 26th Annual Lighted Boat Parade. Join the locals for this holiday favorite at the Benicia Marina, Saturday, December 10 at 6 p.m. Bundle up and enjoy the show as each ornately decorated vessel takes to the bay. The boats will travel through the Carquinez Strait from the Benicia Marina to the First Street Pier, and back. After the parade, the promenade makes for a lovely walk back up First Street where the trees are sparkling with lights.
Family Art Day
On Sunday, December 11 the whole family is invited to participate in Family Art Day at Arts Benicia. Located in Suite 114 at 991 Tyler Street, this event is free and open to the public from 1-3 p.m. Explore the creative world of art with hands-on projects that are both fun and educational. Learn all about the investigation and observation of art while you make something special and unique. The current exhibition at Arts Benicia is “The Art of the Toy: Wild, Whimsical, and Magical.”
Let the spirit of Christmas fill your heart and home during this holiday season, and see why some people call this small town “Mayberry by the bay.” For a full listing of shops, restaurants, and activities please visit our website at visitbenicia.org or follow us on Facebook.
There’s a small town with such a huge selection of specialty gifts and unique experiences, your holiday shopping is sure to be fun and productive. Avoid the lines and chaos of large shopping centers and malls by taking a short drive to Benicia, followed by a leisurely stroll along First Street during this special event. It’s one way to actually enjoy the pursuit of the perfect gift this holiday season.
On November 26, nearly 40 businesses in downtown Benicia will be participating in Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses. Local boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, vintage stores, spas and more will join forces to showcase the best of the Bay Area. Enjoy live music downtown by local musicians, and enter to win a $500 Holiday Shopping Spree. You’ll receive one entry for every $10 spent at participating merchants.
And with family and friends gathering for Thanksgiving, what better way to extend the festivities than spending a “Great Day by the Bay” in Benicia. Also known for its eclectic food and beverage scene, many incredible restaurants and bars are peppered among the shops to keep your energy high and spirits bright. With free, easy access parking, and most everything within walking distance, Benicia really is the perfect holiday shopping destination. And many stores will wrap your gift!
Here are a few insider tips for everyone who made your “not so naughty” list this year:
- Art makes a gift people will never forget, and can be surprisingly affordable. Nothing says “special” like a one of a kind masterpiece. Benicia is a mecca of art forms and has an endless array of options in paintings, drawings, sculptures, hand-blown glass, photography, crafts, jewelry, and much more. Consider dropping by one of the many galleries and studios, and you may meet the artist in person. Here is a full list of artists and studios: http://www.visitbenicia.org/arts/directory.
- For do-it-yourselfers, there are several wonderful places in town where you can participate in the gift making. Check out Artcentric Pottery & Glass Fusing Studio offering everything from mosaics to clay prints. Creativity Unleashed Ceramics has the largest selection of pottery and clay. Once Upon a Canvas is a great place to learn to paint, and Arts Benicia hosts a variety of workshops and classes for novice and seasoned artists. Gift certificates are also available.
- Vintage is in, and Benicia is home to several incredible antiques shops. Discover the many treasures and collectibles hidden among the antique furniture and home décor. That hard-to-find gift might just be a rare set of mid-century colored glassware or a nouveau chic handbag.
- Give a gift of inspiration. For the spiritual person on your list, Angel Heart 4 You provides a truly unique experience. Peruse the many scented candles charged with intentions, essential oils, incense, and aromatherapy products as you wander the aisles of inspirational/metaphysical books and gifts. They also conduct energy classes, workshops, and psychic readings. Burning man fans will be excited to visit the Intention Tree. Visitors are invited to scribe their intentions/wishes/prayers on a piece of paper and leave it under the intention tree. Each month during a special drumming ceremony the intentions are burned to release them to the universe.
And how about a good, old-fashioned bookstore? Bookshop Benicia is a locally owned, independent store with great service by people who believe in the power of books to change lives. They’re always happy to help you find the perfect book for those on your shopping list.
