Benicia Family Fun
Family Fun in Benicia: A City with Something for Everyone
Families throughout the Bay Area itching for something fun and different to do with the kids should head to the waterfront city of Benicia – an engaging city that will cure the weekend “what to do” blues. Benicia is an easy drive from all cities in the Bay Area with a huge variety of activities and adventures for a fun-filled day. In its June, 2011 issue, Sunset magazine hailed Benicia as the East Bay’s “funkiest little art town” and a great Northern California weekend day trip to the East Bay.
Museums and History
Benicia is steeped in interesting, local history. A fascinating past as a former site of our state’s capitol, a former military base and a seaport with salty tales provide plenty of fodder for great stories with historical importance. Visitors can drop by Benicia Main Street at the historic Railroad Depot, 90 First Street, and pick up a “Historic Downtown Benicia Walking Tour” map and brochure for information. Museums to visit while in town are:
- Benicia Capitol State Historic Park: The state park is the site of the former state capitol (1853-1854). It’s open every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are also available at the Fischer-Hanlon House, an extension of the state park, on the first Sunday, and third Saturday and Sunday of every month. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for youth ages 6-17 years, and ages 5 years and under are free. The capitol building is located at 15 West G Street. Call (707) 745-3385 for more information.
- Benicia Historical Museum: The museum houses a variety of exhibits and displays recounting the history of both the city of Benicia and the U.S. Army Arsenal. Throughout the year, the museum’s Stone Hall and Spenger Memorial Garden are venues for music concerts, comedy acts and lectures. Museum hours are 1-4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and $2 for children ages 6-17. Children 5 years and under are free. Call (707) 745-5435 for information, or visit their website for upcoming events at www.beniciahistoricalmuseum.org. The museum is located at the Camel Barns, 2024 Camel Road.
- Benicia Fire Museum: Young and old will enjoy the many treasures of fire service equipment and hundreds of related items, including the “Phoenix,” an 1820s double decker hand-pumper that required 45 men to operate. It was one of the first fire engines to arrive in California in 1847. The museum is open the first three Sundays of the month, from 1-4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For details, call (707) 745-1688. The museum address is 900 East Second Street.
There’s much more information on Benicia’s rich history at www.visitbenicia.org/history.
Downtown Benicia’s shops and restaurants are literally just a few steps from the scenic waterfront area, which encompasses the waterfront Promenade, Benicia Point Pier and the First Street Green. Beyond downtown, the waterfront is accessible at many spots on the southern edge of Benicia, via pedestrian and bike routes from the Benicia Marina to West 14th Street.
Residents and visitors can enjoy an up-close view of the impressive Carquinez Strait from these spots. There is fishing and boating at the Benicia Marina, a great place to sit back and take in the stunning view. The marina also has a general store and public restrooms.
Shopping and Dining
Along First Street and throughout Benicia, there are plenty of shops and kid-friendly restaurants. Quick bites can be found at Char’s Hot Dogs, 523 First Street, and Frankenburger, 131 First Street. Lucca Bar and Grill, 439 First Street, has an array of comfort-style foods to tame any appetite, and if you’re craving pizza, Napoli Pizza and Pasta, 2062 Columbus Parkway, was voted best pizzeria in Solano County for seven consecutive years by Vallejo Times-Herald readers. As a reward, parents can treat the kids to a bagful of yummy, possibly gummy, treats at Spoonful of Sugar, 374 First Street. For a list of stores and restaurants, please see www.visitbenicia.org/businesses.
Festivals and Markets
Benicia is home to dozens of annual family-oriented festivals and markets throughout the year, providing a chance for locals and visitors to partake in Benicia’s bounty of activities. Here’s a sample of events that are particularly family-friendly:
- Family Art Day(offered periodically, in conjunction with art exhibits) at Arts Benicia provides an afternoon for families to learn about art, with hands-on activities and refreshments.
- Benicia’s Certified Farmers Market, (Thursdays, 4 to 8 p.m., from the end of April through the end of October) is a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, gourmet food, arts and crafts, live musical entertainment, face painting and more.
- Benicia Classic Car Show(May) revs up a good time, with food, classic cars, oldies music, and car accessory vendors.
- Picnic in the Park & Fireworks (July 4) fills Benicia’s City Park with arts and crafts, delicious hot food, live entertainment, children's activities – and after 9 p.m. – a fantastic fireworks display.
- Benicia Fine Art and Jazz Festival (July) is a weekend of smooth, live jazz, a juried fine art marketplace, delectable gourmet food, refreshing wine and beer stations, and a kids’ art activity area.
- Benicia Peddler’s Fair (August) is the place to meander through more than 300 vendors of antiques and collectibles, as well as assorted food vendors that fill the air with tantalizing aromas. The Peddler’s Fair has been a popular Benicia event for over 47 years.
- A Great Dog Day By The Bay (August) honors our four-legged canine friends with activities such as a dog contest (ugliest dog, cutest dog and owner/dog look alike), doggie treats, demonstrations and much more.
- Haunted Depot (October) morphs the normally mild-mannered Southern Pacific Railroad Depot into a frightful depository of ghosts, goblins and spirits daring you and your family to pay a visit.
- Christmas Parade & Holiday Market (December) features a parade with local bands, dancers, and Santa Claus, and a market showcasing fine arts, gourmet items and other delicious foods.
The events calendar at www.visitbenicia.org/events/calendaris the best resource for complete information about upcoming events.
Glass Art Studios
Benicia is well known for the glass art studios that have mastered the old-world process of turning molten glass into distinctive art pieces – an intriguing process to behold, for young and old. Glass blowing demonstration times vary by studio. It’s recommended to call in advance to find the studio viewing times. The glass art studios in Benicia are:
Smyers Glass, 675 East H Street, (707) 745-2614
Nourot Art Glass, 675 East H Street, (707) 745-1463
Lindsay Art Glass, 109 East F Street, (707) 748-1336
Parks and Recreation
Benicia has more than 20 lovely outdoor parks and an aquatic facility to help provide plenty of outdoor physical activity for families. Here are a few of the conveniently located main parks:
- Jack London Park is on the corner of Rose Drive at Hastings Drive, and features a large, grassy field perfect for kite flying, Frisbee throwing or a game of tag football. There’s also a basketball court if you’ve got game. White, arched architectural elements give this park a modern feel. Plenty of shady trees pepper the area for people to roll out a blanket and escape with their latest novel – Jack London would expect nothing less at his namesake park.
- City Park is located at First Street and Military West, where a massive wooden play structure beckons kids to explore its every nook.
- Community Park, located on Rose Drive at Kearney, is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch and a day outdoors with the family in tow. If you have a skateboarder in the family, Community Park boasts the awesome Xpark – a skate-ramp park to catch some air and rip a few gnarly 180s while in town.
- James Lemos Swim Center – Not every community offers a pool, but Benicia has a great place to cool down, at 181 East J Street, (707) 746-4286. The pool opens February 1 for the season.
For more details on outdoor recreation options in Benicia, please see www.visitbenicia.org/waterfront/outdoor-recreation. For more information about Benicia’s events and attractions, go to www.visitbenicia.org. And for continually updated information about Benicia events, special promotions, and insider tips, check out www.facebook.com/visitbenicia.
Journalists may contact Jack Wolf of Wolf Communications at (707) 575-4415 or jack[at]prwolf.com. High-resolution images are available by request.