And last but not least, there are several specialty shops offering handmade stationary, jewelry, and ladies clothing. The Small Business Saturday event is all about supporting small community based businesses. For a complete list of participating shops, please visit beniciamainstreet.org. To learn more about all of Benicia’s great shopping options, visit the store directory, or simply enjoy a day of discovery by strolling First Street. You can also follow us on Facebook for the latest news. Happy shopping!
Imagine yourself strolling the same streets that civil war soldiers walked over 150 years ago. Nestled among the Carquinez Strait and rolling hills, Benicia is home to multiple historical landmarks, and was selected by none other than Abraham Lincoln as a “military reservation.”
Today the Benicia Arsenal includes the Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns and is on the esteemed National Register of Historic Places. The museum is made up of three large buildings which house all the incredible artifacts and displays that tell the story of those who lived in California pre-statehood. This important archeological collection has revealed many important findings about the culture, and what was accomplished during that time. It was before the gold rush, before the railroad was complete, and before settlers moved in on the Native Americans. One of the structures at the museum, the Powder Magazine, is one of the few remaining buildings that display the art of the French stonemasons of the time. It was built to house black keg powder, and to protect the nearby people and buildings. This particular building was designed to implode if something set off the highly volatile contents.
History buffs will find a treasure trove of fascinating stories surrounding the Benicia Arsenal. The Arsenal was a staging area for Union troops from the West during the Civil War, a major ammunition supplier during World War I, and much more.
What’s the significance of camels at the Arsenal? In the 1850s the US Government bought a herd of camels in hopes of using them in the American Southwest. The camels didn’t work out very well, partially, it is said, because of their temperament. Many of the buildings at the Arsenal, including the original camel barns, still stand almost exactly as they did back then.
Between 1853 and 1863, Congress appropriated enough money to make the Arsenal one of the largest military posts on the West Coast. There are many spectacular buildings in the Arsenal, such as the Camel Barns, Clocktower, Commanding Officer’s Quarters, Blacksmith Shop, Lieutenant’s Quarters, and the Guard House. One soldier who was in Benicia for a short time was a certain lieutenant who later became a general, then President of the United States -- Ulysses S. Grant. The museum is a must-see for anyone who’d like to know more about this critical time in American history. For more information about the museum and Benicia’s Arsenal history, please visit beniciahistoricalmuseum.org/arsenal-history.
Benicia Historical Museum’s Executive Director, Elizabeth d’Huart, believes the arsenal complex looks exactly as it did back in the 1800s. “One evening I was standing outside the museum and everything melted. It was as if I went back in time and was seeing the complex as the soldiers saw it. I feel privileged to share that space in my mind with those of the past,” said d’Huart. “Benicia is the perfect expression of an early California town.”
On November 13 at 1 p.m., the museum will unveil a new permanent exhibit titled “Benicia Arsenal in War and Peace”. The exhibit will feature a 20-foot timeline of the first Western District pre-statehood military base from its beginnings in the 1850s, including the closure of the base in 1964, and continuing through the activities of our current local National Guard. The timeline will display a coveted collection of medals, badges, crests, flags, and authentically painted Benicia Arsenal toy soldiers. And author Dr. Blaine Lamb will be on-site as a guest speaker to promote his biography, “The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone – Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer”.
Beginning November 25, the annual Christmas Tree Lot fundraiser kicks off. Freshly cut trees of all sizes and shapes will be available for sale to benefit the Benicia Historical Museum and Genesis House.
Kids won’t want to miss their chance to color or write a letter to Santa, which will be delivered to the North Pole by the museum’s own carousel camel, Cally. Free museum passes and candy canes will available, and everyone is encouraged to visit the museum’s special tree decorated with camel ornaments.
For those looking for a little entertainment, the popular “Men of Worth" musicians James Keigher and Donnie Macdonald return to the museum to perform a special Christmas concert on Saturday, December 3rd at 8 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. No host bar. Tickets $25.
Looking for a unique site for your event?
There are some beautiful event sites available for rent at the museum. The Captain Charles P. Stone Hall and Spenger Memorial Garden are beautiful locations for private parties. The mild climate, rich history, and ample parking make Benicia Historical Museum the perfect spot for weddings, concerts, and other special events.
For more information about the Benicia Historical Museum, museum tours, and upcoming events please check out visitbenicia.org or beniciahistoricalmuseum.org. You can also keep up on all of the latest Benicia news by following Visit Benicia on Facebook.
Looking for some ghoulish fun this month? Benicia’s First Street is serving up ghosts, zombies, scarecrows and so much more in the next few weeks. Get into the Halloween spirit by spending a spooky night or day by the bay in Benicia. Here are some haunting tips for making the most of your visit.
Known for its art, shopping, history (some of it pretty eerie), and great bars and restaurants, this small town possesses some of the greatest ghost stories in all of the San Francisco Bay Area. Once a busy stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad, Benicia’s Depot still houses visitors of days long past.
Located at 90 First Street, you’re invited to drop in and tour the Haunted Depot on Fridays from 6-9 p.m., Saturdays from 12-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m., and on Sundays from 12-4 p.m. On Halloween, the Haunted Depot will be open from 6-9 p.m.
For those looking to take a walk on the wild side this Halloween season, we suggest booking a Ghost Walk with Paranormal Investigator Deborah Hogarty. Discover several secret places in downtown Benicia where she has detected a presence not of this world. This month’s tour will be Friday and Saturday, October 21 and 22 from 8-10 p.m. Advance reservations are required. For more information call (707) 745-9791.
While in town, be sure to check out the many decorated scarecrows peppering First Street and beyond. Local businesses have brought their imagination A-game to the streets for a spooktacular Scarecrow Contest. The public is invited to pick a favorite for a “Peoples Choice” award. You can vote online at beniciamainstreet.org or by picking up a ballot at one of the participating shops. Scarecrow Contest awards will be announced October 17.
On Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 2-6 p.m., the living dead will crawl along Downtown Benicia for the annual Zombie Brew Crawl. Don your creepiest zombie gore, or not, and enjoy a variety of craft beers that will be poured inside participating downtown shops. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. You must be at least age 21 to participate. Check-in starts at 1:30 p.m. at Benicia Main Street, located at 90 First Street. Tickets include a sampling glass, map of tasting locations, and an ID wristband. Only 400 zombies can participate, so get your tickets online here.
Ghoulish fun for all ages will be had on October 22 during Benicia’s Halloween Costume Contest & Sidewalk Stroll. This charming hometown tradition is great for the whole family. Locals and visitors alike gather in City Park to test out their costumes, followed by a little early Halloween trick-or-treating down First Street. Local merchants will pass out candy and treats along the way to the First Street Green for the awards ceremony.
Even your furry friends are invited to participate. The Canine and Critter Costume Contest takes place at noon on the Green, located at First and East B streets. The event starts at 10 a.m.
In preparation for Old Hallows Eve, the Benicia Public Library will be hosting its 20th Annual Jack-O-Lantern Contest on October 28. Great for all ages, kids and adults will bring their scariest carved pumpkin for a chance to win a prize. The contest is open to everyone and will begin at 7 p.m. Stay for some scary storytelling or very scary storytelling in the dark (recommended for brave kids 8 and up). The library is located at 150 East L Street.
And the kids aren’t the only ones having all the fun this Halloween! On October 30 the Camellia Tea Room and Christina S Fashion Destination will join forces for Bewitching Tea. This Halloween celebration includes the Haunted Hat Contest, a fashion show, and of course some very bewitching teas. Tickets are $45 and proceeds will benefit SafeQuest Solano and STAND of Contra Costa County, which are non-profit agencies that serve victims of domestic violence. Choose from three seatings: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Advance reservations are required. For more information please call Camellia Tea Room at (707) 746-5293.